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Huffington Post Angers Design Community with ‘unethical’ Free Logo Competition

Posted on the 17 August 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost
Huffington Post angers design community with ‘unethical’ free logo competition

Has HuffPo gone too far? Photo Credit: JD Lasica

A competition by the Huffington Post to find a new Twitter icon invoked the ire the design community: The Huffington Post Politics Icon Competition encouraged readers to create a new icon to represent the sites political wing in the 2012 election coverage – but, true to the news aggregator’s roots, didn’t offer compensation.

“Have a cool idea for a logo that screams ‘awesome politics coverage’?” The Huffington Post competition brief.

Designers are furious at what they see as an attempt to avoid paying them for their hard work. Ric Grefe, director of the 20,000-strong American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), commented on the site, “[T]he creative professionals that read the Post expect more from you… Requesting work for free demonstrates a lack of respect for the designer and the design process… This approach, therefore, reflects on the integrity, practices and standards of the Huffington Post and AOL.” Grefe wasn’t alone – AntiSpec, a collective of designers angry at demands for their services “on spec” or speculation, launched their own shame campaign against Huffington Post on Monday, declaring, “The Huffington Post was bought by AOL for a reported $315,000,000 back in February 2011.  Plenty of cash on the table to hire a designer to create a logo, right?”

After the website to closed the competition – because the entry period had ended – it responded to the designers’ complaints, claiming that the company employs 30 in-house designers and the competition was “a lighthearted way to encourage HuffPost Politics users to express another side of their talents.”

The Huffington Post has angered bloggers in the past for their policy to not pay the majority of people writing for the site, after the company was purchased by AOL in February, many hoped that the policy might change. But is this kind of speculative work damaging or helpful to designers?

“It’s time for HuffPost to grow a set, apologise and drop this,” said Mark Collins, the creator of AntiSpec, in a statement to Adweek.

  • Opportunity not opportunism. Spokesman Mario Ruiz from the Huffington Post defending the competition to journalism monitor, Poynter , saying, “It was in no way an attempt to solicit unpaid design services.” Similarly, Adweek quoted a commentator on the AntiSpec site also defending the idea: “Perhaps this is an opportunity for someone who wouldn’t otherwise get a chance to work for a large company to gain some recognition, which could well result in some (well paid) work further down the line.”
  • Is it such a bad thing? “It’s not the worst idea – HuffPo was built on free labor, after all,” noted Noah Davis at Business Insider. However, he opined, “with all the backlash against the unpaid bloggers narrative, you’d think they would just pay someone to create a design.”
  • Outrageous. Despite some support for the competition, many observers were angry – especially given Huffington Post’s track record. Reno Berkely, blogging at, fumed at “this blatant attempt at getting yet more free work from desperate people”. Ryan Tate writing at Gawker quipped, “[Y]ou’re a publicly traded company now, HuffPo. You can design your own damned logo for politics coverage.” Commentators swamped the site with angry posts, one commentator snarling, “[H]ave some respect for your company as well as the design industry.”

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