The Cost of Good Design: Part 1 by Colleen Jolly
Posted in Latest Updates on April 02, 2012 by Alex
The Cost of Good Design: Part 1
The best things in life are free, right?
The Project Management Institute (PMI) for 50 years championed the use of the Project Triangle or the ‘triple constraint’ theory that of three major categories: scope, time and cost (or to most of us ‘good, fast and cheap’) you cannot change one side without the others being affected. For example, you may create something quickly and of high quality but it will not be cheap; you may create something that is cheap and done quickly but it will not be of high quality; or you could create something that is high quality and done cheaply but it will take forever to complete.
Many people are still looking for the seemingly unattainable trifecta where everything is good, fast AND still cheap. It is this desire, particularly in a bad to just “ok” economy, which has led to several new ways of sourcing design work.
Speculative Work or simply “spec work” is a general term used to describe any work that is either done for free with the hope of being paid that may include entering a contest, pro-bono or volunteer work or another type of work done without promise (contractually or otherwise) of being compensated. The benefits of spec work for the designer can vary widely between fame and potential fortune to simply gaining experience or supporting a charitable cause or group that otherwise could not afford to hire professional expertise.
Crowdsourcing in general is the act of sourcing tasks traditionally performed by specific individuals or groups to anyone through an open call usually via the internet and has its roots in the open source software movement. It has been applied to several industries but is most commonly now associated with marketing and graphic design. The benefits of crowdsourcing can include a cheaper product, a wider lens/experiences to draw from and engaging your customer in a new way.
The danger from these types of engagement for people employed in the media arts is obvious and includes potential loss or decrease in work, devaluation/commoditization of work product and (while this sounds extreme) the extinction of media art as a viable career path.
The danger to clients in these situations is less obvious. On the surface it seems like a great idea. Sure, there may be some really terrible logo or website designs to choose from but out of a pool of potentially thousands of entrants to a contest or crowdsource open call there has got to be some great idea to be used.
AIGA, the professional association for design with more than 20,000 members in the US, warns that spec work and even crowdsourcing can have two main risks for the client:
1. Compromised quality. The most important element of design is the research and “thoughtful consideration of alternatives” that are specific to a client, their situation and their intended audience. Often spec work because it is uncompensated, is done quickly without much thought. Crowdsourcing websites provide limited or no interaction between a client and their designers, which prohibits the potential to find other solutions. You may think you know exactly what you want but working with a professional may help you uncover what is more appropriate for your brand, your audience and even for your budget than what you originally thought.
2. Legal risks. If your company stays small you may never be sued for copyright infringement or trademark issues. However, if you succeed it is far cheaper to have spent a little time initially with a reputable professional or firm who can confirm that you have unique materials and that the right to use your marketing or design intellectual property is actually with you and not with a third party.
The readily available, cost effective tools to create beautiful designs combined with a down economy have muddied the difference between professionals and hobbyists or amateurs. This is not necessarily a bad thing but those assisting you in your business pursuits should be compensated fairly and you as the client should have an experience that is appropriate to your needs.
What compensation is “fair”? And how should you pick a resource that is “appropriate”?
More on both of those topics in Part 2.
Colleen Jolly, PPF.APMP, a 12 year proposal veteran, manages a professional visual communications company twice listed on the Inc. 5,000 list of fastest growing US-based companies – 24 Hour Company – with offices in the US and UK. Colleen is very active in the APMP including acting as Secretary for the International APMP as well as of the NCA chapter. She was named an APMP Fellow in 2010 and additionally is Layout Editor for the APMP Journal; regularly contributing articles. She is a frequent worldwide speaker on creative and general business topics, and has spoken at most APMP events around the world. She holds a BA from Georgetown University and is an award-winning artist and businesswoman—most recently featured in Northern Virginia magazine's 'Top 10 Entrepreneurs Under 30'. She is active in leadership roles in arts and women’s non-profit organizations and has been published five times in a women’s entrepreneurial calendar.
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