An Open Letter to Rick Warren about Spec Work

September 17, 2009 by

Editor’s Note: We closed the comments on this post as they took a turn for the worse. We explained our reasoning for closing comments and the rationale for this post in a follow-up entry.

Dear Rick Warren,

We saw your recent contest to design the cover of your next book for the chance to win $5,000.

It sounds like a pretty sweet deal. A designer could win some major acclaim, an awesome piece in their portfolio and a nice wad of cash.

Unfortunately, it’s not such a sweet deal. For the hundreds of designers who spent hours of time on your project, it’s a total loss. These kinds of projects communicate that their work is of little value.

As a double whammy, it’s not a very sweet deal for you, Rick. The quality of work you get is going to be sub-par (take a look—yep, that’s some mediocre work). One of the reason it’s sub-par is because the designers didn’t have the benefit of a working relationship with you the client where they could be privy to all the ideas, expectations, insights and everything else that goes into making a creative project work. In a nutshell: You’re not getting the best work because you’re not valuing the worker.

The best creative work happens in partnership. Not in disconnected competition.

Another reason it’s not so good for you is that you just used your position to take advantage of hundreds of designers who were hungry for the exposure. That’s usually called oppression exploitation. The church, of all places, shouldn’t be taking advantage of people. (Ed. Note: We realize this wasn’t intentional, but that doesn’t make it OK.)

We realize none of this was your intention, but we wanted to take the opportunity to do some education. Artists are frequently unappreciated and undervalued in the church. No other position in the church—administrators, accountants, maintenance workers, pastors, etc.—is asked to spend hours doing hard work and then submit to a competitive lottery for the slim chance of being paid. Respect artists by putting value in their work.


Design Professionals Weigh In
This contest falls into a category known as spec work, where designers are asked to provide work under speculation—essentially they work with no guarantee of payment, hoping the client will choose their work and pay them. It’s broadly frowned upon in the design community.

AIGA’s position says it well:

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

AIGA acknowledges that speculative work—that is, work done prior to engagement with a client in anticipation of being paid—occurs among clients and designers. Instead of working speculatively, AIGA strongly encourages designers to enter into projects with full engagement to continue to show the value of their creative endeavor. Designers and clients should be aware of all potential risks before entering into speculative work.

For students and professionals, there may be a different line drawn on which of these constitute unacceptable practices. In each case, however, the designer and client make the decision and must accept the relevant risks.

That last line leaves the door open for disagreement. If a designer knows what they’re getting into, best of luck. But Debbie Millman, president of AIGA, clarifies the last statement:

We are against spec work. The reason for the line, “while recognizing that the decision is up to individual designers,” was to try and acknowledge how cultural and technological dynamics have changed. We are finding that we are more effective communicating with younger designers when we do not preach. Instead, we are seeking to educate the next generation of designers by clearly outlining the inappropriateness of a spec work.

Essentially the AIGA realized it was better to be less rigid in their dogma in hopes of convincing the next generation of designers.

This is a big issue, big enough that an entire web site is dedicated to No Spec, full of resources including 10 reasons not to do spec work and and an explanation of why speculation hurts. In a nutshell “spec requires the designer to invest time and resources with no guarantee of payment.”

Not a Simple Issue
This is also a complicated issue, one that we hotly debated among our staff. In the end, we didn’t all agree. Contests, individual choice to take a risk and even situations like our own guest blogging policy make this a murky issue for us. We realize that it’s not always a cut and dry issue.

But the bottom line for us is that we value creatives. The professional community has their own ethical stance on this issue, and we’d be remiss to ignore that. We do the same for other professionals employed by the church, so let’s extend that courtesy to artists.

We hope you’re willing to learn more about this issue and consider how it impacts designers. In the future we hope you’ll find a way to design your next book that empowers artists and gives you a better end product so everybody can win.

Thanks for your time Rick.

Post By:

Michael Buckingham


With the goal of making the church the most creative place on the planet, Michael founded Holy Cow Creative, the church’s creativity and design studio. He is also the creative director for the Center for Church Communication and Church Marketing Sucks. You can find him speaking at conferences such as HOW, Echo, and MinistryCOM. Check out his blog, Jesus Hates Papyrus, where he continues to help the church intentionally reflect Christ in how it communications.
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133 Responses to “An Open Letter to Rick Warren about Spec Work”

  • Jason
    September 17, 2009

    This is your oppression should you wish to accept it… Seriously, isn’t there some more important cause out there to fight? If you want an opportunity at acclaim, then take it, and if you don’t, then don’t waste your time. Are you going to make a picket line at WalMart when they have their next pumpkin coloring contest? Oppression is forced on an individual, not opted into. If you are a professional designer, then you don’t need the gig, but if you’re a talented kid with a dream, then reach for the stars! (said with the Disney music ramping to a crashindo!) the dude was trying to do something cool & you’re dumping on his party. Just my $.02.


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  • Joe
    September 17, 2009

    I agree with Jason. Rick Warren asked his followers on Twitter to design a cover and that the winner would get some cash. I don’t care what the AIGIBIGIASGDLMNOPQRS has to say about “spec” work. Nobody was forced to invest hours of time into the darn project. Heck, no one was even forced to read the stupid tweet. This is just another example of a Christian taking something way to seriously and instantly launching an epic war plan to save the earth from unspeakable horrors. Chill out dude.


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  • Barry Whitlow
    September 17, 2009

    RELAX PEOPLE-GOOD LORD. Thanks Pastor Rick for: #1-giving someone a shot at making some money. You could have simply hired a professional but decided to broaden the opportunity-BRAVO!; #2-thanks for tossing something into the creative ring that inspired true creatives to do what they would do anyway without any pay-create. PLEASE. Somebody. GIVE US MORE REASONS to create. You did that Pastor Rick. I love your heart bro. Thanks again.


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  • Kevin D. Hendricks
    September 17, 2009

    I can appreciate the arguments in the comments–I think this is a complicated and often divisive issue.
    While I sympathize with the argument that people had a choice about entering this contest, it’s curious to me that we would discard the ethical guidelines of a major professional organization. Your church wouldn’t disregard your accountant’s code of ethics, or your laywer’s, so why your designer’s? I find that hard to argue with (and trust me, Michael and I did argue over this).
    If you truly value an artist, you should value their code of ethics as well.
    And frankly, I think the work speaks for itself.


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  • SD
    September 17, 2009

    It’s interesting watching the backlash against the backlash from people who clearly have no idea what they’re talking about, find it impossible to see the other side’s view, and likely produced some of the mediocre work themselves.
    What troubles me even more is Rick’s “creative staff” suggested the “contest.” Any creative staff worth their salt wouldn’t suggest something like this. It would have been much more awesome if people nominated a designer who could treat this like a real project.
    I don’t blame Rick’s intentions behind the idea, his heart seemed in the right place. But steamrolling right over the cautions, as well as the general disrespect from Warren-worshipers who feel the need to vehemently defend him has been quite troubling.
    All in all, the reams of mediocre and downright ugly book covers speak for themselves.


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  • chilly
    September 17, 2009

    we take ourselves so seriously don’t we.
    wow…


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  • Duane
    September 17, 2009

    The fact that there is a code of ethics for graphic designers makes me laugh….really i’m laughing…seriously, i can’t stop. Because, as Christians, our code of ethics is scripture, and I can’t see anything that Rick Warren has done to contradict scripture! Seriously, i’m still laughing. But your open letter, does contradict scripture…if your brother slights you, go to your brother about it…an open letter is not really doing that! Oh, and as a 10 year Air Force veteran, I do know a little something about the real Code of Ethics! there’s my $.03 worth.


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  • Dan Sullivan
    September 17, 2009

    Every week, creatives spend hours of their time pouring themselves out for churches and go home without any pay. They are guitar players, singers, drummers, camera operators, ushers (creative? Ok maybe) Why do they do it? Why sell themselves short when bands that worked half as hard got a couple hundred bucks the night before at a nearby bar with a fourth of the audience? Now I know this contest is more like the lotto than volunteering at church, but I think you are getting WAY too Ben out of shape over this. A lot of your points are right if this were a soap company or something, but if Rick W wants to throw in the whole amateur design spin, let him do it and get your panties in a ruffle about something bigger.


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  • mrsking
    September 17, 2009

    i see both sides of the argument. but then again… at the end of the day you would think that mr. warren wants a book that looks like it will sell well. hey, most of us don’t want to buy a book with cheesy looking, WordArt type font and cliche waterfall or still meadow covers. it might be a great book, but you are less likely to give it a chance if it looks dumb. more power to talented kids with potential but that doesn’t translate into me wanting to pick that book up and buy it. at the end of the day, you want a product that looks like it will sell well and appeal to people.


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  • Barry A. Smith
    September 17, 2009

    I’m considering having a house design contest for my modern dream house, as well as a health care contest. Wonder hopw many doctors and architects will bite.
    Exactly.
    Enough said.


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  • Michael Buckingham
    September 17, 2009

    You’re right Duane:
    Matthew 10:10
    do not carry a beggar’s bag for the trip or an extra shirt or shoes or a walking stick. Workers should be given what they need.
    Actually Jason this isn’t a typical Christian move, but it is a typical reaction to not take a moment to see things from someone else’s viewpoint. That’s what I was asking people like you to do. The typical Christian move should be to care more about people, to see the hurt that a move like this could cause.
    It’s not cut and dry, I’d love $5k and one of Rick Warren’s books in my portfolio. And I can even dig the whole “find hiddent talent” bit. There is an upside, but the downside is very steep. It’s great for the one that wins, and often causes hurt to those that don’t.
    As far as volunteering, you’re missing one big point. Volunteering is something I initiate, it isn’t just expected. And…if you’re not taking care of your volunteers (not just the really good ones) shame on you.
    What many of you seem to miss, or ignore, or whatever is that creatives in the church feel left out, undervalued…we have to ask ourselves does this lift them up as a whole or does this continue feelings of not being appreciated?
    Let me also add this in, as the comments are just starting to come in. Often times I see these conversations turn disgusting. Whether you agree or disagree with my viewpoint…please above all else be kind to one another. Please. Spec work or no spec work we are commanded to love, so let’s find a way to have this conversation with that as our foundation.


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  • Chris
    September 17, 2009

    Whoa!!! You totally missed it on this one. I don’t know if funny or sad… Lighten up a bit okay.


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  • Carolyn
    September 17, 2009

    This is an extremely important topic in the profession. Remarks like, “don’t get so bent out of shape” show a lack of thought about the consequences of any contribution to a trend that can be damaging to an industry. When someone famous does something that is part of what many people think is a detrimental trend, then it’s a perfect opportunity for intelligent, thoughtful discussion and educating both clients and designers. The post here was pretty evenhanded and temperate, and responses in the comment section that are dismissive, rude, or resentful just make the commenter look bad or immature. The post acknowledges that Rick Warren probably had only the best of intentions; it’s not an attack. I think it calls for mature, thoughtful responses. This is my first time here; I know we all have an inherent tendency to be unkind when irked, but here of all places, I would expect responses, no matter what the disagreement, to be carefully written in a spirit of love.


