T-Shirt Design Contest From Veer & Wilco

HOW is proud to be a sponsor of Veer’s Don Quixote Project T-shirt design contest with Wilco to support 826, an innovative non-profit dedicated to inspiring kids to write creatively. This graphic design competition costs nothing to enter and supports a great cause.

Do you have a thing for books and music? We definitely do, and to celebrate all the books that have inspired great music (and vice versa), we’re collaborating with Wilco and Out of Print to create a special limited edition shirt…and we need your help! Together with Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, we are making a new shirt based on one of his all-time favorite novels, Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes – and we want YOU to design the back!

t-shirt design contest (The Don Quixote Project)

T-Shirt Design Contest Rules:

  • Sign in and download the Veer design assets
  • Get creative and design a graphic inspired by this quote from Don Quixote:
    “…I can no more remember one syllable of it than the shapes of last year’s clouds.”
  • Your design must be no larger than 8.5 in. wide x 6 in. tall and must consist of no more than 3 colors
    (not including the background color; which is black)
  • Your design must include the text from the quote and at least 2 Veer design elements (1 Veer font, 1 image), – you must sign up or login first
  • Your design must somehow include the band’s name, Wilco
  • Keep in mind that your design will be printed on the back of the shirt about an inch from the collar line
  • Submit your entries at www.outofprintclothing.com/donquixoteproject by 05/13/2012 to by 11:00 p.m. EST be considered
  • Jpeg or Illustrator files only. Illustrator preferred

What You’ll Win:

Grand Prize:

  • To be the first person to own the shirt you helped design
  • Two tickets to a Wilco concert this summer
  • $200 Veer Merch pack and 150 credit pack
  • One Wilco album of your choice on vinyl
  • $200 gift card from Out of Print


  • One limited edition Wilco + Out of Print t-shirts
  • The Whole Love on CD
  • $50 gift card from Out of Print
  • $50 Veer Merch and 50 credit pack

Other things you should know:

19 thoughts on “T-Shirt Design Contest From Veer & Wilco

  1. SL

    826 is certainly a worthy cause, but let’s also realize that this is a promotional tool for Veer (design must include 1 Veer font, 1 image) and Wilco (design must somehow include the band’s name, Wilco). So in addition to riding on 826’s efforts at promoting literacy and writing, the sponsors are undermining the profession of graphic design – pretty surprising coming from a publisher of a graphic design magazine.

    If you want a new kitchen in your home, do you hold a contest where entrants remodel your kitchen, decide which one you like best, and then only reward that party (“Be the first person to boil a cup of water in my new kitchen!”)

    Design contests are essentially spec work. Spec work undermines the business community. Between the two of them they couldn’t cough up enough bread to pay a designer?

    Hey, Mr. Tweedy, how about you write a song for me to use as a promotional item on my website, and I’ll design a t-shirt for you? Seems fair enough.

    1. Todd M. LeMieux

      Couldn’t agree more, well said! HOW you should be ashamed…rather than participate in a contest you should be helping to educate as to why they are not a good idea for all involved.

  2. Sal Manella

    The rules could at least stipulate that in addition to including Wilco’s name, the designer can include his/her company name and/or website URL. Then at least the designer benefits from the promotion as much as the sponsors.

  3. KKessler

    I agree with SL. HOW should make itself aware of where the AIGA and GAG stand on the issue of using contests to essentially get spec work for the tshirt design. Putting the prizes and donation aside, the use of such contests again dumbs down the work reputable designers do and get paid for. “To be the first person to own the shirt you helped design” – really? Wow, you get to wear your own design! Here is an excerpt from a letter the AIGA offers to designers to use when arguing this point to a client:

    The approach you are pursuing is one that seriously compromises the quality of work you are entitled to and also violates a tacit, long-standing ethical standard in the communication design profession worldwide.

    AIGA, the nation’s largest and oldest professional association for design, strongly discourages the practice of requesting that design work be produced and submitted on a speculative basis in order to be considered for acceptance on a project.

    There are several reasons for this position:

    1. To assure the client receives the most appropriate and responsive work. Successful design work results from a collaborative process between a client and the designer, developing a clear sense of the client’s objectives, competitive situation and needs. Speculative design competitions or processes result in a superficial assessment of the problem and can only result in a design that is judged on a superficial basis. Design creates value for clients as a result of the strategic approach designers take in addressing the problems or needs of the client and only at the end of that process is a “design” created. Speculative or open competitions for work based on a perfunctory problem statement will not result in the best design solution for the client.

