Incite by Design

Caustic visions and shared thoughts on design, marketing, creativity, philanthropy, pop culture and business philosophy by Toronto design firm, Ricksticks Inc.


A compromising position

We just got wind of an event which started in Vancouver, and has migrated to Montreal.

Called “Design and Dash”, it’s a 24 hour blitz which was held over this past weekend. Selected projects for non-profits are provided to volunteer designers. Over the subsequent 24 hours the designers are expected to provide finished pieces.

I have a problem with this.

Now, volunteer work for charity is one thing. We do a lot of work for non-profits and, with the exception of the invoice, we treat them like any other client. There is a rigorous process, including options for and feedback from the organization.

However, in graphic design we are constantly battling with the perception that our work somehow carries less value and is fun, so we should want to work for free, and the opportunity to work for someone should be a reward in itself. I doubt plumbers have this problem. This contest gives no indication of process, or of invoicing. But wait, it’s free you say? Yes, but the organization should know the value of what they are receiving. Otherwise, it can be as damaging to our profession as spec work.

There was a great discussion on ideasonideas a while back about spec work and there were two really great comments that put it very well:

I think the integrety (sic) of the profession would be in better shape if non-profits and charaties (sic) would ask for help rather than dumb down the process by holding an event that shares more in common with hitting pinatas (sic) and eating the most hot dogs than crafting an experience or improving a process though creative and critical thinking. Designers deserve more dignity than this. – “Greg”

I do *alot* (sic) of work for charities, but I don’t do it on spec. I treat working for charities the same as working for any other organization — I do a project bid and follow the same rigorous planning and design process. The big difference is that I often donate some, most, or all of my proceeds back to the non-profit — the exact amount is put right in to the contract up front. They then know the value of the work that I have done for them and I get a tax break. Win/win. Just giving it away is plain bad business practice. – “Tim”

Of course, they weren’t talking about the Design and Dash event specifically. (See original context here.)

From what little information is available, this design marathon seems to give little to no opportunity to the client to provide feedback in process, and the only reward for the designer is "an opportunity to break free and stretch their creative muscles as they give back to the community." There is never a shortage of non-profits looking for probono work, without forcing both parties into a compromised position which benefits neither parties involved, nor the quality of the work.