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Best Typography Websites Showcases Fonts in Action

Posted by Rebecca Blake on November 12, 2014

Designer Jeremiah Shoaf showcases webfonts in action in his ongoing blog series, “The Best Typography-Based Sites…” Every month, Shoaf showcases his favorite websites, discusses the typography behind each, and provides links to both the websites and the foundries featuring the webfonts. The series is avaluable tool for designers — the web fonts are shown in action, and a wide range of websites are covered. For example, “The Best Typography-Based Sites of October 2014,” covers sites created for a design and illustration studio, a law firm, a restaurant, and a magazine.

The blog is hosted on TypeWolf, Shoaf’s website determined to “help designers choose the perfect font for their next design project.” (Earlier articles in “The Best…” series are hosted on Type and Grids.) For those who need a daily inspiration, Typewolf publishes a “Site of the Day” as well. A comprehensive resources page includes learning resources, links to purchasing and hosting webfonts, foundries and type designer, blogs, forums, organizations, and books.

Below: The Best Typography-Based Sites of October included this elegant design for Violaine & Jérémy, utilizing Stanley, Regular, and Caslon typefaces. Image used with permission.

Violaine and Jeremy interface, featured Best Typography-Based Sites of October

So What Kind of Logo Can You Get for $5?

Posted by Rebecca Blake on November 11, 2014

Fiverr advertisementSacha Greif wondered just that when he heard about the bargain basement job site Fiverr, which connects buyers with sellers willing to provide their services – from business plans to programming to creative services – for only $5. Fiverr has been aggressively promoting their design services, exhorting businesses to “put an end to being ripped off” by paying $100 for a logo. In contrast, the website promises “unique design, fast and affordable.”

Grief had reason be intrigued. In  2011, he started an online service, Folyo, which connects businesses to vetted freelance designers. However, unlike Fiverr, Folyo places the budgets for the services provided by their designers at between $1,000 and $10,000, depending on the project.  Fiverr’s promise of “a custom design project” for only $5 seemed impossible. To investigate the quality of work he would receive, Greif created a fictitious company, SkyStats, and went to Fiverr to find a designer to create a logo.

As described in his article on Medium and on his blog, Grief noticed that the quality of the designers’ work quickly dropped off as he browsed through their portfolios: “…the quality would suddenly drop after a few pages, quickly going from sleek, glossy renders to amateurish, clumsy clip-art…these designers were appropriating other designers’ work, and passing it off as their own.” A Google reverse image search confirmed his suspicions. (Fiverr designers have a reputation for stealing work; Jeff Fisher of Logomotives has long been documenting Fiverr designer ripoffs on Twitter.) Greif also discovered that the claim of a $5 logo was a bit misleading; requesting “add-ons” such as source files or copyrights to the work added a whopping $20-40 to the fee.

Greif finally settled on three designers who portfolios appeared to carry only original work. The designers reassured him that they would only deliver original concepts. The initial logo designs ranged, in Greif’s opinion, from “bad to surprisingly good”, and he posted the results on his blog. That’s the point at which the story became complicated. Commentators on the blog soon reported that the work of two of the designers – the best work – was ripped off, and posted links to stock agencies carrying the graphics. In fact, the origin of one of the designs, a dimensional cloud graphic, is still up in the air – no pun intended. The work appears both in the Dribbble and Behance portfolios of a Russian designer, and on the stock image site, Dreamstime.

Greif contacted Fiverr to complain that their designers are selling infringed work, and not surprisingly, never heard back. (Fiverr’s terms state that services which engage in copyright or trademark infringement may be removed from the site, and the sellers of such services may be banned.) Greif is remarkably sanguine about cut-rate logos, comparing them to fast-food burgers. But his experience with Fiverr has soured him: “…people trying to deceive you by passing other people’s work as their own, and stock art as original work is another matter altogether. Sadly, this is the kind of incentives you create when you drive price down to such an extent.

Fiverr supplied logo 1 and original source

Fiverr supplied logo #2 and original source

Fiverr supplied logo #3 with original stock image

Guild Executive Director on Speculative Practices at Icograda Professional Platform Meeting

Posted by Rebecca Blake on October 28, 2014

On October 25-26, the Guild attended Icograda’s first-ever Professional Platform Meeting in New York City, attended by representatives from over 14 countries. The meeting provided a structure for professional association members of Icograda to address common concerns in the industry. The Guild’s Executive Director Patricia McKiernan was asked to present to the international audience the Guild's stance on speculative practices. Her talk included examples of prominent crowd sourcing campaigns, such at those conducted by the Department of the Interior and the Obama for America Campaign, and described the Guild’s response. Following is the text of her presentation.

