City of Portland regarding PortlandOnline design contest: Oopie.

The City of Portland realized that the request was poorly worded. Now, they say: In partnership with Portland’s design and development community, we are in the process of revisiting our rules and criteria.

[HTML2]Given that I’ve covered some of the creative community’s response to the City of Portland’s contest to redesign PortlandOnline.com, I thought it would be wise to update you on what I’ve heard recently. All thanks to the work of the AIGA of Portland to keep the discussion going.

Long story short, while the City of Portland realized that the request was poorly defined and worded, they didn’t expect the kind of response it generated. So now they’re refining their position on the contest. To wit, “In partnership with Portland’s design and development community, we are in the process of revisiting our rules and criteria.”

Prompted by Nate DiNiro, Eric Hillerns, who has been heading up much of the discussion with the community and the City, provided the following update to those who attended the PortlandOnline.com discussion at Souk.

Rather than continue to paraphrase and regurgitate Eric’s thoughtful email, with his permission I’m going to reprint the whole thing.

To all who participated in the PortlandOnline.com meeting at Souk:

To the best of our ability, AIGA Portland will work to keep all parties informed of progress with the City and the Mayor’s office regarding PortlandOnline.com. Johnny Levenson is currently away on vacation, but our board believes it is necessary to keep the discussion moving. A couple of weeks have passed since meeting at Souk and there has been some positive movement on the part of the City’s contest organizers since that time. I will do my best to report until Johnny returns.

We should begin with a heartfelt thank you for participating in the first meeting at Souk. Looking back on that gathering, I believe it was beneficial to discuss our understanding of the City’s contest. While it was excellent to have Ralph join us from the Bureau of Planning, I believe it provided an opportunity to openly voice our concerns without the contest organizers being present. That being said, we should be clear in stating that their decision not to attend was more an issue of poor timing for them than of disinterest. They (Laurel Butman, Jeremy Van Keuren, and Phillip Holmstrand from the City of Portland; Roy Kaufmann and Skip Newberry from Mayor Adams’ office) have been following the discussions on Twitter, by way of various blogs, and through other media channels. They are listening and they are learning.

After having viewed the video of the Souk meeting, Laurel Butman requested a meeting for last Thursday, July 30th with Johnny Levenson. She wished to provide some additional context for what the City had initially intended (by issuing the contest) and to plan for a community-wide (all interested parties) meeting in early September. Johnny asked that I join him.

I should clarify that the meeting on the 30th was not intended to work behind the scenes of the larger group that assembled at Souk, but rather to chart a course for moving effectively forward. In addition to Johnny and me, the meeting included Roy and Skip, Laurel and Phillip. Jeremy has been in touch with Johnny and me via e-mail.

In a nutshell, I was a bit surprised by how concerned the City was by the reaction to the contest. They realized that the scope of their request was poorly defined (and written) and that they hadn’t anticipated the negative response by the creative community. They intended to engage the community, not polarize it. Furthermore, it was clear that they didn’t know who to consult prior to issuing the contest. This admission alone confirms the importance of our various groups working together and presents a unique opportunity to do so. We have much to accomplish together.

The City has revised their language related to the contest and has further redrawn the scope of the “challenge” being issued. There is a new page posted and they are working through drafts that more clearly stipulate requirements for submitting and better address the concerns addressed above. See that page here: http://www.portlandonline.com/support/index.cfm?c=50638

The early draft language works to define the scope of the project as concepts or drawings for a “Banner” rather than suggesting a full site redesign. It stipulates that professional firms have been awarded work in auditing CMS, site architecture, social media, and that other full-fledged RFPs will be issued for design and development in the future. The draft works to clarify issues of artwork ownership and awards, although that language is still being revised. The City has asked for initial draft feedback from AIGA Portland and we have provided it to them. Whether they adopt this counsel is entirely up to the City, but we maintain hope. I would like for the City to make this draft available to our expanded group, to everyone really, but we understand their hesitation in attempting to assuage the myriad voices involved. The new document is slated to be posted by the end of this week.

As stated earlier, the City wants to participate in an open meeting on this issue and others in early September. With YOU and anyone who wishes to attend. AIGA Portland will work with them to ensure that it happens as promised and select a space where a large group can participate and provide feedback. They wish to engage and we hope you’ll spread the word and take the time to engage, as well. Laurel Butman, from the City, stated four goals for that meeting and we agree that they are a good place to begin:

1) An opportunity for the City to hear from the creative community and listen to various perspectives
2) A chance for the City to clarify and dispel misapprehensions about this project and projects planned for the future
3) An opportunity to use the banner solicitation effort as a “case study” to discuss future improvements
4) A beginning to a discussion of a creative community “bill of rights” and to establish best practices for working together.

I expect further questions, and AIGA Portland—whether it’s Johnny or me—will do our best to respond in a most timely manner. I sincerely hope I’ve not created more questions than I’ve attempted to address.

Let’s keep this issue at the forefront of our thinking and work together to establish a strategy for what PortlandOnline.com can be. More so, there are many initiatives that can benefit from these collective efforts. This is an opportunity for a true partnership and the City has expressed sincere interest in what we can contribute as a community. It is merely a beginning.

If there are others who attended the meeting and are not copied here, please feel free to forward to them.

Kindest regards,

+ + +

Eric Hillerns
Vice President, AIGA Portland

Stay tuned

I have to applaud the effort of the folks who are continuing to pursue this discussion with the City and the passion of the Web and graphic design community around this topic. They’re making progress. But this is only the beginning.

I’ll work to keep you posted as the story progresses.


  1. My spouse and I stumbled over here different page and thought I might as well check things out. I like what I see so now i’m following you. Look forward to going over your web page yet again.|

  2. Wonderful – thank you for posting this.

  3. I would like to second Eric’s sentiments – the CoP team’s willingness to work with the design and development communities to arrive at a mutually agreeable solution is as refreshing and inspiring as said communities’ solidarity that served as the catalyst for this collaboration.

    Thanks to ALL who made participated in conversation, attended the townhall and who continue to support this important effort.

  4. Thank you for posting, Rick. You’ve helped to spread the word and that has helped greatly in keeping this conversation moving in a positive direction. If it wasn’t clearly articulated in my letter, I should add that I applaud the City and their efforts to address an issue that affects everyone in the creative community. Laurel Butman and her team at the City (along with Roy and Skip from the Mayor’s office) have been incredibly responsive and eager to engage. It’s easy to criticize, but it’s not nearly as easy to learn from mistakes and work briskly to ensure they don’t happen again. The City is doing their part and we, as a community, need to make sure that we do ours. We won’t always agree, but we have a unique opportunity in this instance (and willing partners in the City and the Mayor’s office) to affect change and establish a framework as citizens (and professional services providers) in working with local governments. It will not be easy but it should prove to be productive.

  5. Thanks very much to Eric for all the work he put into this and thanks all who attended the meeting. Also thanks to Rick for spreading the word.
    Looking forward to the next meeting.

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