Why we have to get even better.

I am often asked to enter contests or provide work on “spec,” meaning “we’ll pay you if we like it.” Or asked to work for free for the exposure it will supposedly get for me.

I am a big believer in doing work for people and causes I believe in. I think we should all choose a worthwhile organization that needs design help and assist them. But the people who ask are seldom the right ones for us. And if they have the budget to print, to buy advertising, to produce what I’m designing, then they have a budget for design too; they  may simply not value it enough. And that is not a pleasant working environment for me as a designer regardless of the quality of their service to mankind.

(Need help deciding? Visit this very funny flow chart at www.shouldiworkforfree.com.)

Had a request like that yourself a few times (how about “daily”) lately? Don’t sweat it.

  1. This is always going to be there. We will never get rid of it. No, not even if 100% of designers say no all the time — which they won’t. We’ll still be treated as though it’s a “special honor” to design something for someone.
  2. Someone will ALWAYS do it. This isn’t 1960 and we’re not working with deadly chemicals or expensive equipment — anyone with a computer will assume that they can design a logo. Some might even do a nice job, and all power to ‘em! But there’s a layer of unprofessional suckage that has devalued the profession permanently. If someone doesn’t value quality design, there’s not a thing you can do about it, ever. It’s like a high-end furniture designer being upset about what is put on sale at a cheap furniture store: rarely will that furniture be of any quality, and even when it is, it will never have anything to do with what you do for a living.

Not, that is, unless you’re designing junk.

The first rule of design still applies, whether you are volunteering or working for pay:

First, do great work.

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