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Spreading Wings: from the Guild to the ico-D Board

Posted by Guest on October 24, 2017

by Lara Kisielewska

The Graphic Artists Guild’s Advocacy Liaison Rebecca Blake was elected to the ico-D Executive Committee October 16th and will serve as International Treasurer. It’s the culmination of years of work; Blake has been the Guild’s representative to ico-D since 2007. She also became directly involved with ico-D, first by serving on the organization’s Audit Committee, and later by heading their National Design Policy workgroup. I interviewed Blake to ask why she sees ico-D as being an important part of the Guild’s portfolio of activity.  

Q: What is ico-D and how did the Guild first get involved?

Ico-D is the International Council of Design, a global umbrella organization for design associations, which constitute its professional membership. Essentially, it’s an association of other organizations around the globe that are like the Guild. When we first joined ico-D in 2007, the organization was called icograda – they changed their name in 2014. We had a provisional membership in 2006, and in 2007 were invited to join for full membership.

Q: Why was it important for the Guild to join?

At that time, the Guild’s executive director and National President felt it was important for the Guild to become involved internationally, since increasingly so many of the issues our members were facing were global – spec practices, infringement, and the commoditization of design and illustration. Icograda (or ico-D) supports raising the awareness and value of design, as well as best practices. That includes being solidly anti-spec. It was a foregone conclusion that we would join them, so the Guild board voted to pursue membership. I was asked to attend the General Assembly where the Guild was welcomed to full membership as the Guild’s representative. That was in Havana, Cuba, in 2007 – of course I said yes!

Q: Ico-D seems to meet all around the globe. Where else have you attended their meetings? 

The General Assemblies (basically in-person membership meetings) take place in different regions so that members from different parts of the globe have the opportunity to play host. I’ve been to General Assemblies in Cuba, Beijing, China, Tapei, Taiwan, Montréal, Canada (twice!), and Gwangju, Korea. Usually the General Assemblies are associated with larger design conferences, which are often organized so that the member delegates can visit local exhibitions, do studio tours, and visit design institutions. It’s a fascinating peek into the design sector in the host country. 

ico-d meeting materials

At ico-D General Assemblies, representatives sit in order of country (and sometimes that place setting includes cool swag!).

Q: How does ico-D membership benefit the Guild?

The travel is a lovely side benefit, but it’s icing on the cake. The crucial thing we get out of ico-D membership is a global perspective on what’s happening in our industry. That’s why I agreed to head the National Design Policy workgroup. It has entailed hours and hours of work, but the perspective I gleaned from it was invaluable, and it’s information the Guild board can use in formulating a more nuanced response to policy and issues. 

For example, one of my ico-D colleagues from Indonesia has spoken quiet openly about the struggles her design association has had in educating local designers on how detrimental speculative practices are. In her country, designers can and do earn a decent living from logo mills and crowd-sourcing platforms – exactly the business practices that are driving down the earning power of US designers and illustrators. Her struggle is in communicating what a zero-sum game speculative practices are for designers in her country; that business model consistently drives wages lower and lower, and eventually designers in her country will be struggling to make ends meet from those platforms as well.

Q: So what made you decide to run for the ico-D board?

It wasn’t anything I ever thought I’d do. Many of the ico-D board members are quite accomplished and well recognized; I’m a very average designer for the United States. But I realized the Guild has given me some experience that will be valuable to ico-D. The Guild is really involved in “in-the-trenches” advocacy work – working on legislative issues and policy in a way many other associations in other countries aren’t, just because of how the political structure in the United States leads to activist associations. 

On top of that, I had been on ico-D’s Audit Committee for three years. (That’s a committee that reports back to the membership of ico-D on how the organization’s finances are being managed.) When the Treasurer’s slot opened, I thought I might run for it, since the Audit Committee experience has given me a lot of insight into ico-D’s finances. I contacted some of the ico-D leadership to ask what they thought, and spoke with the Guild’s National President and Executive Committee. They were all very encouraging, so I decided to run.

ico-D board 2017-2019

ico-D 2017-2019 Board: (left to right) Jonathon Strebly (President Elect – Canada), Tyra von Zweigberk (Secretary – Sweden), Rebecca Blake (USA – Treasurer), ZInna Nizar (Vice President – Indonesia), Daniela Piscetelli (Vice President – Italy –), Zachary Haris Ong (President – Malaysia), David Grossman (Immediate Past President – Israel), Cihangir Istek (Vice President – Japan), Desmond Laubscher (Vice President – South Africa), and Ziyuan Wang (Vice President – China)

Q: What do you hope your involvement on the ico-D board will bring to the Guild?

