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Guild Protests Federal Agency’s Logo Design Contest

Posted by Rebecca Blake on May 21, 2015

SBIR/STTR logoThe Guild has sent a letter to the Small Business Administration protesting the federal agency’s crowd-sourced “Seed for the Future” logo design contest. The agency is soliciting a logo for their Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Programs, an “innovation effort focused on research-driven, innovative and cutting-edge small businesses.” In exchange for a logo which will be utilized in print, on various federal agency websites, and for conferences, events, television, and other media outlets, the agency is offering a $2,500 reward to the “winning” logo designer. The designer will also be recognized at the National SBIR Conference, in National Harbor, MD, but is expected to cover all travel costs. The contest rules stipulate that the designer will grant the agency a comprehensive, exclusive license to the logo.

The Guild’s letter points out the irony of the Small Business Administration promoting innovative small businesses, by underpaying small business owners (independent designers and illustrators) for speculative design work through crowdsourcing:

“Does the SBA believe that underpaying American artists for speculative design work through crowdsourcing is the acceptable means ‘…to build a strong national economy… one small business at a time?’”

Additionally, the proposed reward greatly undercuts the value of a logo design for an organization of this size, as is reflected in surveys published in the Guild’s Handbook of Pricing & Ethical Guidelines. Lastly, the contest rules require the crowdsourcing artists to take on liability for actions of a third party that may occur after the submission designs, effectively asking individual artists to indemnify a federal agency at their own cost.

Recognizing that federal agencies must be deeply budget conscious, the Guild proposes that the agency instead issue a Request for Proposal, including their overall budget, and follow accepted best practices in reviewing and selecting a designer. Perpetuating the unfair labor practice of speculative work and underpaying American artists through crowdsourcing is the height of irony, and undercuts the constituents – small business owners – the agency purports to serve.

Canada 150 Logo Revealed to Subdued Response from Graphic Designers

Posted by Rebecca Blake on May 01, 2015

Canada 150 logoAfter a controversial logo contest bitterly criticized by national design organizations, the Canadian government revealed its chosen 150 anniversary logo. The logo, a maple leaf created from a mosaic of multi-colored diamonds, is the creation of University of Waterloo design student Ariana Cuvin. According to the Department of Canadian Heritage website, Cuvin designed the logo to represent Canada’s 13 provinces, with colors and placement chosen to reflect the country’s history and diversity. The logo is reminiscent of the hugely popular centennial logo, created by designer Stuart Ash.

Response to the logo design has been muted; the Ottawa Citizen reported that most designers declined to critique the logo. There is a general consensus that the logo is an improvement over the original proposed designs, an assemblage of tired, overused imagery created in 2013 by Canada Heritage in-house designers and tested in focus groups for the astronomical fee of $40,000 CN. That earlier attempt drew the criticism of the Association of Registered Graphic Designers (RGD), who drafted a letter to complain that “Design is a process involving research, creativity, strategy and client participation. Without going through this process… any designs that are developed will fall short of what is possible.”

Unfortunately Canada Heritage’s response to the proposed designs was the announcement of the logo design contest, targeted to Canadian design students. As we reported in January, Canadian design organizations were outraged, and launched a “My Time Has Value” campaign to point out the hypocrisy of asking for spec work from students. While the campaign did not persuade Canada Heritage from continuing with the logo contest, the small selection of logo submissions – only 300 total – indicates that the protest resonated with students.

Cuvin herself has little to say about the controversy, other than she knew what she was agreeing to, and didn’t feel exploited. However, remarks she made to the Toronto Star — “It does kind of suck for a professional, this big project being given to a student… There’s a client, they chose what they liked, and it happened to be my design.” — indicate that she may not fully comprehend the concerns voiced by protestors. The design organizations are using the outcome as an opportunity to educate. Both RGD and the Graphic Designers of Canada have issued an open letters inviting designers to writer their local representatives about the value of design.

