The future of design is not looking good at all. As a matter of fact, the very industry that we lovingly chose to be a part of is beginning to show stress fractures which can mean the end for most designers here in the United States and other countries around the world.
So what is causing our beloved industry to begin falling apart and what can be done to reverse this inevitable nose-dive into the abyss? The solution is seemingly simple, but implementing it requires the involvement and partnership of our industry as a whole.
The first problem: Outsourcing.
Simply put, the import of cheap products and services from abroad continue to pose great challenges to our livelihood. From a CPA that handles your taxes from the Philippines for $7, to your ability to buy 100 stuffed animals from China for only $12, the “Walmart Effect” is putting most small businesses out of business as we struggle to compete with ridiculously low prices.
I recently saw an email from a company based in Pakistan who advertised a business startup package for only $499. This package included the design of 50 “custom” logos, 10 “custom” stationery layouts, 5 “custom” website layouts, 5 “custom” brochure layouts and 5 “custom” postcard layouts to select from. All came with unlimited changes to meet your satisfaction, and you were even given the option to cancel anytime if you were not satisfied.
Realize that the cost of living in Pakistan equates to $2 per day. The cost of living here in the States is closer to $150 per day. So while the designers abroad can live off of a client’s $500 investment for close to a year, the same budget will only last us three and a half days here in the United States.
This practice of importing design must stop. I’m not against outsourcing completely, but if it results in our industry being destroyed by cheap templated work that obviously has no research behind it, then it should be outlawed. Of course there are no rules and regulations to assist with this, and this is a free country, but if more designers educated their clients about the pitfalls of using outsourced help, it would eventually make a difference for everyone else.
The second problem: Contests.
Due to heavily discounted design rates offered by overseas firms, companies in the United States are beginning to forget the real value of design. Nowadays, they see design as something that’s so readily available that paying for it is almost unheard of. Everyone knows a cousin’s sister’s wife’s son that has Photoshop and claims to be a designer. Heck if this kid is out of town, the next best option would be to sift through your junk email box looking for clearance prices on website and logo design.
It’s sad, but as companies see less value in design, they see you and I as hungry, desperate people that are willing to work for peanuts. This mentality has led to a highly unethical practice called “contests” where companies ask as many designers as they can to partake in this free-for-all design frenzy. No, they won’t pay you for your time or ideas… they just want to see who impresses them the most, and offer one lucky winner a small sum of money for days of work and creativity.
Such practices are literally killing our industry, devaluing the creativity that was once so precious, and bringing the price of our services to those offered by India.
As tempting as any work is nowadays, the only solution to get out of this whirlpool of demise is to stop participating in such contests. Stop being a free resource to huge companies with million dollar marketing budgets. Stop selling yourself short just thinking of short term gratification, and begin seeing the long-term damage that this is causing.
We can’t reason with arrogant companies that see nothing wrong with these contests, but we surely can make it more difficult for them to fish for free if we all took a stand and refused to participate.