Canadian design industry rebels against Ottawa’s Canada 150 logo contest

TORONTO – Heritage Canada’s contest calling on design students to develop a logo for the 150th anniversary of Confederation is falling flat among the very people it is hoping to attract.

The competition offers a $5000 prize to the winning entry, but design students are rebelling, launching a social media campaign under the hashtag #mytimehasvalue, encouraging a boycott.

“I think it’s ridiculous. It’s exploiting the students’ talents and it’s really embarrassing and hurtful,” said Cara O’Donnell, a graphic design student at the Ontario College of Art and Design and one of the campaign organizers.

“Basically what it’s saying to us is that your time and your work don’t deserve any sort of compensation.”

READ MORE: Government to issue new bank note to mark 150 years of Confederation

Working professionals say developing such a logo could easily cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. They call the contest “offensive” and have been running a petition campaign asking the government to scrap it in favour of something that would give students experience in developing a request for proposals (RFP) and then have the winner work with a mentor in creating a logo—all at current industry rates of pay.

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“Spec work in general is not a practice that we condone as graphic designers. It’s exploitative no matter how you do it,” said Adrian Jean, president of Graphic Designers of Canada.
Despite the criticism and threatened boycott, the Heritage Ministry seems determined to carry on. A spokesperson for Minister Shelly Glover issued a statement to Global News said:

“Our government has tremendous faith in our youth’s creative excellence. They are our future and we want to give them a unique opportunity to be involved in the celebrations for Canada’s 150th birthday.”

Joining the voices against the contest is the man who created the logo for Canada’s Centennial year. Stuart Ash recalled that the government of the day initially tried a contest asking ordinary Canadians to come up with a symbol, but all the submissions were “banal” and rejected.

READ MORE: Should students design Canada’s 150th anniversary logo?

Ottawa commissioned a design firm where Ash was just beginning his career as an apprentice and he hit on the idea of the stylized maple leaf. It was a sensation, appearing on flags, mugs, a commemorative dollar bill and in countless places across the nation.

“And that launched my career–an absolutely wonderful way to start a design career,” said Ash in an interview from Florida, where he was vacationing.

Ash advised the government to learn from history, to properly consult the design industry and develop a symbol that fulfills all the required needs.

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“Why should the government come to the profession and ask them to do something for nothing?”

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