Participating in a design competition - practical questions

I’m a total newbie in design, have never studied it and don’t have any experience. However I’ve done several designs that I’d like to offer to some companies as a freelance designer. I also just saw an announcment about a design competition that a bread (!) company organizes, and I was wondering what my rights are etc. if I participate. In the announcement they said that they would have full rights to use pictures and names of the designer in their ads. The bread company seems very reliable, and the design of their breads and packs and adverts is very high quality, so this would be good free publicity I think. However I’d like to make sure a few things;

  1. Would I still have the right to sell my design to a company even if I participate?

  2. A) When offering the design to a company, should I mention them that I’ve participated in that competition and that if I do well they will publish a picture of it in newspapers and magazines? (If I do well, the picture would already appear in August, so long before the product would be in the production I think…)

B) If yes, should I mention it in the first e-mail or only if they are interested in my design?

  1. Could a picture of an unregistered design (which my design would be) make registering of the product later on impossible if the company is interested?

Thanks for any advice in advance!

guessing you dont link to rules to limit your competition. hard to answer questions for sure. is this graphics or product?

Well, the rules were very vague and there was no contact inoformation… Absolutely no use (especially since I don’t know about the normal policy in these matters…) - a link wouldn’t help you guys since it’s not in English, but I’ll add a translation of it in the end of my post.

I’m particularly concerned about the registering thing… I’ve heard of a case where the producer’s own poster of the product prevented from registering it or something… don’t remember what it was about though. I wouldn’t want to find myself in a situation where no company would want to buy my product because it wouldn’t be possible to register it (which all the companies would want to do I assume…)

Ok, here’s the translation of the rules:

“All people living in Finland can participate in the competition (apart from the staff members of XXX) with any unpublished design object. By participating you confirm that the design is new and does not offend any rights of third parties. Your work can be a fresh interpretation of a vase, a chair, a colthspin, a fruit basket, a hat or any other object. The winner recieves a price of 2000 euros.
The jury chooses 10 best works among participants, which will be published. The public will choose the winner among these works. Winners will be personally notified. The desing and name of the winner will be published on week 42. Participation gives the organizer of the competition unlimited geographic rights for the use of competition picture and the name of designer wihtout time limits in advertising and marketing of bread XXX of company XXX.
Send your competition work by the 30th of July 2004 to… (address). Works will not be returned.”

so its Product.

Timex competition similar. see core homepage. everyone sends designs in. you keep ownership of design. but nothing in competition stops copycat. unless person protects before entering.

without legal registration/patent, minute design is shown you lose rights. see this How to get a design patent?

I would think that in general, once it goes public, you won’t be able to sell it to anybody. People develop new products, in part, to be the first on the market with it. You lose a lot of points if it’s already out there in public domain. Plus anybody can copy it and do it themselves. Imagine if told you I had the cure for baldness, entered it in a competition explaining my brilliant process that only uses corn oil and old socks. Who would buy it from me then? They’d be in the lab figuring it out for themselves. For your own mental health, you could assume that anything you put in a competition is gone, like online portfolio work. If you really want to sell it later you should keep it under wraps. Good luck.

Then why do porfessional designers participate in competitons if they couldn’t sell the design once it comes public? Or have they sold it to a company before participating in the competition?

Anyway thanks for the comments… I don’t think I want to participate if it could risk selling the design.



Yeah that’s not how design works.

Designers don’t come up with stuff and then try and sell it–that’s what so-called “inventors” do, and its a very different game.

Producing and selling designs is hard work, and it takes a lot of time and money. Designers are about designing–not publishing or selling. So the trick for designers is to find the right type of freelance projects or firms to work for so that they can work on the stuff they like.

Only a few designers (mostly students) have the time to enter competitions, and they usually don’t put a lot of work into them. Mostly it’s a great way for freelancers or small firms to get their name out there.

As a corollary, in the graphic design world, typically designers will take on a certain amount of pro-bono or spec work for the same reasons (and typically hoping that the creative-freedom that comes with a free project will help win awards/recognition.)

now i think about it, i dont know any pro designers who have ever entered competitions. only submitted their work to IDEA, ID mag, etc. i’ve been tempted tho.

scott wilson (nike) entered, and won, the photoreal furniture competition from

this is getting out in the weeds relative to this thread, but…

doesn’t it sound a bit unusual that a designer nike would win, particularly when one of the major sponsors of the competition was, uh, nike?

not trying to detract from the winning entry’s merit…just struck me as odd.

was saying personally. there was a Core comp a while back. some professionals entered that one. but the big deal is always ID Annual Review or IDEA. least in my circle.

ok so hope at least your good friends with the jury

This topic seems to come up quite often, especially with new designers. I cant answer your questions directly because I do not know who the bread company is. However I can say this, design concepts and ideas are a dime a dozen! Good designers will continually come up with new (better) concepts, that is our job. I believe intellectual property rights is an outdated concept. I know this is a hard thing to accept but with the speed of business today, trying to “protect” your ideas is almost impossible. Its all about who gets to market quickest with the most appropriate product. If your design is successful it will be copied, that is definite. All we can do a designers is keep moving forward, keep innovating. Now, this is not to say that I believe that we should ignore the past.No, I believe we should embrace the past but at the same time we should continually strive to improve on it.

Just to expand on that, ideas are cheap, implementation is expensive.

Enter the contest and don’t worry so much. A few co-workers and I entered the shonan design competion (Japanese) with a concept. We got some recognition, a nice resume bullet point, a portfolio piece that was imediately showable (a rare thing when you are just a few years out of schoo) and a few thousand dollars. I think I’ve done 3 or 4 this year so far.

so those are the reasons to enter:
1- showable portfolio piece
2- international recognition
3- resume fluff
4- prize money (which often includes a trip to accept the award)

Professional designers enter competitons all the time. BTW Scott Wilson working @ Nike probably hurt him if anything, but his design was so sweet it wouldn’t matter anyway. Guy is a design machine.