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  • Rob Thomas
    September 17, 2009

    Michael,
    I appreciate your point of view on the matter… You put a lot of thought into it and you got me thinking about the issue now… which is the point of the post.
    On another note, I just checked out the 99designs site and saw the covers. As we speak, Rick is extending the deadline and ‘forcing’ his top designers to enter as well… at least he should be. :)


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  • dan Crask
    September 17, 2009

    When God wanted His tabernacle and temple built, he first called the artists… not the priests, not clergy or holy men – artists. The creative arts are no laughing matter to our Father.
    I learned that from “Art & The Bible.” Every Christian should, at some point in their faith journey, read Francis Schaeffer’s 2 essays on art in a little booklet called “Art & The Bible.”
    As an aside – I’m sad to read so many belittling comments from people about there being standards or this being an issue at all. Do you realize you’re commenting on a site that is all about design/branding/marketing?! Your complaints are no different than reading a complaint about there being a discussion about laundry on a Tide web site. Weird…


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  • Trish
    September 17, 2009

    The point that those outside of our industry can’t see is this is happening everywhere! As creatives we are being hit from all sides. It is not just a pastor with good, yet misguided, intentions, it is coming from every industry today, including cities, governments and even advertising agencies. This trend is putting a lot of people out of work. As a professional creative, we spend years learning via education and experience to perfect our trade. We have to know CMYK, Pantone, Vector, Pixel, RGB, png., eps., dpi, brand, marketing, balance, target audience, eye movement, gradations, alignment, color palette, grid systems, fonts, demographics, trademarks, copyright, kerning, tracking, leading, serifs, styles, trends, grayscale, layers, applications, and on and on. It has taken me years to learn that and more, and I am learning new things specific to my industry everyday. Our technology moves as fast or faster than any other industry. We spend the same amount of money on education as any other profession. We have as much passion for our careers as anyone else. Yet we creatives are seldom seen as professional, educated, experienced, skilled, knowledgeable, or technical. Unlike lawyers and doctors we are expected to compete with anyone with a computer. Yes, it does devalue us. It also devalues the final product which effects YOU.


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  • Chukka
    September 17, 2009

    “every week, creatives spend hours of their time pouring themselves out for churches and go home without any pay. They are guitar players, singers, drummers, camera operators, ushers (creative? Ok maybe) Why do they do it?
    Dan, I hear and appreciate what you’re saying, but I don’t think your comparison fits. Guitarists, singers, drummers etc willingly volunteer their time knowing that their efforts help build the church and advance the Kingdom. And they do so never expecting any financial compensation.
    If you want to extend the concept of a design competition to other creatives, it looks something like this: Your worship leader invites 100 guitar players to get up early Sunday morning and come to the church sound check, but with the understanding that only the best guitar player that morning will actually get to play with the worship team. (And that he’ll receive $5,000 because he was 0.06% better than the 2nd place guitarist… even though the 2nd place guitarist got out of bed at the same time and has put in the exact same amount of work.)
    There is nothing wrong with asking creatives to volunteer their time to contribute to the church. But I agree with the original letter – if you have $5,000 available to compensate someone for their work, the most ethical practice is the same for any service-based industry: hire someone based on their quoted price, their reputation and their portfolio of previous work.


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  • Josh Mann
    September 17, 2009

    Barry–lame straw man argument. You think that is apples to apples? Honor the intellectual capacity of these readers as much as you want Rick to honor your ethical guidelines.
    Michael–is it not pretty clear that your opinion seems to be quite off from the majority of these readers? Thanks for sharing, it is after all your blog, however admitting when we “could have been wrong” could go a long way. Proverbs speaks of– Blessed is the man who is not offended easily–


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  • Sean Salter
    September 17, 2009

    And what happens after the artist wins the contest and gets the pay day?


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  • dave
    September 17, 2009

    I’m a professional graphic designer. During the past 15 or so years, I’ve been a paid employee, done freelance work, and volunteered or worked at deep discounts for religious nonprofits I’ve wanted to help.
    I also began my career being burned by working for spec, something that was tempting to do when I was young and trying to start a career.
    When it comes to these kinds of contests, I have mixed feelings. In my experience, there is a little difference between a design contest and working completely for spec, but I’m wary of anything that ultimately devalues the work of creative people. Sure, the designs that suck won’t be chosen, but there is a mentality out there that anyone who can click a mouse and has some cheap software can be a good graphic designer, and that isn’t true, any more than it’s true that owning a guitar and being able to pick out a couple chords makes you a concert level musician. Further, those ethical guidelines are written down to try to keep people from being taken advantage of (something Christians should always be concerned about, in my opinion), and it would be nice if someone of Warren’s caliber would actually strive to go above and beyond these guidelines, rather than disregard them or, more likely, not even bother to find out about them.


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  • Michael Buckingham
    September 17, 2009

    Actually Josh, if you look at the comments it’s pretty split, and that’s giving credit to the one line slaps. But for the record I’m not keeping score. I hope this is a conversation, not a competition.
    If you look at the submissions you’ll see spec work doesn’t bring quality.
    If you read the letter and my replies you’ll see that I realize there is an upside, but the downside is just too great.


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  • Maria
    September 17, 2009

    I applaud Rick Warren for trying to be creative and innovative. His intention to draw people in and to invite participation is great.
    However, as a professional designer, I am very uncomfortable with spec work and the appalling results. It’s amazing how no one would EVER think to ask a remodelor or dentist (or even a pastor) to participate in a contest like this, but it’s a common appeal to creatives. I guess the artistic gifts/call have never been as valued or respected as the medical, legal or even the construction field. Can you imagine a spec contest for ditch diggers? For accountants? For cooks (“10 of you will make us sandwiches, we’ll eat them all and pay only for the best one.”) Nope.
    If you think people need to “lighten up” or this is just being harsh, please don’t just dismiss this outright without taking a few minutes to skim the No-Spec website http://www.no-spec.com — even if you won’t agree with every point, perhaps it will shed light on how speculative work causes harm, not just to the design industry, but to clients who get inferior work.
    God has higher standards for the church, which includes paying the workman what he or she is worth. I totally know Pastor Rick didn’t mean any harm at all, and had only the best intentions. But just like if a person unknowingly uses a racially-charged term or unwittingly offends people, it’s part of being Christ-like prayerfully to consider these concerns to discover if there is a better way.


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  • Stefan Mumaw
    September 17, 2009

    I’ve made a living as a designer for the last 14 years, and I’m objective and seasoned enough to see both sides. Pastor Warren didn’t set out to do anything but reach out to a community with an opportunity. Completely understandable and not without precedent. On the surface, it’s a cool opportunity and a good marketing idea from Pastor Warren’s perspective. There have been thousands of “design contests” for everything from book covers to Fortune 500 logo designs. All Michael is saying is that there are consequences to the actions, and those consequences, while uncharacteristically mocked within this forum and often lost on most outside of the design industry, have effects on the industry as a whole. Michael is not worried about his financial well being. Judging by the quality of his work, he’s perfectly capable of continuing a living at his craft. He’s speaking for both the industry he participates in and the Christian brothers he shares a faith with. While many of the comments left here clearly view the issue of spec work as frivolous banter, it seems this perspective comes from a place outside of the industry, outside of those who do see the potential that spec work has on their livelihood and the livelihood of their colleagues. While many of you may not understand the issue, nor Michael’s perspective or fervor, I think it’s important to note that he didn’t write this to chastise a man clearly beloved by many and certainly a man given to His calling, but rather to bring to his attention the potential spec work has to handicap an industry that we all know he recognizes as a critical partner in the furthering of the Gospel in today’s society.
    While I’m tempted to try and explain the negative effects of spec work on the design industry, I fear that, too, will get lost in the translation and take the conversation away from where it seems Michael was going with it: that people, not just professions, are involved. And while it’s undeniable that it is their choice to involve themselves in the practice, it’s also their choice to participate in a myriad of other activities that would be harmful to themselves and others, whether they know it or not. That is their right. But that doesn’t mean that the church, and the men who lead it with an eye on encouraging and uplifting the body of that church, should encourage it.


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  • Nicholas
    September 17, 2009

    Ugh… If you’re worried about investing the time to submit an entry and coming out with nothing to show for it, then it seems pretty obvious that you shouldn’t submit an entry. Geez, stop complaining and just DON’T submit an entry.
    Personally, I think it’s fun to pull off of the normal daily routine and pull together a concept to submit.
    If I’m WILLINGLY submitting a design, no one is taking advantage of me. Put responsibility on the person it belongs to: The person CHOOSING to submit a design. No one’s cheating you.


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  • Jeff Fisher LogoMotives
    September 17, 2009

    Michael – Excellent letter. Thanks for sharing it in such an open manner. – J.


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  • Trish
    September 17, 2009

    Actually, Josh, it is apples to apples. Why do people think professionals in the design field are so inferior to architects and doctors? We are not I can assure you (I also have extensive knowledge in the architect field). Yet here we are jumping into the pit, savaging each other, for a single piece of meat. We are considered dogs when we are the same as those making bets and cheering us on on the sidelines. You do not think that is demeaning? It really isn’t about the competition, it is about working for free. If the good pastor had asked for people to send in samples of their work and then chose the best possible candidate from that, that is absolutely acceptable. But asking people to work for free is not.


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  • Sean Salter
    September 17, 2009

    If you want to extend the concept of a design competition to other creatives, it looks something like this: Your worship leader invites 100 guitar players to get up early Sunday morning and come to the church sound check, but with the understanding that only the best guitar player that morning will actually get to play with the worship team. (And that he’ll receive $5,000 because he was 0.06% better than the 2nd place guitarist… even though the 2nd place guitarist got out of bed at the same time and has put in the exact same amount of work.)
    Almost an accurate analogy, you are missing one point. The contest isn’t to lead worship in church, the concert is to perform in front of a crowd that paid a cover charge and the band promoter receives most of the profit for writing the songs.


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  • Nicholas
    September 17, 2009

    I like how one of the people riding the fence on spec work said: “There is an upside, but the downside is very steep. It’s great for the one that wins, and often causes hurt to those that don’t.”
    Wow… That’s life. If you haven’t learned to deal with disappointment by the time you leave grade school like everyone else, expect a rough pretty life.
    Why would you enter a competition with hundreds of competing entries if you hadn’t considered that you might actually (gasp!) lose?? You’d have to be the most arrogant, big-headed person. And in such a case, it would probably do you good to learn to deal with a loss.


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  • Nicholas
    September 17, 2009

    Ah! The lottery’s not fair because not everyone wins! It cheats them out of their hard earned money and gives them nothing in return!
    “Frustrate,” the little validation word required to submit a comment, is very appropriate.


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  • Sean Salter
    September 17, 2009

    So what happens to the artist after he wins and he gets his pay day?


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  • Michael Buckingham
    September 17, 2009

    Right on Nicholas. Couldn’t have made the point more clear myself.
    If you buy a bunch of lottery tickets every week thinking they will pay your rent you have been fooled and need to learn to make wiser choices.
    PS. There’s a reason you can’t pay for a lotto ticket with a credit card or food stamps.


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  • Trish
    September 17, 2009

    Nicholas, a design contest IS grade school. What people don’t understand is design is a business just like any other. We have bills to pay and kids to raise like everyone else. When your profession turns into nothing but contests where you have to do all the work first and then hope you get paid, maybe you’ll understand that we are not arrogant, but afraid. My profession, my passion, my life, is turning into nothing but a grade school competition. How do I support my children that way? How would you?


