Artists: Go Down in Hugo History

How? By designing a Hugo Award Logo. Here are the details, courtesy of the press release I got just this second:


The World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) has announced a contest for a design for an official logo for the Hugo Awards. The Hugo Awards honor the best in written and dramatized science fiction and fantasy, as well as other categories, and are the highest honors in the field of science fiction and fantasy. While the streamlined rocket that is a common feature of the Hugo Award trophy is well known within the field of science fiction and fantasy, there has never been an official logo suitable for designating that a work is a Hugo Award winner. WSFS, through its Hugo Awards Marketing Committee, is soliciting designs for such a logo, which would be suitable for use in the publishing and film/television industries, and in solidifying the Hugo Awards “brand.”

The contest is open to individual designers. Full submission guidelines are available on the Hugo Awards web site at The major points that a successful design should contain are:

* The design must work well at a variety of sizes and in both black & white and color;

* The design must include something clearly recognizable as the classic four-finned Hugo Award rocket;

* The design must include the words “Hugo Award”.

Deadline for submitting entries is May 31, 2009. Entries must be submitted on-line at Entrants should check the submission guidelines carefully for acceptable file formats.

The winner will be selected by a jury and by the WSFS Hugo Awards Marketing Committee. The members of the jury are:

Chip Kidd (Graphic Designer/Writer/Editor)
Irene Gallo (Art Director at Tor Books and,
Geri Sullivan (Fan & Graphic Design pro)
Neil Gaiman (3 time Hugo Award winning writer).

WSFS hopes to be able to announce the winner at the World Science Fiction Convention in Montreal (“Anticipation”) in August 2009.

A condition of proposal entry is that all rights to the designs become the property of WSFS for its sole use. The intention is to register the design as a service mark. As the Hugo name and rocket image are trademarks, unsuccessful designs are unlikely to be usable in other ways.

The winner will receive a special trophy incorporating the winning logo design, a $500 cash prize, and signed copies of Neil Gaiman’s Hugo Award-winning novel AMERICAN GODS and novella CORALINE, and the collection FRAGILE THINGS, including Hugo Award-winning short story “A Study in Emerald”. The winning designer will have the right to use the logo and identify him/herself as its creator. The logo is intended to be used widely on the Internet, news releases, and on the covers of Hugo-winning works.

The cash prize has been donated by the Southern California Institute for Fan Interests (SCIFI). This is a non-profit organization that has run many conventions including the 1984, 1996 and 2006 World Science Fiction Conventions.

The Hugo Awards are named for Hugo Gernsback, who, in 1926, launched Amazing Stories, the first major American science fiction magazine. First presented in 1953, the Hugo Awards are presented by the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) ( The members of each year’s World Science Fiction Convention (“Worldcon”) nominate and vote on the awards, which are presented at a ceremony which is the high point of each year’s Worldcon.

52 Comments on “Artists: Go Down in Hugo History”

  1. To any SFWA board members who read this site:

    More like this, please. It’s forward-thinking, reaches out to the talent in the SF fan community, and is the kind of thing that makes me want to work like hell to get published and into SFWA to continue implementing cool stuff like this.

    Love and kisses,

  2. I don’t see it as “cool,” myself, but then, I do not work for spec. I certainly do not do logo design contests. For anyone.

    Those who feel otherwise are free to dispense their time as they see fit. But I don’t work for free. A contest is nothing less than begging for free work. The winner gets paid. No one else does.

    Note: I do on occasion work for nothing. But we call that pro bono.

  3. Meh. Normally I would be in agreement, but WSFS and indeed all the folks associated with the Hugos and Worldcon do it on a volunteer basis, and volunteering is central to the ethos of fandom. So asking for interested folks to likewise volunteer time/effort for the possibility of winning is neither out of character nor any great outrage for this specific community.

  4. Volunteering is central to the ethos of numerous organizations, some of which have not only my skills, but my time in other ways as well, and I have nothing against anyone needing volunteers.

    The point is neither outrage (which I’m not), nor that it’s out of character (contests are, alas, too common to be considered “out of character”), but that it isn’t the best way to get results: the best design.

  5. Dunno. They do pretty well with the Hugo base design contests they do. That said, I do hope one of the options will be “none of the above” if indeed nothing is up to standard.

  6. I (usually) don’t work for spec either but John’s point about the general voluntary nature of the Hugos and Worldcon is a point that weighs more heavily with me.

    Further, while I’m sure there are lots of talented designers who happen to be SF fans, WHAT is in their portfolio already may not be something that indicates what sort of logo they would come up with given their druthers. Some of the vector work in my portfolio, for example, is very corporate and not at all rockets-and-stars. (Also, when going in for job interviews or contract jobs, I very often throw together a mock-up that I consider to be in the vein they are looking for.)

