So here’s what is going on. Japan had a “contest” of sorts, to snag a logo for the upcoming 2020 Olympic games. In their eyes, it’s a design free-for-all, where some lucky person could win $8,000 (JPY 1,000,000) if they get chosen AND forever be known as the person (or designer) that has made the logo. Those seemingly rad benefits are REALLY making people mad, saying that the correlation between such a historical and culturally rich graphic design legacy (aka Japan) and the lack of respect and taboo that designers have against spec work is a big “no no” and that Japan should immediately pull back the competition and just hire a real, respectable design wizard to do the job (and pay them Olympic-sized money).

After finally choosing a logo, the work got thrown out under allegations of it being plagiarized (mind you, it looks almost exactly like Olivier Debie’s work for Théâtre de Liège.) Currently, they have chosen a handful of options which will be whittled down and are expected to hold the big reveal sometime this spring.

Several highly respectable design organizations have written them letters, addressing the repercussions of spec work and how it not only jeopardizes quality, but also devalues the time and ability of the designer. In response, Japan doesn’t really care and is continuing to move forward with the project, getting more and more careful, as their choices prove to be full of faults. 

So, what do I think of all this? 

I think all of the logos that I have seen from the competition are absolutely terrible. I also think that the people that are organizing all of the hype around the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are probably just some out of touch marketing people that see a great opportunity to get people involved with the least amount of effort as possible. Everyone wants to be a winner, right?

Spec work to an extent, is kinda lame. I totally get wanting to show off your chops as a designer, possibly landing a great project and be known on an international level but when you are providing a HUGE corporation with something that is going to be the face of the Olympics and they aren’t paying you, you have to ask yourself, “What am I worth?” On top of the fact that it is pretty apparent the choosing committee has no eyeballs, I would have to deem this competition as “Really not worth my time.” At the end of the day, I say “know your worth” and don’t settle for anything less than what you and the project deserve.