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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.

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