    Usually the problem I have with spec contests is that they do a bait-and-switch sort of deal, wherein you work hard, then they announce NOBODY WON, and suspiciously turn up a few months later with a design that looks pretty darn close to an entrant’s but reworked by the owner’s teenage nephew. (Or alternately, your prize is a t-shirt, five dollars, or the “fame” that comes with working on such a “prestigious” project.) However, I doubt that the Hugo Awards (with the prizes already in hand) would pull such a thing. I don’t consider it that different than Shimmer announcing a pirate anthology or Ellen Datlow opening up her horror anthology. The prize is there–it’s just you have to work against a lot of other people to get it AND you might not make it. I don’t get that it’s the same bad faith deal as the unscrupulous online logo contests.

  7. As a young graphic designer (though honestly, probably not talented enough in illustrator for this contest) I think it’s good. Scifi tends to be something you are passionate about, that you love, read, re-read and write fanfiction about. Some of us might need the challenge to work at improve our design skills. It’s easy to lose the “fun” in graphic design pretty quickly in the real world and contests like this give us the opportunity to design not because we have to, but because we want to. I find in design, photography and writing that the projects I take on voluntarily tend to make me happier in the long run.

    Just my thoughts on the matter. I think anyone would be honored to design the Hugo logo, and I trust my fellow geeks won’t be attempting to cheat anyone.

  8. ScottE:

    Here are some questions (answers at the end of this post):

    1. How much do you think WSFS paid for the design of the Hugo Award rocket itself?

    2. How much do you think WSFS has paid me and the other members of the Hugo Awards Marketing Committee who maintain the organization’s web site and drew up the contest? (Some of us are spending several hours each week — sometimes, like today, a heck of a lot more than that — on that work.)

    3. How much do you think I got paid to spend an average (that’s an average, not the peak) of 20 hours/week for several years chairing a World Science Fiction Convention with over 5,000 attendees?

    4. How much do you think the hundreds of other staff members of the Worldcon I refer to above got paid for traveling to (in that case) San Jose in 2002 and putting on the event?

    Science Fiction Fandom is, at its best, a Potlatch culture: you put more into it than you take out of it. If people start focusing on Getting Paid then the entire structure would collapse and turn into a pretty soul-less gate show, where you would end up paying a lot more to get a lot less.

    $500 is an honorarium, that’s all, but compared to most of the things we ask people in Fandom to do for each other, it’s a pretty generous one.


    Answers: 1. Zero; in fact, the original designer famously ended up losing his entire Worldcon scrambling to get the things built. Nor did anyone pay Peter Weston anything for having cleaned up the McKnight/Jason design and having built the single mold from which nearly every Hugo trophy since 1984 has been cast. (Individual Worldcons do pay for the casting costs each year, which are around $100/trophy, but only because each one has to be hand-cast. Peter Weston has said that if we needed to make tens of thousands of them, we could get the unit price down to a pittance.)

    2. Zero (WSFS does pay for the domain and site hosting fees, but not for our time spent maintaining the site.)

    3. I had my membership (which I’d paid up front) refunded, my original bid dues of $300 refunded, and approximately $1000 of hotel and travel expenses I only incurred because I was required to be there early and stay late as part of my job. Against that you can apply something on the order of $30,000 (possibly more; I didn’t keep as good records as I should have done) in personal expenses I incurred over a six year period primarily because I was on the bid committee and that I wouldn’t have spent otherwise, none of which was reimbursed by anyone.

    4. They had their memberships (up to $200 that they’d already paid out of pocket) refunded several months later. A few of them also had a little bit of hotel/travel paid if they were obliged to be there excessively early or late. All of them paid their way to the event out of pocket.

  9. ScottE:

    One possible way of characterizing this is that WSFS has issued an RFP (request for proposal) for logo designs, announcing that it will pay $500 plus some other things for exclusive rights to the design its evaluation panel selects. You may say, “You don’t work on spec,” so in your case, you probably shouldn’t submit anything.

    Further, regarding the “I don’t work on spec” argument:

    In my day job, I’m an engineer in an industry where my company responds to RFPs from various other companies. We don’t win every contract on which we bid. If they don’t select us, we don’t get paid anything at all. And yet we spend very large amounts of money — sometimes millions of dollars — putting together elaborate proposals and sometimes effectively doing a whole lot of free consulting for potential clients. Are you suggesting that nobody should ever respond to an RFP unless they’re guaranteed payment up front?

    I may sound angry, either here or in my previous post. I’m not. I’m merely puzzled at why we should be being criticized for doing more than what is the usual and customary practice in SF fandom. There appears to me to be a false assumption here that WSFS would hire one Professional Designer and pay him/her many thousands of dollars for a Real Professional Design. That would never happen. If the only way to get a logo is to expand those kinds of resources, then nothing would ever get done at all.

  10. Pixelfish: Thank you for seeing what we’re doing. We’re very grateful to SCIFI for generously agreeing to donate cash money, along with the judges, all of whom are busy professionals in their fields, for donating their time and effort in evaluating the proposals we’re getting. (Incidentally, the judges will get the proposals “blind,” with the Entrants’ names removed.)

