It's bemusing to see $1.78 billion retailer JCPenney crowdsourcing its brand identity to a group comprised of "the company's associates, several design agencies and two art schools."

Graphic designer Sara Tack asks the right questions:

"Is the time spent reviewing more than 200 submissions good business practice? How many hours did the corporation waste trying to come to a consensus, no-less review all the submissions? Did they think by having such a huge range of ideas that clarity would reveal itself? Who led this effort? Whose idea was it to create this process? Did this person(s) think they needed this effort to cover all their bases and prove they did due diligence? Or did someone think it would be ‘cool’ to involve all these people?"

Not only has a lot of valuable business time and effort gone to waste, but I'm confident that a boat-load of designers have been left unpaid, too. This is just one in a recent line of unnecessary logo redesigns.

Talking about the US retail giant, and for those who haven't read it already, there's an excellent article on the New York Times website about JCPenney's search engine optimisation. Worth a look.

In similar, but no less disconcerting news, Domtar Paper is holding a design contest. What troubles me more than the actions of $6 billion paper giant Domtar is how the results will be announced at the 2011 HOW Conference. It's sad to see design organisation HOW — "the creative and business resource for graphic designers" — giving such exposure to spec work.

Here's a snippet from the contest rules:

"Domtar reserves the right to not select a winner. All entries agree to transfer all rights of artwork to Domtar for promotional or any other use."

---

Update #1:
HOW Design editor Bryn Mooth responded in the comment thread to say, "We are reaching out to Domtar today to express our stand against spec work and explain why we’re passionate about it. We apologize for any impression that HOW endorses or is involved in this contest." Full comment.

Update #2:
April Messer of Domtar left a comment apologising to the design community, and said that the contest will be retracted. Full comment.

Speaking of spec advocates, you can now, unfortunately, count Jacob Gube's highly-trafficked web design blog Six Revisions in that bracket, after the publishing of this anchor-text-stuffed advertisement where (no doubt anticipating a negative response) "comments that do not follow the instructions on how to participate [in the contest] may be removed." I think Jacob made a mistake.

For those new to these parts, I recommend reading why AIGA believes that design competitions will not result in the kind of work a client deserves.