Design the Hugo Award logo, win $500 and a ticket to WorldCon

The Hugo Awards -- one of science fiction's leading honors -- have a beautiful trophy, a silver, streamlined rocket-ship. What they don't have is a logo that can be used on things like anthologies of Hugo-winning fiction, the spines of Hugo-winning books, and so on.

So they're holding a contest to design a Hugo logo. You have to use the rocket-ship, and you get $500, a ticket to the Worldcon and a signed Neil Gaiman book if you win. Judges are Neil Gaiman (3 time Hugo Award-winning author), Chip Kidd (graphic designer, author, editor), Geri Sullivan (SF Fan and graphic designer pro) and Irene Gallo (art-director for Tor).

Hugo Awards Logo Contest Official Rules (via Tor)


  1. Who reads science fiction? And why? But to task, I’d hang a drive ring around that Phifties “Tom Corbett” Special, and warp it out to Titan a la Cowboy Bebop. Add a little retroid rust on the word Winner, please.

  2. It’s not “spec” work, it’s volunteer work, really. The contest is a bonus. A friend of mine designed a Hugo pedestal a few years back, and he’s a professional wood and metals worker.

    Personally, I’d design one crashing headfirst into a perspex block full of a gold glitter spiral, almost like a spiral galaxy.

  3. Never mind; “The deadline for Entries is midnight (one minute after 2359) on May 31st, 2009, Pacific Standard Time.”

  4. As much as I’d be tickled pink to have my icon selected for something like this, I gotta wonder how long it’s been since Chip Kidd took on a design job for $500 (or more accurately, the hope of getting $500).

    I agree with Bender that travel and accommodations would certainly sweeten the pot. That $500 wouldn’t even buy me a one-way ticket to Melbourne to attend WorldCon in 2010.

  5. @9 ETI, nevermind what? Did you get March and May mixed up? Cuz you seem to be indicating that the deadline has passed, while it is still in the future.

    The FUTURE!

  6. @7

    Actually, it is spec work. You’d be completing a design with the hope of being paid, and underpaid at that. Many of those submitting won’t be paid at all.

    Volunteering is entirely different. At least if you volunteer, you know your work will be used.

  7. Yeah, definitely spec work. For a low to moderate design fee, the organization will likely be getting dozens of logos to choose from, and all but one designer is getting nothing.

    I love the line in the official rules stating that there’s no fee to enter the contest. That’s big of them.

    At least it sounds like they’ll be posting all entries on their websites, so the entrants will be recompensed with a tiny bit of exposure.

    And now I’m wondering if I’m a hypocrite–have I held creative contests on my blog in order to attract readers or drum up interest in a new book project? Yep.

  8. I’d assume that Chip Kidd, Geri Sullivan and Irene Gallo are familiar with the “no-spec” movement and wouldn’t be involved in something hinky or disingenuous.

    Considering they make their livelihood as professional artists and all.

    The knee-jerk “no-spec” people who spam message boards and want ads are really tedious.

  9. I have an idea: how about you get a bunch of science fiction writers, and have them spend several months writing a novel. When they’re finished, they all submit their novel to the Hugo Award contest, and a panel of esteemed judges will pick the Hugo Award-winning novel. Only that author will get paid for the sales of their book, all of the other novels will get thrown in the garbage.

  10. @15 You’re right, it’s certainly not disingenuous. It’s a contest, and everyone understands what a contest is. And I have nothing but respect for the judges–Irene is a friend. But it’s still spec.

    I just noticed that the Hugo Awards seem to have non-profit status, however–or they have a .org official site, at least. That makes a difference in my mind.

  11. @#15

    It’s even more tedious when people automatically assume Chip Kidd, Geri Sullivan and Irene Gallo are familiar with the “no-spec” movement and wouldn’t be involved in something hinky or disingenuous just because they make their livelihood as professional artists.

    No! Spec

  12. @15
    Tedious… hmm, yes. Perhaps the secret to raising an industry and cross-industry wide awareness about spec work would be to only ever mention it once, ever. Would that be less tedious?

  13. It may be tedious to point out, but I also do this for a living. I make it a point not to work for free, unless my work is guaranteed to be used. Pro bono is a wonderful practice, spec is unconscionable and cheapens us all.

  14. This sure seems like spec work to me. It’s amazing to me how many more of these “contests” have been popping up lately. As a SF fan, I have to imagine that a designer out there would do this as a labor of love without the contest aspect.

    Of course, the irony is that writers do “spec” work all the time, especially those unpublished – laboring over stories and novels for the love of it and submitting them to publishers in the “hope” of being published and making a few bucks.

  15. You know what’s even more tedious? Watching people bicker who’ve missed the point.

    IANAL but it seems to me that:

    WSFS is a non-profit and if they hire someone to design a logo, and they then /approve/ that logo and use it, and it turns out to be infringing on someone’s trademark, then they very likely may be held responsible for the infringement – or they can execute a trademark search for every country they (and any publisher wanting to use the logo) operate in to ensure they’re not stepping on a trademark.

