POSTED TUESDAY, 27 JANUARY 2015 Design your own controversy. BY DAVID MELLONIE, FOR THE DESIGN INSTITUTE OF AUSTRALIA
Canadian government logo competition infuriates graphic designers.
Over the years the DIA and most other major design organisations have expressed their strong opposition to speculative design work, otherwise known as free pitching.
Despite this opposition, the combined pressures of too many people claiming to be designers competing for too little work, the proliferation of computer skills and software programmes, and the rise of online crowdsourcing ‘design’ sites like 99designs, means that the problem of free pitching remains a hot topic in the design profession.
The latest controversy to erupt is in Canada, where the government started a campaign to design a new logo for Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation.
The 150th celebrations are not until 2017, but since the new ‘Canada 150’ logo campaign launched over a year ago, it has been dogged by acrimony and confusion.
Many graphic designers were aghast at the original five logos put up for public comment by the Canadian government – which also spent $40,000 on focus groups to give their (largely unimpressed) opinion on the logos.
The Department of Canadian Heritage then launched a campaign inviting Canadian tertiary students to design a Canada 150 logo for the chance to ‘win $5,000, a display in one of Canada’s national institutions, and a chance to be part of Canadian history.’
That competition then raised the immediate ire of the student committee of the Canadian Association of Registered Graphic Designers (RGD), who launched a counter protest via Twitter and Flickr called #MyTimeHasValue.
The RGD protest campaign encourages students, designers and other supporters to share pictures of themselves with the hashtag across social media platforms to voice their disapproval of the Canadian government’s logo competition, and to assert that they will not be participating in the contest.
‘Students are busy preparing for a future career in a world where they can be paid for the work that they do.
‘Think about how important it is that potential clients, like the government, recognise that your worth as a graphic designer needs to be compensated, so that you can make a living once you graduate,’ explained the RGD student protest organisers.
‘We hope to raise awareness of this exploitative practice and start a conversation about why we will not participate in a contest that undervalues the professional abilities of all designers.’
Another Canadian graphic design organisation, the Society for Graphic Designers of Canada (GDC) shared similar views on the government logo competition, with an excerpt from its online petition stating:
‘The contest offers a prize of $5,000 and “a chance to be part of Canadian history”. It offers no compensation for potentially thousands of students who might submit work to the competition that are not selected as the “winning” entry. This contest essentially preys on our youth’s desire to earn a living and build a reputation. At a time when students are desperate for employment, exploiting our newest Canadian designers is a horrible legacy to mark our 150 years as a country.’
And the designer of Canada’s 125th anniversary logo described the current 150th anniversary logo competition as an ‘insult’ to all Canadian designers and artists.
The protests received widespread media coverage and concerns were raised with the government department, but it has so far offered no comment and the competition entry date has now expired.
To add fuel to the fire, the Australian-based 99designs.com, an online design crowdsourcing platform, saw the opportunity to promote its services by running a self-initiated, unofficial Canada 150 logo competition.
(The website was quick to point out that the ‘winning’ design was obtained ‘for just US$715’ and that ‘they received 2470 designs from 513 designers’.)
The divisions within some elements of the design industry itself over speculative work illustrate the immense complexity of the issue and the intensity of the market forces behind it.
The DIA strongly opposes all forms of free pitching, and provides a detailed explanation about the issue here.