RGD Members speak out against Spec Contest for Verney water tower design in Guelph

The request for designs for Verney water tower repainting was recently brought to the Association's attention by RGD Members in Guelph.


The City of Guelph recently launched a design competition inviting professional Guelph-based artists and designers to submit designs for the chance to have their work incorporated into the repainting of the Verney water tower. The winning design would be replicated on the 150-foot water tower in Guelph.


The city's $1.5 million budget for the water tower project covered coating the inside and outside of the tower as well as any necessary structural maintenance, with three honorariums of $250 each set aside for finalists to refine their concepts for the last stage of the competition, plus an additional award of $750 for the winner. All other contestants would receive no compensation for their work.


Guelph designer Gareth Lind RGD spoke on The Morning Edition - K-W with Craig Norris about how this city-sponsored contest amounts to unpaid work for professionals. Gareth and many other professional designers and RGD members form Designers of Guelph, a group that has spoken out against the City’s spec contest since its launch.


RGD and Designers of Guelph have exchanged emails with the City of Guelph and provided suggestions for an alternative method of selecting a design that would involve issuing an RFP to help identify the right designer to work on the project, and/or inviting local artists to submit examples of existing work so that they might select the best fit. 


The City has decided to proceed with the design competition, which was already underway and receiving submissions at the time of RGD's communication. However, the feedback and recommendations provided by RGD and Designers of Guelph will be used prior to developing any future projects of this nature.

“Our opposition to the City’s process was both educational and empowering,” said Gareth Lind RGD. “RGD helped us focus our arguments against spec and contacted the City of Guelph directly. We hope that the City's agreement that our recommendations 'will be used' in developing in future competitions means they won’t ask for spec work again. I’d encourage other designers to actively engage in public dialogue with any organization that is holding a spec competition. Act quickly, consult with RGD and go directly to the media. You can make a difference!”