Update 02/11/17: The Village of El Portal’s team ignored my requests for a response to my letter. They have chosen a winning logo done by a retired Taekwondo instructor full with plenty of gradients and clip-art’esque imagery. You can see it here and the semi finalists here.

Long Story Short: In response to an art explosion happening in Miami neighborhoods near Biscayne,  The Village of El Portal decided to have a contest to redesign their logo with no monetary compensation to the winner. I sent a letter (email) to the Mayor of El Portal in response to the idea of a Town asking for free work.

Full Story: Last week, I sent Village of El Portal’s Mayor, Claudia Cubillos and a few of her constituents a letter about the logo contest they are currently holding; to redesign the Village’s logo. This was of special interest to me since our design studio is located right at the edge of the area between El Portal and Little River.

I found it particularly interesting that in the Miami Herald post about the contest, the Mayor and The Village are excited about the “artistic explosion” happening there and the surrounding areas, and rightly so. The Village of El Portal and it’s neighboring areas, Little River, “Little Haiti” (Lemon City) have been flooded the last few years, with a migration of creatives and artists looking for spaces to work after the Design District and Wynwood (what was “Little San Juan”) became completely gentrified and unaffordable for many artists. | Side note: Little Haiti is now in danger of being gentrified faster than Wynwood was.

And yet, as excited as the Village of El Portal’s administration was for this influx of creatives, they decided to hold a “logo contest” that won’t compensate the artist/designer that wins said contest with legal tender, cash-money. The winner will receive a key to the city, a “feature in the Village’s website and quarterly newsletter. And their logo becomes the Village’s new Official El Portal Seal” which, in other words, bragging rights.

Granted, a key to any city sounds very cool and an honor to receive, however I find it very unfortunate that The Village of El Portal wasted an opportunity to invest in these very same creative people that they are celebrating. 

I sent the Mayor this lengthy letter which you can read below. I explained the case against logo contests. I’ve yet to receive a reply from her, her team or Miami Herald. I will update as it develops / if it develops.

Maybe I made a bigger issue than I should have, but I felt it was something they needed to hear. Would love to hear your thoughts on this. Open letter below the screengrab of the contest.

Angel A. Acevedo
     | @acevvvedo
  | @angelaacevedo

It Takes a Village to Make a Free Logo

Madam Mayor,

Good afternoon and Happy New Year!

My name is Angel Acevedo, Creative Director at ACVDO Co. Our studio is right down the street from Village of El Portal at MADE at the Citadel and we’re excited to be neighbors to the lovely Village of El Portal.

We moved to this neighborhood last year and we’ve seen already a lot of growth. It’s exciting to walk along side locals and grow together with the art community.

A few days ago, your current logo contest was shared in our graphic design alumni page in Facebook. Not sure if you know, but design contests (or what we call “spec work”) are very much frowned upon in our industry as they’re seen as a cheap lazy way to get free work, unethical and overall bad for business. There are plenty of articles by professionals in both sides (design and client) that echo that sentiment.

I don’t particularly like them but since I was planning on rebranding the City of Miami logo for our blog, I thought I’d take a look anyway to see the contest requirements. Branding is something I enjoy the most. So much so, I’ve done my fair share of rebrands just for fun. Including the Miami FlagRand Pauls campaignMall Stores from the 90’s among others.

A few things popped out in the Miami Herald post.

  1. The deadline: January 23rd. Roughly 2.5 weeks from the date of the Herald post. That’s barely any time for decent research unless the designer works solely on this project.
  2. The brief or lack there of: A project brief is extremely important for designers/creative. It answers many questions and outlines the scope of work. I see there are “rules” in the contest but it’s not enough.
  3. The compensation: A key to the city and bragging rights are super cool. I understand, honor and respect the gesture, by no means trying to belittle that. I’d love to hang that with pride in our studio. However, keys to any city won’t help a designer grow nor pay expenses. It’s not an even value exchange for a brand or logo identity, that should (essentially) be a timeless identity without the need for a rebrand. I expected that the Village could at least put some budget aside for said logo/brand. With all respect, I doubt you, Madam Mayor, get paid in keys for doing your job, or that the Village pays anyone with other than legal tender.

Logo contests are almost 100% a terrible idea for everyone involved and in the long run take valuable time and bring a major cost:

  • They devalue not only the design work as an industry, but your Village’s brand as a whole. In essence you’re saying “hey, we need a logo and it doesn’t matter what it looks like as long as it has these 4 things and we get it free.”
  • Submissions will most likely be from amateur designers or students with no understanding of the branding process. Design professionals will, more often than not, stay away.
  • You cannot control the work submitted and you’re not guaranteed that it’s recycled work or copyrighted work that belonged to someone else.
  • The “winning” logo may not work in different platforms. Have you considered how the logo would work in just one color? Will it print? Does it include Pantone colors? What about digitally, will it work at 1/8 the size as well as 200x the size? Will it be able to apply in police cars and be legible at a distance?, etc.
  • Said logo submissions generally do not include proper processes for creating a brand. Those submitting just hope to win. No time for research, brainstorming, moodboard approvals, concepting, discovery, revisions etc.
  • You and your team will be missing out on working with a local branding expert, from the experience of building a brand together, collaborating and the creative process that it takes.

If the Village of El Portal truly wants to embrace the art community that’s growing and it’s “artistic explosion,” why not help said artists grow by properly investing and compensating creatives to build a beautiful brand for the Village? Exposure does not count for anything other than a gimmick. Unless you’re going to add the artists name to the actual logo, exposure will be non-existent and rarely ever returns value.

You may be thinking, “Angel, that’s nice and all. If you don’t want to submit then just don’t do it.” The purpose of this email/letter is not to shake my fist and say “how dare you!” It’s more to educate a bit on the importance of the branding process, your city’s brand / value that’s attached to it, and to the creators of said brand.

What’s a solution I propose? Hire a professional. Would you do a plumbing contest to see who can fix a broken pipe the best for free? Would any respecting plumber even waste their time unless they are guaranteed monetary compensation? Chances are you wouldn’t risk it and they wouldn’t either. I’m not asking to hire our studio, there are many, many, many talented branding experts here in our community alone that can help. Or at least add some kind of monetary value to the competition. Hell, even if the contest had some kind of compensation I’d consider joining. Why? Because that means that you, your team and everyone involved understand the value of your brand. If you don’t believe it’s important enough to invest in, then why should anyone else?

I know we’re 10 days away and I don’t expect it to change much, however I thought it was important to address. It’s an opinion that I stand by, though, I’m sure many others won’t agree, which is ok. I would love to hear your thoughts or feedback if I’m mistaken in any of the points.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I apologize for the lengthy email. Hope you understand this point of view.

With respect,

Angel A. Acevedo
ACVDO & Co. | Creative Director


PS: If you don’t get a chance to see any of the links I mentioned, at least take a look at www.nospec.com and this one where the City of Welland tries the same thing: https://medium.com/@rmhardwick/city-of-welland-logo-contest-is-just-wrong-95e0530f91c9#.shoiguelt