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Bring your Blood Pressure Up: Spec Work Documented on Social Media

Posted by Rebecca Blake on February 25, 2015

@forexposure Twitter streamIf you’ve been advised to keep your heart rate steady, you should probably avoid @forexposure on Twitter and shitspecwork on Tumblr. @forexposure provides a steady stream of outrageous requests for free labor. Some of the requests are from businesses one could safely assume have a budget: “You will be doing interviews for a real media outlet. Our prices are affordable and way cheaper than classes.” Some make it clear that the projects have no funding: “In the past contributors have been expected to buy a few copies of the book to help with funding.” Almost all promise some sort of payoff in exposure: “In exchange you get exposure on my account when I tag you in my Instagram pictures.

The Twitter account is maintained by comic artist Ryan Estrada. The posts are often breathtaking in their audacity and general cluelessness: “We do have a budget for professional services, BUT WE DON'T WANT TO SPEND IT.” While the Twitter stream is so comical it’s hard to believe, Estrada assures us “These are real quotes from real people who want you to work for exposure.”

Until recently, 3-D illustrator Timothy Reynolds published the Tumblr spec work blog shitspecwork. The blog featured submissions of requests for free work from large companies, such as HBO, Audi and Coca Cola, to music bands looking for free poster design, to posts by individuals trolling for free labor. Some of the posts cover headline-generating campaigns, such as the Canadian government’s student contest for a logo for the 150-year anniversary of the country’s confederation. 

Unfortunately, Reynolds has ceased to post to shitspecwork. Last December, he sent out a request for anyone willing to take over the blog. Earlier this month, he posted that “I gave up on http://shitspecwork.tumblr.com last year because it took a lot of negative energy to run it. But if anyone wants to take over, lmk.” Interested parties can contact Reynolds via his Twitter account. No doubt there will be a wealth of material for anyone interested in documenting requests for free labor.

Right: @forexposure's Twitter stream.

Have a Cool Sustainable Design Project? Renourish Wants to Know

Posted by Rebecca Blake on February 20, 2015

RenourishEric Benson and Yvette Perullo of Renourish, the initiative to promote sustainability in communication design, are working on a book for graphic designers who “want to integrate a sustainable ethos into their workflow.” The book, Design to Renourish: Sustainable Graphic Design in Practice, seeks to teach real-world solutions to successfully collaborating with clients on creating sustainable work – projects which meet ethical and environmental standards. The authors would like to incorporate case studies of client projects, with in-depth interviews of the designers.

Designers are encouraged to submit comprehensive campaigns that meet one of Renourish’s print or digital minimum standards for sustainability. Projects can include print, digital, environmental graphic design, and packaging design. Projects must have been completed in the past five years. Student, self-promotion, and speculative works will not be considered. Projects must be submitted online by March 2.

Designers wishing to learn more about how they can make more sustainable choices in their professions can view our archived webinar with Yvette Perullo. In “Renourish: Qualify as a Sustainable Communication Design Practice,” she and guest Gage Mitchell review how designers can utilize the resources Renourish has developed to make greener and more ethical choices in running their practices.  The archived webinar can be viewed for free by Guild members, or is available for purchase for $35 by non-members. Other Guild webinars on sustainable practices include “Designing for Social Value: Following Your Heart to Commercial Success” with Doug Powell and “The Truth About Paper: Positioning your Design Practice as ‘Green’” with Laura Shore of Mohawk Paper.

Oh, Dear, Canada: Government Issues Contest for Logo

Posted by Rebecca Blake on February 13, 2015

Canadian designers were startled when their government issued a contest, challenging design students to submit their original designs for a logo marking the 150 anniversary of the country’s confederation. Not only were the students requested to submit their work on speculation – only the winner would receive a paltry prize of $5,000 CA – but finalists were expected to transfer their intellectual property rights and waive their moral rights to their work. (Unlike the United States, Canadian copyright law defines moral rights, which include the right of attribution, the right to be published anonymously or pseudonymously, and the right to the integrity of the work.)

As Adrian Jean, President of the Graphic Designers of Canada (GDC) told the Ottowa Citizen, designers were particularly startled since the contest government had been engaging with the organization after an earlier attempt at a logo design flopped. The announcement of the contest in early December caught Canadian design organizations by surprise. GDC immediately issued an open letter to the government protesting the contest and within a few days had garnered thousands of signatures on an online petition.

