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Business Practices

National Design Policies: Why They Matter

Posted by Rebecca Blake on September 06, 2016

For the past year, I've headed a workgroup with ico-D (the International Council of Design) on national design policies. The choice of a Graphic Artists Guild board member to head the workgroup seemed odd; the United States, despite a recent effort, has never had (and probably never will have) a national design policy. So why would a USA-based visual artists’ association care whether national design policies are implemented in other countries?

A national design policy is a systemic and strategic government plan to support its design sector, develop design resources, and utilize those resources to achieve various ends. A design policy can attempt to develop a national brand, increase the global economic competitiveness of a country’s exports, raise design education standards, encourage small and medium-sized businesses to invest in design, leverage design thinking to find sustainable solutions to public sector problems, etc. Countries at different levels of economic development have invested in national design policies – South Korea, India, Finland, and Singapore, among others, have national design policies in place, and policies are currently being developed in Malaysia, Indonesia, Iceland, and Australia.

In the United States, design anthropologist Dori Tunstall attempted to jump-start a national design policy initiative in 2008. A two-day conference of representatives from design associations, educational accreditation bodies, and government agencies resulted in a 10 national design proposals, which were presented to the incoming Obama administration and Congress. Despite a second conference and calls to designers to press their Congressional representatives to support the initiative, no national design policy resulted from the effort.

The reasons are myriad, but tellingly, designers considered the initiative with trepidation. Remarks submitted by designers on the project indicated that many thought a policy would consist of government telling them what to do, a reflection of the US’s culture of public mistrust of a strong central government. (Tunstall doesn’t consider the initiative a failure, since many of the proposals were adopted in part by government agencies, such as NEA’s comprehensive survey of the contribution of the arts, including design, to the US economy. The initiative also deepened ties between agencies and the design sector.)

So, if a national design policy is highly unlikely to ever be adopted in the United States, why should US designers care about national design policies? While design policies do support national designers, making them more competitive internationally, design policies also promote best practices. These include establishing professional design standards, providing resources to educate designers on non-design skills (such as running a business or communicating with clients), and promoting the protection of intellectual property.

The result is a population of designers who are less likely to infringe copyrights or respond to work on speculation projects. Additionally, by promoting best practices, a government discourages ethically questionable business practices, such as design crowdsourcing campaigns. This is particularly important in emerging economies, where the recognition of design as a profession is relatively new, and intellectual property rights are not often generally understood or recognized. The ripple effect of educating a nation’s generation of designers and business owners reaches beyond borders, and benefits all designers (and visual artists, in general). 

Below: The SEE Platform (Sharing Experience Europe) tracked design policies globally from 2012-2015, and published an interactive map showing countries which either adopted a national design policy, or were working a design policy initiative.

SEE platform design policy map
 

© Watermark: A Tool to Protect Your Work Under the DMCA

Posted by Rebecca Blake on June 29, 2016

Think putting a watermark with your name and copyright symbol detracts from your illustration? You may want to reconsider doing without it. In “CMI and the DMCA,” attorney Leslie Burns explains how including such information, called Copyright Management Information, gives you an additional, powerful tool to protect your copyrights online.

“Copyright Management Information” is defined by the Digital Millenium Copyright Act as “information conveyed in connection with” copies, displays, phonorecords, or performances of a work. The information is broadly defined, and can include the name of the work, the name of the author or copyright holder, identifying numbers or symbols, etc. That means a simple “© 2016 Your Name” inserted into the corner of your illustration or design qualifies as CMI.

As Burns elucidates, including your watermark on your image confers two tools you can use in addressing infringement. First, according to the DMCA, if an infringer removes your © watermark and reposts your image, the infringer has committed one to two violations of the law – each carrying statutory damages of at least $2,500 – whether or not you registered the work. Additionally, the removal of your watermark shows that the infringement was willful. That means if you did register your work, the statutory damages could go up to $150,000. (The minimum stays at $750.) It goes without saying that you should register the copyrights on any work you publish online!

Burns states that the notice needn’t be large – just legible – and recommends that the notice include the copyright symbol ©, the year of publication, and your name. She also points out that including the CMI increases the chance for damages to be awarded  – which would make a lawyer far more inclined to take the case on a contingency basis.

Leslie Burns is a California-based lawyer specializing in copyrights, contracts, and business law. Her background makes her a unique advocate for visual artists – for years, she was the studio and marketing manager for photo illustrator Stephen Webster. Her articles are both entertaining and informative; her article “More Monkey Business” (published on her Burns Auto Parts blog) was one of the most amusing takes on the monkey selfie dispute in 2014.

Below: Burns' copyright notice on her photograph (snapped while in law school) isn't large, but clearly imparts her information. (Used with permission.)

Life as a Law Student, photo © Leslie Burns

HOW Design Live: A Fun Pricing Game, and a Memorable Conference

Posted by Rebecca Blake on June 07, 2016

The Guild was invited to participate at HOW Design Live this past May, and decided to contribute a live version of our Pricing Game. For years, the Pricing Game has been one of our most popular webinars. Its advent was as a live event, created by the Boston Chapter of the Guild about 25 years ago, and continued annually by the New York Chapter for many years. (For the uninitiated, during the Game, the audience reviews the specs for actual design projects, and “bids” on what they would charge. Afterwards, the actual estimated and invoiced prices are revealed, and the designer’s pricing techniques are discussed.) While the format works as a webinar, the opportunity to bring it back live, with audience participation, was exciting.

