Forbes calls designers “Snooty”

February 5, 2009

Yep, that’s right.  According to Forbes Magazine, designers are snooty.  This article/advertorial has stirred a lot of fire on some design sites, and here is a brief synapsis of the problem.  It all starts with a crowd sourcing website (such as the one mentioned in the article), where a contest is created to connect “designers” to “buyers”.   The “buyer” offers so much money for a project and all the “designers” can create an entry and try to win the project.  So far, it doesn’t sound bad, at least until you start to break it down:

1. As a “designer” you are not guaranteed to get paid for the work you do!  YES, that’s right, if you submit a design and the “buyer” doesn’t pick yours, YOU DON’T GET PAID! Of course, these “designers” voluntarily submit to the project, so it’s their choice to work for free.  This whole system devalues the professional relationship a designer has with a client.  I’ll admit, I normally have to go through several iterations of a project with a client before we’re both happy.  I listen to the clients expectations, I approach them with some solutions, they give me feedback and we come to a final deliverable.  This discovery process is the value every designer brings to a client, it helps educate both parties on the needs and expectations each other has.  And yes, I believe there is a lot of value in this process and as a “snooty” designer I should be paid.

2. As a “buyer” are you really getting what you pay for?  YES, you’re getting a shiny new widget, but will it really work in all the right situations?  In the article they talk about both a grandma and a janitor who created winning designs.  Good for both of them.  But, let me ask them, have they ever printed anything on a press?  Do they understand the difference between spot and process colors?  Do they know what an overprint is?   Do they know there is more than just one black?  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a firm believer in people having creative talents without being formally trained.  But, I’m also a firm believer that my profession is more than just firing up Illustrator and drawing a few boxes and calling it a day.  All I can say is “Buyer” beware!

3. As a business model, this is genius!  Where else can you attract a work force, not have to pay them, and skim off the top of all the money going through the business.   Right or wrong, this company WILL make money.  The article clearly states, if the “buyer” submits a project and they don’t get 25 designs then the “buyer” doesn’t have to buy which means no designers get paid.  If there are more than 25 designs then the “buyer” must commit to one design and the company skims 15% off the top.   It’s a NO LOSE SITUATION, and it all benefits the company.  So, yes, I’m “snooty” because I think my career is devalued by these forms of Spec Work.

It’s all just skimming off the top of value-less design – PATHETIC!

If you want to read more, here’s what some others have said:

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