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  • Chukka
    September 17, 2009

    Dear Nicholas,
    I’m not sure whether you work in the design industry or not, but I’m going to assume you don’t because ‘pulling together a concept’ IS part of the daily routine for a graphic designer.
    The industry actually isn’t too concerned about any individual competition.
    One of the industry’s primary concerns is this: that the ‘lure’ for clients of using competitions to recruit designers will eventually result in a situation where the only way for a freelancer to earn an income is by entering competitions. And if this ever happens, ‘freelance graphic designer’ will become an unsustainable career choice due to the unpredictability of income. Freelance designers would have to also work other jobs, limiting their ability to develop their skills and their ability to specialise in certain areas. And as a result, quality across the whole industry would suffer a sharp downturn.
    Please understand that an individual competition has no effect on the industry – but that the industry does need to respond to the larger issue in order to ensure a sustainable future.


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  • Andrew
    September 17, 2009

    Challenging blog, Here are a few thoughts:
    – As a creative, does anything really ‘belong’ to us in the first place? Where does creativity come from and what did Paul mean by “what is more I consider all things loss for the sake of knowing Christ Jesus” – what is ‘all things’ anyway? It challenges me.
    – As followers of Jesus who make creative elements, should we ever not give our best? If it communicates truth, is there a price too high or low as payment that stands in the way? In whatever (all) we do….
    I do agree that there are poor designs and there are excellent designs. There’s a talent difference. I always, 100% of the time prefer and aim for excellent designs. I sometimes put God in boxes I’ve defined as “the best” or “this is excellence,” but I have also seen God use the mistakes, the mundane, and the poorly designed creative elements and in that there’s unspeakable beauty, even if my pride says otherwise.


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  • Trsih
    September 17, 2009

    When we compare our profession to another profession we get ridiculed, but it makes more sense to compare our profession to a game of chance? Guess that shows how pointless our arguments really are to people who really do not care about others. Very christian. Guess I will have to throw two degrees and 25 years of experience out the window and start over in some other profession. Is there room in yours? There will only be a few 100 thousand of us looking for ‘real’ jobs. I’m sure the economy won’t suffer for it. I apologize for being so foolish and arrogant.


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  • Sean Salter
    September 17, 2009

    seriously, what do people think happens to the person who wins after they collect their prize and their fame?


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  • Jaci Askew
    September 17, 2009

    I’m very frustrated with the people on this thread that are belittling the argument that Michael has articulated so well. It’s the same sort of response that I’ve gotten from Rick Warren’s “fans” on his facebook fan page. It’s an unwillingness to understand how this effects a large contingent of people. If you’re not investing in the design industry then I can see how you may not understand it, but now it’s been explained to you, so have the decency to not be close minded. Thank you, Michael, for a great article.


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  • Trish
    September 17, 2009

    Sean, I seriously don’t know. I’ve been doing this for over 25 years and don’t know anyone in my profession who got ‘fame’ from a contest. And $5000 may pay the bills for a month or two, but what about the rest of the year? What about the rest of their life? What about those who depend upon their income?


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  • Michael
    September 17, 2009

    If you are an artist and don’t like spec work, then don’t participate. If you’re a band, and don’t want to enter a battle of the bands competition, then don’t enter. If you’re a salesman and don’t want to work for straight commission, then don’t take that particular job.
    But neither are unethical or mean that holding such a contest means you undervalue artists.
    Your opinion is certainly valid, and your arguments may be a fair point, but they are personal (even if principled).


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  • John Briggs
    September 17, 2009

    I find a lot of these comments show a lot of disrespect towards Christian designers and artists. As brothers and sisters in faith, we should care for the well-being of each other. The author has come as close as he possibly can to bringing the issue directly to Rick Warren. He is not denouncing or angry with him. He is shedding light on the issue.
    Spec work is a sad reality for the design profession. I’ve never participated and I do not know of any trained and skilled designer personally that participates in it. Look at the examples for the contest. None of them even compare to the quality of his first books’ designs.
    Anwyay, lets respect each others professions for the sake of Christ. How one brother or sister is doing affects us all as the body of Christ. This letter was not an attack, more like a light to an issue that a percentage of us deal with on a daily basis.


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  • cole
    September 17, 2009

    umm yah don’t compare to a battle of the bands… you play your music that you retain the rights too. its not like once your done with battle of the bands you lose your music or right to play it. nope you continue playing your shows and such just as normal. now you win this spec stuff what can you do. can’t change your work cause you don’t own it anymore you just gave rick warren you work for them to do what they will. not to mention they get the free artwork from 100’s others.
    also is 5k a fair price compared to what it should be pay? i mean seriously how much money will this book make?? hopefully they give the person what they deserve for being the first thing anyone will see when it comes to this book. besides of course the bigg warren name


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  • Barton Damer
    September 17, 2009

    I think Rick Warren is doing a great thing here. I hate to shatter anyones ambitions, but a book cover design is NOT worth $5,000. It is a very generous reward to offer for a project that can be cranked out in a day or two. Rick has made a reward worth taking a risk for! I’m sure he set the amount high to attract “the best of the best” and not end up with something mediocre. The problem for me occurs when churches have done this for their logos, etc. and offer $300 to the winner. Lame.
    On another note, Rick Warren’s previous book cover designs are pretty conservative (from a creative stand point) so I’m not sure there is a lot of room for anything ground breaking in this competition.
    Someone like Rob Bell or Erwin McManus would probably yield more interesting results.


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  • beeveedee
    September 17, 2009

    While I only scanned thru all the arguments, it appears to me that no one mentioned that Rick Warren will draw profits off of his book. The argument of those performing in a church service (as works of service) falls apart because it’s not a business, profiting off of the performers.
    The advent of computers has only made design more accessible in the past 20 yrs but has not done much in passing on the knowledge of the craft of design and typography… and spec work will do nothing to help further the craftsmanship and profession of design.
    I am a graphic designer, and I cannot fathom if Rick has $5000 to pay for a cover, why not select a designer from any number of small firms or freelance designers, based on their portfolio of work. Why open it to the masses? I am so tired of people not realizing the time and experience and knowledge I put into my work, and not valuing that.
    Those of you commenters who don’t know the business of design, but can make things “look good” on your PC, just move along and keep your opinions to yourselves.


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  • Jeff
    September 17, 2009

    Barton:
    A book cover design isn’t worth more than $5,000. I beg to differ. Please, Hear me out.
    Have you ever heard the saying, “Never judge a book by its cover”? There is a reason for the phrase…and that reason is so many people DO judge a book by its cover!
    Rick Warren will likely make boatloads of money of of this book. If I had to guess…probably millions, forgive me if I am way off, I have not looked into the numbers of his previous books. Out of all that money, $5,000 for the cover? $5,000 for the piece (that other than his name itself) will make the first impression to anyone who looks at the book?
    There are plenty of people who judge books by their cover, and Rick Warren is doing himself an injustice by not hiring a professional designer through a professional process just as he would his editor or the publisher for the book. Would he hold a contest to see who could proofread and edit his book the best? Why skimp on the cover?


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  • Chukka
    September 17, 2009

    I’ve already left a few comments, but let me go on the record with something… I’m not actually a graphic designer, I’m a brand manager (a hirer of freelance designers) who’s spent basically my whole career to this point in the non-profit sector.
    So sometimes I have decent budgets for projects, and at other times they are quite small. But I believe in the ‘no-spec work’ mantra because ultimately a healthy design industry allows me to obtain better quality for less cost. Many talented designers + high financial stability = the kind of market competition that keeps prices low. (Sorry for the blunt honesty, but with big dreams and little budgets, that’s just the way my world works).


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  • Chukka
    September 17, 2009

    Jeff:
    It’s true though, a book cover is worth less than $5,000. We’re not talking about the ‘value’ of the cover itself, we’re just talking about the ‘value’ of the designer’s time. Unless the designer is some world-famous artist, they have no right to expect that their compensation reflects the expected sales of the book. They can only expect to be fairly compensated for the time that they’ve committed to the work that’s assigned.
    To put $5,000 into context… that amount of money is going to buy me maybe around 35 hours with a quality designer (might not be true for every location, and obviously varies according to the calibre of designer).


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  • Sean Salter
    September 18, 2009

    I think quoting the bible too much in the debate can start to get into the area of spiritual manipulation, so I’m gonna refrain from that, but I will say. Leviticus, Matthew, and Paul cover business a whole heck of a bunch. Just sayin, I guess the Jews just get it more naturally :-P
    all kidding aside.
    Those who are quick to rebuttal Michael’s post have missed his point ENTIRELY.
    His heart and concern is not just for the artists, who are most likely ignorant about the issues, as well as Rick Warren who is selling his own book short.
    There are other solutions that are more beneficial for everyone involved. We can discuss them to the benefit of Rick, Artists, and The Lord’s KIngdom. Will you listen? Well, you haven’t so far.
    The biggest problem I see hear. One side who is trying and IS understanding Rick Warren’s heart, and the other that isn’t trying to understand and worse, refuses to listen.
    What ever you stance, opinion, or loyalties lay. Why not listen. At least have a discussion, ask some question, present your stance. A large group is not choosing to be offended, heck they aren’t attacking Rick Warren. They’re hurt, dejected, ignored, brushed aside, and forgotten. You scoff at us. You laugh at our hearts, our concerns, and our voice. Thanks. Awesome. And why should I go to church?
    A large community in the design community has issue. How is it addressed? Ignored and scoffed at by Rick Warren, and ignored and scoffed at by “model” modern american christians.
    Honestly. Its a losing battle and it is not worth fighting. There is NO point trying to express ourselves, our hearts, our frustrations, our concerns, and our desires to see the arts and design takes its proper place in the church as a means to communicate a message of amazing amazing love. Especially when its answered with little concern or care to rudeness, vileness and contempt.
    At one time I had hoped to see the attitude toward what I do change in The Church, ha! I was so naive and idealistic, I thought working for churches, christian NPOS, and Christian Colleges I could effect some kind of change. Boy I was wrong.
    I’m gonna stay where I am at now. In an amazing position at an amazing creative firm in the entertainment industry. Where what I do is respected by the people The Church has painted as evil. I’m gonna spend my energy serving them, working hard, improving my craft, and hoping God opens doors. These people treat me with more respect, kindness, love, admiration, and pay me damn well to boot!
    Church, who needs it? Now days its all about happiness over character, in fact its happiness, joy, feeling good, self comforting, me me me me, over ANY ounce of building GOOD character. Half the people I work with won’t walk in to your building because you treated them like crap when they did, and the other half won’t because The Church wouldn’t let them through the doors with out condemning them. You know what I tell them, don’t go, for the love of God, don’t go. You won’t find God amongst any of them, what you will find is a lot of pain, judgement, condemnation, and rejection.
    I encourage every talented, hungary, and bleeding heart christian to NOT work for their Church, NOT do work for christian companies. I tell them, go to school, get a job in the world, at a studio, marketing firm, etc. Work HARD, working hard, and being the best you IS serving God. Be a GOOD person, have good character, and if you want to do art for the church, do what GOD has given you vision to do, give it to the church for free, and walk out the door back to your job and work HARD.
    IMHO thats being the Christian you weren’t meant to be. Go be the salt, and get away from The Church as fast as humanly possible. They will whip you, beat, you, and eat your heart alive, and then make you feel like it was your fault.
    STAY AWAY, but if you must, go, worship, pray, and then run home as fast as you can.
    Church will kill your soul.


