Free design competition

Once upon a time there was a man. The man wanted a house. So, he asked five building companies in the area to come along and meet him.

To the first builder, he said “build me a wall for free, so I can see how good your brickwork is”. The builder had a spare half an hour, so he built him a wall.

To the second builder he said “build me a wall for free at right angles to this wall please, so I can see how good you are at doing right angles”. So the second builder whacked up a wall in his tea break.

To the third builder he said “build me a wall for free parallel to the first wall, but joining on to the second wall, so I can see how good you are at going round corners.” So the third builder got his new apprentice to build a wall, to see how good he is at building walls.

(Getting bored yet? I find this whole process so tiresome.)

To the fourth builder he said “build me a wall for free that joins all the walls up into box shape, so I can see what a box looks like”. The fourth builder had a spare wall in the back of his yard, so he dropped it in place.

The man felt very pleased with himself. He had four walls!

To the fifth and final builder he said “build me a roof for free and pop it on top of the brick box over there please, so I can see how well you can build slopey roofy things”. The fifth builder looked at the brick box, he had nothing better to do, so he cobbled together a slopey thing and popped it on top of the box.

The man was ecstatic, he now had a house. And he hadn’t paid a penny for it. Genius!!! He was very pleased with himself.

After cutting a door and some windows into the ‘house’ (because he had forgotten about that bit) the man entered the house. Water was pouring through the roof and the walls were draughty, the house wasn’t what he wanted at all. It was poor quality and would never do as a house.

And this ladies and gents, is why we don’t take part in unpaid design competitions.

Recently, we have been asked to provide ‘free designs’ as part of our quoting process. This is really bad practice, and should be avoided by all companies. Don’t ask for this. You are not getting an idea of what the designer will design for you, what you are getting (if anything) is a half-hearted attempt to keep you happy.

A brief has not been taken. It is not a considered response. It will harm your business if you use it.

Worst of all for designers, the ‘man’ is more likely to take elements from the five different designs and get the cheapest person to cobble together the final design.

Don’t do it.

It is time that designers said NO, every time. Have some respect for your craft, and hopefully, the ‘man’ will learn to respect you too.

So how do you find out if a designer is worth using?

  • Take a look at their portfolio: we have two, one online and a more indepth portfolio we are happy to show if anyone asks;
  • Get recommendations: seen something you like? Ask who the designer was, then have a chat, they could be the one for you;
  • Get references: if a designer has done a good job, people are happy to talk about it. Ask for references.