As a professional designer I am deeply disheartened that our government would choose to exploit students in this manner despite our efforts to educate the government that contests like these are unethical, detrimental to students, to professional graphic designers, and to Canada in general.
Design is a fundamental part of Canadian culture and heritage. The GDC had hoped that Canada’s 150 anniversary, and the corresponding visual identity, would be the cause of great pride and celebration. Unfortunately, it represents a glaring reminder of this government’s significant lack of understanding of the value of design, the creative process and the design profession.
So, despite a massive outcry from the design community, the government of Canada has gone ahead to award a student from the University of Waterloo with a $5000 check for their work. The other 299 entries? Nothing. Not even a mention.
Why is it so difficult to understand that people deserve to be paid for their work, regardless of what they do? This is a constant struggle with designers, who often are not properly paid by clients or have clients taking issue with what designers are billing them. Contests like this perpetuate that.
The career of “design”, as far as I know, is one of the only jobs that seems to be constantly subjected to these ridiculous expectations. That our time, effort, and process mean nothing, even when the job is done. When the person or business (or government apparently) for whom the work was done is happily making money in some form or another from their new logo, website, or ad campaign for weeks, months, or sometimes years after the work is done.
The winner of this contest doesn’t quite seem to grasp that concept either, judging by what was said in the interview following the announcement:
"I don’t feel like I was being exploited. It was my choice to join the contest. I knew what I was getting out of it in the end."
Fortunately, since she won, she wasn’t. The rest of the designers that contributed to this thing on the other hand, were.
If you’re wondering what can be done now, the GDC is encouraging people to contact their MP and voice their opinions on the matter. While I’m not sure what can be done about the contest now that it’s over, I am hopeful that we can convince the Government of Canada to think twice about any spec work contests they run in the future.
Then there’s this wonderful piece of journalism by The Globe & Mail written by someone who also doesn’t seem to understand what’s going on here or see value in the work of others.
Would you have written your piece if there was a possibility that you wouldn't be paid a cent for it?