Canada 150 logo contest draws criticism from graphic design community

The winning entry for the controversial Canada 150 logo contest
The winning entry for the controversial Canada 150 logo contest. Department of Canadian Heritage

The new logo for the 150th anniversary of Canadian confederation is causing a considerable amount of backlash from the national graphic design community.

Canadian students were invited to create the official logo for the Government of Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017, through a design contest held from Dec. 5 of last year to Jan. 23, according to the Canada 150 website.

The federal government chose the winning design made by 19-year-old University of Waterloo Global Business and Digital Arts student Ariana Cuvin, but professional designers across the country are speaking out against the controversial decision to use such a contest.

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

Mark Busse, a partner and managing director of Industrial Brand, a Vancouver design firm, told Global News in December that the contest “is wrong on so many levels.”

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“$5,000 for just the winner, in a department that has $7 million set aside for advertising is a terrible, terrible message to the world and to Canadians about what the importance is of this moment in time,” Busse said.

“The reality is, it’s exploitative. They don’t understand the process yet. They’re forfeiting their intellectual rights.”

Ontario College of Art and Design University student Cara O’Donnell echoed that statement in an interview with Global News in January, after she took part in a social media campaign to boycott the competition.

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

A spokesperson for Heritage Minister Shelly Glover issued a statement in January saying the 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 of Canada’s 150th birthday,” it read.

Cuvin said she doesn’t feel like she was being exploited and that it was her choice to join the contest, telling the Ottawa Citizen, “I knew what I was getting out of it in the end.”

“I understand why people are upset,” Cuvin told The Toronto Star on Tuesday.

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“It does kind of suck for a professional, this big project being given to a student. I know there’s been a backlash.”

Cuvin explained her design on the website, saying she “used subtle design choices to represent Canada and its Confederation.”

“The repeated shape is meant to create a sense of unity and the 13 shapes forming the leaf represents our togetherness as a country.”

But despite the fact that Cuvin received $5,000 for her winning entry, the Graphic Designers of Canada called the contest “exploitative” when it was first announced last year.

In an open letter posted to the Graphic Designers of Canada website this week, President Adrian Jean also accused the Canadian government of ignoring comments from professional designers and students by moving ahead with the contest.

“I stand with you in collective disappointment that our government did not consider the impact this contest could have on our industry,” he wrote.

“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.”

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