Stick to the Rules: Your Guide to Weekly Design Challenges

FEB 11, 2021 updated May 11, 2021

Inspiration and preliminary sketches for elmira_art’s first-place winning design Zen Jungle from Spoonflower’s 500th Design Challenge “Your Artistic Voice.”

Each week we are so impressed by and grateful to every artist that enters the Spoonflower Design Challenges. The submissions highlight the immeasurable creativity of our community and allow anyone to vote for their favorites to win weekly prizes.

We love that artists use the themes to get their creative gears turning and that it provides a platform for designs to shine. If you’ve been hesitant to join a challenge, we encourage you to read more about the benefits of participating in our previous post.

In this post, we’d like to help you make sure the designs you’ve put time and energy into creating are not in danger of being disqualified. There are three main reasons an entry can be withdrawn from a contest:

  1. An entry was uploaded to the Spoonflower Marketplace before the challenge was announced.
  2. An entry does not fit the challenge theme.
  3. An entry has a copyright issue or uses someone else’s intellectual property.

Before we get into the rules, let’s go over the basics of how to enter a design challenge.


How to Enter a Spoonflower Design Challenge

  1. Review the challenges that are open for entries.
  2. Review the design challenge rules located on each design challenge page.
  3. Create your design challenge entry and upload it to your Spoonflower account.
  4. Once on your design page, choose the specific challenge you’d like to enter in the “Enter in Design Challenge” dropdown menu.
  5. Submit your entry.

Did you catch that second step? Each design challenge theme page has a brief rundown of the rules in the details portion, as well as a button to “See Challenge Terms & Conditions.” There’s quite a bit to take in in our full Terms & Conditions, so we’d like to break down the three most frequent ways a design can be disqualified by our moderation team.

Top 3 Ways a Design Challenge Entry Can Be Disqualified

1. An entry was uploaded to the Spoonflower Marketplace before the challenge was announced.

The spirit of the Design Challenge is to give a creative prompt that inspires designers to introduce a new design to the Marketplace that speaks specifically to the theme we have crafted. 

For example, in May you worked on a design featuring hippos in baseball caps and you uploaded it to your Spoonflower shop. A few months later, Spoonflower announced their next set of challenges and “Animals in Hats” is a theme.

First off, pat yourself on the back — you were ahead of the trends! While you may be inclined to enter this design into our “Animals in Hats” challenge, this would disqualify your entry because it is not a new design to the Marketplace. However, you can use your hatted hippos as inspiration (maybe even create a collection!), but the design you enter into the challenge must be completely fresh and new. 

If either of these checkboxes were checked on a design before the design challenge was announced, your design is not eligible for the design challenge. The first check box makes the design public to the Spoonflower Marketplace and the second makes it for sale.

What if you uploaded a design for the challenge over a design that was already made public? Our moderators are only able to see the previous upload date associated with the design, so to avoid being wrongly disqualified, please always use a brand new design slot for your challenge entries. 

Design Challenge Tip: New challenge themes are announced on the first Friday of every month. See what challenges are coming up next!


2. An entry does not fit the challenge theme.

We realize that there are many creative ways to interpret the themes, so this one can get a bit tricky! Be sure to use the design challenge title and the description to inspire your design and connect it to the theme. Sometimes this is pretty cut and dry – say the challenge theme is “Dogs” and you draw corgis in a variety of poses. Great! Very cute and very on theme. Here are two scenarios where a title and description can make all the difference.

Let’s stick with the same theme of “Dogs.” The challenge moderator is scrolling through entries and comes across what looks like at first glance to be lions and not dogs. The moderator looks to the title to confirm. The title “IMG03232” isn’t super helpful. If the design’s title is the more concrete, “Doggie Dress-Up,” the moderator will then go to the description to find the following – “My golden retriever wearing a lion’s mane for her Halloween costume.” You don’t say! It was a dog in a lion’s costume all along. The moderator may have a hard time figuring out it’s a dog in disguise if it weren’t for the design’s title and description.

DO

DON’T

Now using the same theme, “Dogs,” let’s examine a more abstract entry. Artists can have a more expressive style that is less figurative and they are welcome to enter our challenges as well. If this applies to you, titles and descriptions are essential. Let’s say instead of illustrating a dog in a traditional way, you are inspired by the dog’s leash. Your design may look like multi-colored stripes at first, but if you look very closely, you can see the clips of the leashes are also included. While this is a visual clue, it’s helpful to go one step further and title your design “Dog Leashes” to make the moderator’s job easier with a more concrete clue. 


3. An entry has a copyright issue or uses someone else’s intellectual property.

The design challenges are meant to inspire fresh, original ideas, so using anything in your design that isn’t uniquely yours will be disqualified. Here are some design elements to avoid in order to stay in the game.

Clip Art and Public Domain – While you can upload designs to Spoonflower that include clip art elements you purchased and have a license for, as well as imagery in the public domain, these types of designs are not allowed in design challenges. We want to see things you created exclusively for these challenges.

Something traced or copied – Making a direct copy of another artist’s work can be a nice assignment, but it should remain in your sketchbook and is not something to be used for your entry. Perhaps you made a few tweaks, but it is not really yours to enter. For example, say you copy a famous drawing of a pig and add wings to it — it still contains copied elements and would be withdrawn from the challenge. 

The likeness of a celebrity – A celebrity sighting in your artwork is cause for disqualification. The unauthorized use of the likeness and/or name of a recognizable figure is against the rules of our design challenges.

Copyrights, trademarks and logos – Using anything copyrighted or trademarked in your design or title are also not allowed in our challenges for similar reasons. By entering designs with anything protected like this, you stand to benefit professionally and financially from something you did not create. On top of that, using familiar and recognizable imagery can give designs an unfair advantage.

You can be inspired by popular culture, but copying it directly or using it as is will leave you disqualified from the challenges. This might also look familiar as you have to confirm the copyright of your design when you upload it.

It’s also good practice outside of our design challenges to make sure everything you create is uniquely yours. It can be tough to find your visual voice and language, but that is what will make you stand out from the crowd. You can filter and remix all the inspiration that you collect every day to find your own artistic path and identity. More information on what types of images can be uploaded to Spoonflower is available here.


We hope these guidelines help clarify why a design can be disqualified from a Spoonflower Design Challenge. The goal of the design challenges is to inspire new designs that are unique to Spoonflower, fit the weekly theme, and highlight the many unique creative voices in our community.

By waiting to design for the challenges until they are announced (on the first Friday of each month), being influenced by the prompt (and adding a proper title!), and avoiding the use of anyone else’s intellectual property (clip art, logos, likeness, etc.), you can easily create one-of-kind designs for our community to vote on each week, while keeping your artistic practice fresh and your Spoonflower shop fully stocked with exciting new designs.

Shop Elmira’s winning design Zen Jungle on wallpaper and home decor and learn more about her process.

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