Last week Hyperallergic ran a piece asking why the New York Department of Sanitation (DSNY) with a budget of $1.9 billion was asking artists to submit proposals to decorate their trucks for free.
While the artists will supposedly retain all rights to their work,
…artists will receive no compensation, and that they will grant both DSNY and partner organization the Sanitation Foundation the “royalty-free, non-exclusive right to use and/or reproduce the designs for non-commercial and/or educational purposes.”
Artists will have three, seven hour work days to execute their design on a truck at the end of September.
NYC based artists, who face the city’s high cost of living are concerned about the lack of compensation in return for helping DSNY realize their goals.
A few weeks earlier I saw a similar conversation occur in response to a call by an arts advocacy group for submissions of images to be used in a national ad campaign. The winning designer would be compensated for their work. The issue was that artists were being asked to design for a major project on spec without any compensation.
If a designer is doing a logo for a local company, there is a significant amount of work they invest in research, multiple design iterations, etc,. If they are working on spec, that is a lot of time and energy invested that could be spent on other projects with guaranteed payment. For something that would be used nationally in a promotional/awareness campaign, they would likely invest that multiples more effort into research and design with the goal of making it as perfect as possible.
This is something to keep in mind when running poster contents or similar projects in relation to your arts organization. The goal of raising awareness and engagement with your organization is often a worthy one, but evaluate whether it is being done with full consideration of the time and effort that will be required to complete the task to the apparent standard. It is probably best to consult with someone who does similar work before soliciting submissions because what you imagine is a 20 minute effort may actually require two days at minimum.