I’m crazy in love with Welland, the city where I live.
I’m also crazy in love with my profession, and all the professions in its periphery – graphic design, coding, etc. Them there’s my peeps. I love ‘em something fierce.
So when my city and my peeps get in a disagreement, it’s like watching my two best mates in a fist fight. It’s hard to know who to jump on top of and shake some sense into.
The City of Welland recently put out a call to local artists to design their new logo.
And the “payment”?
A $300 gift certificate to the Seaway Mall. Plus the caché of being the guy who designed the city’s logo.
(Can you hear the sound of a thousand marketing professionals cringing?)
Following the inevitable public outcry, the city retracted a bit. According to Allen Benner’s article in the Trib, they’re merely looking for concepts and ideas—a starting point.
“The logo that may have won the contest is going to be a guide for the graphic artist to put it together and make it work for websites, for letterheads, signage — all those different things,” said Mayor Frank Campion.
(Reader’s note: Yes, he did say “may” have won the contest. Not sure what he was insinuating.)
Welland’s CAO Gary Long agreed ”the city will likely need to issue a request for proposals to hire ‘a professional designer, at some point in this process.’”
So don’t count on the bragging rights, in case that’s what you were in it for.
First thing’s first. Let’s put this in perspective.
A great logo runs anywhere from $500 to $1500. More if you’re working with an agency. A lot more.
(Corporate work is really time consuming. There are almost always endless revisions, delays and setbacks. So for a big site like Welland.ca, you can bet it would cost top dollar.)
I’ve yet to speak to a graphic designer who doesn’t feel just a wee bit insulted by the contest. Not only because it devalues their profession (the mall…really?), but also because it feels like money out of their pockets.
As a copywriter, I absolutely GET how it feels when someone insinuates that anyone can do your job. It stings.
But as a devoted resident of a seriously up-and-coming city, I also see that the road was paved with good intentions.
The City of Welland was trying to engage its residents and involve them in the process.
And as it turns out, they need some practice.
Creating community without pissing people off
There’s a way to engage the community. And there’s a way to make them really, really angry.
Just ask the British.
The British Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) recently ran a poll to name its new polar research vessel. And the results for the new name of the $300 million, government funded ship?
The NERC was given a choice. Either sacrifice the dignity of the ship, or throw democracy the wind and scrap the contest.
Much to my own personal disappointment (and that of 124,000 people who voted “Boaty”), they chose to to scrap the poll, democracy be damned.
As Uri Friedman wrote in The Atlantic, “The government’s position […] seems like a cruel bait-and-switch—a case of elites eagerly leaning in to hear what the people have to say, and then leaping back in horror.”
The moral of the story is: These kind of things need to be THOUGHT OUT.
There are endless ways to engage the community in the process. We could’ve voted on the city’s own designs, viewed the mock-ups at the market or taken a survey online.
But instead, we’re debating the finer points of this half-baked scheme.
(Last time I checked, 90% of the stores in the Seaway Mall were from out-of-town. Like, WAY out-of-town. How about sending some traffic downtown, guys?)
Let’s remember, we all have good intentions. 💕
I’ve tried to keep the snickering to a minimum, because I think the City of Welland was trying to do good.
I sincerely doubt the contest was about cost-savings. It was just a really (really!) poorly thought out way to engage the community.
But it was a start. And in my opinion, SOME engagement is better than NO engagement.