Are you artistic? Know anything about cattlemen, coal miners and offshore drilling? Looking to score about $1,000? The Interior Department wants to hear from you.


It’s in search of a new logo for use on department-issued hats, t-shirts and jackets and is sponsoring a contest with the Web site Crowdspring to find a fresh design.

But the logo won’t replace the department’s official seal, a 10-color design including a grazing buffalo that is “highly detailed” and difficult to reproduce on clothing and other informational materials, according to department officials.

“We’re not tied to the notion of using words in our logo,” the department says in its official call for entries. “If you can say, ‘U.S. Department of the Interior’ without text, fantastic. Otherwise, please feel free to use ‘U.S. Department of the Interior’ as text.”

So do they want text or no text? Confused yet?

Wait, it gets better.

The logo must appeal to the department’s 70,000 employees and “cattlemen/ranchers, coal miners, conservationists, farmers, fishermen, historians, hunters, Native Americans & tribal entities, offshore oil and gas producers, recreation enthusiasts (boaters, hikers, campers) and others,” the department says.

The winner earns $1,000 and two runners-up will receive $250 each. The winner forks over all rights and official uses to the logo — which, remember, won’t be used on the department’s official flag or letterhead. Just on tsotchkes.

Sadly, Interior employees cannot participate because government ethics rules bar workers from “double dipping” and earning extra cash from their employer.

So why bother — especially if the new logo won’t replace the official seal?

Holding a contest instead of hiring a design company keeps costs down and avoids locking the department into a particular design, officials said. Using online contests and crowd-sourcing tools might also score Interior some online street cred.

“We see this as a fun, collaborative and cost-effective way to create a new logo for Interior,” spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff said in an e-mail. “Engaging Americans in this design contest is a 21st century way to get folks interested, aware and connected to Interior’s mission – and it will cut costs over time.”

But will having two designs — the seal and the logo — really save money? Why not just abolish the seal altogether?

Besides, the official seal nearly caused serious embarrassment during the Clinton years, acording to this excerpt from a 1999 Al Kamen “In the Loop” column:

Interior Department officials worked for weeks to prepare for President Clinton’s visit to headquarters yesterday. Clinton was there to speak at an event celebrating the department’s 150th anniversary.

To create an impressive backdrop behind the president for the big gala, event planners decided to do up a superlarge, 5-foot-wide version of the departmental seal, which has blue, snow-capped mountains, a radiant orange sunset and the famous great buffalo on the prairie.

But wait a minute. The great buffalo, they discovered, is anatomically correct. And it is a HE. And Clinton, when he spoke, would be standing right near its anatomical correctness.

Under certain camera angles, this would never do. Memories flashed back to former attorney general Edwin Meese III’s news conference on his anti-pornography program where he spoke near a statue of a naked woman.

So they decided to “airbrush” the beast, which in this case meant adding some extra prairie underneath the buffalo’s tummy. “They extended the paint a little bit,” a department source said. The seal on the event program and the flags in the auditorium was the “uncensored” version, the source said.

What would you do? Kill the seal and use the logo? Use both? Is it worth the time and money? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.