First of all, I hope it continues to give us that valuable global perspective, particularly on speculative practices. We need to engage respectfully with our international peers to understand the cultural differences in how designers run their businesses. Secondly, there really needs to be a unified voice from the international design sector to counter how technology is being used to degrade our industry – by facilitating infringement, by creating platforms that legitimize detrimental business practices such as spec work, and by eroding the respect for copyrights. I’m hoping that ico-D becomes a platform for the Guild to unite with other design associations in educating on best practices.

Also, being able to meet with other design associations and share war stories and advice is just invaluable. We’re all struggling with how to engage our members, reach out to new members, revive our mission, and strategize to keep up with change. Hearing how other associations are struggling makes us feel less alone in our struggles. And hearing how other associations are thriving gives us a model on how we can grow and evolve.

Lastly, hearing about what graphic artists – designers and illustrators – are contending with in other countries gives us a heads-up on issues we have to keep an eye on. It helps us think proactively about what our members are going through, and devise creative ways to serve them.

Q: So what’s the future for the Guild and ico-D?

Hopefully it will continue to be a long and fruitful relationship! Since I’m now on the ico-D board, someone else from the Guild board needs to step up to the plate to be the rep to ico-D. We have a number of people on the Guild National Board interested in doing so – some relatively new, some seasoned Board members, and all people I think very highly of. As for how involved that rep will be, it’s really up to them. Chances are that they won’t be asked to run a work group as a new representative – there’s a lot to learn when you first get involved with ico-D. But in my experience, if you jump in, there is so much to get out of it, both for the Guild and personally. 

A Meeting of (Like) Minds: Guild National Board Meeting in Atlanta

Posted by Rebecca Blake on October 23, 2017

From that high point, we hunkered down to two full days of work, with the entire board as well as long-time member and invited guest Ed Shems in attendance. In fact, our National Treasurer Diane Barton, unable to come to Atlanta, attended the entire Board Meeting via Skype, glued to her computer. (That’s dedication!) The first day was occupied with reports: on office administration, finances, advocacy, and ongoing initiatives. (Fortunately a LOT of coffee was served.) During the second day we got down to the exciting business: coming up with new projects and strategizing on existing initiatives. 

The Guild’s National Board – Executive Committee, Regional Representatives, and Administrators – returned to its tradition of holding an annual in-person meeting. It was a wonderful opportunity for a group of individuals who typically meet virtually to connect, brainstorm, and get caught up on Guild activities and initiatives in person. The meeting took place in Atlanta, Georgia, over two days, and was kicked off with a wonderful reception at B.142 Bar and Lounge, organized by Southern Regional Rep (and Atlanta resident) Yanique DaCosta.

Diane Barton and Bill Morse

Left: Even though Diane Barton had to attend virtually, she still got her own name tag; Right: Secretary Bill Morse snapped a photo to record an ambitious brainstorming.

A key takeaway from the meeting was the value our new board members bring to the board. Each has a unique perspective and input into the direction that the Guild should take, bringing fresh energy to the organization. More importantly, the newer board members increase our  diversity and cultural understanding – particularly on how to make our message relevant to a larger community of graphic artists. 

Below, National Board, administrators, and Ed (left to right): Dawn Mitchell (At Large), Haydn Adams (Immediate Past President), Cindy Hardy (Central Administrator), Ryan McKay (Western Region Rep), Yanique DaCosta (Southern Region Rep), Bill Morse (Recording Secretary), Kim Bateman (Western Administrator), Lara Kisielewska (President), Rebecca Blake (Advocacy Liaison), Diane Barton (on laptop – Financial Secretary), Todd LeMieux (At Large), Paula Hinkle (National Administrator), Brandon Kovac (Eastern Region Rep), Simone Jemmot (Eastern Region Administrator), Nicole Fleming-Hamlin (Southern Region Administrator), Caroline Wirth (New England Administrator), and Ed Shems (guest).

 Guild National Board

Call to Action: Ask Your Representative to Co-Sponsor Copyright Small Claims Legislation!