Copyright Office Publishes Fair Use Index

Posted by Rebecca Blake on April 30, 2015

Copyright Office logoIn response to widely recognized confusion regarding the doctrine of fair use, the Copyright Office has published the Fair Use Index. The index publishes cases searchable by jurisdiction and category, including type of work, such as Painting/Drawing/Graphic, etc., and use, such as Parody/Satire, News reporting, etc. Selecting search features pulls a grid of cases, with year, court, jurisdiction, category, and outcome listed. The case names link to a PDF with details of the case, including an outline of the background, and a breakdown of the highest court ruling on the case.

The index is a valuable resource for artists and academics hoping to get a better grasp of how the fair use doctrine has been applied.  For example, searching under Painting/Drawing/Graphic pulls up a wide range of cases covering all sorts of graphic use, such as Bouchat v. Balt Ravens (logo infringement), Cariou v. Prince (appropriation of photography – see the Guild’s amicus brief on this case), and Setzer v. Green Day (illustration infringement).

The index was developed support in of the 2013 Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement, the proposal released by Victoria Espinel, the White House’s former Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator. The Office intends to keep adding key rulings to the database.

Apple Sued by Artist for Trade Dress Infringement

Posted by Rebecca Blake on April 20, 2015

It’s a case that puts a twist on the familiar David vs Goliath, artist-suing-major-corporation-for-copyright-infringement story. As has been widely reported, Miami-based Brazilian pop artist Romero Britto is suing Apple, Inc. and the designers known as Craig & Karl for trade dress infringement and unfair competition. At issue is a brightly patterned piece of artwork created by Craig & Karl, and featured prominently on Apple’s “Start Something New” webpage, as well as in Apple stores. The “Start Something New” campaign features works created by well-known artists using Apple products; the offering by Craig & Karl is purported to have been made on an iPad Air 2 with iOS apps.

Romero’s lawsuit is unusual, in that he’s not making the common charge of copyright infringement. An excellent article by Steve Schlackman in Art Law Journal points out that the offending image does not appear to be derived from an existing Britto work. Instead, Britto is claiming infringement of trade dress, the distinctive visual appearance of a product or packaging (such as Britto’s use of brightly colored geometric patterns and heavy black outlines). According to Schlackman, to prevail Britto must establish both that his work is distinctive, and that consumers are likely to be confuse the Craig & Karl work with his.

According to the complaint filed by Britto, such confusion has already occurred; Britto’s business partners and collectors confused the Craig & Karl artwork with his. According to the Miami Herald, Britto’s own lawyer, Robert Zarco, first saw the artwork at an Apple store in China and assumed it was Britto’s. However, Britto appears to have a steep slope to climb in proving infringement; bright patterns and thick outlines have been utilized by numerous artists (Keith Haring and Walter De Morais come to mind). As Schlackman states, the true test of whether Britto’s work merits trade dress protection may occur should he ever submit it to the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Below: Screenshots from the Britto’s gallery (top) and the Apple “Start Something New” webpage.

Romero Britto screenshotApple Start Something New screenshot

Typetester Online Tool Permits Comparison of 2,000+ Webfonts

Posted by Rebecca Blake on April 09, 2015

For the past decade, Typetester has been an online resource for website designers. Users could compare up to three fonts at a time, and customize size, line height, alignment, color, and spacing. As versatile as the tool was, the limited number of fonts available made it of limited value; only websafe, Windows default, Mac default, and Google fonts were selectable. That changed earlier this year, when Typetester partnered with Adobe Typekit. The result is a robust library of over 2,200 fonts, including Typekit and Adobe Edge fonts.

Typetester also debuted Inspritation Gallery, a selection of staff picked web typography. Both the sampled fonts on Typetester’s homepage and the Inspiration Gallery examples are linked to the font’s webpage, permitting the user to easily purchase and/or download the font.

Typetester was first developed by the Croatian design firm Creative Nights, which built the site in HTML 5, with heavy-duty CSS and JavaScript. (Note that the site will not run properly if JavaScript has been disabled.) The firm has plans to develop TypeTester further, and invites users to subscribe to subscribe to their newsletter to be eligible to preview and provide feedback on upcoming features.

Below: Typestester's interface permits users to compare up to three different webfonts from Google fonts, Adobe Edge, and Typekit.

Typetester screenshot

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