Obama jobs poster

This is always a touchy subject, and it seems we’re talking about Spec work yet again. This time, however, there is a healthy dose of government-sponsored irony included.

The Obama campaign (which technically is not part of the government) has put out a call for poster designs to promote, of all things, the jobs bill. There is no pay on offer, but instead this is an open call with the only potential award a signed version of your own winning poster. The cause is noble, and the way they package the contest is well-executed, but it’s still treading into the realm of spec work.

I’m not sure where exactly I stand on this particular matter. On the one hand, it is creative work, and therefore we the creative professionals should indeed be paid. But this isn’t a commercial endeavor, exactly, but a political campaign. I wouldn’t mind donating a few hours to potentially help Obama win re-election (or another political campaign or cause, for that matter). Design the poster, don’t design the poster, I really don’t mind.

But the trouble starts when the folks sponsoring it don’t think they’ve done anything wrong. They put it out to the public as if this is “for fun”, framing poster design as less than a real trade, and assuming that anyone with artistic inclinations will jump at the chance to participate. That’s clearly not the case.

Shepard Fairey with Obama portrait
Shepard Fairey with his Obama “Hope” portrait at the National Portrait Gallery

It’s worth mentioning, of course, how much free unsolicited design work was given to the Obama campaign in 2008. Shepard Fairey created the most famous of these, and his “Hope” poster later led to a rather nasty (but significant) court battle against the AP over fair use in photography. Designer and Illustrator Felix Sockwell did a series he entitled “Obeyma” (a reference to Fairey) and there have emerged dozens of gorgeous examples such as these typographic posters.

Obama Typographic poster
Obama typographic poster

I read about this in an article on Rolling Stone, where the tone is much more scathing, pointing out how the campaign has $60m cash on hand, and how with the justification that this is a $2500 donation to a campaign the math doesn’t add up. Check it out.

What’s your opinion, should political campaigns solicit contributions from designers? Are you going to enter this competition? Is this poster really that big a deal?

via Rolling Stone »