Monday, May 04, 2015

That’s JUST the way it goes.

Last week, I learned that the Government of Canada ignored the national petition/protest from professional designers and students and announced the "winner" of their Canada 150 speculative logo design contest.

Of course they did.
Why wouldn’t they?
This is not the beginning of this dire trend that has plagued our industry, so why be surprised?

I have said it in the past and I will say it again.
As long as there are people willing to do the work…

In this case the winner was a young University student.
I get it. Competition upon graduation is fierce. You want to put something cool in your book. Why not take a stab at such an opportunity? Why not try to win and make a name for yourself?

I’m not going to discuss the winning work, even though the Canadian Government got what instantly appears to be (to this professionally trained eye) an amateur’s design*.

I totally believe that if a design like this is what they have deemed acceptable then all the power to them and to the rest of us, too !@#$ing bad.
We lost the fight against contests a long time ago.
As my title states, that’s JUST the way it goes.

People expect free work because we give them free work. As long as we are willing to give it away we will always have design contests popping up.
We will always be taken advantage of.
Not only have I given up speaking out in regards to contests, it appears that I too recently and shamefully fell into this trap.

I’ve been working for the past 8 years in a home office in midtown Toronto. Recently, I have begun looking into new career options because the LRT/subway (I call it a subway because it’s an underground train) is about to be dug practically under my feet with 2 massive boring machines.
The last year has been a nightmare. My desk shakes constantly, the noise is endless, and I’ve decided I have to get the hell out of here during the day because I have at least 5 more years ahead of me until the LRTs’ completion, and it’s about to get MUCH worse.

My options are to either open a new office/agency with interested partners or join a well-oiled machine that can use somebody with my skills and experience in a CD position.

Thanks to LinkedIn, I was given an opportunity very recently to explore the latter, and I got called in to an interview for a CD position with a massive and prestigious Canadian corporation. It will be left unnamed but it’s one that the majority would know.

I was highly intrigued. I gave my salary expectations in my cover letter (so that was out of the way), and I concluded by the middle of the interview that it was definitely a place where I could see myself working for the next 5 years.

The final question I was asked went as follows…“We are asking our final candidates to participate in a presentation and were wondering if you would be interested?”

I found myself nodded yes but in my head I was actually asking myself, “wait a second, did she just ask me to create SPEC WORK?”

I COULD have screamed “NO” but I wondered how many RFPs I have written over the years where I spent at least 3 days on the thing and got absolutely nothing in return? At least I’m at the final table in this tournament, so I figured I really had no choice but to take a shot for the win.

I got the brief on a Friday. The briefest brief I have ever received. Only a few words. I asked them what it meant but they wouldn’t elaborate.
Oh, and here’s the best part, I was to present on Monday morning.
Present what?
That was entirely my decision.

I had a massive party to attend on the Friday night, a 50th birthday party on the Saturday night, and in between, I found myself working like a dog all weekend on a wide array of ad concepts, social media executions, and a video/TV storyboard that resulted in a large presentation which (production wise) ended up costing me over $100 out of my own pocket.

What a complete sucker I was.

They made me wait over a week to tell me the news that it wasn’t the direction they wanted.

I regretfully took part in a contest and STILL can’t believe that even a high level creative position had such strings attached.

The last 20 years of my work and experience didn’t matter. We didn’t sit around a boardroom table and discuss objectives, projections, aspirations, or brand strategy, they just held a contest amongst the candidates and looked for their winner.
How is that ANY different than a cheap logo design contest? Other than the fact that the reward is a 6 figure salary for the next 5 years?
Are architects rounded up and forced to present blueprints when they look for a job? Do mechanics get put in a garage with a stopwatch and a disassembled engine?
I used to get at least $5k to present such concepts to a corporation, now I’m expected to give it away for free with their lure of a decent position?

On the topic of lures, when I hung up the phone, I was in the middle of a frozen lake, ice fishing with a friend.
I sat back down in silence for a while as I jigged my rod.

You upset? My buddy eventually asked.
“No.” Came my reply.
How ARE you feeling? He inquired.
“Like I need a shower” came my answer.

Congrats to the student on her winning design.
Right now, she might be smiling and enjoying her moment, but eventually, she’ll discover that she was part of a process that saw us being used, and nobody will even remember her name.

As for me, I promise I will NEVER participate in such a contest ever again. I’d honestly sooner leave the industry.

As a wise man in a movie once stated…

“Show me the money Jerry. SHOW ME THE MONEY.”

* The kerning is awful. Look at that huge space/gap between the 5 and the 0. A pro would have manually adjusted it so it’s perfect. It honestly makes me cringe.

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