Help Stop the Government Spec Logo Contest!

Government of Canada invites students to work — for free. Help stop this spec contest in its tracks.

In January of 2014, GDC became aware of the federal government’s plan to create an identity for the country’s 150th anniversary celebrations. Appalled by the initial design options, GDC created a petition urging the government to form a design advisory council comprised of the nation’s 3 graphic and communication design associations. This petition was signed by more than 2200 people and was acknowledged by both the Leader of the Opposition as well as the leader of the Green Party.

Despite this support for the GDC original recommendation, on Friday, December 5, 2014, the federal government announced that it would be inviting students to create the nation’s 150th anniversary identity by means of a speculative design contest.

Occasionally graphic designers are asked to participate these types of contests. It is a common misconception that graphic designers embrace and enjoy these types of contests. To a graphic designer, these contests represent requests to perform unpaid work. Specifically, these contests involve many designers spending countless hours drafting designs and concepts that will never be used nor paid for. These contests propagate the misconception that graphic designers should willingly supply designs and intellectual property on demand without expectation of compensation. It would be equivalent to asking a restaurant to make you 5 meals and only paying for the one you liked.  These contests involve many people working on the same project with little or no remuneration, and little or no briefing or consultation. Everyone loses – the client doesn't get the best value due to lack of consultation, all the participants lose time, and even the contest winner loses – because they are often not properly compensated for their work and often lose their rights in the process. 

Many times these contests are promoted as positive opportunities to involve students, but we find that they are frequently used to secure inexpensive production on items better suited to professional graphic designers.

As an alternative to a speculative contest, GDC is urging the federal government to conduct a competitive RFP process that engages Canadian schools in teaching students how to write and submit proposals to the federal government.

“We ask Canadians who believe in fair wages for fair work to sign our online petition and help us stop the abuse of our industry’s students," says Adrian Jean, CGD, and President.

GDC®’s petition can be signed at:

See the attachments to download the Press Release and Open Letter to the Minister Canadian Heritage and Official Languages.