    2. Capable and professional designers do not work for free. While there will always be some designers who are willing to create designs in response to an open call for work, without any assurance of compensation, the buyer immediately relegates his or her choices among those designers who are least likely to be experienced. Knowledgeable designers, who are in demand among clients, work according to the professional standards of the profession. Quite often, this choice of a less-experience designer results in a client eventually having to bring a more experienced designer into a project in order to execute it. Of course, this change results in additional expenditures that impact your return on investment in design services.

    3. Requesting work for free demonstrates a lack of understanding and respect. Requesting work for free reflects a lack of understanding and respect for the value of effective design as well as the time of the professionals who are asked to provide it. This approach, therefore, reflects on your personal practices and standards and may be harmful to the professional reputation of both you and your business.

    There are few professions where all possible candidates are asked to do the work first, allowing the buyer to choose which one to pay. Just consider the response if you were to ask a dozen lawyers to write a brief for you, and you would then choose which one to use and which to pay. Or ask several dentists to work for free until you decide which one you like. We realize that there are some creative professions with a different set of standards, such as advertising and architecture, where billings are substantial and continuous after you select a firm of record. In these cases, you are not receiving the final outcome (the advertising campaign or the building) for free up front as you would be in receiving a communication design solution.

    There is an appropriate way to explore the work of various designers.
    A more effective and ethical approach to requesting work is to ask designers to submit examples of their work from previous assignments as well as a statement of how they would approach your project. You can then judge the quality of the designer’s previous work and way of thinking about your concerns. When you select a designer, he can begin to work on your project by designing strategic solutions to your criteria while under contract to you, without having to work free on speculation up front.

  4. Megan Patrick Post author

    Hi Guys,
    We’re well aware of the issues with spec work and we don’t support it at all. However, we do think that pro-bono projects to support worthy causes (even if they promote for-profit companies) don’t fit the definition of spec work. We always consider any kind of design contest very carefully before agreeing to promote it.

    Thanks for your feedback

    1. Jean-Sébastien Dussault

      Pro-bono is something that happens between a client and a single organisation, not in a contest of a context.

      You (How), for example, have not prepared these ads, put them up in your magazine, done email blasts, prepared a microsite, etc, all for free without the assurance beforehand that you would be chosen as official sponsor (with the right to put your name and associate yourself with this).

      Had the client told you to do it all , in competition against other publications, and you would have your logo on next year’s edition—if you win—I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be that much into it.

      1. SL

        Well said, Jean-Sebastien:

        “Had the client told you to do it all , in competition against other publications, and you would have your logo on next year’s edition—if you win—I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be that much into it.

  5. Sal Manella


    Differing definitions of spec work aside, if you really wanted to support a worthy cause, why not actually pay a hired designer, thereby contributing to the exact community (or least a member of) that gives Veer and HOW reason to exist as opposed to a cattle-call contest?

    Even if the pay is only Veer + Wilco swag (stuff that I’m sure is no big sacrifice to give away), even if the hired designer agrees to work for free, a better way to conduct this would be posting in the same way one might contract a designer.

    And I think my previous point still stands: If Veer and Wilco get self-promotion out of this, why doesn’t the designer (oh, sorry, I forgot – they get to be the first one to wear the shirt. Woo hoo!)

    I understand that any designer willing to enter this contest does so knowing they might not win; he or she may wish to do so simply in an attempt to benefit 826 (and maybe Wilco, if bonkers about Wilco), but nevertheless, design is a profession, not American Idol. And design contests undermine the profession the same way all these $99logos.com sites are.

  6. SL

    Good point, Sal. The designer could arguably be considered a sponsor too (swag notwithstanding) and probably at least deserves a credit on the shirt.

  7. Jody Shyllberg

    The definition of pro bono is the Latin term used to describe the unpaid use of specific skills of professionals to provide services to those who are unable to afford them. I believe that if Veer, Wilco et al’s sole desire was to provide pro bono services to 826, they could a) schedule a concert or concerts where all proceeds go to the charity, b) create a font or piece of art where all proceeds from the purchase would go to the charity, c) ask for proposals from design professionals interested in donating their services to charity, review them, and choose one. Please don’t insult our intelligence – this is a promotion for a band and a for-profit business that hope to obscure that fact by wrapping it in a mantle of supporting a charity. Veer and Wilco need to have some skin in this game, otherwise it’s simply exploitation for their profit.

