Logo design competitions can often be controversial. The whole concept is often criticised as a ploy used to avoid paying a designer the going rate, even if a cash prize is offered. And when the guidelines aren't clear, it often feels like a rushed, disoriented endeavour undertaken by a brand that has no idea of its own identity.
Even those who participate in a logo design contest can end up feeling aggrieved, especially if there's no winner. That's the debacle that K-pop heartthrob Changsub has suddenly found himself involved in. He launched a competition to design a logo for a music school of which he is president, and none of the entries was deemed good enough (see our guide to how to design a logo for some pro tips).
Lee Chang-sub, better known as Changsub, is the lead vocalist in K-pop band BtoB. He announced a competition to design a logo for the CHANG-GGO music school on Instagram last month, promising a 500,000 KRW ($377) shopping mall gift card as the prize. However, last week a post on the school's own Instagram account announced that although participants had "sent a lot of creative works", none of them "fit the creative direction of CHANG-GGO".
The announcement went on to recognise that guidelines were not provided and promised "a better event next time". Some fans took the announcement philosophically, saying that Changsub was right not to choose a winner that didn't convince him. But others were furious, feeling that he had wasted people's time and that the K-pop star should have clarified that there might be no winner.
"There were clearly comments from people who were interested in the logo contest post asking for guidelines and there was no response," one person responded. "Most of the participants are fans who took time to participate from their busy schedule, but I can only think that their time and effort has been ignored."
The criticism has led Changsub to post a public apology in which he laments the "embarrassing situation." He writes: "I would like to deliver my sincerest apologies to everyone who participated. I truly apologise for launching a contest without proper knowledge, as it is my first time running a business. The contest should have clearly indicated that a winner may not be chosen, but it left out crucial details, and for that, I apologize deeply."
He added: "From now on, I will become a better president who is able to make decisions after careful consideration, so that such a mistake does not happen again." He sounds very contrite, but some fans still aren't happy.
"Participants were not upset that they were not selected, but because of the nature of the design contest, the meaning of the logo, period of participation, date of the decision and the possibility that nothing will be adopted if there is no chosen design," one person wrote. "I think that all this process is unfair."
"I'm on the participants' side on this matter because designing a logo takes a lot of time and effort. One post and apology cannot give back their time and effort on this. So I think there will still be people disappointed with what happened," someone else wrote.
From the initial announcement of the competition's results, it sounds like Changsub isn't giving up on the idea of a competition but plans to run another one with clearer guidelines. It seems a shame that he hasn't learned it would probably be better to hire a designer.
Logo design competitions have a bad rep in general, but they're still very common. As well as causing gripes among participants, they can also result in sub-par branding. Elon Musk even held an impromptu logo design competition with no prize to find an X logo, and the result was a generic design that features in several typefaces.