Graphic Design is a profession. It’s work. It can be fun, fulfilling and sometimes it can be utterly frustrating, and I couldn’t see myself doing anything else as a career at this point in my life…but it’s still work. There seems to be a general trend to view creative professions as anything but professional. It’s so fun… It can’t really be that hard… Can’t anyone with [insert Adobe software of choice] do it?
Along with this trend comes a devaluation of creative work, be it design, writing, etc. We’re often expected to do unpaid work, especially students graduating from post-secondary programs. Take my word for it, we incur the same student loans as anyone else and we have bills to pay.
Just because you love what you do, doesn’t mean you should do it without remuneration. We may not be sitting at drafting tables with Rapidograph pens and X-acto knives anymore, but just as those were tools of the trade and did not a designer make, our computers and software are today’s tools of the trade. Design is about more than the tools at hand. Those of us who went to school for 3+ years or those of us who painstakingly studied design texts and worked to learn on their own, learned about conceptual design thinking, problem solving, visual communication, colour theory, typography and much more. We are also constantly updating our educations and keeping up with changes the field.
Being asked to do work with only the promise of the possibility of payment, a future job, or a prize, or even worse, something to show in your portfolio, is not respectful of the real work that goes into design. Contests are particularly onerous because the designers who don’t win have done unpaid work which is not only going unused, they’ve often had to give up their copyright ownership to the design. In reaction to the Canadian government’s choice to run a design contest for a 150th anniversary logo, the student members of the Registered Graphic Designers of Canada (I’m an affiliate member) have launched a campaign bringing public awareness to the devaluation of their field. http://www.rgd.ca/events-and-programs/rgd-news/news_post/1114.php The main message is “my time has value”.
For more information on why it is unwise to expect a creative professional to work without pay, please check out nospec. It’s an organization built on educating creative pros and their clients about speculative work. http://www.nospec.com/faq