Archive for the ‘Studio Insights’ Category
Frank has worked with me for as many years as I can remember, but the reality is that not a lot of people who have worked with me would have met him, because to be truthful he doesn’t exist.
But he does have a position in my company, and in actual fact he is one of the longest serving rhinos. Frank is in charge of everything a cold caller may ask about – laser consumables, phone systems and plans, seminar attendances, amazing once in a lifetime opportunities – you name it, he’s in charge of it. Now, I completely understand that such calls are a part of business, and that cold calling can be a very stressful and much maligned occupation, but when a polite employee cannot simply answer, “Sorry we are not interested,” we needed to get creative about it, so we invented Frank to screen these calls.
So as you could imagine, Frank receives lots of calls and is on many, many phone call databases (he even gets weekly mail). Our system of managing this essential part of business has become very streamlined. The obvious starter responses are “Sorry, Frank is in a meeting – can I take a message?” “Sorry Frank is off-site,” but his personality has grown over the years to more in-depth responses: “Sorry, Frank is in the Bahamas on holidays,” “Sorry, Frank is currently touring with the rhinos in Africa.” The astute cold caller may often try “Well, who else handles…” and the caller is duly told, “No, that’s Frank’s department, no-one goes near his stuff – you HAVE to speak to Frank about this,” and a satisfied cold caller hangs up, happy that they have the right contact within the organisation.
So those who answer the phone don’t need to ask the caller “and where are you calling from” to qualify the call, it just goes directly to Frank. But we know – and probably some companies will also now know – that Frank will never answer the call, he will never return the call nor will he ever get out of that production meeting.
So perhaps your business could use a Frank, Edna or Vinnie, because Frank has helped us be more productive and efficient and for that he really does deserve a holiday in the Bahamas.
What is crowdsourcing?
“Crowdsourcing is a process that involves outsourcing tasks to a distributed group of people. This process can occur both online and offline. The difference between crowdsourcing and ordinary outsourcing is that a task or problem is outsourced to an undefined public rather than a specific body, such as paid employees.” – Wikipedia
So, what’s wrong with that?
In theory, crowdsourcing sounds pretty good for a client. You have a brief, you put it up online, and you return later to find a whole bunch of concepts in your inbox – and only pay your nominated fee. But it’s not quite that simple.
Crowdsourcing hurts designers and the design industry. The core premise behind crowdsourcing is that clients can get their design work completed on the cheap. Ultimately, this involves a myriad of designers doing work on spec (i.e.: for no pay), and only the designer whose work is selected ends up being paid. In the marketing material for a leading design crowdsourcing site, they offer clients the opportunity to hold a “design contest” to get designs “at a fraction of the price” to “spend less and get more” – implicit in this is that designers must scramble to get less and give more.
When you order a meal, you don’t order five and only pay for the best one. No-one should have to work for free or enter a “contest” just to get paid for work they have already completed – plumbers don’t do it, shops don’t just let you walk in and take merchandise, so why should design be any different?
There is no reason that you should get free or cheap ideas or designs just because you are “floating an idea” or a “startup” and there is no excuse for not paying someone for the work they do. Just like you, our jobs are our livelihood; it’s what we do to put food on the table. Crowdsourcing is tantamount to exploitation and it’s audacious to suggest that there is any legitimacy in the practice.
Graphic design is a skilled occupation and as such it is a service that should be paid for. Crowdsourcing is in many ways similar to free pitching, a practice that is frowned upon in the design industry. The AGDA (Australian Graphic Design Association) code of ethics “discourages members from predatory pricing practices such as free pitching, loss leading and other pricing below break-even. Members should be aware that such practices will damage the economic viability of their business.”
Additionally, AGDA stress that they are “unequivocally opposed to the unfair manipulation of designers with the aim of garnering unpaid work.” In a creative industry, ideas are our business and there is potential for crowdsourcing (and free pitching) to be misused as a means of a client accessing a multitude of ideas for minimal or no spend.
There are downsides for clients too. When you use a studio or freelance designer, a key determiner in getting a good outcome for your business is in the collaboration between client and designer. Effective design achieves results via research, concept development, design and refinement. The whole process requires your designer to have an intimate understanding of your business and its needs; this can only be achieved through a strong relationship with you, the client. Users on crowdsourcing sites are not given the opportunity nor the budget to get to know you or your business, and as such you get what you pay for.