  8. Megan Patrick Post author

    I appreciate all the thoughtful discussion here. We try to be very careful about spec work, but it looks like we may need to broaden our definition. We certainly agree that designers should be paid for their work and that they provide a very valuable service to their clients.

    Thanks for all the feedback!

    1. Carol Wiley

      I recommend you cancel the contest and choose a graphic designer who is willing and most likely thrilled to work with your charity and promotion. That would really help the graphic design profession remain a profession — it is not a hobby.

      1. Jean-Sébastien Dussault

        Where’s the like button?

        Yes, something along the line of a regular pro-bono framework as Carol says (portfolio review, and maybe a 3-4 shortlisted being asked to do a thumbnail proposal).

        Veer and How’s contribution could be the incentive of featuring the project in their respective media (including the shortlisted offers). This way, 826 would have an amazing amount of designers offering to do the job, both publications would present something that really interest designers (process stories are always big), there wouldn’t be anybody working for nothing (talking about all the contenders not “winning” in your current format, which is really the bad part of spec), plus, it would showcase a positive alternative to spec.

        You see, there ARE ways to do good AND do good.

    2. Jean-Sébastien Dussault

      “[…]very careful about spec work, but it looks like we may need to broaden our definition. We certainly agree that designers should be paid for their work […]”

      The point is not about broadening the definition of spec, but rather understanding it well.

      Spec is not *that much* about not getting paid for a job. If that were the case, any pro-bono jobs would be reserved the same treatment as the common Craiglist jobpost.


      Spec is about speculation. You know. “Do the job, and we’ll take it if we like it”. Period. nothing else. No need to broaden that.

      Speculative contests adds insult to injury by adding “oh, and, by the way, I’ve asked other people to do the same, so bring out your very best. (ooh, aren’t you excited?)”

      All the part about money: ridiculous amount—to the point of non-existence—, offering “exposure”, future business with you, etc, is another ballpark. It often goes along speculative offers, but they’re not part of what defines spec.

      I think it’s important to really differentiate the two: an offer to do a logo for a speculative fee equivalent to what one would be paid normally is still spec, and still wrong.

      Having a pro-bono component touches that money part, not the spec one. Pro bono jobs have their place in business (as long as it’s for charitable causes and the likes), but has no more weight whatsoever on the spec side in making more or less acceptable.

  9. Thomson Dawson

    I read this thread carefully here and on Linked In… of course, designers are in an uproar about the idea of spec work, silly design contents and the like…

    I read with a grin the condesending response from Megan Patrick… She knows there will be hundreds if not thousands of participants hoping to win a silly T-shirt design ontest…the so-called “good cause” seems rather exploitive to me.

    I don’t think any of this should be a surprise, nor is it going away. In fact, I believe we will see more and more of this… why you may ask?

    The graphic design profession is over saturated slush pile.

    The graphic design profession has a very low barrier to entry. Unlike other design professions (architecture and industrial design come easily to mind) where there is a more rigorous path to mastery, just about anybody can be a graphic designer.

    In our economic system, whatever is in abundant supply (graphic designers) will always have a low value. You can’t get any lower than working for free can you?

    Opposite to this ecomomic principal is the idea that whatever is in short supply is always highly valued and the price will be set accordingly.

    In the marketplace where over-supply is the reality, the buyer will set the price. And in a crowded marketplace any price will be percieved as too high by the buyer.

    And that is the heart of the matter.

    You can bitch about profitable entities like HOW, Veer and Wilco taking advantage of poor designers all day long. They will not change their behavior because it is not in their finaincuial interest to do so. They also know there are thousands of young, talented designers who will do anything to break into this business. These people know what behaviors and ambitions drive graphic designers and they profit from it.

    In our business we can easily see the extremes of percieved value by buyers of our services. On the one hand you have large design firms being paid millions for an identity or a package design and on the other extreme there are the crowd sourced design contest websites.

    There is only one solution to this issue if you are to build a sustainable and profitable graphic design business:

    Provide a specific solution that is highly valued by the buyer and not abundantly available in the marketplace.

    To do this will require you move up the value chain.

  10. Shon Quannie

    No Megan, Thank you for showing the true character of this organization and where it stands on this issue. Where is the Unsubscribe button.

  11. Finalist

    Not to throw gasoline on this smoldering pile of ash, but any chance those prizes are actually going to be sent out to the winners? Waiting patiently…