For the HOW Design Live (HDL) Pricing Game, we solicited the work from three Guild members, all designers: Todd LeMieux (who is also our New England rep), Jonnie Bailey, and Peiro Salardi. Each contributed a beautiful piece of design – logo, brochure, and logo plus packaging, respectively – and more importantly, each had followed best practices in pricing and managing the project. The result was that the HDL Pricing Game attendees were treated to examples of beautiful work, as well as valuable insight into how competent professional designers conduct their business. The event was well received, in large part because the audience was so engaged in debating and defending their prices. A highlight was the heated (but polite) debate between “Mr. $500” and “Mr. $35,000”, who contested what the correct price for LeMieux’s logo design should be. (One was an independent designer working out of a small town, and the other worked in-house for a large branding agency – hence the huge pricing disrepency.)

Below: Last minute prep (and hyperventilating) before the presentation on Sunday.

HOW Design Live Pricing Game presentationHOW Design Live room sign

Overall, HOW Design Live was an inspiring conference. Presentations were organized into concurrent morning and afternoon sessions, with morning, noon, and evening keynote addresses. The organizers covered a wide base of topics, from very practical advice (such as our Pricing Game), to diversity, to entrepreneurial advice, to the purely creative and inspirational. The conference drew well-known speakers, such as Stefan Sagmeister, Chip Kidd, and Debbie Millman. Many of the presentations were memorable and unique, such as James Victore urging designers to celebrate their weirdness, Ellen Luna advising to let go of the “shoulds,” and Frederick Ost and Magnus Berg punctuating their gleefully obscene talk with live rock-and-roll.  

The unexpected bonus to HDL was connecting (and reconnecting) with other artist advocates. Highlights were a discussion with attorney Katie Lane on how we can educate better on intellectual property, and the evening spent catching up with art licensor J’net. Those discussions, and the interactions with HDL participants – during coaching sessions, or answering questions after the Pricing Game, or connecting with the local AIGA chapter – made HDL a truly wonderful experience.

Below: With slides like this, no wonder James Victore’s keynote address was wildly popular.

James Victore at HOW Design Live

World Design Summit – Montréal 2017: Call for Speakers

Posted by Rebecca Blake on May 20, 2016

The organizers of the World Design Summit – Montréal 2017 have an ambitious vision: to bring together designers across all disciplines with government representatives, industry business leaders, NGOs, and the media to address how design can shape the future. The event will be a 10-day affair taking place in October, and will tackle issues such as environmental sustainability, societal pressures, and political instability. The program is summarized as, “More than a mere celebration of design, the summit will demonstrate the tremendous power of design to create viable solutions to global social, economic, cultural and environmental challenges.”

To that end, the Summit organizers have issued a call for speaker proposals. Practitioners of all design disciplines – architectural, landscape, graphic, communication, experiential, user interface, industrial, interior, etc. – and stakeholders are invited to submit proposals. Interested parties are encouraged to address the major themes of the summit: Design for Participation (participation in the political process and public discourse), Design for Earth (environmental sustainability), Design for Beauty (promoting well being), Design for Sale (commodities created with the greater good in mind), Design for Transformation (responding to environmental and societal changes), and Design for Extremes (supporting sociological, economic, and political migrations). Speaker proposals are due July 29th, and should include a 500-word abstract, 40-word summary, and five key words.

The Summit agenda will include an accredited conference for students, professionals, and stakeholders; a summit of over 50 organizations; a festival taking place in over 30 locations around Montreal, and an exhibit of design-related products and services. The Summit of organizations will seek to produce a joint declaration of intent and proposal for the design community to effect positive change (social, economic, and environmental) through multidisciplinary means.  The Summit founding partners are ico-D (International Council of Design), IFLA (International Federation of Landscape Architects), and IFHP (International Federation of Housing Planning), with support from the governments of Canada, Quebec, and Montreal.

Questions about Copyright Registration? Answers from the Copyright Office!

Posted by Rebecca Blake on May 10, 2016

Copyright Q&AEarlier this year, the Copyright Alliance solicited questions from creators on the copyright registration process. They’ve launched a Copyright Q&A column to roll out the questions and answers. Even better, the answers have come from the most reliable source you could hope for: Rob Kasunic, Director of Registration Policy and Practices at the Copyright Office. The column covers a decent range of questions, from basic requests on which procedures to follow to expedite a registration, to more targeted questions on public domain images, derivative works, and specific terminology. 

The column is well worth scanning. It not only provides practical advice on the application process, it also corrects some common misunderstandings. For example, more than one question asked whether works registered as a group would be entitled to separate statutory damages. Kausic clarifies that the Copyright Office’s position is that only derivative works and compilations should be limited to one award of statutory damages; works otherwise registered as a group would be entitled to separate awards (a boon for prolific visual artists).
Other Q&As germane to illustrators cover works which incorporate public domain images, how much an image must be altered to be considered a derivative work, and what constitutes a publication date. (Here’s a hint: posting to Facebook does not count as a publication.) To read through the Copyright Q&A, visit the Alliance’s blog.

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