As a designer, people sometimes seem to think of my role as ‘auxiliary’ or perhaps ‘unrequited’ in their industry. Some even go as far as to request designs done for them at no charge, because “It should be easy for you, you are creative” or my favourite “We will give you exposure, and perhaps set up some regular work for you with us”.
Unfortunately, “Exposure” does not pay the bills…
Many seem to think of a designer’s work as a glorified hobby that does not deserve recognition or even payment. Whilst many of us do indeed enjoy designing various things, and perhaps even do the odd design for no charge, for us, this is our job. This is something that pays our bills, keeps food on the table and our families off the streets. I have never heard of someone asking an accountant or a lawyer for free services, in exchange for ‘exposure’, but somehow, creative people are deemed less important.
Take note, every single thing that you have purchased that is in packaging has been designed by a Graphic Artist.
Every single man-made product you have held in your hand, experienced, viewed or touched has been designed by Product Designer.
Every single store you have walked into, walked past or walked through has had its layout, lighting and shelving designed by someone in those fields.
The lawyer has their stationery, document templates and all other formal documents designed to some extent by a designer, as does the accountant’s personalised cheques, advertising materials and even the software that gets you a refund.
Every single industry on this earth has a designer involved at some level. They work hard, they work long hours and often forego important events in their lives to get the job done. In one position I worked, it was not uncommon to be sitting around an empty office, talking with the cleaners as I waited for an executive to make final changes for an urgent press ad that had to be submitted that night. I could have easily been sitting at home with those I love, spending time with them, hearing about her day and perhaps watching some TV together, but instead, I was made to wait on someone else decision until 11:30 at night sometimes. This was with no extra pay, and in fact, it was expected of me on a regular basis.
More often that I would care to admit, I have had to chase down clients, pestering and pressuring them for many months after the final artwork has been submitted for my payment, which had been invoiced (meaning I pay taxes on it) but not received. (Still paying tax on money not received!) With one client, I chased them for 6 months for a few hundred dollars. Eventually they paid, only to ask me a few days later for further designs.
In what other industry is this level of disrespect acceptable, when my work would not only benefit your company, but also potentially make your company some or even considerable money?
I recently read this amazing article on a blog, which tells of the trickery used to keep people in design positions. It uses our own self-pity to keep us docile and willing to work under these ridiculous conditions. Even if you are not a designer, it is well worth a read!