Photo © IcogradaFrom a general definition perspective, I am defining graphic art as a service that encompasses a multi-disciplinary approach to answering how a business entity, or society, approaches the structure of communicating what it represents to the world at large in a visual, structured form that is easily understood – if I legitimately engage the services of a graphic artist or firm, then who I’m trying to attract will understand who I am and engage in my business in a way that mutually attracts our needs. A happy collaboration for all with no spec work in sight.

As an organization, the Guild does not support spec work and looks at as an ethical question. The risk involved to the artist is the greatest – there is a risk of not being paid for the work, it takes time away from other possible worthwhile paying projects, and may incur expenses that are not reimbursable to the artist. As we all know, graphic art is a service, not a commodity, and requires a partnership with the client and the artist to deliver the product. Spec work does not foster that environment. There is invariably too little information available to do the work successfully.

Working on spec also has some legal issues, the main one being a copyright issue.  Work on spec doesn’t transfer any rights to the work — the graphic artist retains all the rights to it. Obviously, when spec work is submitted, the work is rarely returned and the possibility it will be used without compensating the graphic artist is real. Enforcing your right as a graphic artist once this happens is a huge undertaking, financially and time-wise, especially if you have not registered your copyright to the work.

Crowd-sourcing may be legal as a business model, but it is another form of spec work taken to an extreme, and far from ethical from the Guild’s perspective. We’re talking about devaluing the work of an entire profession in an incredibly public fashion. Crowd-sourcing sites encourage below market rates and treat graphic artists as an expendable commodity instead of highly trained professionals providing a genuine service.

If a client wants to own the copyright of the artwork created by a professional graphic artist, the value of that copyright is reflected in the fees charged. The below market rates encouraged by crowd-sourcing sites ignores the value of copyright and creates a perception within the business community that copyright doesn’t exist, has little value, or that a business hiring a graphic arts service owns everything the graphic artist produces.

In late 2011, the US Federal Department of the Interior crowd-sourced a logo project, probably because they thought it would appeal to the social media oriented designers (not necessarily an accurate perception), and is a prime example of how pervasive the trend is. We sent a letter to the Department of Interior and suggested that they do the math: if the DOI paid for every one of the designs submitted (over 279 submissions) each design would earn less than $5.37. We also pointed out that although the business models of crowd-sourcing logo mills are completely legal, they are considered highly unethical by the Graphic Artists Guild and the AIGA, and the Graphic Artists Guild expects higher ethical business practices from a U.S. Government agency and to hire a professional graphic designer that lives and works in the United States.

During the same year, the Obama For America Campaign to re-elect Obama, announced a design contest titled, “Art Works; A poster contest to support American jobs.” The alleged purpose of the contest was to create a poster to motivate people to support the President’s, American Jobs Act, as part of his then re-election strategy. The contest website read: "Obama For America is seeking poster submissions from artists across the country illustrating why we support President Obama's plan to create jobs now, and why we'll re-elect him to continue fighting for jobs for the next four years. Three winners will receive a framed edition of their poster signed by Barack Obama and a limited edition of the poster distributed by Sponsor (approximate retail value $195).” Yes, this was a crowd-sourced contest soliciting spec work from American artists for the purpose of promoting American legislation to create jobs. Naturally, we sent a letter pointing out the irony of a contest that doesn’t appropriately compensate the winner of a campaign to support American jobs.

I won’t go into every detail we pointed out in our response to the contest, except to say that during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the U.S. government sponsored a work program that valued artists enough to employ hundreds of them to make posters for what Franklin D. Roosevelt called, The New Deal, which included something called the Federal Art Project. Approximately 500 artists were hired by the Federal Art Project; more than 35,000 posters were designed and 2 million printed. Many of these posters are now part of the US Library of Congress collection. All of these artists were paid and given credit for their work.

One other area of concern that may not necessarily be looked at initially as spec work — although I am beginning to think it is the next generation of spec work, and crowd-sourcing certainly falls into this category— is the concept of mass digitization and what the Internet is creating besides the concept of community and knowledge as we discussed yesterday for the up and coming generation. Don’t get me wrong – community and knowledge is a good thing and I’m the first one to search for more community and knowledge online. It is part of what I do on a daily basis as Executive Director for the Guild.

Here’s the thing.

Mass digitization comes in many forms, and has created a commodity economy mindset where everything competes on pricing, i.e., how can I get it for less, perhaps even free, perhaps creating a revenue stream based on work that’s not mine – all shades of spec work.

Is a logo created by someone on fiverr.com truly a logo? When everyone and/or everything competes based only on pricing of mass digitized goods and services, it fosters an environment of competition that eventually guarantees a non-livable wage especially for the creators of original goods and services regardless of what country they live in. It also fosters an environment of infringement, whether willful of inadvertently, in order to compete and create in the fastest and cheapest way possible.