    If it was submitted to them as part of a contest, their chances of being held liable for a potential trademark infringement are significantly less – they’re borne by the designer, and the laws that apply to the designer are likely those of the designer’s own country. No time-consuming/expensive trademark searches, no expensive lawyers, no comprehensive corporate genericisation/abstractification/twaddle for a logo. If some publisher objects because of a trademark in a particular country or market, they could find some other logo to use in that country or market.

    The SMOF aren’t captains of industry. They don’t have deep pockets lined with the livelihoods of Trope Farmers and Typesetters. They’re a group of creative people seeking further creativity. Some people are adults and will view it as a contest. Some people might treat it as spec work and get cheated out of due recompense for their work. Some might see it as a chance to have their work noticed. Not everything has to conform to someone’s preferred business model.


    There’s no ‘homework’. (likely) The person designing the logo and (definitely) the people picking the logo pretty much know – hell, they /are/ – the “market” for the logo.

    I’m going to tell you right now, the winning submission is gonna be a silhouette, of a fat little rocket (with nosecone antenna), with two lines of exhaust, pulling an arc from the lower left hand corner of the (square) field towards the top right, the field seemy of a few stars, the curvature of a planet to base, bordure width ~ 1/23rd width/height, rounded corners. Printed in sky blue.

    If it’s not substantially similar to that, I will… I dunno. Maybe someone can think up something I can do. I’m not a gambling man.

  17. #23 posted by bardfinn the winning submission is gonna be a silhouette, of a fat little rocket (with nosecone antenna), with two lines of exhaust, pulling an arc from the lower left hand corner of the (square) field towards the top right, the field seemy of a few stars, the curvature of a planet to base, bordure width ~ 1/23rd width/height, rounded corners. Printed in sky blue.

    Something like this, perhaps?

  18. #23 posted by bardfinn the winning submission is gonna be a silhouette, of a fat little rocket (with nosecone antenna), with two lines of exhaust, pulling an arc from the lower left hand corner of the (square) field towards the top right, the field seemy of a few stars, the curvature of a planet to base, bordure width ~ 1/23rd width/height, rounded corners. Printed in sky blue.

    Something like this, perhaps?

  19. Where is the social and professional justice call to action from BB on this? Instead, it appears to be a promotion for crowdsourcing (a much more effective term for describing speculative work) which is akin to a virtual sweat shop network for designers (or naive, would-be designers), except of course in a real sweat shop, you might actually get paid for your work.

    Worst of all it’s a concept that propels the notion along that design work has low creative value, low business value, and low market value. That hurts creatives, and hurts the industry.

    Interesting the vast majority of comments have become an inventory of all the rotten layers of the contest. Tragically ironic that this should come from an industry (sf) that has, in essence, creative design living at it’s core. The idea that there’s top design talent operating the machinery (as judges) is just bizarre and tough to fathom.

    The most distasteful element for me is the fundamental concept of designers being offered a bullshit pill, and knowing naive, excited creatives will work really (really) hard. Most learn their lesson from this at least once. And the trend continues.

  20. Not missing the point.
    I’m having a house building contest. Everyone builds me a house, and at the end I pick the one I like the best. Some big time architects will be guest judges, too. I pay the winner a fraction of the value of the work. I promise to tell everyone who it was that built it for me and maybe they will become famous and get to build other houses for people! No entry fee!

  21. mattdidthat: Presactly.

    jimh: Not everything has to be done by professionals. I’m sure there are plenty of people who are willing – and able – to be creative for free. If it’s good enough for the solicitor, and good enough for the solicited, and good enough for the audience – the only people displeased are the people who weren’t able to enforce their business model!

  22. The world isn’t a closed shop, and culture – even good, polished culture – isn’t solely produced by the Guild.

    The ability of amateurs to compete against the well-connected, entrenched professionals is social justice. Demanding that only the elite be allowed to submit is entitlement.

  23. While I see the reasoning behing all this No Spec hubbub, it’s pretty unconvincing. The claim that it’s only goal is protection of a preferred business model has gone unanswered.

    The speculative mode of creative labor is a perfectly valid one, and is actually central to a very large industry: film and television writing is built on the foundations of millions and millions of unseen, unsung stories.

    I think perhaps Forbes was on to something. Quit being so snooty.

  24. posted by bardfinn The ability of amateurs to compete against the well-connected, entrenched professionals is social justice. Demanding that only the elite be allowed to submit is entitlement.

    No one is demanding that only the elite be allowed to submit. If the Hugo Awards want to hold a design contest, fine. But professionals will–and should–recognize and call out these “contests” as spec work, because that’s exactly what they are, and professional designers don’t do spec work.

    It’s disappointing to learn BoingBoing and design professionals like Chip Kidd, Geri Sullivan, and Irene Gallo are promoting spec work.

