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Guy Kawasaki offers Designers an opportunity, they get pissed.

Guy Kawasaki offers Designers an opportunity, they get pissed.

Guy Kawasaki the founder of several Start-Up companies including the great Alltop and his blog How to Change the World has been busy.

My Photoimage image

He is one of those people I make a big effort to pay attention to and frankly would love to meet in person.

When he’s not blogging or rocking the world of the Web, he finds time to write books and for his latest he offered a competition to designers. In addition to a cash prize of $1000 the best cover design for his new book will be selected to be the cover for his new book.

I thought that was pretty cool. Some undiscovered talent was going to suddenly be thrust into the limelight and have a great credit to their portfolio.

Apparently though this competition caused a wave of unrest and anger even with cries of "exploitation", folks quoting the rules and regulations and so on.

Whilst I was digesting all this, watching my Twitter feed, scheduling appointments for an impending trip and dealing with tasks on my To Do list all this percolated thru my cerebellum. It reminded me of an article that I read several months ago on Rodale Publishing’s Men’s Health Magazine (don’t judge me) 


Mike Zimmerman, the author and a pretty good writer (to understate the case) writes about "Why Men Fail" and shows from some of the successful men in business, entertainment and sports he has met and interviewed a common trait that none of them exhibit – cynicism.

This article spoke to me on many levels at the time and since and in this case with Guy Kawasaki’s competition it popped into my head again. I don’t want to rail on the folks criticizing the competition as I don’t know you all. I assume some of you are sincere in your comments but at least some of you have fallen into the cynical trap of assuming the worst here and to my mind YOU’VE MISSED THE POINT!!!

There are times even if you are on the top of your game, a big name in your field that you are going to want to indulge a bit and do work for little if not any monetary reward (short term).

I’m a QA / Testing Professional, often a manager, team leader or consultant. I have joked recently that I should start a company and call it the QA-Team and get permission to use the A-Team logo and theme to brand myself. (Yes I thought of this prior to the reboot of the TV series)


The point is that there are times when it is in your interest to think that the value of the recommendation you get or improving your exposure virally are worth more in the long term than the money itself. Now don’t get me wrong, I try not to refuse payment for my work but I’m imagining someone like Guy Kawasaki opening his contact list and letting all the relevant contacts know they should be hiring me.

At the end of the day the folks who want to see this for what it really is, a tremendous opportunity for exposure and a virally raised profile, will do so. The others won’t. I know which camp I would rather be in.


So, you do QA Testing, right?

So, if Guy Kawasaki sent an open invite to QA Testers, who would then all do QA testing for him, and then only one of them would get paid, you would jump at the chance?

Or do you see this as different because of your presuppositions about the design community, and the career field as a whole?

These type of competitions are viewed much more favorable in the development community (,, etc).

It's more about the competition and recognition than the paycheck. Maybe developers are just more competitive.

At the end of the day, if you'll enjoy the competition and/or value the possible recognition, go for it and have some fun. If not, don't.

It's ridiculous to say, "maybe developers are just more competitive." And it's also irrelevant.

Plenty of designers engage in these competitions, but the point is that they should be required/expected to, just to make a name for themselves. It's called Spec Work, and the only person that wins is, in this case, Kawasaki.

If Kawasaki really wanted to offer some young aspiring designer a great opportunity he should've reviewed portfolios and just hired one. It's a disingenuous business proposition masked as a competition.

I would like to see someone ask 30 restaurants to make them dinner and tell them that one lucky winner will get selected and get a prize of $15.00.

Correction: they should NOT be required/expected to

Who's requiring them or expecting them? A few will participate, most will not.

You can come up with incorrect analogies all you want, but the truth is the winner will receive a huge amount of recognition and can use that to further their career.

Everyone has to build their brand. Whether it's developers, designers, or even restaurants. That generally *costs* money.

You think restaurants aren't begging food critics to come try their food in the hopes of a good review?

Correction: brand building generally costs restaurants money. For devs and designers it's most likely the opportunity cost of developing their skills/portfolio, which a lot of time is unpaid.

I suppose then all of us designers/artists should be bowing down to Mr. Kawasaki. "Thank you, oh gracious Kawasaki. – Thank you for this great opportunity!" The possibility of money AND recognition? Someone pinch me! This must be a dream!

Seriously. Recognition is rewarded for those who work hard at honing their skills and marketing themselves–not for entering a contest launched by someone as generous as Mr. Kawasaki.

Thanks, but no thanks.

Total exploitation.

This is obviously a touchy subject but yes, I would do the testing.

I sometimes work with crowdsource testing – where u compete for pay per unique bug found first.

Each industry is obviously a little different but I don't think Guy Kawasaki's intention was to exploit anyone or get a freebie cover for his book.

This was something a little novel and as I said to my mind an opportunity for those open to a leap fo faith.

If you are happier not making the leap or taking that chance fine but I don't really see a need to crucify anyone based on an assumption about his intentions.

I was going to read your book before you slummed down to spec work. Something tells me you can afford a designer if you have a book deal, Guy.

uh, did I miss something. No one is forcing designers to do this. SO DON'T. Let the hungry designer who wants to make a name for themselves, has some time to kill and is ready to crush it, do so.

Whiners feel free to go back to your desk and work on whatever the hell it is that pays your bills.

Let those who want to get ahead, do so. Life is a competition, no one is forcing anyone to compete. Continue on designing menus for TGIF or whatever.

This argument is retarded. Designers need to get a grip on their egos. We all get paid what we're worth and for what we put in. Go design t-shirts if that model is more to your liking.


I think it is a fantastic opportunity for whoever wins the competition.

I am sure that Mr Kawasaki will get a great cover and the designer will be immensely proud. The money and portfolio boost are also good.

Elizabeth K. Burton

As a very small press that operates on a cash-only basis and has an extremely tight budget, we have been honored by a number of established artists and graphic designers who have accepted our pitiful payment terms.

I also know of plenty of young artists building their portfolio who would welcome the opportunity to be a part of Guy's project.

Like the man said–if you don't like the terms DON'T PARTICIPATE. It says more about people who see those terms as a personal insult than much else.

The whole kerfuffle reminds me of the eternal debate on whether beginning writers should submit articles and stories without getting paid for them. It will never be resolved because the two sides are committed to their points of view and won't budge until the Second Coming.

Probably not then.

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