In the US, the economic contribution by graphic artists is felt in every industry. For example, the licensing industry generated $ 93.37 billion in revenue in 2011 for all 18 product categories tracked, according to The Licensing Letter, a US based organization that tracks licensing revenues across all categories. Think movie action figures, games/toys, sports figures, gifts and collectibles, apparel, pet products, novelty items, etc., and graphic artists create the foundation for that revenue.

All of us in this room know that everything we touch on a daily basis required the contribution of graphic artists to create order out of chaos. The irony is, despite the high public visibility of the works of graphic artists, the actual artist is invisible and seldom acknowledged for what he/she contributes to the economy, and society, at large — not just in the US, but for every country represented by Icograda, regardless of whether or not there is a design policy in place in a particular country.

So a here’s a legitimate question to ask, and it is a question we recently asked in a response to a US Copyright Office request for comments: Is the economy we want to create for the future on a global level based on a commodity mindset where everyone competes on pricing, i.e., how can I get it for less or perhaps even free?

The core issue for every conversation we are having this week-end is the value each creative member of this group brings to the world. Value and how it is defined is a highly individual viewpoint, which doesn’t mean it can’t be defined or questioned, although it can present some perplexing thought patterns.

We talk about education for both artists and buyers. And, yet, how do you educate someone, the buyer in particular, whose only concern is, “How cheap can I get this for?” It’s a challenging question and not necessarily easy to answer. When I get calls from buyers about fees and how little can they pay someone, I often ask the buyer, “How would you feel about people trying to pay for your product or service as cheaply as possible, leaving very little room to cover overhead, day-to-day living expenses, and never see any profit?” It is also a point I make when I talk with Congressional staff and Congressional committee members here in the US.

The global community may not have answers right now to the problems we face with spec work. And that just means we have a little more chaos then graphic artists may have a solution for, which means we get to play with what we are presented with — and isn’t playing with possibilities what graphic artists are trained to do? So let’s play with the possibilities of how the conversations we’re having here are intertwined with one another and maybe a solution will show itself.


Photo © Icograda. Used with permission.

Art Against Ebola: Illustrator Otto Steininger and Friends Respond to the Crisis

Posted by Rebecca Blake on October 21, 2014

Art Against Ebola print © Otto SteiningerAward winning illustrator Otto Steininger has rallied the talents of his colleagues in creating a means to generate funds supporting Ebola relief efforts. Art Against Ebola sells artwork created by a number of prominent artists, including Steven Guarnaccia, Melinda Beck, Edel Rodriguez, and Aya Kakeda. Twenty-one artists contributed illustrations of snake heads, which were combined onto a body spelling out “Ebola.” Proceeds from the sale of the artwork benefit Last Mile Health, an organization which provides training to health workers servicing remote villages in Liberia, one of the nations hardest hit by the Ebola crisis.

Artists Against Ebola is commendable, in that fees generated by sales of the artwork go directly to Last Mile Health. Interested buyers purchase the artwork by making a direct donation in the appropriate amount to the organization with Artists Against Ebola and the participating artist credited in the dedication. Individual prints of each head can be purchased for $75, and prints of the entire piece are available for either $350 (17”x17”) or $500 (24”x24”). The original artworkfor each head can also be purchased for $250.

While progress has been made in stemming the rate of infection, Ebola continues to take lives and destroy families. Organizations such as Last Mile Health provide crucial services in fighting the epidemic, and in rebuilding the fragile health care system in Liberia, already ravaged by years of civil strife. Steininger’s hope is that Art Against Ebola will raise much needed funds. With that in mind, a lovely piece of artwork seems to be the perfect Hannukah or Christmas gift this year.

Top right: Otto Steininger's print for Art Against Ebola; below: the 21-header serpent print.
© Otto Steininger. Used with permission


Art Against Ebola © Otto Steininger

Tax Court Ruling Supports Working and Teaching Artists

Posted by Rebecca Blake on October 17, 2014

IRS logoThe New York Times reported in early October on a tax decision that could have wide-reaching affects. For years, fine artist Susan Crile has earned an income from both her artwork and her teaching job as a professor at Hunter College in New York City. In filing her taxes, she has written off expenses related to her artwork for several decades. In 2010, the IRS accused Crile of underpaying her taxes from 2004 to 2009, stating that her claim that she was both an artist and a teaching professional was artificial, and that she created art solely to support her position as a tenured professor. (Crile has been a working artist since 1971, and became a tenured professor in 1994.) Judge Albert at the tax court rejected the IRS’s claim, stating the Crile established proof of her professional status as an artist.

The full New York Times article and Judge Albert’s ruling can be read online.

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