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  • Michael
    September 18, 2009

    if you are a designer and don’t want to participate, then don’t. if you are someone who wants the opportunity to practice your skills, potentially winning 5k, then go for it.
    we do not have to expect everyone in an industry to conform to our standards.


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  • michael
    September 18, 2009

    taking this post to it’s logical conclusion, then ANY contest that required some kind of skill to win would be bad.
    do poker players that pay to enter tournaments devalue the poker profession?
    would a woodworking contest devalue woodworkers all over the world?
    nobody is forcing people to enter or work for free. and suggesting that everyone who has entered is mediocre is not really fair.
    and the band analogy does work…musicians who win such contests OFTEN sign over rights to their songs in exchange for producing records and promoting shows. if you have a problem with spec work, then you have to have a problem with a battle of the bands.


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  • travis johnson
    September 18, 2009

    Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah.
    Bro,
    If you don’t want to do something, don’t do it. If you did want to do something, well…then, that would be describing Rick Warren.
    Besides, since this is Church Marketing Sucks and we are now talk about Rick Warren’s book, it’s obvious that his marketing…doesn’t suck, even if the sideswipe of Rick does.
    (yawn)
    Congrats on a needless backhand at a really good man.


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  • Michael Buckingham
    September 18, 2009

    I’ve heard this argument often:
    “If they don’t want to do it, they don’t have to do it.”
    That’s just not accurate. In fact that’s one of the problems. If they want even a chance to get the work, make a living, they have to enter.
    Take this outside of this one contest. What if this was the norm? What if to get work we always had to enter some contest. How many creatives would be able to make a living that way?
    This is the age old “if you don’t like it, go find a different job” which allows employers to push around employees out of their desperation…is that really how we want to treat people?


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  • Brandon
    September 18, 2009

    applying religious morality to graphic design is funny. christians are funny. love always, god.


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  • michael Buckingham
    September 18, 2009

    Barton,
    You’re right as far as contests go this at least has a good prize which is not the norm for these contests.
    Most of these contest that I see in the church world only give a pat on the back as a prize.
    Even then only one gets Rick’s prize and the rest go home with nothing. It’s just not good for the industry or the people that make up the industry. Again, an industry that is already undervalued, especially in the church realm.
    I would note that the prize went up to 5k after the negative comments started coming in. 3k was still decent, but the additional 2k feels like damage control to me.


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  • Michael
    September 18, 2009

    if your industry is “already undervalued” then go produce amazing work. let the quality of your work speak for itself. no need to rail against a system you don’t like.
    i believe i’ve read this kind of stuff in the lab and on this site before…just produce excellent work.


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  • James Laws
    September 18, 2009

    I’m a pastor and a web designer. I do a ton of work for free for friends and organizations that I am trying to help.
    To me the problem is greater. Let people have their contests. I don’t feel they are devaluing my work because I refuse to enter. I respect myself and value my time too greatly to enter. So, there it is.
    I don’t think Rick Warren betrayed some artists code of ethics because if it were their code they wouldn’t have entered.
    Respect yourself and it won’t matter what others think.


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  • James Laws
    September 18, 2009

    I would also like to say that some of those covers are hilarious! I especially like the one of Rick Warren floating in the water. Priceless!
    That designer has brought me joy, what else could they want.


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  • Michael Buckingham
    September 18, 2009

    Michael, that’s just way off.
    I tell you that some feels undervalued and the leaders response is “then try harder”?
    Even then it doesn’t hold up. I know of many creatives that produce excellent work and it’s still not taken seriously or appreciated.
    You also might look at the work submitted, this is not the way to consistently get quality work.


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  • Jeff
    September 18, 2009

    Chukka:
    Using Barton’s original post that I responded to:
    “it is very generous reward to offer for a project that can be cranked out in a day or two.” (which, I bet a really good professional designer that was HIRED might be able to do it in a couple days or 35 hours…probably wouldn’t be his best work, but I bet it’d be better than the winner of the contest.)
    And then, according to you:
    “that amount of money is going to buy me maybe around 35 hours with a quality designer”
    The question is if Barton thinks it can be done in a couple of days, and you’ve got $5,000 you can spend for 35 hours with a professional designer…why not appropriate that money to the professional designer who you select based on his portfolio and references rather than dangling it out there over everyone, having them jump up and down as you pull the money just out of their reach?…and then giving the money to the person who jumps the highest?
    Like Michael just said, most “Design contests” are not going to give you $5,000…and potentially the only reason Rick Warren is is because of damage control.
    Most are just a pat on the back and a “atta boy”. Sure it might be ‘cool’ to say, “I designed Rick Warren’s book cover!” but is that really going to jump start someone’s career. Probably not, although its not entirely impossible.
    But the vast majority of these contests have nowhere near 5k as a ‘prize’.


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  • BP
    September 18, 2009

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  • Daniel Decker
    September 18, 2009

    I think this issue really boils down to perspective and intent. At the end of the day, I seriously doubt Rick or his creative team has anything but a positive intent on this. To say anything contrary is just silly and sad. Yes, spec work may be against the common code which serious professional designers obey BUT that’s where free will comes into play.  Rick did not command anyone to obey or book them into slavery in some way. He gave them a choice to take the risk or not. From that point on, I think it’s an individual designers choice and by Rick merely offering the opportunity, I don’t think that proves neglect or disrespect for the designer profession as a whole. There are some great designers out there who could be struggling right now with the economy, having idle time on their hands and this opportunity might very well be an answer to prayer they have needed. You never know.


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  • Jeff
    September 18, 2009

    Here is just a couple examples that show that comparisons to a “woodworking contest” or a “battle of the bands” are just not accurate.
    You don’t enter a “battle of the bands” because you said “hey, I know a few chords on the guitar, and my buddy can keep a wicked beat with his hands!” If you went on stage, you’d be booed off, spit at, laughed at, ridiculed, and kicked out of the contest.
    You don’t enter a “woodworking” contest because you said to yourself “gee, this one time in shop class in high school, I was able to take this little block of wood and carve my name into it”. You’d be the laughing stock of the contest if that was your only qualification.
    These are both contests in which people with a quantifiable level of skill have chosen to enter because the reward at the end is something that could further their career (can’t really speak that much into the woodworking industry) But for a battle of the bands, a lot of times the prize is you get to open for a famous band, exposing yourself to 1,000’s of fans who can then go to the merchandise table, buy your CD, buy a T-shirt and spread the word about this up and coming band. There might even be a record exec. there with a contract offer waiting in his hands. No this isn’t the case for every battle of the bands, but every battle of the bands will help you gain more exposure in the music industry at some level.
    The problem is, this isn’t how the design industry works. You don’t have pentagram sitting out there saying “whoever designs Rick Warren’s book cover, we need to get him in here for an interview right away”. Forget Pentagram, there won’t even be a design or advertising firm with a tenth of Pentagram’s weight there to offer you anything.
    The thing is, people think that just because they have a cracked illegal copy of Photoshop, a couple stock photos from Google Image, and a couple system fonts, that this whole design profession is a complete crapshoot. Anyone can do it, right? Sure, maybe there will be someone who does this and comes up with a killer design. But you just wasted the time of 1,000’s of people ranging from Sally who used Microsoft Publisher and Comic Sans to Joey who just graduated from design school and can’t get a job in this economy while trying to pay off his college tuition. Contests like these reduce the amount of design jobs that Joey is out there looking for, and instead turn his profession into the equivalent of playing the lottery.


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  • Jason
    September 18, 2009

    Okay, this post is a little less dismissive of your whole arguement…just a little though. michael, I value you as a brother in Christ & I don’t want to belittle an entire industry. I’ve done graphics & tech in the church for over 10 years & yes most of my work is mediocre, but it’s my best, with the time I had, with what God has given me. And to say you are not valuing volunteers because only one wins is like saying Democracy is evil & we should all just be commies. I work every week & weekend with many volunteers, at every different skill level, that make my position on staff at a church possible. I feel for the design crowd that needs to pay their bills, but this is not the only book that’s going to be printed this year. There is more opportunity. And seriously, to those who think Rick Warren’s cover needs anything else on it than “by Rick Warren” to sell millions has taken too many happy pills. Sorry if I come off as a punk.


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  • Eric Granata
    September 18, 2009

    A few of my thoughts:
    1. I’ve seen a lot of comments like, “If you don’t like the contest, don’t enter!” The problem is that spec work like this affects everyone in the design business by lowering the value of the work. It’s for the same reason that I encourage fellow designers to stop charging $150 for a logo which, if done well, is worth far more than $150 no matter how many hours you spent on it.
    2. I do not take on spec work in my professional career.
    3. I do work pro-bono for my home church and I do it gladly because it is for the Kingdom. However, because I have a responsibility to keep food on my family’s table, I do not take on spec-like work for the church. To do so would take time and money from my family. That’s not to say that I hold my family’s comfort above the Kingdom, but I don’t tolerate behavior from churches towards professionals, in any field, that does not take into account that volunteer time is precious and hard to come by.


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  • Kevin D. Hendricks
    September 18, 2009

    In response to those who think we should have approached Rick Warren about this personally…
    We chose an open letter because it highlighted a current example and had the potential to educate a major player in the church world. Since Warren has already dismissed efforts to bring this issue to his attention and we’re not exactly on personal confrontation terms with him, an open, respectful letter seemed like the best approach.
    We appreciate those who are making this a discussion of the issue and not an attack on Rick Warren.


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  • Michael Buckingham
    September 18, 2009

    For the record, GAG does have an interesting way to have a contest like this.
    http://www.graphicartistsguild.org/resources/guidelines-for-art-competitions/
    Briefly:
    1. People submit some existing work, I imagine something from their portfolio.
    2. A very small number of those are invited to submit sketches, rough drafts.
    3. A winner is selected from those.
    Maybe not perfect, but much more respectful to the worker. Certainly an interesting take on the contests.


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  • Jason
    September 18, 2009

    Sorry for re-posting so soon, but if you haven’t checked out the covers, do it. Some are pretty good & some will make you smile like a bad sci-fi movie makes me smile.
    And to the person who wins, it might not make their career, but it would be stinkin’ cool to have your artwork in millions of homes. I won a design contest about 12 years ago for a local 5K race & it still makes me smile when I see someone wearing one. (even if I now cringe a little at my own design!)


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  • Travis Johnson
    September 18, 2009

    Kevin,
    As a long time reader/participant of CMS, I think the open letter approach to Rick Warren kind of….sucked. I think it was clearly poor form to take a good brother, hold him up like a pinata, and invite people to swing away without real cause or attempt to go to him first (hey, it generates many comments though!).
    At the end of the day, it appears that CMS was hoisted by its own petard. Hey, it’s a first for me to say something like that. I’m a huge fan of this place. I’ve made my own public mistakes as well and have exhibited classless behavior worthy of a kick in the pants. So, I’ll simply extend a gracious “welcome to the club.” There’s life after sticking your foot in your mouth publicly.
    Cheers to people who smoke what they sell…Let’s make sure that CMS’ Church Marketing doesn’t Suck going forward.