    We have reserved the right to select No Award, if in the opinion of the panel and the Hugo Awards Marketing Committee, no proposals are good enough, or, if good enough, are likely to be impossible to register as a service mark. However, it’s only in there as a last resort, and I know it’s certainly not our desired option. There’s no way we would have spent the amount of time and effort on this that we’ve done if we weren’t planning to doing our best to get a good logo design that will do WSFS proud within the constraints of the community of which we are part.

  11. B. Durbin:

    The most obsessive search is the one that we are going to have to do, which is a trademark design search to make sure we haven’t stumbled onto something that is so similar to an existing registered mark that it’s unlikely to pass muster at the US Patent & Trademark Office. Although WSFS is the World Science Fiction Society, it’s a practical fact that if it won’t work in the USA, it’s not worth chasing. Besides, it’s WSFS policy to pursue marks in priority order by country based on the number of Worldcons that country has hosted.

    So, someone could go to the USPTO web site, select “Trademarks,” then “Search TM Database (TESS),” then “Structured Form Search (Boolean),” then in the Search Term field enter “18.09.02” (Space rockets, missiles and capsules), and set Field to “Design Code” and press “Submit Query.” When I do that — I can’t give you a direct link because of the way the TESS web site is structured — I get 935 possible records of service marks that contain that design element. Mind you, we’re only likely to be concerned with marks that are still live, which reduces it to only 343. That’s as of right now; it may be different if you try it.

  12. Kevin, you are a thing of fannishly pedantic beauty and a joy forever. And this is not veiled sarcasm.

  13. If the Hugo folks ask @Cassi to produce a logo, that’s volunteering. If they ask for the community to join a logo creation forum or whatever to talk through the process of making a logo, that’s volunteering.

    But that’s not what they’re doing.

    They’re asking hundreds of people to do highly specific work that can’t be used anywhere else (they state as much in the entry rules) and that they take ownership of, regardless of whether it wins or not.

    Think about this from the perspective of an author: What if the graphic designer awards wanted a short story to accompany their new logo – some kind of fake back story. Would you be willing to write 5,000 words for free on a story that you get paid $500 for but you’ll never get reimbursed for again? And how would you feel about writing that story knowing that it’s actually a 1 in a thousand chance that you get paid at all?

    There’s a tendency to look at this like a submission to Asimov’s or something – but it isn’t. They want something highly specific, and they want all the rights to it whether they publish it or not. If John writes a story and submits it to a magazine, they don’t keep the rights if they reject it.

    Design competitions are bullshit.

  14. @Kevin Standlee: Your RFP comparison is bogus.

    A company is not an individual (and let’s face it, design competitions prey on the young and naive). An RFP-winner isn’t paid in memorabilia. And usually the number of companies answering an RFP is low – say 5-10. Entering a “contest” with 5 entrants that’s worth millions of dollars makes sense. Entering a contest with 500 entrants and a prize of $500 doesn’t.

    “And yet we spend very large amounts of money — sometimes millions of dollars — putting together elaborate proposals and sometimes effectively doing a whole lot of free consulting for potential clients.”

    But you aren’t doing the actual work when you work on an RFP. Heck, most companies are repackaging an existing solution, not making something entirely new You’re asking people to turn in the final result. And you’re taking the rights to that result in perpetuity.

    “There appears to me to be a false assumption here that WSFS would hire one Professional Designer and pay him/her many thousands of dollars for a Real Professional Design. That would never happen. If the only way to get a logo is to expand those kinds of resources, then nothing would ever get done at all.”

    Shorter: we can’t afford to pay one person what this is worth, so we’re asking hundreds of people to do it for free.

    I had a better idea: you’ve already got Chip Kidd on board – ask him for a quote on this job. See if he’ll take $500 and some nicknacks from Neil.

  15. Guys, can we please read through the comments before commenting, and put all our comments to others in a single post? The multiple sequential comments from a single person thing rather famously sets off my OCD.

  16. @jemaleddin: They’re asking hundreds of people to do highly specific work that can’t be used anywhere else (they state as much in the entry rules) and that they take ownership of, regardless of whether it wins or not.

    Well, yes, but that’s the nature of a contest: specific rules are set. And if someone doesn’t want to do the work following those rules, they don’t enter the contest. If someone *voluntarily* enters the contest, knowing that their creation is no longer their property, then I’m not clear why people here are upset.

  17. I can quite see why professional graphic designers are upset, and believe me there’s nothing I would have liked more than to simply be able to hire someone who was very talented and pay them good money for doing the job.

    However, WSFS doesn’t have that sort of money, and probably never will have that sort of money, so that was never going to happen.

    Given the situation we are in, we’ve tried to make the best of it. We know we won’t get the best in the business entering because they are booked up with paying work. We are stuck with that. Nevertheless, we have tried to make the contest worth entering.