  25. My business model is getting paid for my work. Simple. Design is my work, not a hobby. I like not starving. Do the math based on executing design on spec with only a chance of “winning”. I’m neither well-connected, or particularly entrenched. If I am protective of my “business model”, so be it. Calling me snooty? Can you afford to work for free? Crowdsourcing chokes designers of their livelihood.

    To the comparison with screenwriters, it’s not a fair one. A writer is still free to shop the script around if it is rejected. All submissions in a contest become the property of the organizing entity. Also, the design is executed to solve a specific problem, so the work is essentially done for a client, who will then decide if they want to pay or not.

    I don’t enter contests, because it cheapens my profession. I like to think you get what you pay for. I’m disappointed in high profile professionals who lend credibility to these contests by serving as celebrity judges.

  26. Jimh et al, you are most definitely missing the point.

    Knock yourself out with NOSPEC. Any professional group has the right and responsibility to campaign in its own interests. No one has a problem with that.

    But you don’t understand the nature of the Hugos or of scifi fandom in general. The Hugo Awards is a grass roots, fan-driven event that relies on active fans who put a ton of unpaid time into making it happen. A logo contest is very much in the spirit of the Hugos and is not taking work away from professional designers. This is not like Coca-Cola having a logo contest.

    You need to get over yourselves and realize that your particular issues, while valid within your context, are not universally relevant.

  27. Tensegrity: Perhaps since your allegiance is with Hugo you’ll be submitting a contest entry “in the spirit” of things. (?)

    In response to your dismissive entry comparing this and volunteering, I offer this:
    In a creative services contest, when the winning entry is selected among dozens, perhaps hundreds, the losers do not sit back and soak in the final outcome with pride knowing they helped make the winning design possible. Comparatively, volunteering is brick laying, where creative spec work, whether you’re a designer, writer, or illustrator is result by elimination. The fundamental lack of shared pride in outcome should help anyone better understand why a design contest is more or less exploitive in nature. The contest folks know it because they can easily approximate the level of response and the multiplied effort that would go into it! Businesses that conduct these contests (and they are done everywhere, constantly) probably feel they are doing themselves a great service by potentially opening up a slew of exciting options for themselves while making one “lucky” winner’s day. However, not only is it kind of a dick move to prey on the hopes of an inexperienced, ambitious pool of creatives, but it can also produce weak outcomes (another story…but those that “get it” know why).

    But never mind those young artists and critical thinkers that just gambled 10-20 hard hrs for the promise of a scant 500 bucks, or even that one designer or small studio that was never hired. The real harm is how the perception of contests as standard practice informs the business world and takes it’s toll on the creative services industry. Design contests take a critical thinker’s craft and twists in into the format of a lottery, which is universally understood as: one lucky hit makes the mark and the rest are thrown out. This invariably de-values art/illustration/design as a service. The spread of this poor value perception is a scourge on the industry because it’s these market perceptions that can set the price for the work. That’s money (or lack thereof) in many pockets. This is enough of a problem that I figured Boing Boing didn’t need to help along considering is vast readership.

    There are millions of artists, designers, writers and illustrators out there jockeying to maintain a “perceived” value on their work (against the current of market trends) in order to make as much of a living as possible. Were do you think the term “perpetual starving artist” came from?

    Makes no difference who it is, the fact that Boing Boing broadcasts an endorsement of ANY design contest is merely a symptom of a problem that hurts the industry. Try putting yourself into the business world and compete full time with your own art/design and you’ll see what I mean.

  28. Elk: You really need to take a step back. Your manifesto prosletyzing is wasted on me because I already agree with you about spec work, but thank you for repeating what is already explained at the nospec website.

    I did not compare spec work to volunteering, I pointed out that the Hugos is a volunteer based activity, and thus that it falls outside of the purview of what you should consider as spec work. You go on and on about “businesses” conducting contests. If you would get off your soapbox for a second, you might see that the Hugos *is not a business*.

    And by comparing the sort of volunteering in the Hugos to bricklaying, you once again fundamentally misunderstand the nature of the Hugos and scifi fandom, which includes a large component of amateur art and amateur fiction, which is done with little or no expectation of monetary compensation. For scifi fans the acknowledgment of fellow fans is the reward. I will echo Cory Doctorow by saying that the problem for scifi writers and artists is not that they are not paid a fair amount for their work but that not enough people know about their work in the first place.

    I don’t remember who said it first (so I guess I am depriving them of livelihood), but the fallacy that one’s own injustices are of the greatest importance is a form of prejudice in and of itself.

    Go fight your good fight, but the Hugos are not a good target.

  29. You guys and this no-spec stuff need to lighten up – if you don’t like the terms, don’t enter.

    Someone’s always going to try and undercut your price anyway – and there a hundreds of $300 online logo design services.

    Plus, it’s the friggen’ Hugo’s – it’s not like they are sitting back raking in millions in profit from your logo. I bet half the people complaining here don’t even know what the Hugo awards are.

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