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  • Michael Buckingham
    September 18, 2009

    Travis,
    We went back and forth on that. In the end, like Kevin said
    “We chose an open letter because it highlighted a current example and had the potential to educate a major player in the church world. Since Warren has already dismissed efforts to bring this issue to his attention and we’re not exactly on personal confrontation terms with him, an open, respectful letter seemed like the best approach.”
    I don’t know. I guess since he chose to dismiss the issue, which was brought to him, it’s not much different than you posting here that you disagree with me…and I think that’s ok. We like to twist that scripture to quiet people…I don’t think that was the intent.
    Does anyone see the irony in publicly correcting me about publicly correcting him?I don’t know, I just thought was kind of funny.
    And for the record, I don’t have an offense with him…it’s about an issue not a man.


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  • Matt Norman
    September 18, 2009

    Perhaps the writer of this article has taken the wrong perspective on this. I am not a designer, but this is how I view this. When a designer enters a relationship with a customer to design the cover for a book, they are restricted by the very things that the writer of this post says are an advantage. Certainly if the customer has a very specific image in mind, but is unable to create it himself, then this would be an advantage. But, I would propose that perhaps the type of creative person that would get into graphic design does their best work when allowed to do so without the restrictions of someone else’s vision. I think that if Rick really wanted to get the best possible cover for his book, then he should give the designer a copy of the book, let them read it and then create their own vision based on what they read in the book.


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  • Ted
    September 18, 2009

    $5000 ?!?!? THAT’S ALL?!?!?
    Nothing enrages me more than preachers who think they can wave a carrot in front of struggling designers and honestly believe they’re doing them a FAVOR!
    Rick Warren, you suck! I hope he picks from the pool of insipid and idiotic submissions. He deserves it.


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  • Michael Buckingham
    September 18, 2009

    I appreciate your point of view Matt, but that’s terribly wrong. It is our job to breath creativity into the leaders vision. We must know the many layers of that vision so that we can communicate it in a way that permeates and sticks.
    Design isn’t just about making things pretty, it’s about communicating the message. There’s just more too it than making it look the way they want it.
    Your last sentence is dead on though, get the book, read it, talk with the writer…and let that fuel the creativity.


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  • Steve Douglas
    September 18, 2009

    I’m not even sure how this contest plays out. In places it’s “guaranteed”. In others Warren has told us that he already has a cover, but IF one of the entries IS selected, then a prize will be awarded.
    If you take a look at the contest as it stands now, there is a LOT of stock images being submitted. Most of those images are not/under licensed for that purpose. What about the photographers’ work that is being used without payment, permission and w/o credit – the ONLY way that they’ll get any benefit, even if we accept the “it’s great exposure” rationale, which BTW, I don’t? After this contest has run its course, there will be 400 – 500 designer who will get zero exposure, save a ghosted out image in the bowels of 99designs website. And a lot of photographers’ work will have been used without their appropriate licensing and without so much as a byline.
    Warren’s church has what 30,000+ members? Why didn’t he have an in-house contest? He wouldn’t have needed to offer any remuneration and it would have had a nice community vibe. I’ll tell you why. Because he wanted to see if ‘professional’ designers would have a crack at his book cover to see if they can come up with the cover design that the publisher has ALREADY designed.
    It’s cynical and it’s exploitative.


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  • Hal
    September 18, 2009

    A couple of thoughts:
    A DESIGNER’S VIEWPOINT:
    For us, the spec work issue boils down to a perceived lack of respect for what we do (which, as artists, is a big part of who we are). That’s rejection on a fundamental personal level. And it hurts!
    Many of us as designers believe that people realize that design is important to sell a product/service, but they don’t think take it seriously as a profession–as though anyone with a bootleg (i.e. illegal) copy of PhotoShop and some free time on the weekend can do it. It shows a lack of value for what we do. And when people dismiss the standards within our industry and laugh at our code of ethics, it shows a lack of value for what we believe in.
    What bothers us is that in most places in the U.S. is that it would be ILLEGAL for you to build a house that was designed by a unlicensed hobbyist with a bootleg copy of CADD. At the very least, any new structure must be signed-off on by a licensed architect; someone who is willing to put his name, reputation, and career on the line in order to stand behind the design.
    But we don’t want more laws; just a little bit of respect. It keeps coming back to this idea that people seem to respect design (otherwise they’d do it themselves); just not designers. You take what we DO seriously; you just don’t take US seriously. We’re a unfortunate necessary evil in the marketing process.
    A LEADER’S VIEWPOINT:
    As leaders within the church, we have to take some responsibility for the directions that we encourage people to go in. YES, we have to respect people’s freedom to choose for themselves–even when they make unwise choices.
    As leaders, we can’t default to the argument that “If they don’t like the terms of the contest, they don’t have to waste their time.” As with any other issue, leaders have the responsibility of encouraging people to be good stewards of the time, talents, and resources God has entrusted them with–in all areas of their lives.
    This is why I believe that a design contest like this is tantamount to hosting a lottery “for fun.” Sure, some people may choose not play, thinking it is a waste of time. Others may choose to play “responsibly” just for fun. But as leaders we have to realize that there are a lot of brothers and sisters who really need the reward, and will spend unwise amounts of time and resources in the hopes of being the long shot who wins the great prize. We will be held accountable for how we lead other and how we encourage them to use their time and resources.


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  • Travis Johnson
    September 18, 2009

    @Michael Buckingham,
    To your comment:
    “I don’t know. I guess since he chose to dismiss the issue, which was brought to him, it’s not much different than you posting here that you disagree with me…and I think that’s ok. We like to twist that scripture to quiet people…I don’t think that was the intent.
    Does anyone see the irony in publicly correcting me about publicly correcting him?I don’t know, I just thought was kind of funny.”
    I think there’s a BIG difference in Rick Warren’s invitation to participate with his book cover and your posting an article critical of Rick Warren’s marketing practice complete with a comment section and an open invitation to critique what you said about Rick. Don’t you?
    Then again, if you’re suggesting people not participate in the CMS invitation to dialogue, I guess I have a misunderstanding of the goal of CMS. Clearly, that isn’t the case though. I think this article isn’t congruent with the historical and stated direction of CMS.
    This article seems more in line with one of the popular and antagonistic heresy blogs than it does with the CMS I’ve grown to love.


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  • Wayne Cordova
    September 18, 2009

    Just a couple of quick comments, (I didn’t read them all so sorry if I’m repeating.) A couple of things come to mind:
    #1. If you don’t want to do free work, don’t do it. I tend to think someone has to start somewhere and it’s great practice.
    #2. I think showing the link to all of the art posted and calling it “mediocre” is a little insulting and unfair. Some of these people are your readers, do you really want to alienate them all by lumping them into on category?
    #3. Are karaoke contests spec work for singers? I think people know what they are doing when they enter these contests.
    #4. Do we really need one more thing in this world to be angry about?
    Just a few thoughts.


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  • Melissa
    September 18, 2009

    Thanks for writing this. I hope Rick reads it and takes it seriously. In the end, this contest is a slap in the face disguised as “fun”. We already have such a problem in the Church with the lack of respect/value of designers and artists, to have someone as high-profile as Rick Warren furthering this way of thinking is tragic.


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  • b/
    September 18, 2009

    I think you should do a few polls. One that asks how many of those that commented actually read the AIGI’s position on spec work and actually understand what that means.
    Another that asks how many of those that commented are actually creatives as opposed to those that think, “we’ll if they want to serve or help they should be allowed to even if its not their gifting because that’s what the Bible says right?”
    And maybe one that says, how many of you commented negatively and actually are designers by profession and understand what the labor involved.


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  • Tim M
    September 18, 2009

    I can’t imagine that a design contest is going to produce any kind of quality. So an established professional developer has nothing to worry about – if they’re good, chances are they’ll get some work. It’s those who are starting out and have no portfolio that winning this would benefit.
    It seems many here are upset with the comment, “if you don’t like the way the job market is for your chosen occupation, get a different job.” That seems to be common sense. I haven’t seen many history or political science majors (who don’t want to teach) complain about not getting work – they pretty much knew that going in; that it would just be because they loved studying that topic but would only get a job based on having a degree (and not which one).
    I’ve done web development on the side, but I certainly don’t go to Craigslist looking for the $100 projects that take 20 hours. Those are for the 15 yr olds getting their starts. Likewise, I don’t complain about the many “coding contests” that occur either – I’m not their intended audience.


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  • Daniel R Carver
    September 18, 2009

    Rick Warren could have spent $5,000 (or less) for a top notch designer to create his book cover. Usually, when organizations run contests for creative work, it’s to save a buck. This is clearly not the case. I suspect that the real reason to do this contest is that Warren’s creative staff are out of good ideas and/or they are hoping to get some press on this contest.


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  • Kevin D. Hendricks
    September 18, 2009

    Rick Warren keeps framing this as a chance to platform talented artists and help amateurs over pros.
    But I’m not sure how all these designers are really being platformed and helped in the long run. I’m also not sure how amateurs are being helped to improve and grow. Those may be admirable goals, but I think they could be accomplished in better ways.
    The Church Marketing Lab is actually a great community for amateurs (and pros) to improve and grow.


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  • Travis Johnson
    September 18, 2009

    My last post…specifically directed to the designers who are somehow being oppressed:
    GET A LIFE!
    Are you seriously being taken advantage of?!
    This is coming off like childish whining. Do we have socialized graphic design? Is someone being forced to design without pay? Or, are you just bored looking for something to complain about.
    You guys should reach around and feel for some big boy emotions or a spine and go do some work where you get paid. And, if you don’t get paid, then don’t work.
    And, if you are going to pick on some horrible oppressor, pick on someone other than the guy who gives all of his money away. Seriously, this is the equivalent of a nursing assistant complaining about Mother Theresa.
    Get a freakin’ clue! The world doesn’t revolve around you or us and some piddly church graphic design. Grow up. Go be about your business instead of trying to make an example of some horrific graphic designer abuser like the terrible Rick Warren.
    It’s almost laughable. And, I can’t believe my eyes. And, the further the defense of a poorly chosen fight goes, the harder it is for me to believe it.
    How about a “do-over?” We all make mistakes. I’ve been told here many, many times that good marketing begins with honesty. How about it? Let’s just say that this article was an “oops,” especially using the words, “Rick Warren” AND “oppression” in the same breath. That’s funny.
    Maybe CMS is dabbling in comedy? Sometimes Church Comedy Sucks too. Come on guys…we’re better than this kind of petty nonsense aren’t we?
    PS. The captcha required word, “frustrate” is apropos. BTW, I appreciate the great body of work you guys do. You really are amazing. I just think you fouled one off here…over and out…see you on the next article.


