Design Drama

documenting the delicate dance of design

In Which I Respond to A Craigslist Ad on My Blog February 11, 2009

I’ve been surfing through Craigslist again & I read this little gem this morning: (I’ve bolded my favorite part)

Book designer (XXXXXXX, TN)
Date: 2009-02-11, 9:07AM CST

We are a progressive, up-and-coming book publisher located in the XXXXXXX, Tennessee area. We are showing steady growth this year, and find ourselves in need of a book designer with the following characteristics/qualities:

– Applicant must be familiar/knowledgeable/preferably expert at InDesign software. A knowledge of Quark would be beneficial as well. You will be designing the interiors of books. You will also be given the opportunity to design covers as well.

– A knowledge of Photoshop/Illustrator is a plus, a big plus. You should be able to edit photos and illustrations for use in hardcover/paperback books.

– You should be knowledgeable about of the book industry – how books are produced, distributed, marketed and purchased. You should know what an endpaper is; you should know a mass market paperback from a trade paperback. You must know that (bookstore name redacted) is not a country western duo.

– You will be designing the interior of books – layout, font selection, rules, styles, parts of a book, type, etc. You should be able to provide us with a few samples of your work that is similar in nature.

– You should be able to work at an acceptable rate of speed. Not sloppy fast, but reasonably quickly with an emphasis on quality. We often have deadlines. You must be able to meet them.

– You must not be a flake. You must respond to emails within one day, preferably sooner. You must be available. Projects must be done on time. Always. No exceptions at all. Again, we work on deadlines.

– You must be able to send/store large files easily and securely. You must be able to send files in a PC format. You should be bondable. You must be comfortable handling copyrighted material. You must not lose the material that we give you. You must take this seriously, very seriously. Our authors depend on us.

– You may be asked to correspond with authors directly. You should be able to do so in English, using proper grammar and sentence structure. Some of our authors are rather well-known, and since you will represent us, your writing skills must be up to snuff. You must copy us on all emails. You must know how to correspond with people in a timely and professional manner.

– It would be a plus if you can design book covers, and can provide samples of same.

Benefits:

– In return we can offer little pay [at present], but lots of opportunity for the future. We are growing, and expect to be around for a long, long time.

– You can work out of your home. After all, it’s probably all ready set up as a studio,so you are most comfortable and productive there. No reason to upset the creative boat.

Our emphasis is on quality, beauty, and content. You will be encouraged to learn all you can to keep your skill set fine tuned. Staying ahead of the pack is what it is all about.

Hope to hear from some qualified candidates soon,

(name redacted)

* Location: XXXXXXX TN
* Compensation: Contract per job
* Telecommuting is ok.
* This is a contract job.
* Principals only. Recruiters, please don’t contact this job poster.
* Please, no phone calls about this job!
* Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests.

Did you hear a bang earlier? That wasn’t the weather, it was my head exploding.

Look, I get it – we’re in a financial crisis, and everyone is looking to get the maximum amount of work/stuff, etc for a good price. But to write a laundry list of tasks and then have the, for lack of a better word, BALLS to say “we can offer little pay” – well, all I can think is “no wonder they’ve apparently worked with flakes before – ONLY A FLAKE would answer this ad — you’d have to be crazy to sign up for this!” I mean really… why not, when writing this job description, Mr Job Poster, didn’t you say “Cure Cancer” and “Solve Middle East Peace”?

Oh, one of my favorite parts of this ad is how the job poster even went as far as to throw the “celebrity angle” in there in the sentence: Some of our authors are rather well-known. Yawn – Still doesn’t make me want to bite. This makes me realize that only the well-known author and the publisher will make any money even though the designer will be doing the grand majority of the work to make the book marketable to the average customer — after all, we’re the ones that make a book jump off the shelf and grab a consumer’s eye. And in my experience in design, the more cooks you have in the kitchen, so to speak, the more work there is to be done. And the project takes even longer to complete — for the same amount of money, usually.