    Firstly, by having Chip and Irene on board, we hope we’ve shown that the eventual winner will be of genuine quality – this isn’t just a bunch of fanboys having a lark. So if you win the contest people will know you are good.

    Secondly, we are going to use this logo, a lot. One of the reasons we launched this contest is that we’ve had requests from people like the BBC and Entertainment Weekly for an image they can use when talking about the Hugos. That’s high profile, and we’ll do everything we can to make sure that the winning designer gets due credit.

    I know neither of those things translates immediately to money in the bank, and in tough economic times I can quite understand people not wanting to work for free. But we didn’t have any other choice.

  18. @Deb Geisler: Oh, you’re right – we should never decry anything that’s voluntary. That’s why nobody complains about the things Bill O’Reilly or Rush Limbaugh say – you don’t *have* to listen to them. Also, nobody complains about bad products or how to protect consumers from them – you purchase them *voluntarily.* In just the same way, you can’t complain if you were screwed into taking a bad mortgage by a dishonest lender – it was *voluntary*.

    Wait – you really shouldn’t be questioning me – reading my comment was voluntary. :-)

    But the question remains, what is the WSFS saying with contest? First of all, they’re saying that the total value of all the submissions they receive is a little south of $600. If only a hundred people enter, and each only spends 8 hours working on this, then logo design is worth 75 cents an hour! But don’t worry, the more people who enter, the more they’re wasting their time!

    Of course, that’s only if they award a prize – which Kevin reminds us is optional. Then all of that time was worth nothing.

    I don’t think anyone else would appreciate a contest that makes their industry’s products seem worthless.

    @Cheryl: So you’re argument is, “we don’t have the resources to pay somebody established, so we’ll exploit those who aren’t?” Huh. I can see how that’s a good deal for you. And it may be a good deal for the winner. But it makes the WSFS look like cheapskates. Cheapskates that want to take advantage of the work of creative people.

    Moreover, your argument that this logo will be used all over the place means that it’s worth more, not less – if every book that’s ever one a Hugo starts carrying this logo, how many will have a quote that says, “Hugo Logo copyright Little Sally Designer:”? By “due credit” do you mean “tucked away on the least visited page on our site”?

    The actual solution to your problem was to reach out to your contacts – I bet you know some publishing houses who employ talented designers – and get them to do this work pro bono.

    (Again – somebody with some connections should really get Chip Kidd to give us a quote.)

  19. jemaleddin, I think you’re over-reacting. I’m a professional writer — I’ve had editors pay $2000 for a story of mine, and quite a bit more for a book. I make a living from my writing, and I’m faster than anyone to cry foul on a scam when I run across it.

    But that said, this isn’t a scam. It’s a low-paying contest. I don’t see anything wrong with that. There’s no entry fee to submit material, and artists can decide whether it’s worth their time and effort to enter. Professionals will, for the most part, not be able to afford the time to enter, unless they decide to do it as a labor of love, or for the egoboo. So it’s mostly geared towards amateurs and semi-pros. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

    The Hugo folks aren’t being misleading about this, and I honestly don’t see how your suggestion that they approach some artists and just ask them to do the work pro bono is any better for artists in general or the final designer in specific.

    Their contest isn’t hurting anyone. And if I were a pro artist, instead of a pro writer, I might well draft a design and send it along, if I had a bit of free time after the work-that-pays-the-rent was done, just for the fun of it. I’ve certainly given away plenty of writing, long after turning pro, just because I like a publication or organization and what it stands for. The WorldCon and Hugo folks definitely fall into that category for me. If they don’t for you, that’s fine. You certainly don’t need to enter the contest.

  20. I’m quite pleased to see someone with Chip Kidd’s qualifications donating his time and knowledge to this contest. Which is not to say the others are chopped liver or some such.

  21. @Mary Anne Mohanraj: I don’t think I said it was a scam. I certainly didn’t mean to and hope I wasn’t giving that impression. What I’m saying is that it undermines the idea of there being value in design work in the mind of the public, seeks to get something for (next to) nothing, and exploits those who are young and inexperienced enough not to know any better.

    But a scam? Perish the thought.

    I mean, these sort of things OFTEN turn out to be scams after the fact – @Pixelfish above provides the canonical example. But I don’t think anyone expects that of the WSFS.

    Here’s an analogy: I’m sure that in your area there are any number of regularly scheduled wet t-shirt contests. They’re not scams. You could think of them as contests for young models. A way for a lady who hopes to work her way up in modeling or acting to get noticed and maybe win some cash. It doesn’t hurt anyone directly, the pay is nice, and it doesn’t take a lot of time. It could even be fun for a semi-pro with some time on her hands to earn a little extra cash after paying the bills at a catalog shoot.