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  • Erica
    September 18, 2009

    Alright, kids. It’s my turn for the soapbox. Ready? Go.
    There are truly two sides to this issue. I totally see what the letter is trying to get at. However, I believe it was written blindly, without any consideration for the artists feelings or intent.
    The manner in which this is written gives the impression that designers/artists are a weak, fragile and delusional people. Wow guys, we’re flattered. We’re actually more intelligent than you give us credit for, Mr. Blogger. We know what we get our little ‘unappreciated and undervalued’ selves into.
    Artists are passionate about their field of work, and [surprisingly enough]we’re resilient and accepting of constructive criticism. Those who are truly dedicated to their work don’t take it offensively when someone tells them that their design isn’t good enough and run away screaming like a bunch of middle school girls. We’re actually stronger than that, so give us a little credit there.
    As far as the online contests go. If you win, fabulous. If you don’t win, this isn’t second grade. That’s just another project you learn and grow from. We can’t get enough of what we do and love. Designers don’t just stop when they think they’re ahead…art is something that constantly needs transforming and fine tuning. That’s the beauty of it.
    Oh, and cut Warren some slack. You said yourself that he didn’t solely make this decision. You forget that not only is his creative team was involved, but also his publishers, who were probably young and working hard to get their designs out there at one point in time as well.
    [steps off soap box]
    Thank you for your time. :)


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  • amy c
    September 18, 2009

    Got about a 1/3 of the way through the comments and just had to respond to this statement: “A lot of your points are right if this were a soap company or something, but if Rick W wants to throw in the whole amateur design spin, let him do it and get your panties in a ruffle about something bigger.” Thanks Dan Sullivan for basically saying that because Rick Warren is a famous pastor and Christian author he can do whatever he wants and not be held to the same standards of some “secular” company that should know better. Why are these points right for a soap company and not Rick Warren? Please, I’d like to know.


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  • Michael Buckingham
    September 18, 2009

    Travis, you’re a pastor and that makes your post sad to me.
    Read the post again, there are creatives that are hurting, that feel taken advantage of and under appreciated. And your response is “get a life”. Your response only solidifies those types of feelings and the need for someone to stand up for them and say “enough.”
    Be a shepherd and care for those that are hurting.


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  • Michael Buckingham
    September 18, 2009

    And Erica, you’re absolutely right. This isn’t about Rick Warren, or even him and his team…this is about the issue. As a very public figure his actions certainly get the spotlight…good and bad.


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  • Nate Eaton
    September 18, 2009

    Thank you for posting this Michael. I go back and forth in my opinion about Rick Warren but I have enjoyed reading through the discussion on here. I don’t plan to add anything one way or the other because I think a lot has been said for both sides, and whether I agree with it or not, it has all been highly informative and rather enjoyable to spend a couple minutes reading through. So thank you.


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  • Kevin D. Hendricks
    September 18, 2009

    Travis, for the record, we did change “oppression” to “exploitation”. That change was suggested to us and I think it better communicates what we’re trying to say.


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  • Mitch
    September 18, 2009

    great post Michael. Chad’s comment to change “oppression” to “exploitation” was great, and i’m so glad you corrected the post. guess that’s what makes it an open letter.
    i have two thoughts here, but do fall on the side that spec work is bad.
    1. How is this different from something like Cut&Paste? Is it because work is published? What if a company were to use a school and it’s students to do this?
    2. What is the impression this contest leaves in the eyes of the non-Christian designer? Is it representing Christ, or is it damaging their impression of Christ and the church?


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  • Josh Cleland
    September 18, 2009

    What’s wrong with someone sticking up for the respect and validity of his/her industry? As designers, this is our profession. This puts food on the table. It would be irresponsible for us NOT to speak out against a practice damaging to our industry.
    Sure, no one is twisting our arms to enter this contest, but what’s the point of “exposure” if no one pays for quality design anymore?
    I’ve always respected Pastor Rick Warren, and love the work that he’s doing, but our voices do need to be heard. There’s nothing wrong with that.


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  • ECC
    September 18, 2009

    It sounds like Rick is following this discussion based on his latest tweet, “I could have just let Zondervan staff do their usual thing.This way,100s of hidden talents get platformed.See my tweet on amateurs vs pros”.
    Since there are already over 1000 submissions, I would like to offer up a few suggestions for him to consider. Feel free to provide additional recommendations.
    1. Recognize publicly his top 10 favorite artists from the pool of entrants. Perhaps he links to them from his tweets or his blog? That way they can benefit from additional publicity to help market themselves.
    2. Erica mentioned that as an artist, you learn and grow from opportunities like this. If you aren’t selected, how do you learn? You can compare your entry to the winning entry. Or Rick (and his creative staff) could provide feedback on the entries as to why their work wasn’t selected or how they could improve their designs.
    3. Next time Rick is about to publish a book, he contacts his top 5-10 favorite designers from this contest and has them formerly pitch the project.
    4. Rick gives everyone who participates in the “contest” a copy of this book.
    5. Rick participates in an open forum at a future Christian conference (like Catalyst per se) on why spec work / contests is a good/bad idea.
    6. Rick gets together with the CMS people and some designers and has an open discussion with them on this subject.
    7. Since Rick is a humble activist in 3rd world countries fighting to end global poverty and hunger, he considers hiring an artist/designer from a 3rd world country to design his next project.
    8. (you fill in the blank)
    Grace and peace,
    Erik


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  • travis johnson
    September 18, 2009

    @michaelbuckingham
    Don’t be sad for me. Just because I’m a pastor doesn’t mean I have to cushion your delicate hinder parts. This is a bogus article that does more disservice to your desired outcome than saying nothing at all.
    And, like someone else basically said, let’s not talk about “creatives” as if they’re spineless, sweater-wearing, on-the-verge-of-crying girly men…er, however you say that in a way that is gender inclusive.
    For some background, I’ve worked as a marketing director and in Business Development for two large global communications companies from 2000-2004. In that role, I’ve worked with a number of Fortune 500 C-level executives in the US, Canada, and South America on projects ranging from data-mining for selective marketing in billing processes to affinity marketing solutions and corporate ID. My interaction has been with creatives and corporate clients.
    This article is sissifying CMS. Stop the whining and do work that better drives business to your door. I wouldn’t come within 100 feet of a whining graphic designer to do business for me. It’s a turn off. The fact that I make you sad further validates that conclusion.
    Man up. And, get busy doing more than critiquing the doers. Or, be lame and motivate me to find better church marketing advice elsewhere…like in a nursery where I’m better prepped to anticipate the whining and finger pointing.
    PS. @Kevin Hendricks, exploitation vs. oppression? Come on, bro?! CMS, Rick Warren, and all of us deserve better than that.


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  • Matthew
    September 18, 2009

    The point is we now live in an American Idol society, where some unknown artist has the opportunity to win the whole darn thing.
    And if not, they have the chance to become recognized and potentially gain some great business from their art which was posted for all to see.
    It has to start someplace for these unknowns, if you’re known already, this might not be the place for your recognition.
    I think your points are good, well laid out and worth the conversation.
    Thanks for writing this up, and starting this engaging conversation!


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  • Mike
    September 18, 2009

    Wow, really disappointed by the original post and the follow up comments here. As Christians, we should be known for our love, not for our complaining and judgmental attitudes.
    There are way too many assumptions in the article and comments. Oppression and/or exploitation are very strong words, and I would challenge you to really think if this competition falls into that category.
    What about people just wanting to serve and volunteer and give their time. When we do any type of work for God, it is not to bring us personal recognition, it is to honor God. Let’s not lose sight of why we write books, design covers, and serve God in many different ways. IT IS NOT ABOUT US


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  • Steve Douglas
    September 18, 2009

    @ Travis Just in case it hasn’t occurred to you, many designers are female and your misogynistic rants could be deemed as quite insulting.
    And rather than trying to find an insult that’s “gender inclusive”, how about you ratchet back the rhetoric altogether?


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  • travis johnson
    September 18, 2009

    Steve,
    Misogyny, oppression, eploitation?! Geez, you’d think there’s a campaign to stop child-sex trafficking and Rick Warren is caught in the middle. Not the case…it’s just the wicked Rick Warren advancing the Gospel. What are we doing? Sitting around on the sidelines trying to flick boogars on him.
    LOL….hilarious.


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  • Michael Buckingham
    September 18, 2009

    Mike-
    I’ve heard that argument over and over….usually with a “so you should be joyous to work for free”. I hear “the gift isn’t our own” “it all belongs to God” and yes, “It’s all about Jesus”.
    At the core of my being, I say God I am yours use me as you will. And I absolutely mean it. It’s why I only work with churches, that’s what God has asked of me.
    But that doesn’t mean you, pastor, leader, get to use me as you will.
    Because it’s not ALL about Him.
    For God so loved…THE WORLD…that HE GAVE
    I came that YOU MIGHT PROSPER
    Page after page we read that Christ came and died for US. Not so that we would just be obedient little ants and certainly not so every church leader could get freebies, in the name of Jesus.
    If you want to serve and give (and we all should find a place to do so in some capacity) then do it, do it wholeheartedly. But because you want to, not because you’re guilted into it or because you are expected to.
    And if you’re volunteering, the org better be taking good care of you. You should never wonder if the work or you are appreciated.


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  • Cameron Smith
    September 18, 2009

    The comments in this thread about “volunteering your gifts to serve the Lord” area bunch of bunk – in this context. Not one person participating in that contest is “volunteering” anything. They are trying to win $5k – they are trying to get some recognition.
    I’ll be honest, I’ve been on the fence about this one. However, the one comment that rings so VERY TRUE is…
    “One of the industry’s primary concerns is this: that the ‘lure’ for clients of using competitions to recruit designers will eventually result in a situation where the only way for a freelancer to earn an income is by entering competitions. And if this ever happens, ‘freelance graphic designer’ will become an unsustainable career choice due to the unpredictability of income. Freelance designers would have to also work other jobs, limiting their ability to develop their skills and their ability to specialise in certain areas. And as a result, quality across the whole industry would suffer a sharp downturn.”
    That’s the heart of the No-Spec issue.


