Competitions – a worrisome trend

I’ve talked about Freelancer websites before and how I find a fair few side jobs this way. But lately I’ve noticed a trend picking up steam that is very disturbing. I recently saw this job post on a popular freelancer website (I won’t name them). As someone who may or may not enter a design competition, how does this make you feel? And what, if anything, should be done about it?

“I am entering a Skyscraper contest on the Evolo website and am looking for someone who can take the plans that I have designed on paper and make them into digital format as described in the Evolo Competition requirements. You can log in to the website and view the rules on submitting the design and view other skyscrapers to see there are 2 boards to zoom in on the work. Please read Competition requirements and to see if you are able to do this type of work. Please let me know other work you have done to look at. Thankyou”

Keep in mind, the person posting this project is offering to pay a fee for the modeling and rendering services, essentially hiring an employee. This is not the first post I’ve seen like this in recent weeks either. What are your thoughts? Is this cheating or just prudent planning and delegation?

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9 thoughts on “Competitions – a worrisome trend

  1. If the competition rules allow for a ‘team’ effort, and do not explicitly prohibit using paid workers, then I would support it fully. I have entered several competitions and actually used another person for the renderings. While I didn’t pay the individual (he volunteered his time and skills), I did promise a portion of prize money to him if I ended up winning. Many competition entries allow for groups to enter, so an individual getting help from a colleague just evens the playing field. You do what it takes to do the best job you can – if everyone has the same opportunity to utilize outside help, then it is fair.

    • I see your point and agree fully on the “team effort”, but this is hiring a consultant who most likely will not be part of “the team”…..i don’t know. I see it as dirty pool and should be prohibited in the competition rules. I’m guessing it’s most likely not something that has ever really come up before. At least I’ve never noticed it mentioned our outlined in competitions I’ve entered.
      It’s one thing to assemble a team of professionals. It’s another thing to hire professional modelers to do your work for you and present it as your own individual entry.

  2. I could argue this both ways, but the element to discern is whether you win because of your design or because of your renderings. Obviously the renderings are to persuade the judges, but is it the design that ultimately wins to competition? If this is not outside the rules, then how is it any different to hire an outsider than an office to use their staff to do this work? I wish I had time to enter competitions.

    • I think there is a big difference to paying an employee to perform a task that they then have creative rights to in a portfolio and hiring someone to create a “winning entry” in a competition that they then get no credit for. The consensus seems to be that it is a grey area, but for me I think it’s an ethical violation and it’s just dirty pool. It leaves a very bad taste in my mouth, for whatever reason. There it is. :-\

  3. Competitions in which you have to do valuable work in hopes of being awarded some long-shot “prize” are horrible for the participant, the client and especially the industry. I am confident that this trend will prove to be nearly worthless to all that participate and will be a thing of the past, if only popping up occasionally in the future. I am a graphic designer, so it is something that is truly bothersome to my industry. Young and unexperienced designers get tricked into working for free under the guise of getting some type of recognition that will never pay off and the client gets inferior results. Somehow it is even more disturbing to me when related to architecture. Here are some articles that can explain in better detail than I can:

    http://www.aiga.org/position-spec-work/
    http://www.no-spec.com/articles/why-speculation-hurts/
    http://shouldiworkforfree.com/

    • Patrick, thanks for your comments and your perspective. Unfortunately I’m seeing instances of this kind of thing INCREASE instead of decrease and at multiple locations. I even saw one today for a Master’s Thesis model/rendering. Very unfortunate. But a “gray area” it seems to remain. :-\

  4. If the rules don’t specifically stipulate using your own personal work then I wouldn’t have an ethical conflict. Most firms that do competitions have the employees do the work (renderings, models), not the principles. Sounds like prudent planning and delegation. I though you would be on board with this concept given your cloud-based and collaborative approach to architecture.

    • I have no problem with a principle delegating a firm employee the task of generating a design concept for a competition entry. What I have a problem with here is a person going out and saying “hey, I want to buy the best design for this competition”. It’s not “turn my idea into a model”, it’s “make an entry for this and I will buy it”. Maybe I’m being obtuse, but I see it as a major ethics violation. It’s cheating, as I see it. Plain and simple.
      Collaboration based practice is not even close to this kind of nightmare as I see it. But again, maybe my vantage is skewed.

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