    And yet, without going through an extensive search of your blog or John’s, I’m willing to bet that you don’t publicize these events. Why is that? I’m going to guess it’s because you don’t like what they do to society’s ideas about the value of women. You might even think those young ladies are being exploited. I do.

    Design contests are wet t-shirt contests for designers. (Except instead of giving up your design forever, I guess you give up your dignity. I never said it was a perfect analogy. There’s a reason I’m a programmer now and not a writer – or a graphic designer any more, for that matter.)

    @Michael Walsh: I could be wrong, but I’d bet that Chip Kidd is a dues-paying member of the AIGA, the professional association for design. Their opinion on design contests is here:

    An excerpt:

    “The other reason is that expecting speculative or uncompensated work demonstrates a trivializing of the contribution design makes to creating value for clients. Of all the entrants in your contest or competition, only one will be selected as a finalist. The time and work of all others will have gone for naught.”

    I’m disappointed in Mr. Kidd.

  22. This is getting more than a little tiresome.

    Fandom has a decades-long tradition of doing things for fun and for free and with little expectation of compensation — indeed has a whole slate of awards for fan writers and artists — and as noted before within the context of fandom, this sort of contest is neither notably new or exploitative, following as it does what fandom has always done, and (as importantly) has had good reason for doing, and through which it has built its community.

    If you want to rail against the ethos of fandom, Jemmaleddin, you go right ahead. But saying it’s wrong is both incorrect in the context of the community that the competition is a part of, and more than a little arrogant. This competition is not, I suspect, primarily focused on professional designers but rather on fans, some of whom may be professional designers but some of whom might simply enjoy trying their hand at the work. What you see as exploitative this community sees as tapping its own resources for the benefit of the community as a whole, and for the genre it admires.

    Note well that I personally take a very hard line against what I see as exploitation of creative people by the cheap and unethical, and have written extensively about it. In my opinion, which has some not inconsiderable weight here, this competition does not qualify is exploitation, because of who is running the competition, who benefits, and the context of the competition itself. It’s why I posted about it and why I support it.

  23. jemaleddin:

    I see exactly where you are coming from, and you are right, WSFS are cheapskates. Everything WSFS does is done on a volunteer basis (including, I might add, the time of the people running and judging this contest). It is embarrassing, but without fundamental change to the way the organization is run it will never be any other way. Everything we do is based on taking advantage of the generosity of hard-working and creative people. All we can do is be honest about that and hope that no one thinks they are being scammed.

    (Given where we are, I should also once again thank John for all of the hard work he is putting in arranging for the creation and distribution of the Hugo Voter Packages, again entirely for free.)

    On the other hand, one of the primary purposes of WSFS is to celebrate the achievements of creative people. That should be no less true of graphic designers than it is of writers. Before we launched this contest, one of the main objections I got from people I spoke to was, “why are you wasting your time on a logo, what good is that?” That’s clearly the attitude of someone who doesn’t value design work, and I’d like the see the contest help change such attitudes. So here’s my question for you: given that the contest exists, what can we now do to use it to help promote the value of good graphic design and encourage more companies to employ good designers? I can’t promise we’ll be able to implement your ideas, but I would like to find a way to make the contest provide benefit for the graphic design industry as well as for WSFS and the eventual winner.

  24. @jemaleddin:

    Your RFP comparison is bogus.

    Only because you’re saying “because it’s Big Bad Evil Business, it doesn’t matter.” This is the same argument that says, “Comparing a convention membership to a trade show admission is meaningless because the latter is a Business Expense.”

    But you aren’t doing the actual work when you work on an RFP.

    Which just shows how little you know about how much work it is. And which, by the way, also says that the hundreds of hours, including not infrequently nights and weekends, that I’ve spent pounding my head against the keyboard evaluating potential clients’ data and trying to build a supply chain model that makes sense for them and for me isn’t “actual work.” Thanks for deciding that graphic design work is “actual work,” but that database design and complex computer modeling isn’t. You may not have intended it, but it’s roughly equivalent to me pointing at a graphic designer and saying, “Oh, that’s just some doodling and isn’t real work.”

    Shorter: we can’t afford to pay one person what this is worth, so we’re asking hundreds of people to do it for free.

    How do you decide what it’s “worth” anyway? If someone enters the contest, it must (by definition) be “worth it” to him/her. However, it’s true that WSFS and Worldcons really are, generally speaking, pretty tight on resources. As I noted before, nobody gets paid for the services that the hundreds of people perform every year, often in their professional specialties, to make things happen. Perhaps you think we’re a bunch of Fat Cats sitting back in the palatial World Science Fiction Building swimming around in the cash that Worldcons generate.

    Have you ever heard of the phrase, “the perfect is the enemy of the good?” In order to make things Perfect — which in your world would appear to be to hire a Real Graphic Designer to do a Real Professional Job — is something that’s never going to happen, for a variety of reasons starting with the fact that WSFS doesn’t have enough money. So as far as you’re concerned, we shouldn’t ever do anything because it’s not possible to do a Perfect Job. That’s like saying the Wright Brothers shouldn’t have bothered at Kitty Hawk because they couldn’t produce a 747.