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  • Adam Gregory
    September 18, 2009

    So I am just curious if all of you who have such a huge problem with this are going to be boycotting Doritos and The Super Bowl? ( See Here)
    I am a professional Web Designer/Developer (I work for an Ad Agency with Clients in multiple countries), I am planting a church next year, and I’ve been a participant in the CMS Lab for two + years now. To be honest this whole thing SUCKS. And I am not talking about Ricks contest. I am talking about he response that we as the creative community are having towards it.
    I am just curious when CMS became the Church graphic design Association, responsible for policing all church design for industry standards. I have seen in the past month, people in this community attack a church planter (Zak White), a well respected church leader and innovator (John Saddington of NorthPoint), and now “America’s Pastor” (Rick Warren). Guess we’re just moving right up the chain. Watch out Pope Benidict, you better be careful when you commission your next painting project for the Vatican.
    I mean guys c’mon. I respect the hell out of so many of you, but I think that in the end this comes off as so divisive and attacking that you have to look at it and think is this really the way to have handled it?
    Maybe Rick was wrong? Maybe CMS response to it was too. From what I have seen in the comments, and I read every one of them, this is not productive dialogue.
    On one side there are those who think this was done wrong by Rick. They already all knew how they felt about it. In fact they all twittered back and forth about it prior to this post. None of those minds were changed.
    On the other side are those who don’t think there is anything wrong with this, including at least one fairly notable designer (Barton Damer). None of their minds were probably changed by this, though some might have been.
    And right smack dab in the middle is Rick Warren, who let’s be honest doesn’t have time too sit around and worry what CMS thinks about him. He is probably too busy, you know, trying to mentor young pastors, teach/lead 30k+ people, and generally be an effective witness for Christ and spread the Gospel through the world. So I doubt that Rick will read this letter, because good leaders don’t listen to criticism from outside their circle and mentors, they don’t have time for it. They don’t worry about pleasing the many, just the One.
    And when it comes down to it I just feel like there are more important things that as christians we should dedicate our life to then a discussion on this (ironically, here I am commenting on it and spending my time on it.)
    I don’t know what else to say, if you were offended by this whole thing, then I am sure that Rick is sorry about offending you, but at the same time extend him grace and understand that he doesn’t have to conform to AIGA standards and he doen’t have to agree with NOSPEC. He can do things how he wants, if you don’t agree then don’t participate. I Know you’ll probably harass me for using that line, but the reason so many people are saying it is because it’s true. I know all the analogies, but it’s not like the guy walked into Holy Cow Creatives offices and said “Hey, Mike would you do some spec work for me?” It’s a contest just like the Doritos thing, which is being done by a huge corporation for a huge event, that they will spend and make millions off of, contrary to the stated opinion of many commenters that REAL companies don’t do this.
    I dare say that all you have done is provide more publicity then he would have had before and he’ll probably get more designs from better designers since you actively advertised this contest now to a large number of designers. So I guess he should actually send a thank you note along with that apology you guys want from him.
    I don’t know maybe I am just venting some frustration with seeing how this whole thing played out over the last month or so with the a fore mentioned individuals, but this whole thing just comes off as not beneficial and not the way we should be handling problems with in the Church (big “C). I don’t think writing open letters to pastors is about real or perceived slights is the way to handle it.
    Let me just ask this question, what if a pastor had done something like cheated on his taxes, would right an open letter to him about how cheating on your taxes is wrong and there are laws and standards for that? No! then why do it here? The intent is the same, to call someone out for something that you think they are doing wrong. It’s not how we are supposed to handle dispute as followers of Christ.
    At the end of the day we all need to remember one thing “Jesus Trumps Everything else”. At the end of the day Rick believes that Jesus is Life. CMS believes that Jesus is Life. Micheal B. and Kevin H. believe that Jesus is Life. Let’s keep that in perspective and show grace in everything else.


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  • Jason
    September 18, 2009

    Sean, bro, sorry if we haven’t been the examples of Christ that you need. Hopefully God can put someone in your path who is. I’m sorry you think the Church will kill an artist’s soul, don’t know if that’s been your experience & sorry if it has. but for me, the church has been the exact opposite. It is a place where I worship the Great Creator & I get to use my gifts to build and encourage His Body. The Church is where my creative soul finds release. I would love to meet up with you & see your ninja skills, but KY is far from LA. Checked out your blog, hopefully the right one, and your stuff looks great. The bat thing looked very cool & had me interested. Keep up your good work & we’ll start passing around the q-tips.
    And just real quick…about the argument of all design becoming contests & that’s why this is bad, there are too many graphics/designs & not enough hours for this to ever become a reality. By far the most profitable situation is to have a go-to designer that you can communicate well with. That’s a no-brainer. But it’s silly to say that this is the future of graphics. It will require everyone to continually step up their game so that no one in their right mind would compare them to a middle schooler with a hacked copy of Photoshop, but when has that never been the case? If you’re good, you’ll get work.


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  • Joshua Sims
    September 18, 2009

    @ Adam Gregory
    Michael was not drumming up hatred for Rick Warren, I feel that he was drawing attention to a problem that is plaguing an entire community of people. That is all he was addressing. I am sure if he (michael) knew Rick Warren personally, they would have this conversation. In a perfect world, we all could doing Kingdom building work for no money at all, because we as a global church would take care of each other. I think that is the point of all of this dialog.


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  • ECC
    September 18, 2009

    I thought Jeffrey Kalmikoff’s (Threadless/Digg) view of spec work was interesting when I read it earlier in the year.
    Check it out:
    http://www.callmejeffrey.com/2009/02/27/its-ok-to-be-grey/
    http://www.callmejeffrey.com/2009/03/21/the-straw-that-broke-kalmikoffs-back/
    Grace and peace,
    ECC


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  • Adam Gregory
    September 18, 2009

    - Joshua
    I know Michael is not trying to drum up hatred for Rick. But as much as there seems to be an uproar over what Rick did, I think there should be just as much of an uproar over how we have intentionally or unintentionally lashed out at him and as I stated other leaders in the last month.
    I have been a contributing part of this community for two years and have been rather sadden by the sudden need to get all up in arms over things like this, that ultimately in the long run aren’t constructive.
    We aren’t encouraging better marketing by talking about this, we are being divisive, why is that so hard to see? This is not “spurring each other on to love and good deeds”. This is infighting over the best way to handle a something, that last I checked the Bible really isn’t all that concerned about. I mean I get the point of view that his is bad for the design community. As I said, I am a professional creative. I wouldn’t do Spec work and would laugh in the face of someone who asked me too. But I am not going to start calling out people who do, or as someone pointed out criticize the work of people who are doing it, just b/c I don’t agree with it. Quote: “(take a look—yep, that’s some mediocre work)”
    All I am saying is I think this is the wrong way to handle this whole thing. And to be honest this open letter reflects much more poorly on CMS then it does on Rick. In fact I think that He comes out smelling like roses to everyone outside those designers that already had a problem with this anyway.
    I doubt any minds were changed and I doubt that Rick will even pay any attention to this letter, because He’s got better things to do with his time then the rest of us.
    Ouch, kind of a self depreciating comment there. May be I need to find something better to do with my time then debate this.
    Yeah, I probably do.
    Peace Out!


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  • Kevin D. Hendricks
    September 18, 2009

    Adam, for the record, we’re *Church* Marketing Sucks, not *Doritos* Marketing Sucks. ;-) So especially when it’s an issue with the church, we want to address it. Doritos is less of a concern. ;-)
    We also don’t endorse a boycott of Rick Warren or anything like that.
    The examples you mention of attacks seem a little unfair. We’re not attacking Rick Warren. Michael & John’s Twitter debate earlier this week was pretty gracious. And the post with Zak (which I’m just now learning about) seemed to start out graciously as well.
    I agree that these debates can and have turned ugly pretty quick. That’s unfortunate. But I hope you can separate us from individuals in the community. Our attempts to tell people what to say and how to say it are like herding cats. We can try to lead and be examples in the community, but if someone shoots their mouth off there’s not much we can do (other than confront them, stand up to them, delete comments on our own blog, all of which we’ve tried).
    I’m just trying to say that Michael (with Zak and John) and now CMS with this post is trying to bring attention to this issue and get people to talk about it and consider it. We don’t all agree (even the CMS staff doesn’t–as we noted in the post). And I think it has done some good. Lots of folks (myself included) weren’t even aware of this issue before these discussions.
    So yeah, let’s all have some grace. We tried to approach this respectfully (some say we sucked at it) and hopefully helpful conversation can happen. Thanks


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  • .josiah
    September 18, 2009

    Might I submit that perhaps some of this misunderstanding comes from people who think that design is “easy?” I keep seeing comments about how it’s simple to pull a concept together for the contest after work one night/on a Saturday morning/etc.
    Like it or not, that simply isn’t correct. True design is a much more difficult. A real shot at this cover would take weeks of working and reworking. If you want to see what one evening of work will get you, just look at most of the entries already submitted.
    Beyond that you miss the required feedback of designer and client. Rick needs a book cover to adequately and professionally communicate the message of his book. At this point he’s created an army of blind archers aiming for a target.
    Lastly, as we’ve seen amongst the spec-work sites online, the chances of getting a book cover that’s a near carbon-copy of another cover, or one that uses a photo that the creator never had the rights to are off the charts. Steve Douglas hit the nail on the head, read his 9/18, 7:22a post.
    But, design is easy. As long as I have an illegal copy of Photoshop and a folder full of daFont’s, I’m right as rain. Heck, I’ve got a copy of Word too, that means I’m a writer and maybe Rick will let me write his next book.


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  • John Keese
    September 18, 2009

    Wow! Michael you touched a sensitive thread. In the interest of someone reading all the way down here, I’ll keep it short.
    Spec work? Perhaps the bigger topic is the Church’s view of designers.


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  • Sean Salter
    September 18, 2009

    There is little ministry opportunity for the individual in a contest.
    A bunch of my co-workers are reading this blog right now and laughing at the responses.
    Non-christian designers peering into the this world, what’s their take? Guys like Travis Armstrong are the reason they hate christians and hate the church.
    Not because of the contest, although that has its issues which are easily forgiven depending on the reaction, but they take great issue with the response of pastors. That is where they see the real demeaning.
    So sleep will RW, Travis Armstrong, and the rest. You just gave another notch onto the belt of the scarred and broken hearts of the evil sinners of Hollywood California.


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  • Michael Buckingham
    September 18, 2009

    John you are sadly correct. This may be a hot thread right now (again thank you to everyone for keeping this fairly even tempered) but the issue is absolutely much bigger, the church’s view of designers.


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  • J.R. Caines
    September 18, 2009

    Awesome post Michael, Thanks for standing up and saying something. Spec work is dangerous to our industry.
    I am going to be holding a “re-roof my house” contest next week, I was wondering if some of you commenters wanted to join? I will pay the one who roofs the best!


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  • Sean Salter
    September 18, 2009

    John’s point is perfect, and what Michael has been saying all along.
    As for me and my peers, both secular and christian here in SoCal, we pretty much realize designers, motion graphic designers, pretty much all visual creative artists types aren’t valued in the church. The world shows us more respect and dignity and love.


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  • Brandon Hill
    September 18, 2009

    wow, an incredible amount of commenters clearly did not read the letter and chose to react. Maybe its because they entered the contest themselves?
    Spot on, this letter was fantastic. Thanks for representing what needs to be said and honoring important ethical code without meshing it in with ministry confusing.


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  • bex
    September 18, 2009

    Wow, Sir. You seem like a bitter mad. Come on! What are you even talking about- not valuing the worker?! Just let it roll. For those who want to participate, they know what they are getting into. Don’t rob their joy, don’t worry abour Rick- I’m sure he’ll be just fine and his book will reach those it needs to. RELAX. Step aside.


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  • James Dalman
    September 18, 2009

    I commented earlier but somewhere, somehow it doesn’t seem to be included. I’ll paraphrase a shorter version…
    The contest and argument of spec work really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of life. There are pros and cons to both sides.
    I feel our time would be best served doing things that REALLY MATTER like speaking out against false doctrine, talking to the elderly forgotten in homes, or being a voice for the unfortunate in your communities.
    Lets all resolve to move on and let it go…this will be more beneficial in the end.


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  • Sol
    September 18, 2009

    We will be happy when Authors, agents, relatives of authors and or agents, authors nephew who worked on the yearbook staff so they weigh in on cover design – all go back to being more focused on the content and leave the cover design to the “designer”.
    Sincerely,
    -Awaiting the pendulum shift designer


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  • J.R. Caines
    September 18, 2009

    I am going to go to 100 different doctors, and the one who gives me the best check up, that’s the one I will pay.
    Or how about going out to eat for lunch all week and just paying the deli who makes the best sandwich?
    My personal favorite idea! I am going to have a contest for all writers, you write a book submit it to me, and if I like it, I will design a cover for it!
    This kind of thing totally makes a joke out of our industry, just stop it.


