The president’s poster design contest

President Obama would like to promote a new jobs bill.  Shepard Fairey‘s posters were a big part of the president’s 2008 campaign so this time around Obama for America is running a contest for best poster design.  There are no cash prizes.  The designer must surrender all rights to his design to Obama for America.

Many designers are upset about this contest.

So here’s my two cents.  I think this contest isn’t good for designers or illustrators.  You may say, ‘So what?  If you don’t want to enter the contest then don’t.’  The problem is that the perceived value of a designer’s time & skill is diminished whenever any one of us participates in a contest like this one.  The administrators figure that these contestants place so little value on their time & skill that they’ll be willing to work for free and then let someone else profit from their work.

An artist will spend his entire career negotiating for bigger fees with each new project.  When we say it’s okay to devalue an artist’s time and talent to zero it becomes really difficult to convince the next client that those commodities are worth anything at all. It’s easy to see why a plumber or mechanic charges what he does.  Because art is subjective it’s often not so easy to see how we arrive at our fees.

This is just my opinion.  You may want to read the guidelines for art competitions the Graphic Artists’ Guild came up with.

3 responses to “The president’s poster design contest

  1. Well said, John. And I agree whole-heartedly!

  2. You know when I’ll do illustration for any branch of our government? When they re-establish today’s equivalent of the Works Progress Administration that puts everyone back to work-including illustrators for real pay, not cheesy exposure!

  3. WPA did produce some great works of art, I have to admit! Not to mention a catchy Bing Crosby number.

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