DC prof cautions graphic design students against government contest

A contest being marketed by the Canadian government as an opportunity for students is raising controversy among graphic design students, professors and professionals including those at Durham College.

The competition asks post-secondary students to create a logo to commemorate the upcoming 150th anniversary of Confederation. The winner will be rewarded $5,000 and “a chance to be a part of Canadian history,” the contest outlines.

“The winner of the contest will no doubt benefit from the publicity and it would enhance the designer’s portfolio,” said Reid Anderson, the Graphic Design program coordinator at Durham College. Anderson said considering the applicants must be post-secondary students, there will be hundreds or thousands of submissions.

“I feel each student’s chances are slim and since they are relinquishing ownership of their designs, it is not worth the risk,” he said.

Anderson said Durham College should support the Association of Registered Graphic Designer (RGD)’s position. He called the contest a poor business decision that goes against basic business ethics.

Julian Brown, chair of the RGD’s ethics committee, agreed that the contest is exploiting designers.

“Targeting students is its own special breed of spec work,” Brown said. “It preys on students’ inexperience and lack of professional confidence. They can be unaware that it is not the industry standard.”

The RGD, with help of students, professionals and professors across the country, began a campaign to encourage officials to end the contest.

In combination with the online petition supported by Graphic Designers of Canada and Société des designers graphique du Québec, RGD’s message is being communicated to Ottawa. Brown said some politicians like NDP leader Thomas Mulcair have responded with support.

Mulcair, the federal leader of the opposition, replied to supporters of the petition by email.

“I agree that the current contest process risks taking advantage of students by undermining the value of their design work. This is certainly not the legacy Canadians would want for such a joyous and historical event,” Mulcair said in the email.

The first goal of the campaign was to create discussion. The RGD is encouraging people to voice their opinions to the government by social media and the online petition. To show their opposition, students are also posing with signs reading #MyTimeHasValue and sharing the photos on the Internet.