Call me snooty, arrogant, hoity toity and egocentric. I really don't care. But when a well known and influential business publication validates and promotes the business of spec work and then insults the entire design industry... it grinds my gears! And when that same well known publication prints the article in question with flagrant disregard for both sides of the story... it is unprofessional and unseemly.
I don't even know where to start with this. I'm pretty sure that if I begin writing about it I might not stop until 2010. I am not here to pontificate on the nature of naming calling. I do however want to add my voice to those who found Steiner's reporting skills offensive, to point out the pit falls of spec-work, and to support the designers who choose to defend and promote their industry. Additionally, this post is not necessarily directed to the designers who visit this blog (I believe designers know the value of their work and therefore this post is probably preaching to the choir), but instead it is my hope that in some way the info and links provided here may help to inform the uninformed (the students, emerging designers, photographers, writers, artists, clients etc) about this topic.
It all began in January 2009 when Catherine Wentworth of No-Spec received an email from Christopher Steiner, senior reporter with Forbes Magazine. The subject line of the email read... FORBES MAGAZINE QUERY!!! After some discussion with Steiner, No-Spec went ahead and set up interviews for Steiner with some top designers in the industry. An interview was scheduled with Debbie Millman of Sterling Brands, and Design Matters, author of several design books and board member of the National AIGA.
Also lined up for an interview was logo designer and author Jeff Fisher, member of the HOW Magazine Editorial Advisory Board, UCDA Designer Magazine Editorial Advisory Board, and HOW Design Conference Advisory Council.
Steiner dissed all the interviewees without a letter of apology or explanation. And then... the bombshell headline appears in Forbes: CrowdSpring Aims to Slash the Cost of Graphic Design Work and Democratize a Snooty Business.
CrowdSpring is website which solicits design contests whereby anyone can submit a logo and perhaps win a prize. Sounds ok, right? Competition is good. If your grandmother submits a design and it is favored over mine... well that's the way it goes, right? Yeah, except for the fact that it isn't necessarily the company who hosts the contest that decides the winner, there are no professional guarantees and the other 100 or so designers who have taken the hours and energy to create designs receive no compensation. I don't know...call me snooty, but I believe that anyone who works should be paid for the job.
Proponents of crowd-sourcing will say that the "client" benefits in having the luxury to choose from MANY samples of work at low cost. Some may say that if an individual chooses to enter such a contest it is at their discretion and at their own risk. However, crowd-sourcing can be a very slippery slope and to me it represents the bottom feeders of business. Organizations such as No-Spec and AIGA have chosen to inform and educate designers and clients about the risks of crowd-sourcing. I encourage you to read what No-Spec and AIGA have to say about these matters.
We have no control over and do not guarantee the quality, safety or legality of Creative Services, the truth or accuracy of project listings or member information, the qualifications, background, or abilities of members, the ability of creatives to deliver Creative Services, or that members will complete a transaction.
Yes, I can imagine how well this would go over with one of my clients... "Sure I'll design a logo for you for $200 but I won't guarantee the quality, safety or legality of my product."
Work as a graphic designer is not just about making pretty pictures. Professional work (of any kind) entails far more than winning on the cheap. Effective graphic design is about finding visual solutions to a clients problem or needs. Much energy, work, and thought is expended on the part of the professional designer to provide this service. Additionally, designers often work as consultants for their clients. Professionals, you will find, will support their customers. The outrage that has ensued from the design community in response to the Forbes article is (from what I can see) on several levels:
1. Ok... they are not real happy at being called snooty by a magazine for investment bankers.
2. Designers are passionate and dedicated people who wish to preserve and protect their profession. Not everyone who has a copy of photoshop can call themselves a designer. I'm sure the college students and designers who have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a design education would agree.
3. The one sidedness of the article is poor journalism and is absolutely stunning coming from a publication such as Forbes.
The discussion at David Airey's blog has been extensive. The controversy has turned into a real shit storm with opinions ranging from support for the design industry to utter opposition. I also want to note that while no comments (to my knowledge) have been issued by Forbes or Steiner regarding the one sidedness of the article or the dissing of Millman and Fisher, CrowdSpring Co-founder, Ross Kimbarovsky, did enter the fray to offer several comments. I applaud his bravery.
Debbie Millman has recently been asked by AIGA to ‘chair a task force in an effort to understand the various sentiments about this practice in both the design community and the broader creative community, and report back to the National Board our findings and potential recommendations at the National Board retreat in April, and to share these findings at the Leadership Retreat in June.’ Should you wish to contact Debbie with your opinion on spec-work, please follow this link.