Philippe Lamarre, president of the Société des designers graphiques du Québec (SDGQ), also submitted a letter decrying the contest, and, with the Association of Registered Graphic Designers (RGD), joined GDC in supporting the petition. RGD marshaled their student members for a #mytimehasvalue social media campaign in mid-January. Student designers were encouraged to post on social media photos of themselves holding up signs with the hashtag. Supporters – teachers, parents, and friends – followed suit with similar images stating “My students’ time has value,” etc.

The Canadian government persisted in carrying on with the contest. A spokesperson for Heritage Minister Shelly Glover told the Global News “[Our youth] are our future and we want to give them a unique opportunity to be involved in the celebrations for Canada’s 150th birthday.” The logo contest closed on January 23.

Below: A video produced by the Heritage Ministry cheerfully asks student designers to “join history in the making,” unfortunately by working for free.

Buying your Own Logo – At Least it was Cheap

Posted by Rebecca Blake on February 11, 2015

After our November article on designer Sacha Greif’s investigation of Fiverr, we were contacted with an unbelievable story. Apparently The Logo Factory, a logo design and branding shop, had their logo ripped off on Fiverr not once, but three times.

At the end of last October, The Logo Factory founder Steve Douglas discovered an old version of the company logo on Fiverr. Knowing Fiverr’s notorious reputation for non-responsiveness when it comes to infringement complaints, Douglas contacted the designer directly. To his relief, the logo was removed immediately. However, a few days later, Douglas was notified by Jeff Fisher of Logomotives that the current The Logo Factory logo – in all its 3D glory, and including the “founded in 1996” tagline – was appearing in another Fiverr designer’s portfolio. Since their logo is a well-recognized, trademarked asset, Douglas couldn’t ignore the infringement.

The difficulty, as always, was in getting Fiverr to respond to the notice of infringement. Appeals via their social media accounts went unanswered, and Douglas knew from experience that the only way to reach Fiverr directly is to open an account – an onerous undertaking exacerbated by the amount of SPAM the site sends to registered users. Instead, he decided to purchase his own logo directly from the designer. The experience made all the more surreal by the designer’s insistence that the logo was an original. The “final” artwork was delivered speckled with a  “free trial” watermark, obviously generated by some trial version of software the Fiverr designer had used to cull the logo. The designer messaged Douglas to say he was removing the logo from his portfolio. Since this had been Douglas’ goal all along, he was more or less happy with the result.

Unfortunately the story doesn’t end there. Ten days later, Douglas got another notice from Jeff Fisher: yet another Fiverr designer was showcasing the old The Logo Factory logo. As Douglas wrote, “Whack a mole indeed.”

You can read Douglas’ full story on The Logo Factory blog.

Below: the pixelated, watermarked logo, delivered by the Fiverr designer. Worth every cent of $5?

Molly Crabapple on Thriving as an Artist in the Internet Age

Posted by Rebecca Blake on February 04, 2015

Artist and writer Molly Crabapple is no stranger to controversy, having co-founded the burlesque life-drawing class Dr Sketchy’s Anti-Art School, creating large-scale works on the financial collapse for a crowd-funded exhibit, The Shell Game, and reporting in words and illustration on topics such as Guantanamo Bay for Vice. She also has come into her own as a creator during the Internet age, an era constant and rapid change in the ways artists grow their careers. It’s not surprising that she was asked to share her thoughts on achieving creative success in that rough-and-tumble environment.

In “Molly Crapapple’s rules for creative success in the Internet Age” Crabapple offers some pithy and realistic advice for artists.  She addresses the pitfalls of comparing one’s success to others, advising creators to take a close look at the trajectory of well known artists’ careers, and pointing out that her own success was not the result of a “big break.” Much of her advice is the kind of common sense your mother would pass on (but expressed in refreshingly frank language): don’t be a jerk, treat your fans with respect, don’t be lazy, move past rejection.

It’s when she addresses the financial aspects of working as a creator that Crabapple hits hard. She particularly advises against working for free – either by creating original work for contests, or for clients with money – pointing out those who do so are gutting the market for other artists. Some of her strongest language is reserved for online platforms that encourage artists to post work: “They're just using you to build their own thing, and they'll discard you when they sell the company a few years later.”

She summarizes by encouraging artists to be idealistic about their art even while being cynical of the business of art. As she wrote, “Nothing will save us but ourselves and each other.”

Illustration © Molly Crabapple. Used with permission.

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