Sue West, an old high school friend of mine who I had reconnected with on Facebook, challenged me to enter a T-shirt design contest for a place called Big Top Chautauqua (pronouced: Sha-tock-wa). If you've ever listened to A Prairie Home Companion or NPR, you may recognize the name. If you haven't, you're like most of us who haven't experienced the joy of listening to outstanding folk music under a big top tent near the summer shores of Lake Superior.
Being an "opportunist", I checked out the prize awarded to the winner of such a contest.
A $50 gift certificate and one free t-shirt... wow.
I decided to enter anyway. I thought that even though it wasn't worth the prize, it might be fun and it might produce some interest online. As long as I was going to enter, I might as well attempt to win — it's in my blood. Engaging the same skills I have used with literally hundreds of brands for the past twentysome years, I asked my Facebook friends what they knew of the place, it's music and how they felt about it. Why did people go? What kinds of folks are they? What's the history and so forth? Lastly, what is quintessentially "BTC"?
Receiving dozens of comments on Facebook from friends and strangers, listing what BTC meant to them and what their impressions were, I began to form an image of what this design might become. I posted images of different poster styles to help them define what they thought the proper style might be. More questions, more answers, more posts along the way.
In the end, I did the design based on what I had read and from the intuition that any good designer imparts on a blank canvas. After some final tweaks, I posted my design to my Facebook masses and let them take a last critique before submission. I e-mailed the collaborated design just prior to the deadline.
A week later, the results were in.
We won the contest.
Which, of course, I had to share with my "peeps" on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. From start to finish, about three weeks worth of info, interest and victory. What I learned is this: that the prize for winning may not have had anything to do with "the prize for winning". Simply engaging in this activity, under the freedom of doing so without monetary gain (at least momentarily), allowed anyone and everyone to participate.
My success would be their own success.... and who doesn't want to be a part of that?
My suspicion is that hundreds (maybe even thousands) of eyes have looked on this design and recognized some talent there. I've also re-engaged people from my past who now remember that I had a passion for good design. Could it be that they (or an acquaintance) may have a business in need of some brand assistance?
Here's to the good karma that can come from doing something well, for a noble cause, without the expectation of winning the contest in the first place... all under the starry skies of a warm Lake Superior night.
Oh, and now the hard part. Dividing up the winnings! :-) Thanks to all who participated!