A friend of mine shared this today, and while I’ll spare you the colorful language that accompanied it, I had to write about it. In fact, I stopped illustrating a shot of Jack Torrance to write about it. So you know it’s got to be juicy.
I’ve been meaning to write about the value of creative work, and the effects of that devaluation, but I think this video explains it all. Maybe not on purpose, but it really does demonstrate the lack of understanding towards my profession.
99designs is a crowdsourcing platform that pits designers against each other in a “contest” to win design work. While I’m all for a client-focused design process, this is too client-take all for any trained designer to be pleased with. Where is the process of interaction between client and designer? Where is the acknowledgement of skill and expertise? It’s completely knocked out of the way because the best design has to win!!!
For me, it’s this idea of “the best design” that’s the biggest problem. What is “the best design”? Is it the one that looks the coolest or the one that solves the problem the smartest way? How could you possibly measure artificial attempts at problem solving? And unfortunately for Valley Girl, design is not art- it is most certainly visual problem solving; how to attract your ideal customer, how to speak a specific way to your audience, and so on. Leaving it to the hands of everyone debases the knowledge and experience it takes to be able to answer those questions. It’s not because of the iconography, but the reason the iconography was created. I can promise you that Google Translator won’t be able to tell you that.
Perhaps this hits so hard because it comes on the heels of experiencing one of the most stressful situations I’ve ever encountered in my career as a designer. The same company that runs 99designs also runs the blog I was writing for a few months back. I’d link you to them, but then you’d be visiting a site that does not pay fair wages for the work it posts (at least when it comes to the jne) Had I know that, I wouldn’t have written for them, but that’s besides the point. While the editor I worked with praised every article I published, the company not only disputed my invoice after letting it sit for weeks, but claimed the work I had created for them wasn’t worth charging for. Even though they had no problem posting it and gaining credit for it. It was messy, tense, and infuriating. While I’m so glad it’s over, it does continue to point out to me that the majority of commerce misunderstands what it is we “creatives” (ugh) do.
While discussing why I would charge for the time I spent to design a fake brand while writing an article to describe the branding process, the head editor at the blog claimed “Content is content as far as I’m concerned” and it was through this ignorant sentence that I saw the blinding light. Content is NOT content as far as I’m concerned. Not between design and writing, not between creating logos or t-shirts, or anything else you want to throw in there. The mastery of a creative field takes a lot more out of you than money and time. It takes effort, tireless resistance towards judgement, lack of inspiration, boredom, exhaustion, and overwork because someone thinks what you do is just draw pictures all day.
As a passionate designer, it was brutal to watch the Valley Girl video, but I’m glad I did because it finally got the fire under me to say something!
When I was writing for the Australian co, I felt undeniably successful. I was sharing my knowledge, enlightening others to my skills and process, and then writing about it in a coherent, friendly style. I know it’s definitely a rarity within the design profession, but it’s also a rarity within ANY profession. Talent, determination, ethics and discipline are not something that comes with every individual within a field. Hell, if it came at least half as often, I’d have a lot more friends and that many more collaborative partners. But it doesn’t, so I don’t. The need for intelligently thought out, created, crafted design, let alone articles about design that don’t alienate is so great that it was a shame I could no longer continue my working relationship with the Australian company, but it will never stop me from creating thoughtful content in regards to the profession I absolutely adore. You want to call that “run of the mill” content not worth money, then go ahead. It won’t stop the people who know what the value of creative work truly is, and that’s who I’m aiming for anyway.