I’ve looked around at other postings for jobs in other categories other than “art/media/design” and I never seem to find this low-balling fascination when people post jobs in other professions. The reason we chose to be creative is we like to create. Most of us are damn good at it. And, while we might have gotten used to the term “starving artist”, no one is striving to be one. And honestly, I can go work at the mall for more money than this joker is probably offering – AND when I leave the job at the mall they won’t call/email me around the clock – NOR will they expect me to do MORE and MORE work for the same amount of money. That’s almost always the case when a designer low-balls him/herself.

So, to all you job posters out there, with the audacity to write, well, a book of qualifications and job responsibilities like the one above, here’s a newsflash: most reputable designers have a little thing called “self-respect” and we’ve all met your kind before. You are a joke to us. Stories about you become the “worst client ever contest” of storytelling at our cocktail hours. And we’re not flakes either — but people like you, Mr Job Poster, make us so mad that we turn flaky… of course, what you call flaky is what we call “being compensated for the hard work we put forth for piss poor pay.”

After all, the job poster said it himself: Staying ahead of the pack is what it is all about. I suggest all designers stay ahead of the pack by steering clear of “jobs” like this.

UPDATE
The job has been reposted, and now the compensation reads “$100-$300” per book. Seeing as my minimum hourly rate is $75 per hour, I think I’ll pass. I’ve designed brochures for more money.

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The Native (Files) Are Restless November 11, 2008

I had a dilemma arise this week that I’ve never encountered before.

First, a little background:

I took on the task of a project that seemed simple enough at first – design a packaging for a product. Upon the initial client meeting, I was handed a disc of art files and additional materials instructing me on how the client wanted the product to look. We also agreed upon a flat fee, half of which I received up front.

Last Friday, I began the project as I had awaited one final element to begin the design process. I spent over seven hours on Friday working on the project — this included looking for two types of photographs that can only be described as obscure. That task was only complicated more as the client didn’t have the money to spend on any type of professional photography services, nor did said client have the money to purchase anything from a stock photo site on the web. Basically, I had little or nothing to work with.

I ended up getting severely lucky with one of the elements. The other, he happened to have what he needed in his possession and took his own photographs and sent to me. After acquiring those two photographic elements, I spent six hours cutting the background out from one of the elements – the other photo, I gleaned the piece of the photo I needed which amounted to exhausting that one element of the photo, using Photoshop to enlarge it and adding more to what was previously not there before.

Then, over the weekend I got an email from the client. The email stated that the project was to be at the printer today (Monday). I replied to the email and explained that deadline was virtually impossible as I had only received photographic elements mid-afternoon on Friday and was still knee-deep in the design of the project. He relented and said Tuesday would be a workable deadline.

So, today I sent a second proof via email. The client and another person involved pow-wowed on the proof, sent back edits and I reworked the project to their exact specifications. I went down the list, checking things off.

Tonight, after sending the second proof off, I got an email asking that I send the native Photoshop files to him — that he would like to work with them and that it “must be the designer in him.”

WTF?

Now, I don’t know about other designers, but this here are my things about this:

I spent years in college honing my art skills and my design capabilities. And I’ve spent 10+ years working professionally as a graphic designer. I have what it takes to get a project to a final conclusion that I am proud of. I have a portfolio full of projects I am proud of and clients I am blessed to have a continued working relationship.

In all those years that I have spent, I have learned many things. Why should I turn over my intellectual property to someone who can just take this and that and reuse it for their own profit?

Also, knowledge is power. I possess a design and computer proficiency that makes my talent valuable. I know how to set up a file for print and I can muddle my way through a certain amount of web design. If everyone knew how to do this, my profession would cease to exist. And if I just hand over my knowledge to every client that asks, aren’t I devaluing my design knowledge and artistic skills and running my own business into the ground?

Also, once I hand over the Photoshop files, it ceases to be MY work.

I consulted the web to see what other people had done in my situation. The results were all over the map. But the general consensus seems to be that a graphic designer is only beholden to give up the final files for printing, NOT the workable native Photoshop files. Those are the designer’s intellectual property.

