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Advocacy

Guild Member Joseph Caserto Responds to Pratt Crowdsourcing Contest

Posted by Rebecca Blake on June 11, 2015

Joseph CasertoProud Pratt Institute alum Joseph Caserto was shocked to learn that his alma mater issued a call for students to participate in a crowd-sourced mascot design contest. As a long-time Guild member and working professional, Caserto was well versed in the deleterious impact of crowdsourcing on the design and illustration professions. He reached out to Guild advocacy liaison, Lisa Shaftel, who provided him with sample letters protesting crowd sourcing. Caserto constructed his own response and sent it to Pratt with a firm but respectful letter expressing his disappointment with the institution:

“It is imperative for you to understand that by asking designers to work for free, you are exploiting them. This is at best a poor lesson for Pratt to be teaching students, and at worst contributing to a practice that is damagof

ing to the industry that these young professionals are entering, and in which they are expected to compete.”

Rather than resorting to crowdsourcing, Caserto recommended that Pratt solicit work via a program similar to Design Corps, a project led by the late Charles Goslin when Caserto studied at Pratt. Through Design Corps, select students are invited to work on a client project under the mentorship of a professor, in exchange for course credit and an agreed-upon stipend. Caserto shared his concerns in an article on his blog, “Pratt Sets a Terrible Example by Crowdwourcing a Logo.”

Helen Matusow-Ayres, Pratt’s Vice President for Student Affairs, responded to Caserto with a polite explanation that the mascot design is part of a larger identity project being handled by a professional design firm headed by a Pratt alumnus. She explained that crowdsourcing the project was an attempt to “engage the Pratt community.” While Caserto appreciated the courtesy of the response, he didn’t buy their justification: “…the Institute is sending a powerful, dangerous message to students that it is an acceptable business practice, and to professionals that our alma mater condones one of the biggest challenges to our livelihoods.”

Caserto’s orignal letter and Pratt’s response can be read on Caserto’s blog.

Photo by Glenn Glasser.

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.

Guild Joins Organizations in Protesting the “Code of Best Practices in Fair Use”

Posted by Rebecca Blake on March 16, 2015

CAA logoThe Graphic Artists Guild, together with National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), American Photographic Artists (APA), American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), PACA Digital Media Licensing Association, and Professional Photographers of America (PPA), has published a letter addressing concerns with the College Art Association’s “Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Arts.”

Specifically, the letter contests a major conclusion of the study, that “copyright acts primarily as a barrier, encouraging self-censorship; and that artists are in an adversarial relationship with the marketplace.” The letter points out that artists only seek fair compensation to their work, and that the study fails to educate its audience on options for licensing work. The letter also notes that the study fails to address commercial applications of fair use made by museums and non-profits in the creation of objects and coffee table books for sale. Lastly, the letter expresses the dismay of the organizations that none were invited to particpate in the study groups leading up to the creation of the Code.

Some of the weaknesses identifed in the study, including incorrect assumptions of industry practices, misplaced recommendations, and the inclusion of personal opinion as factual information. The letter concludes that “Without participation from all of the stakeholders in the visual arts community there can be no consensus, let alone a set of “Best Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Arts.” As developed, rather than “providing a practical and reliable way of applying” copyright law and fair use, the document creates far more misconceptions than it resolves and encourages misappropriation of copyrighted work rather than the practice of due diligence and licensing.”

The full text of the letter can be read here.

Guild Joins CreativeFuture Coalition to Address Piracy

Posted by Rebecca Blake on March 12, 2015

Creative Future logoThe Graphic Artists Guild has joined CreativeFuture, a coalition of over 350 companies and organizations that seeks to address piracy. The coalition has three primary initiatives: mobilizing the creative community to speak up about the harm caused by piracy; advocating for policies which will staunch the flow of funds to pirate site operators; and educating youth about the cultural, ethical, and economic value of creative ownership. CreativeFuture is spreading its message via social media using the hashtags #RespectCreativity and #PiracyIsNotFreeSpeech.

Other coalition partners include major film studios and broadcast companies, as well as small, independent filmmakers, film festivals, professional associations, and IATSE International. The Executive Team at Creative Future includes Executive Director Ruth Vitale, formerly of Paramount Classics and Fine Line Features, and Director of Communications Chris Ortman, formerly appointed by Barack Obama to the US Department of Homeland Security.

Individual creators and organizations are encouraged to join Creative Future in taking action.

Below: A video produced by CreativeFuture describes value of creative works to the US economy, and how the for-profit black market in pirated goods undermines it. The organization has published a variety of educational materials on their website.

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