Posted by Advocacy Liaison on October 09, 2017

The Guild is calling on graphic artists to support the CASE Act, the Copyright Enforcement in Small Claims Act. Currently, small copyright holders – individual designers and illustrators – are disenfranchised from the copyright system. Copyright cases must be heard in federal court, and the cost of bringing a copyright infringement lawsuit forward is beyond the means of most graphic artists. On top of that, many lawyers won’t take small infringement cases – a survey conducted by the American Bar Association indicated that less than one-third of IP attorneys would take an infringement case of less than $30,000. In fact, copyright is so difficult for small rights holders to enforce that it’s been called a “right with no remedy.”

To address this, Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Tom Marino (R-PA), as well as Representatives Doug Collins (R-GA), Lamar Smith (R-TX), Judy Chu (D-CA), and Ted Lieu (D-CA), introduced H.R. 3945, the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act of 2017. The act calls for the establishment of a small claims tribunal to which individual creators can bring small copyright claims – ones valued at $30,000 or less. This new tribunal would provide an easy and streamlined process, is 100% voluntary with opt-out provisions, and is inexpensive. 

It’s imperative that individual artists come out in support of this bill! We need a groundswell of support from individuals to show Congress that there is grassroots support for the CASE act. We need more representatives to co-sponsor the bill. Click here to be taken to an advocacy page on copyrightdefense.com. You can choose to either telephone or email your representative. Copyrightdefense even has a field for you to find your representatives, and has provided talking point and a sample email. 

Copyright Defense contact graphic

The Guild Supports the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act

Posted by Rebecca Blake on October 05, 2017

The Graphic Artists Guild welcomes the introduction of HR 3945, the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2017 or CASE Act. The Act was introduced by Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Tom Marino (R-PA) and is co-sponsored by Doug Collins (R-GA), Lamar Smith (R-TX), Judy Chu (D-CA), and Ted Lieu (D-CA). The CASE Act seeks to establish a small copyright claims tribunal within the Copyright Office. Copyright holders could present claims with potential damages of $30,000 or less in a low-cost, simplified process.

Bringing an infringement lawsuit in federal court is prohibitively expensive for most individual creators, and many lawyers are reluctant to take on cases with potential awards less than $30,000. Additionally, infringers capitalize on the failure of most individual copyright holders to register their work, as well as their limited resources to pursue a lengthy and costly lawsuit. The procedure proposed in CASE would provide individual rights holders a  voluntary and affordable means to enforce their rights.

Working with a coalition of visual artists associations, the Guild has long advocated for a small copyright claims tribunal. The coalition, whose members include the American Photographic Artists (APA), American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), Digital Media Licensing Association (DMLA), National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) and Professional Photographers of America (PPA), issued a press release in support of the CASE Act. The Guild is also encouraging graphic artists and other creators to contact their Representatives and ask them to co-sponsor the bill.

The Guild Joins Photographers in Meeting with Rep. Hakeem Jeffries

Posted by Rebecca Blake on September 19, 2017

Guild National President Lara Kisielewska and Advocacy Liaison Rebecca Blake joined representatives from ASMP, NPPA, and APA in meeting Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) September 15th. The meet-and-greet was organized by ASMP Executive Director Tom Kennedy and occurred at Photoville, the Brooklyn-based photography event. The Guild representatives took the opportunity to thank Rep. Jeffries for his work in introducing a bill to establish a copyright small claims tribunal, and discussed with him the blow rampant copyright infringement inflicts upon illustrators and graphic artists. 

The Graphic Artists Guild, ASMP, NPPA, and APA are members of a Coalition of Visual Arists. Other association members are DMLA, PPA, and NANPA. Working together, the Coalition provides its members a unified voice on issues of concern to visual artists.

Thank you to Todd Maisel of NPPA for use of the photos. 

Advocacy LIaison Rebecca Blake and ASMP Executive Director Tom Kennedy (far right) listen as Jeffries makes a point.

Guild Advocacy Liaison meeting Jeffries, photo by Todd Maisel

Jeffries speaking with representatives from photography associations ASMP, APA, and NPPA.

Jeffries speaks with representatives from NPPA, ASMP, APA.

Jeffries took some time to take in the “Charlotsville” exhibit, showcasing the work of photojounalists. 

Jeffries at Photoville


All photos © Todd Maisel. Used with permission.

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