One person made the comment that the PSD files contain “trade secrets” — I guess I’d have to agree with that. I have a certain way of creating certain looks within my design. I’ll be the first to admit, one way I learned a lot about Photoshop was from looking at other designers Photoshop files. Who is to say that some fly by night person who bought Photoshop won’t do the same? (There’s no way this person will be able to reach the learning curve my PSD files would throw his way… I’m not terribly worried about that, actually…)

I spoke online to a former classmate of mine tonight. She echoed my point of view on another facet of this topic — why aren’t graphic designers taught business courses? My classmate and I, during our college years, were required to take FOUR semesters of foreign language. Now, I’m not putting down the need to be bilingual in any sense, but we both agreed that those four semesters would have been better spent in business classes that specifically dealt with the ethics of graphic design and selling art. And for the record.. all my four years of Spanish taught me was how to order a beer and find a bathroom — which in my opinion, are the two basic things needed to when speaking that language.

In the end, after I calmed down after receiving the email, I emailed a response to my client and explained that the question he broached made me uncomfortable and I found it somewhat unethical to pose such a request. But I also added that as I am a designer that works with my clients, although every bit of me that values my design skills was against it, I would send him the files. BUT any edits that are made to them are subject to an additional fee as this could lead to a disruption of my work flow. I told him I’m sure he would understand me amending my end of the agreement (my fee) as he was amending his (hiring me to do the design work exclusively without outside interference).

I’ve yet to hear back.

What do you think?

 

Gee, I’m honored August 6, 2008

Cumberland River view - Nashville TN

I posted the above photo to my Flickr account recently, a photo collage of images of the Nashville Riverfront.

I was very excited to learn the photo was chosen for Nashvillest’s “Photo of the Day” on Monday.

 

I will survive July 15, 2008

I’ve had one of those weird Mondays. It always happens on Monday – it’s either a wild Monday or a dead one. And today is one of those dead Monday’s that give me the blues.

Last week was completely crazy. I wrapped up two jobs that were both fun and challenging. And maybe that’s why I have the Monday blues. I’ve come off a design high and I guess this is how a crack-head feels after a good score and buzz. I have a lot of friends in the same field as I, and when we talk about these moments, we laugh and say “feast or famine!!!!” Luckily, I’ve been on the feast train lately, while many of my friends and colleagues have been on the famine bus as of late. But, no matter what side of the fence we’re on, there’s always that underlying fear of “oh crap, what if the phone doesn’t ring?” or “what if that’s it for the year?” I’ve had to explain many times to people in other “safe” professions that “even if I made $10,000 in one month, I’d still squirrel it away in fear that no work would come in for a year!”

I’m being completely silly because I know that I’ll survive no matter what. I was raised with a tight work ethic and have done everything from interior design to painting rooms of houses, to being a personal assistant to production work.

I had a really fulfilling conversation a few nights ago with a friend and her long-term friend, both of whom have worked for over 40 combined years in the film biz in LA. It was really interesting to hear them talk, over dinner and drinks prior to a movie. Currently, their industry is facing a strike — similar to the writer’s strike of a few months back, but now it’s the actors union that faces shutdown. The industry is tense currently in LA — or at least everyone is holding their breath in preparations for a worse case scenario. Anyway, what I took away from their conversation is that no matter what, if you do good work and build great relationships with people, you will survive the tough times.

So, back to my freak out about my Monday blues. When these moods strike, I usually gravitate to the type of work I call “making my own shoes” — which is a play on words regarding “The cobblers children have no shoes” — in these situations, I tend to focus and work on my own stuff — my own marketing materials, and in this case today, I went back to archiving my own photos from childhood. That work always challenges me in the areas of photo retouching. Some of these photos have terrible exposure and it really makes me brush up on making something great from something lackluster. I really dig doing my own stuff… somehow it centers me. And even though the freakouts start the madness of my own production work, I’m thankful for the time to focus on the little tasks that make me happy.

