City of Welland “Logo Contest” is Just Wrong

Last Tuesday morning, I received an email from the City of Welland communications department. This particular email had a subject line that caught my attention (and not in a good way) right away — Subject: Media Release (Logo Contest).

The very first thought I had was, “A logo contest, really?”, so I dug a bit deeper to find out it got only worse. The ‘Logo Contest’ to rebrand the city was open to professionals and amateurs alike with the prize being “bragging rights” and a “$300 gift card” from the local Seaway Mall.

Welland Logo Contest prize

Full disclosure; the City of Welland has been a client of mine for several years now. I’ve redeveloped their Economic Development department’s ‘Made in Welland’ website twice. In fact, I just launched the newest version a few weeks ago.

It may seem odd that I am being critical of a client (well they may not be a client soon, but I’m willing to take that risk), but I am advocating against how the city is approaching its search for a new logo. More importantly, I am advocating for a strong creative environment in Niagara. What the City of Welland is doing outright wrong. It’s called ‘spec’ work and the Association of Registered Graphic Designers (@RGD) also agree that what the City of Welland is doing is very unprofessional and has sent a letter to the Mayor.

You may be asking yourself: is he just mad because the city is not using him to redevelop their brand? The answer is “NO”. While I know the rebranding process well, my web development company, Exelby, specializes in online advocacy not branding. Anyone who knows me, also knows I’m happy to provide advice and educate my clients (or potential clients) on best practices. In fact, I would be more than willing to assist the City of Welland through the process, if they decide to do it properly. Unfortunately, the city hasn’t been receptive thus far to constructive criticism. The Mayor of Welland suggested in a recent (one sided) news article that creative professionals are giving them “flack” after many folks stood up on Twitter to say how wrong this logo contest is for everyone.

There a few things that bother me (and others) about the city’s logo contest:

  1. The City of Welland, along with the Region of Niagara spent millions of dollars and many months to restore our “iconic bridge” in Welland. It’s part of the city’s heritage and that’s what Welland is known for — the bridge. The only people who see that bridge are the folks from Welland and anyone who might come into town for a visit, travel to a sporting event or have a meal in one of the local restaurants. Yet the city is not willing to spend the money, invest the time and follow the process to build a strong brand that will be on anything related to the city, (and the Internet) for the world to see. It just doesn’t make sense.

2) The creative industry here in Welland and Niagara is growing strong. This logo contest shows how the city doesn’t understand how the creative industry operates. The logo contest devalues the work of knowledgeable and experienced creative professionals, who know there is a process to creating a brand and are outright refusing to design a “free” logo for a contest because it’s spec work.

3) The logo contest devalues the work of professionals. Would the Mayor of Welland, who owned a marketing agency, ask his staff to work for free on a project? Doubtful. Would he ask for his city accountants to work for free, water clerks to provide their service for free? No! So why folks from the creative industry? How do we move forward in the City of Welland and build our economy if the head of council believes devaluing services provided by local business is ok?

After reading this post, I hope the City of Welland will reconsider their decision to run a logo contest and outsource the work from the start of the process to a local company in Niagara that knows how to create a brand that will make Welland a place where people want to live, work and play.

As always as a resident and business owner in Welland, I’m happy to chat, provide advice and move the process forward so that we can have a successful brand and grow our economy for a better Welland.

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