Sunday Evening Post (9-10-17)

I remember spending the night at a friend's house when I was in the 8th grade. We stayed up late calling girls on the telephone. I recall my friend's dad picking up the phone in his room while I was on the line. He said, "Rob, get off the phone, and stay off the phone."

My female friend, in a hushed tone said, "Who was that?"

"Rob's dad," I said. "We better go."

"Okay, bye."

I was mortified, and I'd most likely managed inadvertently to get Rob grounded.

But thinking back on it, those were good times. Late nights eating pop-tarts, drinking pop, listening to CDs, playing Donkey Kong, and calling girls.

The risk in calling a girl late was that her parents might pick up. We had a way around that problem. The key was to have the girl call the time & temp number at a specified time and then switch over via call waiting. It was brilliant, and it generally worked. Unless, that is, the parents happened to pick up the phone.

It all seems so innocent, so primitive now.

//

I recently read this super-depressing article in the Atlantic—"Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?"

[I realize the irony of decrying social media on social media, but it's worth a read if you have the time.]

https://www.theatlantic.com/…/has-the-smartphone-de…/534198/

I've got to say, it's rather disturbing. In short, kids are drinking less, and are less sexually active, but they're lonelier than ever.

As someone who will have teenage girls sometime in the not so distant future, I'm pleased about the first two stats, but I'd hate to think they'd become so consumed by their devices that they'd miss out on life itself.

//

Rather than strictly condemning this generation, I'm trying to be more aware of the use of "screen time" in my OWN life. I'm trying to look less at my phone, but #fomo is very real. "What was that ring, ding, buzz, etc.? Wonder how many likes I have?" We've become like sophisticated Pavlovian dogs.

Occasionally Nora (the 3 year old) will enter the room and say, "Daddy, Daddy... Daddy?"

"Yes, what is it?" I say.

"Look at my eyes, Daddy."

That's code for stop looking at your phone; you're missing out on life itself.

No, I won't enter your "logo contest"

Graphic designers love to talk about spec work and why it's bad, but I still find that non-designer types—98.5% of the world*—have no idea what we're talking about.

Spec work, short for speculative, is labor in hopes of getting paid. It generally goes something like this—an email or Facebook post from Bob's Used Mattresses: "We're having a logo design contest. Submit your designs and you could win $25, and a new, used mattress. Not to mention, it'll be good for your portfolio."

Let me first say, I'm not a communist (though I think they had great intentions). I am indeed a free-market capitalist, whatever that means (though it hasn't worked as well as I'd hoped).

You may be thinking that spec work just sounds like good-ol' fashion, 'merican-made competition. And you would be wrong.

Spec work 1) wastes the time of designers, 2) creates a sub-par product, and 3) delegitimizes the profession. 

A big waste of time

Let's say a homebuilder puts up a spec home. Chances are he or she will eventually sell it. But, in the case of a logo contest you have one winner and lots of losers (P.E. dodgeball, anyone?). Let's say 100 designers each put 3 hours into their logo for Bob's Used Mattresses. That's 300 design hours, and even at a measly $10/hour that's $3000 buckaroos. And remember, Bob's payout is only $25 dollars. Bob has just stolen $2,975. "But they're all consenting adults, and that makes everything okay, right?"

A sub-par product

At this point I've only treated poor Bob with contempt, but I feel for him too. He gets no say in the design process, no interaction with creative designers to experience that wonderful designer-client synergy, and he most likely will have to wade through a lot of crap to maybe find a few decent visual solutions.

Delegitimizes the field of graphic design

A logo contest is sort of like a coloring contest... for adults... but, designers do this for a living.

I once heard a pastor friend talk about going around to churches to preach for "experience". He quipped that "Experience don't put food on the table."

Final Point

A logo is not a product. You can't return it at Walmart. It's intellectual property. It's invested with blood, sweat, creativity, research and skill. You can't put a price on it because it's emblematic of all your company or organization hopes to stand for—making the logo invaluable.

By the way, this all got stirred up again today, because I got two offers in one day to participate in a "design contest". I said no thanks and I hope you'll do the same.

—CF

Stick around for the Q&A...

Q: "I'm a design student. Is it okay for me to do spec work?"

A: That's a good question. No.

Q: "Isn't it risky for a client to hire just one designer for a project?"

A: Yes, business is risky. But for peace of mind, the client picks a designer based on a designer's portfolio and track record.

Q: "I'm a designer and I do free work for causes I believe in... is that wrong?"

A: No, because you're giving out of a spirit of generosity not a gambling compulsion.

Q: "Is it okay to do graphic design for a 'love offering'?"

A: Only if you're married.

*Statistical data is completely unfounded.