    And regarding your disregarding of the designer credits: well, do you know who designed the Hugo Award? (Hint: I gave it away earlier in the thread.)

  25. As a pro, I strongly disagree with AIGA’s stand. They’re taking a hard-line position — ‘spec work is wrong’ — that I think is faulty and over-stated.

    I do think there’s something useful to pointing out to newer writers that they need to think about whether a particular piece of spec work, be it a contest or whatever, is going to be a productive use of their time. And I’d even agree that it’s worth getting het up about it if a lot of professional for-profit corporations start turning to contests and the like for their design work. I’m guessing that’s why AIGA developed their position, because there was (and perhaps still is) some bad industry practices that did make it harder for artists to make a living.

    But this is a non-profit staffed almost entirely by volunteers, the terms are very clear, and in these circumstances, I think asking for on spec work, in contest form or otherwise, is just fine.

    Heck, professional writers do things on spec all the damn time. It’s part of the job. Book proposals, for example. And sometimes entire books.

  26. @Scalzi: “This is getting more than a little tiresome.”

    You brought it up… :-)

    And for the record, I’m not against the ethos of fandom or doing something for nothing or volunteering. I do lots of those things on my own. But a design contest is something else. I’d reiterate those differences, but you’re (evidently) tired of hearing it. I think if we were having this conversation in person I could sway you to my side, but I’m having no luck in the comments. The Internet – who could have guessed it produces more heat than light?

    “Ask a WGA member about spec scripts, on that score.”

    This is less like a spec film screenplay and more like a spec teleplay for an on-going TV series. If nobody likes it, you just threw away a chunk of your time on something nobody else wants. Ask a WGA member if they think that’s a good idea. :-)

    And ask those who’ve done it how many times they’ve watched that show the next season and said, “My idea!”

    @Cheryl: “So here’s my question for you: given that the contest exists, what can we now do to use it to help promote the value of good graphic design and encourage more companies to employ good designers?”

    Great question – and I have no idea. How do *you* turn a process that devalues something into a process that elevates it? Also, if you’re going to agree with me on a number of points, could you mention that to Kevin who still wants to debate them? :-)

    @Kevin Standlee:

    WOW. I don’t know who you’re arguing against, but it’s not me. Nice strawman though! :-)

    *I* am not a graphic designer, though I did that work briefly. I’m a programmer who works for a smallish company that contracts to the federal government and answers a few dozen RFPs each year. I’ve spent my share of late nights and weekends working on proposals. I’m waiting to hear back on whether the work I did on a financial management system proposal for the VA will be accepted. Want me to demonstrate my knowledge of when to use implicit joins and places where normalization is a bad idea?

    It looks like when I said, “you aren’t doing the actual work” you skipped over the word, “the” in that sentence. Ideally, drafting a proposal in the software world provides examples of how you WOULD do the work, and showcases both work you’ve already done and (if you’ve been through the process more than once) products you’ve already created that can be modified for this specific RFP. But if you’re bidding on a contract to set up and maintain a network of computers, you aren’t ACTUALLY setting up the network. I didn’t say you aren’t doing ANY work, but you aren’t doing THE work you’re trying to win.

    And again: if you win an RFP, your company is handsomely rewarded for their efforts going forward (unless your contract people suck, I guess).

    “How do you decide what it’s “worth” anyway?”

    You ask a professional for a quote. Also, you could put out an RFP. :-)

    “So as far as you’re concerned, we shouldn’t ever do anything because it’s not possible to do a Perfect Job. ”

    I didn’t say anything of the kind. Doing the wrong thing because you don’t have the resources to do the right thing is completely different. If you can’t afford something, you go without and make do. Somehow, and you’d know better than I, that’s what the WSFS has been doing all these years.

    “And regarding your disregarding of the designer credits: well, do you know who designed the Hugo Award?”

    A better question: how many sci-fi fans that recognize the trophy have any idea who designed it? How great a job has the WSFS done of promoting THAT designer’s work? (Asking trivia on the Internet is silly: we all have Wikipedia now!)

    Okay, John’s getting grumpy so I’ll leave you all alone for a while. :-)

  27. Maybe if compensation is worrisome to the WFSF, they could consider a trade of a single year’s voting membership to WorldCon for entries that meet all their criteria and format requirements. (Although I suppose it’s too late in the game to suggest such a thing, and it might be hard to administer.)

    Another thing I would hope is that if they don’t see the PRECISE logo they like, but something with potential, that they would consider working with the artist who developed it to iterate through the design process.


