The City of Orlando recently announced an initiative to redesign our city’s flag. Our local creative community immediately engaged in a discussion on the ethics of an open call for submissions as part of the design process.
Opinions are divided. Is the process of submitting sketched design ideas speculative work? Pro bono work? Or something else entirely?
In fact, even Paula Scher has reason to design for free sometimes.
As advocates for the design profession, AIGA holds a position on speculative work aimed to protect our industry’s creative endeavors. Our chapter believes there could be a better flag design process—a way that upholds a spirit of community collaboration, does not diminish the value of the Orlando’s creative community, and will result in a flag design that makes us all proud of our beautiful and creative city. Below is an open letter to the city.
Ultimately, it’s up to each individual designer to assess this call for submissions—its parameters, impact, fine print, etc., and decide for themselves if it is something they feel comfortable contributing to.
Dear City of Orlando Office of Communications and Neighborhood Relations,
It’s exciting to see that the design of a new flag for Orlando has become a priority. An updated flag can be a powerful symbol of the unique beauty and diversity of the city and its residents. As co-president of the Orlando chapter of the AIGA, the nation’s largest and oldest professional association for design, I speak on behalf of all 200+ local members, our national office and our broader creative community when I express our enthusiasm for the effort to approach the design process as one of collaboration and inclusion. However, we are concerned with the negative impact the current process may have on the Orlando creative community—the very community you hope to engage and celebrate in this effort.
Competitions that ask artists and designers to contribute their talent, time and rights of ownership without payment—and with only a hope that their work will be selected—are against standards of professional practice. AIGA strongly opposes work solicited in this manner.
As designers and artists we are visual problem-solvers and critical thinkers who make our living by selling our time. The work we do is labor intensive—it requires research, thinking, experimentation and execution. When an organization requests creative work and the right to own it without compensation for the creator’s efforts, this activity promotes disrespect towards artists and designers broadly, and perpetuates a misunderstanding of the value of effective design.
Imagine for a moment this process applied to another respected profession. What if the City were to solicit dozens of attorneys to write free briefs with only the possibility they would be compensated for their time?
This is an excellent opportunity for our local government to advocate for best practices that protect and promote the Orlando creative community. In addition, this can help assure that AIGA, our members, and the larger creative community can support and assist in the success of our city’s new flag design.
We believe there is a better way! For example:
- Allow the entire Orlando community to be part of the process by distributing a survey for written ideas that could include symbols, colors and more.
- Seek a written proposal from designers and artists that have carefully reviewed the survey results. This proposal would be supported by examples of the artist’s preexisting work.
- Select and engage a designer who would earn reasonable compensation.
This would be an ethical and fair-minded process—one that respects the creative profession and craft, includes wide collaboration, assures professional guidance and is much more likely to lead to a successful design.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. AIGA believes that designers and artists should be compensated fairly for their ideas and work, and that when creatives are properly engaged this helps uphold the value of their industry and craft. Please feel free to contact me or my associates as we are more than happy to discuss these important matters.
Devon Hoernschemeyer | Co-President, AIGA Orlando