An Open Letter to the Santa Fe Institute’s
InterPlanetary Festival Organizers

By February 15, 2018 June 30th, 2020 No Comments

Dear SFI’s InterPlanetary Festival Organizers,

We at Design Corps of Santa Fe find a number of things wrong with logo design contests and hope you will reconsider your approach to the InterPlanetary Festival Logo Design Contest.

Professionals don’t give away their work.

The quality and level of experience that goes into design is an exchange of value between those who respect the process and the profession, and those who have educated themselves, trained, and earned their living practicing design.

Design contests are speculative (spec) work.

Doing something for free in hopes of gaining a commission, or an award belittles the client/designer relationship and often leads to legal and ethical battles. (see Communications and interaction with a client and their needs throughout a project is essential to successful work.

Logo contests drive down quality.

At best you will get the lowest quality of available work, and at worst, you will get plagiarized or stolen work. As corollary of the above, since professionals that value their time will not participate, you are missing out on a level of expertise and guidance that a professional provides. You, as a client, are penalizing yourselves—missing out on proper market research, and not engaging someone with knowledge and experience of branding and positioning.

We hope that the Santa Fe Institute recognizes the value of time and effort that goes into theoretical research. Why not value a designer’s time and effort? 

Design is not a commodity.

It’s not an off-the-shelf product, but rather a creative problem-solving process. It’s an exchange between the client and the designer of problems, ideas, and solutions. By their nature, spec work and design contests eliminate this process and deliver sub-standard guesses at what the outcome should look like. It becomes a contest of pretty pictures. You may find something that looks nice, but does it truly suit your needs? Does it really address the problem at hand? Does it really communicate the values of your institution? You won’t know these answers because you’re only asking for a pretty logo.

We hope you reconsider holding this as a contest, as we will discourage our members from participating in its present state.

Design Corps of Santa Fe
Robert & Renee Innis

For further reading:


The more than 100 year old institution for professional design, AIGA, has long been opposed to spec work.

AIGA believes that professional designers should be compensated fairly for their work and should negotiate the ownership or use rights of their intellectual and creative property through an engagement with clients.

And their open letter to the Tokyo Olympic Committee:


Debbie Millman, President Emeritus AIGA, and host of Design Matters, orchestrated this informative website and campaign: No Spec!


And for the comparative perspective, this series of videos illustrates our point quite well:

Brought to you by Design Corps