    Mary Ann: Almost every artist I know has been burned by the siren call of spec work at some point. Usually it happens right when they are out of art school, and A) don’t know any better and B) are desperate to get their name made. So somebody sees their work online and tells them they should submit to this contest/help work on this game mod/come up with a logo. They won’t be paid, but they can put it in their portfolio. (This is of dubious value, because presumably having just been through art school, you’ve spent the last four years making things you can put in your portfolio and paying the school while you do it. Going to merely not getting paid may look good in comparison, but it’s not a job in good faith.) The offer of fame is also usually bullshit because the fame-offering entity is usually very limited in its opportunities for displaying the art/logo. (Or in some few cases, bigger companies were trying to get work from artists for super cheap, or mining their ideas. This generally doesn’t happen in SF/F but it happens all the time in design/marketing and that’s why young designers are warned so ferociously about spec work. Because it generally IS exploitive.)

    That said, the Hugos are another ball of wax, as I said before. For one thing, there’s a pre-existing community of people who are associated with it on a primarily voluntary basis. Presumably folks are already passionate about sf/f–not a case of trying to make a logo for Uncle Ted’s Fly Fishing shop in Podunkia, USA when you don’t even fish. And the board of judges is no fly-by-night crew of Uncle Ted who once went to the art museum in Duluth. It includes a well-respected art director and several talented artists. Getting a chance to get your portfolio in front of these people is a valuable thing, particularly if you ARE interested at all in the arty side of science fiction. And as I noted already, the prize isn’t in the free t-shirt category. (Hey, 500 is 20 hours of work at my present contract rate. If I can’t get a logo concept or three out in 20 hours, I don’t deserve the name of graphic designer.)

  28. While for the most part, I think this contest is just fine, there’s one point on which I strongly agree with jemaleddin: the condition that all rights to all entries become the sole property of WSFS is overreaching, not to mention entirely unnecessary. Retaining the right to the winning entry is all they need, and all they reasonably ought to be claiming.

  29. Shmuel:

    The reason why WSFS is claiming the rights to all entries is because they all contain the words “Hugo Award”, which is a WSFS service mark. If a designer can remove those words they can almost certainly re-use the work, and if they can’t then the design is of no use to them anyway. That was one of many issues we discussed with a copyright lawyer.

  30. @Pixelfish:

    they could consider a trade of a single year’s voting membership to WorldCon for entries that meet all their criteria and format requirements.

    You must understand that “WSFS” can’t make individual Worldcon committees give away memberships. The WSFS Hugo Awards Marketing Committee has had to go to each committee and ask for the donation of one membership, and to line up potential sponsors to buy a membership if necessary.

    This contest is not a creation of Anticipation, of Aussiecon Four, of of any other past or future Worldcon committee. Worldcon committees are independent organizations operating under the WSFS Constitution. The contest is being administered by the Hugo Awards Marketing Committee of the WSFS Mark Protection Committee. (The MPC consists of people appointed by past and current Worldcon and NASFiCs and people elected by the annual WSFS Business Meeting.) Although the MPC is the only permanent body of WSFS, it is relatively small and has only enough money to keep the service marks on “Hugo Award,” “Worldcon,” etc. registered. For anything else (like this contest), we have to go get sponsorship and donations.

  31. John: When you run a contest of this sort, there are specific laws which must be observed (and which can vary wildly from state to state, country to country)–without exception. Not delivering on a promised prize is not an option in the US, at least. So “none of the above” isn’t likely to be an appropriate award. (This is another reason why this is not a good way to generate design.)

    Kevin: I should make clear that my post really has nothing to do with compensation, or “providing more than what’s expected”. Pro bono means work done for the public good, often for no compensation. Experienced professionals often set aside a good portion of their time for pro bono causes and organizations. (For myself, I volunteer at a local museum–modelmaking, photography, videography, illustration, graphic design, and physical labor. In my experience, most professional artists and designers do something similar.)

    So I don’t think compensation should be on the table at all. I can think of any number of professionals young and old who would love to perform on this, and would deliver great-looking and professional results without resorting to a contest to get what they need. (If you pressed me, I’d love to see what Scott Kim would do in this situation–but obviously this isn’t up to me.)

    If we look at it from the standpoint of volunteerism, we can see if 500 entries are received, one picked makes 499 entries purely wasted effort. Is this a good way to manage a group of volunteers? Does it make sense in any way to have 500 volunteers perform the same service only to reward, well, one?

    At the very least, most organizations I know would give ’em some pizza or coffee just for showing up. This isn’t about compensation; its about thanking the group of individuals who showed up to help make your event or exhibit a success.

    Then, too, are the less tangible rewards. When I volunteer, hell, when anyone volunteers, they like to feel that their efforts aren’t disappearing into a black hole.

    I don’t envy the jury, either. Contests can also generate numerous, ah, copied designs which aren’t appropriate for use. Any candidate chosen must be vetted against what exists already–which is another reason to go to professionals in the first place. Professional designers frequently work from scratch, do tons of research, understand trademark and copyright law, and are people for whom it would be anathema to pass off a recycled design as their own.

