E3D has incurred the wrath of the Reddit community by posting a competition asking designers to create a mascot for its BigBox printer.
The company has offered one of its 3D printers as a prize and it isn’t the first to take advantage of this kind of crowdsourced work. It’s a growing trend that is frustrating the creative industries, though, and the line between crowdsourcing and companies simply taking advantage of free labour is getting increasingly blurred.
No guarantee the prize will be awarded
This competition has really riled up the community because there isn’t even a cast iron guarantee that the winner will receive the printer. The post on the 3D Printing sub-Reddit clearly states that the company reserves the right to declare the whole contest null and void if it does not get a design that is up to its standards.
Angry Redditors have pointed out that the printer retails for less than $1000, so it really isn’t a fair exchange for the work they’re requesting.
Working on spec is a growing problem
Competitions are getting increasingly common as companies realise that enthusiasts are happy to compete for the recognition alone. When the competition was announced a number of Redditors rushed in their entries. That proved it’s an effective way to cut costs on design and gain access to a vast pool of creatives that will devote time and effort for little or no reward.
Increasingly lower costs for CAD design programmes, as well as the likes of Photoshop, and even the ever decreasing costs of 3D printers themselves means that anybody with the desire to learn can become a designer now. It’s a great thing that the creative industries have been opened up to us all, but it comes at a cost to the industry.
That means we’re all free to make our own decisions and if people want to supply a business with work for free then there is not much anybody can do about it.
Other industries have endured similar issues. Photographers, musicians, actors, writers and more are now routinely asked to work for free. It’s a running joke in the industry that major companies want to pay creatives in ‘exposure’, but the joke is wearing thin.
Designers are becoming increasingly disillusioned as companies spend vast amounts on research and development and then simply skirt the costs of the branding and design work by launching competitions like this.
Boxing not so clever
One memorable example recently came when the promoters of Floyd Mayweather’s bout with Marcos Maidana in Las Vegas asked professional designers to enter a competition to produce the graphics for a bout that was worth tens of millions of dollars. The fallout was not pretty.
A number of movements have sprung up to fight exploitation of the creative community, including Stop Working For Free on Facebook, which was more than 17,000 members. Another website, No Spec, is determined to take on the growing trend of spec work in the design community.
It’s becoming a real time suck for designers, who are expected to pitch virtually complete work to potential clients with the full knowledge that others are pitching for the same account.
It’s a growing problem for creatives and there’s no easy answer to it. As long as companies can cut costs, they will, but there’s something about this competition that leaves a sour taste.
E3D might want to consider changing the terms and conditions or simply offering a solid prize, or the powerful Reddit community might not let this one go.