The Canada 150 logo is being incorrectly reported by media across Canada as costing $5000. That is not true. First off, the government produced at least five other logos, which they showed off last year.
The professional design community in Canada pleaded with the Canadian government to instead have one of Canada’s leading designers produce a professional quality logo for the country. Heritage Canada, initially seemingly proud of their logos, decided to seek a third party opinion. It was reported by Canadian media that the government spent $40,000 for a focus group to confirm what any professional designer could tell them (and many did): these logos are all terrible.
Next the government decided to procure the logo through a “spec-work” contest, a controversial process that would preclude many of Canada’s professional designers from entering, since virtually all nationally or provincially certified or accredited designers are legally barred from the practice of spec work. Perhaps needless to say, the professional design community in Canada was not enthused. The government responded by altering the planned contest to instead only allow student entries. They also changed the terms of the contest so that entrants would lose all “moral rights” to the work they produced. In short, this means that students who entered the contest lost their legal right to ever show their design to anyone, or to even claim authorship of their own work. Many students in Canada’s leading design schools boycotted and protested the demeaning request for free labour, holding out hope that eventually the government would cave to pressure, and adopt industry standard terms for procuring design work.
In the end a “global business & digital art student” put together a logo in a couple days, and her contest entry was chosen as the winner. She was awarded $5,000, bringing the known costs up to $45,000. Factoring in the cost of the first five logos and the various other costs in administering the program, the logo certainly cost much more, but for arguments sake let’s go with that figure.
$45,000 is an outlandishly high figure for a student quality logo produced with no more than a couple days labour. However, the costs don’t stop there. The contest yielded a reported 300 entries, and if we assume that each entrant spent approximately 2 business days of work, that adds 4800 man-hours drained from the Canadian economy. The government now owns the copyright to each of those 300 logo submissions, as the student designers lose all rights (including moral rights) for their work. 299 students could have been volunteering in any number of charities or engaged in creating work for the public. Instead over 99.6% of the 4800 hours invested in design will be discarded from the final product, the economy and society. Everyone loses.
This is an embarrassment to the design industry and design students of Canada. This logo suffers from a myriad of technical and communication issues I would expect my own design students would address. Our best and brightest designers and design students are a valued resource around the world. It is shameful that our own federal government treats Canadian design and designers as a commodity, while companies like Facebook & Google come up north to meet our students and hire them before they even graduate. In contrast, our federal government thinks so little of our designers that there was not a single professional designer or design educators on their selection jury for the contest.
I mean no disrespect to the student who designed this, but at the same time, designing the 150th anniversary logo for Canada is a job for designers who can handle national scrutiny.
Some have gone on the record to say they “like” it. “Like” isn’t good enough. This was an opportunity to create something meaningful and memorable that would resonate with all Canadians for years to come. This was an opportunity to create a rallying symbol for who we want to be the next 50 years.
As a nation, we should be celebrating and promoting our excellence whenever the opportunity presents itself. This was one such opportunity, for international attention and investment in our design industry. The Canada 150 logo has cost at least $45,000 and approximately 4784 unpaid man-hours. That’s an extremely high price to pay for a logo decried as mediocre by professional designers, design educators, and design students across the country, and at best, will be ignored by the rest of the world.