 

Summer Work 2008 July 11, 2008

I wrote in an earlier post about my summer endeavors — gardening and archiving photos. I do actually design for a living – I work for myself, by myself – and here’s my accounting of a few of the projects that have highlighted my summer of 2008.

CHIP GREENE PERFORMING SONGWRITER ADVERTISEMENT I have a really talented singer/songwriter friend here in Nashville, Chip Greene. I met Chip through another friend, Dave of Nashville Feed. In addition to being super talented in a musical fashion, Chip is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met and he’s easy on the eyes as well. Chip called me one day to request my design services to create an ad for him to be published in Performing Songwriter Magazine. Chip performs often here in Nashville – as well, he’s recently completed show dates in Memphis at the Hi-Tone as well as New York City’s legendary Bitter End. Below, is the ad I created for Chip. And be sure to check out his website for music, show dates and all other musical goodness.

ADVENTURE SCIENCE CENTER – MEMBERSHIP BROCHURE We are very blessed here in Nashville to have The Adventure Science Center in our backyard. The fine folks over there contacted me to redesign their 2008 Membership Benefit Brochure to highlight the addition of the Sudekum Planetarium. The new planetarium is a huge coup for Nashville — the ASC website describes it better than I: At the center of the new Sudekum Planetarium is the GOTO Chiron optical star projector that fills the dome with more than 6.5 million stars (the previous star ball projected 2,500). This breathtakingly realistic night sky is combined with a Digistar 3, high-definition, full-dome system that projects images and animations of the wonders of the universe from horizon to horizon. No other planetarium in the country offers the seamless integration of these two technologies. The gently sloping seating and powerful 5.1 surround sound system give the visitors to the Sudekum a unique, immersive and exhilarating experience. If you have kids, or am just a full grown space-related geek like me, consider membership to the ASC. You can learn more at their website here. Meanwhile, below are images from the ASC’s new membership brochure I designed.

TENNESSEE ANIMAL RESOURCE CENTER – LOGOS The Tennessee Animal Resource Center is staffed by some really caring people who generously donate their time to the quality of life, rescue and adoption of our furry friends. From the TARC website: The Tennessee Animal Resource Center (The ARC) was established as a 501(c )3 nonprofit organization in 2006 by a group of women dedicated to ending the pain and suffering caused by the pet overpopulation problem. Coming from a variety of professional and personal backgrounds, this dedicated board has developed a unique model designed to assist and train animal welfare agencies while promoting and funding spay and neuter efforts across the State of Tennessee. The ladies at TARC contacted me to design some logos for their cause. These included the TARC logo itself and the logo for their 2008 Spay It Forward Conference. The ladies were a joy to work with and I admire them for their hard work and tenacity when it comes to the welfare of cats and dogs. Thanks to all of my wonderful clients, past and present, for making my working life so fullfilling! And, for more examples of work from my day gig, click over there to the right, on my sidebar — there is a link that says “My Art” and that will direct you to my website with more design from the past.

 

Photoshop Express – a FREE web version of Photoshop March 27, 2008

THIS is badass — Adobe Systems, the fine folks who brought us Photoshop, have just launched a basic version of the popular photo editing software online for FREE.

From the Associated Press:
“While Photoshop is designed for trained professionals, Adobe says Photoshop Express, which it launched in a “beta” test version, is easier to learn. User comments will be taken into account for future upgrades.


Photoshop Express will be completely Web-based so consumers can use it with any type of computer, operating system and browser. And, once they register, users can get to their accounts from different computers.”

I haven’t tried this out, and probably won’t as I already own the full version of Photoshop and am an unabashed and unapologetic Flickr fanatic. But lots of people will have a whole new world open up for them, as Photoshop is a monster. There is truly no other software that compares to it.  Of course this is Adobe hoping users will upsize to their $99 Photoshop Elements (or whatever it’s called) version. However, it’s damn good marketing and good for Adobe’s Feng Sui. But the real winners will be all those people who want to edit and tweak their photos for free & for that reason, I think this is fantastic news.

And anyone who tries it out ; I’d love to know the thoughts on the capabilities.