Additionally, when joining forces with a flesh and blood designer, you are able to verify their skills and qualifications. Online, you have no way of telling who anyone really is or to ensure the work they upload is their own. Is it worth risking that the ‘unique’ design created for your business could be plastered all over another brand’s building, collateral and website?
Crowdsourcing devalues what we do – design is not simply a logo or a brochure, it’s the bespoke result of an involved process of hard work and informed research. Clients using crowdsourcing for their design demonstrate a lack of respect for and understanding of the design process, designers and our industry. Designers also ought to consider the ramifications of using these sites to earn a bit of cash on the side; it makes them complicit in perpetuating the idea that design is not a valuable service and encourages clients to seek out these services in favour of paying appropriate rates for design work.
2. Watch videos on YouTube without headphones. Yeah, that guy – the one not doing any work, loudly. Don’t be him. If you’re going to slack off, at least do it quietly.
3. Forward funny viral emails. Just because I know you does not allay the fact you just filled my inbox with spam. I have filters in place for this stuff, don’t abuse your unfettered access.
4. Expect me to bake. I’m all for morning tea, but just because you’re a baker does not mean I am in the least domestically inclined (like, at all), so ease up on the criticism when I bring packet slice again. I’m good at other things, like dishes.
5. Jam the photocopier. If you can’t work out how to print without causing the paper jam equivalent of Punt Rd at peak hour then you really need to sort it out. Or be prepared to make friends with a notepad again.
6. Stick post-its to people’s monitors. So you know that thing about not touching your computer screen? That extends to sticking post-its on it. In fact it becomes exponentially worse when there’s adhesive involved.
7. Hoard pens. Once a month check the pen-to-employee ratio around the office and if you’re coming off like the Imelda Marcos of stationery, it might be time to redistribute.
8. Climb on the roof. Enough said.
Ever get the feeling that you know someone, but you can’t quite pinpoint where you’ve seen them? Maybe you catch the tram with them everyday, perhaps they went to your high school or maybe they work in your local KMart.
We designers get these feelings too, but for us it’s slightly different. Sometimes a sign or poster will catch my eye and I’ll think, “that person looks familiar”. I’ll rack my brain trying to put my finger on who they might be and then it hits me…
“You’re my iStock friend!” Yep, the lady on that sign does not work at my local accountant’s office (despite being in their ad), she’s the number one result for “female businesswoman”. That man advertising a retirement village is not someone I see on the train, he’s on page one for “beautiful retired gentleman”. And that family representing the childcare centre down the street are not my next door neighbours, they’re in the first row of iStock results for “happy family”!
We designers do rely on stock images as a resource, but some of these images suffer from extreme overuse – so much so that some of these people almost feel like old friends or acquaintances.
Buck the trends and start being creative with your iStock search terms. Perhaps try sorting by number of downloads and avoid the first 5 pages, or just try using words that other people might not automatically think of. Whatever you do, don’t just pick the first image that comes up, because chances are, 8,600 other designers have used it too.
For more information on iStock trends, click here.
There is a perception or as I prefer to think of it, a misconception that graphic designers have only an innate artistic talent and that our job has little to do with intellect. However, this is not the case; a truly brilliant graphic designer will be an intelligent thinker armed with a suite of other skills.
So why should we, as designers, find this misconception offensive and strive to correct how the public perceives us? Here are my top 3 reasons:
- It undersells what we do and validates the notion that we design only for fun. It makes design seem less like a service that should be valued, which people ought to pay good money for and more like a hobby we’re indulging in. Design delivers real results to businesses, so the professionals who do the good work should be taken seriously as experts in their trade.
- “My friend has a daughter in year 8 who has Photoshop.” Almost all designers are qualified professionals; bright people who have chosen a profession that constantly provides new opportunities to learn and engage. Being exposed to such an array of work from a wide range of sources gives designers a unique perspective, not only on their own industry, but on the industries of the clients they service.
- It’s just plain insulting. Clients’ expectations are high and most of us working in small (or even large) studios are jacks-of-all-trades. For some of us that means taking on writing, coding, administration or sometimes the mundane task of stuffing envelopes. On a daily basis we stretch the boundaries of our job titles in the name of ensuring the job gets done and done well. Don’t we deserve a little bit of credit for that?
So don’t take it on the nose next time someone belittles you and your chosen profession (accidentally or otherwise). Stand up and proudly spell out what it is that makes us special and why design is the domain of smart people with sharp minds.