    Pixelfish: I think any jury qualified to judge contest entries should be able to discern which designer is capable of making a good logo for that organization from just a portfolio. If not, what are they doing judging entries?

    From a purely professional standpoint, the terms of the contest itself have suck written all over them. The fact of the matter is that running a contest is a good way to get professionals to stay away. I can’t think of a better way to water down the quality of the entries than that.

    If my local museum suggested something like this, I’d make the same points to them (fortunately, I didn’t have to–when the logo design came up, it was designed by a museum member who happened to be a professional who delivered a dandy logo [David Board, if I recall correctly, did the work]).

    So it’s not really very forward thinking to have a contest. I submit they didn’t think this through very much at all. Especially since there are better ways.

  32. ScottE:

    “Not delivering on a promised prize is not an option in the US, at least.”

    They can pick a winner. They just don’t have to use it if they find it unsatisfactory.

  33. John:

    Technically correct. But from the prizes:

    The winning designer will receive:
    5. The right to use the basic logo and identify him/herself as the logo designer.

    Which won’t look funny at all if they wind up using a different logo than the winning entry.

    But more to the point, what good will the contest have been if the winning entry doesn’t also become the official logo?

  34. Wow, I would not have expected this to be controversial. I guess there really isn’t anything about The Hugos/Worldcon that isn’t.

    I doubt I’ll win but I’ll probably submit something. After the amount of other free work (artistic or otherwise) I do for fandom this is just a drop in the bucket after all. Oh, how they take advantage of me! (Or rather, how I take advantage of myself-since that’s how this fandom thing actually works.)

  35. @jemaleddin
    As someone who has designed some graphic designs for companies, I have no problem with the compensation that WSFS is offering for this contest.

    As stated before, it is for the good of the WHOLE community of sci-fi fans, and each time that I saw my design on a book, or magazine, or wherever – I can say – “Hey, I did that design”.

    On a professional side, as a structural designer often the work that I do often times goes un-noticed because people just do not understand the role that the structural engineer and support staff play. People just saw- oh wow that building was designed by Frank Gehry – look at the great architectural statement he is making. But, what about the VERY complicated structural support that that building needs?

    The Hugo Committee and WSFS are not hiding or exploiting people in any way with this. They are VERY explicit as to HOW and WHY they are going to use the winning design. If the artist is not happy with the compensation that WSFS is giving, I tend to think that the artist will not even bother submitting a design.

    So, obviously you will NOT be submitting a design. Fine. But I see no problem is asking the sci-fi fen to help grow the WSFS with this.

  36. Kevin Standlee: That’s a great site, and thank you for providing the proper search terms.

    Whatever happens, I hope you have a hard time choosing because of too many excellent designs.

  37. OK, I’m late to the game on this one…

    …but the question of “should I work for free” comes up over and over again. The pro photographer blogosphere has been hashing it out again this year.

    The short version? Get paid for your work. Most of the time. Almost all of the time. However…

    If you find a project you really believe in, one that’s not backed by big pockets, one that will get you a lot of exposure, one that may help you build your business, just do it. Do it pro bono. Do it on your own dime.

    If you don’t believe in it, don’t do it, but don’t rail against the people who do.

  38. I’m actually a little astonished at the focus on professional concerns in this thread when the immediate thing that came to mind when I saw that there was a contest was that it was aimed at fans — amateurs, in the literal sense. I don’t know much about SF organizations, for which I am somewhat grateful, but the comments above of those that do reinforce the notion that it is ultimately fandom writ large. And I don’t mean that with any sort of negativity at all. It does not seem incongruous at all that an award which is also given to recognize fanwork may well have a logo designed by an amateur. And amateur need not be negative in this instance. It’s been acknowledged that nonprofessional writers can write good stuff; is it so great a leap to think that nonprofessional artists can draw good stuff?

    Yes, the professionals are less likely to participate. But I don’t know that that’s really a bad thing, or that the suggestion of only asking professionals would be a good thing.

  39. Robin: good points. Dedicated amateurs often do excellent work. I didn’t mean to imply that they couldn’t, only that I speak for myself, not anyone else.

  40. Robin:

    You’re pretty much on track here. WSFS is not a professional organization. Everyone working for it, starting with the Chairman of its only permanent body (me) is a volunteer. We work in a Potlatch economy of giving more than we receive. Someone said to me that we should point out that the winner of the contest will receive more than ten times what the Chairman of WSFS makes in a year.

    The Hugo Awards are presented by fans, in the sense that the members of the World Science Fiction Convention vote on them. Some of the categories in the Hugos are for fan achievement (Best Fanzine, etc.), and others are for professional achievement (Best Novel, etc.).

    I must admit that there were complaints I expected about the contest. (It is essentially impossible to do anything in organized SF fandom without being sniped at and second-guessed.) But this particularly complaint was not one we expected.

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