Beating Aurora’s graphic designers into submission

In a rather awkward and totally backwards way of accomplishing a professional rebranding in 2021, The Aurora Chamber of Commerce has placed an ad in the local paper calling all Graphic Designers to Submit!:

If you go to the link you read that it’s a cattle call with the following rules:

SUBMISSIONS WILL BE REVIEWED AND THE COMPANY WHO DESIGNED THE SUBMISSION THAT IS CHOSEN WILL RECEIVE A FREE 1-YEAR MEMBERSHIP WITH THE AURORA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE. IF YOU ARE ALREADY A MEMBER THE FEES FOR YOUR NEXT FULL YEAR WILL BE COVERED.

So Spec. work.

So during a pandemic where multiple graphic designers have lost contracts or full time positions The Aurora Chamber of Commerce is not only endorsing but actively engaged in Spec work.

WTF?

If you don’t know about the abhorrent practice of Spec work you can bring yourself up to speed here:

As a local graphic designer located in Aurora I’m seething.

In 2014 Parachute Design wrote a post “Why Spec Work Is Killing Toronto Graphic Design Companies” and outline that a request for spec work:

  • is exploitative and unethical, a demand for free design work without guarantee of compensation
  • offers no future economic potential
  • can lead to copyright infringement
  • devalues the profession of graphic design and leads to negative competitive practices
  • is discouraged by allied professions such as the advertising industry
  • is unlikely to meet a client’s marketing and communication objectives.

The professional association for design’s position on spec work outlines the risks to both clients and designers who engage in spec work.

The code of ethics of the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada (GDC), prohibits its members from engaging in speculative work.

Likewise the Rules of Professional Conduct, a bylaw of the Association of Registered Graphic Designers of Ontario (RGD Ontario), prohibits its members from engaging in speculative (spec) work.

RGD Ontario has even published an Ethical Best Practices for Design Competitions/Contests that covers this very scenario.

Many of these are echoed in the International Council of design’s best practice paper: organising design award competitions.

So with all that clearly spelled out why is it the Aurora Chamber of Commerce is choosing to spit in the face of all of this and run their spec work competition?

I can’t believe the Aurora Chamber of Commerce would roll something like this out without consulting its membership and reviewing best practices, because if it did this would have swiftly been brought to their attention.

I’m confused if the Aurora Chamber of Commerce doesn’t value the work of professional graphic designers, or honestly values their brand identity to only worth the price of an annual membership ($200- $400) to their organization?

What is even more confusing is why the Chamber would pay to advertise this to the public at large instead of opening it to their own membership. Does the Chamber of Commerce not have confidence in the graphic designers that are amongst their membership, or are there not sufficient members of the chamber that would be willing to violate the ethics of their professional associations listed above to submit?

The Chamber’s ad states that submissions need to reflect the “Values and brand” of the Chamber, but neither the ad nor the link outline exactly what these are. So do these values include:

Throwing out a spec work competition is a rather shitty thing to do to both the Chamber’s own members but also the professional graphic designers in our community at large, which as pointed out above requires them to violate their ethics and risk their membership in their respective professional associations.

And for what, a one year membership in an organization that is unwilling to adhere to the best practices of this industry?

Until the Aurora Chamber of Commerce publicly acknowledges this competition is an error , apologizes for it and shuts it down the only submission they are worthy of receiving is this:

Watts on your mind?

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