Corporate Sponsored Design Competitions - Opinions Please!

Here are some questions for you all.

How do you feel about design competitions which are corporate sponsored where you are required to give up all IP rights to you design upon submitting an entry? Does it make a difference that 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners win some kind of monetary compensation as well as an internship?

If this were to happen while you were still in college and it was required as part of a semester course for grade, would that make a difference? Would you opt out?

The company I work for wants to put something like this together and I have expressed my views on something like this (which I shared with many of my classmates) that it may not go over well.

Please share your thoughts.

What is the company’s reason for wanting to sponsor this competition? Is it to help students or is it a way to get a lot of very cheap design concepts?

There is a middleground- right of first refusal. Basically, the company sponsoring the competition would have the right to the IP for a period of time (usually a year or less), then if they don’t use the idea, the rights would be transferred back to the designer. There are variation to this theme. Designboom’s ‘teenage furniture’ competition had this clause, and so did the conduitgroup competition.

Otherwise, the setup that you have described will have some unintended effects that I have seen in the past. For example, they may find a very valuable concept in the entries but will not want to show it in the press- so they will then not award any money to the student, then later produce the idea anyway. They students who do not win will then be giving their rights up for nothing.

IP rights is a very hot topic in the design world right now, and is very relevent as an influence on design. It would be interesting if the projects that were submitted reacted to IP as a concept, protest, or new design itself. (Could even do the real competition and an ‘anti-competition’ at the same time.
Here’s an example recently hitting the blogs:,70664-0.html?tw=wn_index_14

there was a thread not too long ago about this topic… if memory serves, sponsored projects are pretty routine nowdays (particulary in state funded schools).
Students from programs with strong co-op programs resented not being allowed to do purely blue-sky work while in school, and the rest seemed to like the idea of getting a ‘real-world-like’ experience and possibly something published/produced.
The proffesors will constrain the the project to achieve the appropriate pedagogical needs, one of wich should be, a broad enough scope that each student can find individual expression.

Most of the time I think it is to avoid litigation.

For example, a company is developing an idea in a R&D center. A separate arm of the company sponsors a competition and a student has a similar idea. In two years the concept goes to production and that student feels as if the idea has been stolen, when the designers that worked on the project never even saw the results of that competition. Its away for the corporation to be involved with no fear.

I’m sure there have been cases of shady dealings though…it a great topic to raise.

Design student always complain they are working for free with these types of projects. :unamused:

Well guess what, you are. Why? Because the chances of your designs will be of real value are minimal. AND IF YOU ARE A GENIUS AND THE COMPANY USES YOUR IDEA. The value of that experience and the portfolio entry are worth more than you would be paid as a professional freelancer.

DON’T think it stops when you are a professional either. I have a one dollar bill and an (uncashed) check for 10 bucks hanging on the wall in front of me. Payment for handing over my rights to IP worth millions to the company that as a full time employee would have been worth 10 to 15k in bonus pay. BUT as a contractor, it was worth 11 dollars. Unless you include the experience I gained and the contacts and the portfolio, ALL of which helped me increase my anual income from 65K to 168K in one year.

So lets do some quick math, 15K plus a full time pay of 90K equal 105K or 168K to give up the IP and continue to contract. Hmmm.

Quit your whinning and be glad someone with experience is willing to share thier experience and time with you. And to the class my company is sponsoring this quarter, see you next Tuesday. :smiley:

Exactly who are you referring to? I hope its not me. I am design professional who has been working in corporate settings for 7 years and have several patents in my name which belong to my employers.

When I commented on my classmate’s views, I was referring to projects like this that came across at the time.

my comments were more general in nature. I have heard students complain about this both when I was in school and second hand from professors who teach these types of classes.

If you are willing to hire or compensate students for doing great work, then more power to you.

My point was to the students, that the true value is in the experience.

Compensation is a bonus, not a prerec.

To ny designguy-

What are the reasons that your company would like to sponser this competition? Could it work a bit better if, instead, they would sponser the project by help paying for all the students models, expenses, etc, instead of a winner take all approach?

My views may differ than the others here, but it seems important to keep the distiction that students are not yet working professionals and that there is value that they retain the IP rights to their ideas (even if they are worthless in real world product development).

Does core77 have a policy on the kind of design competitions it would host ?

It will be good if it has one and better if it is published.