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  • Michael Buckingham
    September 18, 2009

    Again, I don’t get how we can say “don’t feel valued? let it roll” “there’s more important things (than how you feel as a person)”
    It’s like tossing out a ball to attract attention, all so you don’t have to address the issue.
    Who said we can’t show value to a designer AND reach out the elderly? That’s just smoke and mirrors.
    We either accept the fact the designers, especially in the church, often feel unappreciated or we don’t. We then decide that we care, or we don’t.
    It really is that simple.


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  • Sean Salter
    September 18, 2009

    we are getting over it, and the church. Have a nice time preaching your sermons to the quire. :-D


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  • clh
    September 18, 2009

    For all those who are NOT designers, consider this…
    Tomorrow you go to work and are informed that you and 10 others will be doing exactly the same thing for the day–preparing tax returns, pouring cement, writing a legal brief, teaching first graders, or whatever your job is. Then, at the end of the day, your boss will decide which ONE of you did your job the best, and that ONE person will get paid. The rest of you get the honor of exposing the boss to your less-than-blue-medal work and feeling like you’ve grown and learned.
    What if all jobs were like that? Unlikely, sure, but contests like this is where it starts. Sure, one contest isn’t bringing the design world crashing down, but that doesn’t make it OK.
    Throughout history, workers in various industries have been taken advantage of in one way or another. What changed things was not “if you don’t like it, go work somewhere else.” It was people who stood up and demanded respect for their industry and their colleagues.


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  • Sean Salter
    September 18, 2009

    With the California unemployment rating at 12% you think a man of the people like Rick Warren would maybe commission a local unemployed Christian Designer to do his work.
    But I need to relax, A contest is probably what Jesus would do.


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  • Lee
    September 18, 2009

    Wow, Travis the pastor, YOU are exactly why so many people SHUN the church. Shrill, judgmental, holier than thou, unfeeling, uncaring, narrow-minded and evil. Yes, evil. It is evil to degrade and stomp over people who are professionals, who are trying to provide a living for their families, who see major problems like this one in their profession (spec work “contests” for virtually no chance of reward) and who dare to speak out about it.
    It seems YOU have no trouble speaking out, nastily, I might add, about your outrage with the perceived gall of these hardworking professional creatives trying to uphold their profession’s ethical standards. It seems YOU have no trouble attacking people, who in your opinion, have no right to speak for themselves, for their work, for an industry of which you apparently have zero knowledge. How hypocritical that you may speak, but in your opinion, they may not.
    And what really floors me is that you do this all so aggressively, like a pit bull, teeth gnashing, drool flying, eyes rolling, snarling — really UGLY and really VERY NOT Christ-like in any way, shape or form.
    And yet, as a “pastor”, you must believe your “followers” should listen to you as a man of God? Ha, what a joke. You must be delusional.
    My first visit here and I am appalled by the likes of you, claiming to be a man of God, yet joyfully ripping up anyone in sight who dares to stand up for his life’s work, his profession, his life indeed. It’s sick and you have only confirmed the ugly side of Christianity, both on a personal level and on a professinal level.
    Do you believe that other pastors will be pleased to know how ugly and vicious you have portrayed their profession by your glowing example? I am sure many will be ashamed of your attitude and behavior, shamed to be in the same profession as you.
    Considering the escalating run of vitriol coming from you on this topic, what’s next? Shall you round up all these renegade graphic design professionals and throw them in with the lions in order to show your extreme displeasure that they should protest being trod upon and should instead accept being used and abused by the very WEALTHY leaders of one of today’s most popular churches?
    No wonder Christians continue to get a bad name. No wonder that there are so many Christians shunning congregations and practicing their Christian faith on their own. It’s by the likes of people just like you, Travis. Who wants to live under the scrutiny of a godless persecutor like you who cloaks his ridicule and assaults as being part of his ministry? What thinking person would want to be subjected to your evil condescending regard?
    I can only pray that your followers are reading your ranting here and can see for themselves that you are no leader, no man of God, not worthy of the title pastor. I pray they see you for the evil troll you have shown yourself here on this forum. Shame on you.


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  • Mike
    September 18, 2009

    CMS has a valid point. I can see both perspectives. This is their blog. Let them take their stand on what they value.


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  • Mike
    September 18, 2009

    What if the winner got a job from Rick or some other organization that agreed to be a part of the contest? That would be better.


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  • J.R. Caines
    September 18, 2009

    It’s simple economics, if free work (even if it is sub par work) in an industry is readily available via a contest or whatever, the value of the work I (and many others) charge for is lessened. Take any other occupation and insert it into the same scenario like clh did above, it doesn’t looks so good then does it.


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  • J.R. Caines
    September 18, 2009

    @Travis Johnson ,
    How about you step down from your church for a year and we pull random people from the congregation up there each Sunday to preach, you can even do it one week, and then at the end of the year we pick the best sermon of the year and pay that person your annual salary, sound good?


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  • Sam
    September 18, 2009

    I find my self more than a little annoyed by all the non-designers telling designers to get over our frustration with mediocrity in our industry.
    Unfortunately Warren will get a lot of mediocre work that will be seen by millions. This does not represent Christ.


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  • Jason
    September 18, 2009

    Okay, don’t forget that I’m one of you designers, and know that you are all valued by me and our Savior, but let’s speak some truth. I can look at 1000’s of portfolios on-line & search out the best & the brightest & every one of them will do a design a little differently. So Warren & his team could have done that, but instead he said, “you guys come to me” if you’d like a few thou & your work in millions of homes. In the first situation a limited group gets valued for the opportunity. In the later everyone gets a shot. How are the two any different other than those who want a shot have to do the work beforehand? I understand that it would be ludicrous to have to do spec work for every job, but this single situation is not the norm for every single opportunity! If you have a great portfolio that you’ve built then work will be much easier to find, but saying that no one has the right to get a few different ideas before choosing is like saying any designer can do a perfect job on any assignment. It’s just not the case.
    If I wanted to be a videographer at a church I hope that during the interview process someone would want to see my reel. If I wanted to be a preacher, they would want to hear me preach. If I wanted to be a sham wow salesman, they would want to hear my pitch. If I wanted to be an electrician they would want some proof that I know what I’m doing. To say that just because we’re designers we don’t have to prove nuthin to nobody is a little pretentious. (not calling anyone pretentious, just the idea is.) There are so many good designers around & so many opportunities to display work. If you got the chops, the work will come, but everyone at some time has to beat the bushes with spec work.
    Love you guys…I’ll try to shut up now.


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  • Adam Gregory
    September 18, 2009

    Don’t you think it might be time to shut down comments and move on CMS? I think everyone has had a chance to say their peace and express their opinions.
    Might be best to move the conversation on to a new topic here on CMS.
    Once again I fail to see how this conversation is helping the church to communicate the message of Jesus more effectively. You got your point across.
    All the designers are now up in arms.
    All the non-designers are like “so what?”.
    All the rest of the world is just pointing their fingers and laughing at the stupid Church “fighting over what color carpet to put into their new building”. I think that is probably the saddest part of what this whole conversation has become.


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  • Travis Johnson
    September 18, 2009

    FYI – it’s Travis Johnson, not Armstrong. I wouldn’t anyone to mistake him for me, the mysogonystic, designer starving, evil, designer-feeding-to-lions, sorry excuse for a pastor. ;)
    Gotta love skewed priority here….skewer a guy that’s getting done….literally saving lives by the millions…all for not bowing to the starving artists just trying to feed their families. But, what do I know?…seems like a gnat flying around an elephant’s fly-swiping tail.
    It all grows more comical by the minute.


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  • sean salter
    September 18, 2009

    Jason,
    Love your approach.
    Hopefully this gets across as I try and explain simply where the big issue lies.
    Spec-work contests is a rising trend, in ministry AND in the corporate world.
    Why its dangerous.
    This rising trend is making it increasingly difficult to be a full time designer and make a living. People can’t support themselves on the hopes of winning contests. Again, its a rising trend. Designers around the country have seen a great decline in freelance contracts and an increase in spec work contests.
    It lessons the value of design. Spec work contests do not allow for connectivity with design. Your project loses its market place communication power if the designer is unable to understand the message and create a visual story to communicate it effectively. This is best when client and designer have an intimate working relationship.
    It inevitably lowers the standard for what makes good design. Anyone with access to a torrent version of Adobe can claim they do design. Thus, it lowers the value and standards of the designer worth his salt.
    Not sure else how I can explain why its bad.
    Rick isn’t a bad guy, he’s a good guy with a bad idea. While it satisfies the immediate need. After all what can one little contest hurt right? But it is very bad in the long run. Its macro vs. micro, cause and effect, which apparently some o you actually Do have a VERY limited vision beyond the parameters of your own universe. Its a human thing, work on it.
    and to the jerk of a pastor:
    Travis Johnson.
    The tough guy pastor thing doesn’t wear well with you. You just come across as the very reason people like me won’t step foot into a church. Marketing guru eh? Yeah, Marketing “experts” with “vast” experience with designers are a dime a dozen here in Hollywood, and they are the guys that make the decisions on the films like GI Joe. They can’t see past their fat bellies. You just come across as some insecure guy who failed in the corporate world and fell back on ministry, a common theme, and are over compensating.
    But what do I know, I’m just an art director at a creative firm in Hollywood who is sensitive to artists, I need to get a life I guess. . . man you know, I’m just a wuss. Little ol’ me. . . a wuss hehehe


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  • Sean Salter
    September 18, 2009

    Oh Tubby Travis,
    I’d hardly call myself starving. More like comfortably successful.
    I’d hardly call Rick Warren saving lives, he markets to the quire, and Jesus saves the lives anyways.
    No one is attacking Rick Warren, painting it as such does EVERYONE involved a disservice.
    I pray for your failure. I do. I HATE pastors like you. You’re a detriment to God’s Kingdom, and the purpose of the church. Arrogant, foul, and foolish. You are a serpent in the grass. You are a wicked tuddy man.


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  • Sean Salter
    September 18, 2009

    Oh and before I forget, Travis, I want to thank you for affirming everything I say about the Church. People here at my job are not surprised at all by your words. In fact they themselves are used to it, its why they don’t go to church, profess belief in God, or like christians.
    Great job being that witness!


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  • JIMBO
    September 18, 2009

    SD…I feel your post at the top was completely arrogant…ignorant of the facts…and presumptuous that you would know what people did or did not do as far as art work, just because they felt like the contest was an ok idea. You almost seem jealous as you are incapable of winning so you are just posting degrading remarks to others so that you can feel better about your inability to be nice! Chill out dude…I am sure that Jesus would have your back with your speech of cynicism…lastly, could we please see your amazing work so that we have something to be amazed by…since everyone else does crappy work…put up or please just shut up!!! BTW, this is not what Jesus would say to him either…the good thing is I am not Jesus! HA


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  • Michael Buckingham
    September 18, 2009

    Ok…let’s slow it down.
    We can have a conversation without throwing names and seeing who can throw the most cutting remark.
    That’s not what this is about, and it’s embarrassing.


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