I’m a graduate of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh (AIP) and I am, believe it or not, proud of the things I learned there, the instructors I was taught by, and the folks that I graduated with. I say believe it or not because these days AIP is broken. As is most of the rest of the for-profit education system.
The whole idea of “for-profit” education, (i.e. someone making their living off of people trying to receive an education), is pretty much morally bankrupt to begin with so I guess we can only expect, that in the last decade, when profit, greed, and personal gain, seemed to be spiraling out-of-control that such an industry would be leading the way in the charge to maximize profits at the expense of the people they were purporting to serve.
Now to be honest there is still a strange dichotomy at these schools. Between those that they hire to educate who actually (for the most part) seem to want to educate people and really want them to succeed and the corporate greed that permeates the administrative staff where the mantra is clearly – squeeze them for money and do the absolute minimum to keep the government and regulators off our backs. I’ve written and bitched about all of this many times before and I only bring it up again because I read a disturbing article on Linked In (which you may not be able to access but that is) also available here.
Sinking To New Lows
The article is about Crowd Sourcing for design. In the article the author quotes a slimebag who is making his living off of conning starry-eyed young designers into doing spec work while his company acts as a middle man and collects on the end results of hundreds of artists submitting work for jobs that they’ll never be paid to do. In return the few that land a job are given free legal advise and an assurance they’ll get paid (eventually) while the 109 other creatives starve to death.
Think of American Idol for each and every design job from a logo to a photo shoot to the design for a new dress. Though the contestants on American Idol have low overhead. They might have bought a new outfit, got their hair and makeup done. A photo-shoot can cost hundreds of dollar, a complex logo may take a week and thousands of dollars worth of programs and computing power and not being paid for the work that they do should never be an option.
For those not in a creative field spec work is work that you do prior to being paid, with the expectation of being paid if and only if you really wow the client. Often spec work is done cattle-call style where you are pitted against other creatives and asked to work for free in the hopes that the overlords will reward you for your skills. The client has no obligation to pay you for the hard work that you’ve done and in some creative fields they may even steal acceptable amounts of your work or use your work as the basis for what they ask some other schmuck to turn in for minimal payment.
Spec work is a huge problem in the industries that it touches because it causes new creatives to suffer and potentially starve while working for free and upsets the normal way of doing business which is – you find a product or service you like, you commission it, and you pay for it.
Now there have been some aspects of spec work that have been around for years – a good example is some stock photo agencies. When working for a stock agency one shoots a ton of work, ships it to them, they put a book together and these days a website where publishers can go to them to find a selection of HIGH QUALITY work from tested, agency approved and vetted, photographers. Some photographers made a lot of money off of shooting stock.
Micro-stock agencies sprung up like weeds in the last decade and let nearly anyone with a digital camera show off their photos and then sell them for pennies. Overnight the bottom fell out of the stock industry. Why pay for quality work when we can get work that isn’t half-bad for pennies by just spending a few more minutes searching through a collection that houses more work. Never mind the fact that much of it is of lower quality and will never be bought or used for anything.
While stock agencies were not always staffed with and run by people with purely altruistic intentions they did have a business model wherein the nature of the business meant that everyone succeeded together. The photographer was reviewed before being accepted into the agency, when they sold a photo they were paid a solid commission, the agency took their share that they earned by vetting the photographer and compiling the work of said shooter, with the work of other top-quality photographers.
If a photographer couldn’t put together a consistent book of quality work they were not going to be hired by an agency. If they couldn’t hack it at any other job in the photo world they would soon find that out too and go back to doing whatever it is that their broken-heart was doing before they found out they were a hack.
The article in question calls crowd sourcing – design by democracy.
Design by democracy? Let’s get some things straightened out here. Clearly the person who penned the article is either being disingenuous or has spent zero time working in committees or attending corporate meetings. There is nothing that hurts design more than a democratic process.
Democracy kills creativity
While it’s important to have creatives work with creative directors, it is the death of creativity when we leave design up to the masses to be censored, dissected, disemboweled, and left up to “the committee” to be discussed by those so removed from the process and often so removed from any ounce of creativity that they cannot see how their ideas destroy the integrity and ring the creativity right out of the project they are tasked with.
It is the difference between the average public art and that of top-graffiti artists like Banksy. Whereas Banksy designs statements, works of art, and creative masterpieces of a high artistic integrity most public art (done by committee) is bland, contrives, and pedestrian. It is at the whim of the property owner, the state, and the appointed committee and so must be without controversy, must be easy to understand, must be bland and emotionless.
That is what democracy does to creativity – it is the anti-creative and it should be. Democracy is a form of government. By the way – for those who don’t know, we do not live in a democracy. Democracy is crowd driven and mob rule. The loudest get their way and the most powerful slime their way to the top, manipulating the masses, and profit off of the minority groups that they keep underfoot while the majority revels in being the same as most, without diversity, and common.
It’s not just that the article supports these things as being “good for” creativity and the creative industries that is most disturbing.
What is Most Disturbing
What is most disturbing is the fact that the author and by extension the whole of the Art Institutes, the whole of EDMC, supports the notion of worthless middlemen exploiting the creative workers while adding absolutely no value. In the article they quote one Mike Samson, the co-founder of a dirt-bag company named crowdSpring. A company that is the needle to crowd-sourcing’s lethal injection. Mr. Samson is quoted as saying the following:
“Now talented newcomers can compete with established professionals based solely on ability.”
Or as I read:
“Talented newcomers can starve while working their asses off to create work they don’t get any pay for, while myself and my company collect and continue to encourage them to starve. “
This is just another way for unscrupulous companies to get creative work without paying for it. It means that ALL creative will have to do more work defending invoices and quotes, it means that “newcomers” will struggle even more for longer, and it means that filth like Mike Samson have sunk to a new low in the race to be the most useless of middle men.
You Just Keep Me Hanging On
There are a ton of people in this country that buy scratch-off lottery tickets. They keep doing so because they win two dollars here, five dollars there. Encouraging this kind of spec-work is no different that encouraging the poor to keep wasting money on scratch-off lottery tickets. In fact it’s worse because while the lottery benefits the elderly these con-artists are conning artists while they fill their own pockets.
Leave it to Goldman Sachs backed EDMC to support even more ludicrous ideas that will only ensure they maximize their enrollments and profits at the expense of the students they trick into believing the hype spewed like an infectious puss from the foul mouthes of Mr. Mike Samson and his despicable kind who encourage this idiotic way of raping designers and stealing money from the pockets of workers slaving away in industries with slim enough profit margins. While their biggest supporters (EDMC) has already installed a siphon on their future earnings (by way of student loan debt).