Top Designer Calls Controversial HuffPo Contest Unethical

President of American Institute of Graphic Arts weighs in

The entry period for the Huffington Post Politics Icon Competition may have ended, but the backlash from the design community is still going strong.

After Monday’s onslaught of angry comments from readers who accused the Huffington Post of asking for “spec work”—that is, work without compensation—the site issued a statement claiming that the competition was “lighthearted” and “was in no way an attempt to solicit unpaid design services.”

But in an email to Adweek, the national president of the American Institute of Graphic Arts said he sees things differently. 

“By attempting to generate a logo through an online design competition in which designers were not compensated fairly for their work, the Huffington Post clearly acted unethically,” wrote Doug Powell, who is also the co-founder and creative director of Schwartz Powell, a Minneapolis-based graphic design firm. “I would encourage them to view this unfortunate misstep as an opportunity to connect with the creative community (which I'm guessing represents a sizable portion of its audience) and engage in a healthy dialogue about the value of design and the importance of strong, mutually beneficial professional relationships.”

Powell also wrote that AIGA “has a clear position on the issue of spec work that states that professional designers should be compensated fairly for their work,” but added that designers “must be careful to focus on the value of design rather than getting distracted by a debate about the evils of crowdsourcing and social media, which we will never win.”

Huffington Post has appended a version of their statement to the design competition page, which closed late on Monday. “Thank you to all of those who entered,” the post now reads. “Stay tuned to see the competition finalists in the coming days.”

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