Illustrator Cory Kerr Makes the Case for Using a Contract
Posted by Rebecca Blake on October 11, 2016
“Good clients come from good relationships. Good relationships come from managing and meeting expectations. Expectations start at contracts.” This is how illustrator Cory Kerr begins his podcast, “Contracts and the Apocalypse.” The 11-minute video is directed to illustrators who are new to the business side of illustration, or who are uncomfortable with using contracts.
At the outset, Kerr allays fears that using contracts will scare away good business. In fact, Kerr warns that clients who are unwilling to sign a contract may be trying to evade paying the illustrator. Kerr also addresses the discomfort illustrators have in assigning a value to their work: “Value in exchange for value is how business works. And even if you're an artist or musician or some sort of creative, just because that seems more fun doesn't mean [you’re] not providing value and it doesn't mean it's not a business transaction.” Kerr stresses that exposure – creating work for free in exchange for publicity – is rarely a value-for-value exchange since, as he points out, clients rarely can offer the kind of exposure that would reward the illustrator adequately.
Kerr makes arguments for why illustrators should use contracts, and provides a quick overview of what contracts should establish: price, deliverables, payment schedule, and kill fee. Kerr also gives a huge plug for our Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines. (One clarification on Kerr’s presentation: the Handbook includes pricing tables created from pricing information provided by artists nationwide. These do not represent pricing the Guild recommends that artists charge, but rather, provide guidelines on what artists’ peers are charging.) The Handbook includes a full complement of sample contracts for a number of disciplines, and can be purchased either in print or, as a three-volume set, in eBook format.
Kerr has enhanced his podcast with a mesmerizing video of him working on a motorcycle-themed illustration, The Four Horseman. It’s an incongruous but delightful touch that somehow works in engaging the viewers’ attention, while not detracting from Kerr’s soliloquy.
Video © Cory Kerr. Used with permission.
The Power of the © Notice
Posted by Rebecca Blake on September 15, 2016
In June, we reported on attorney Leslie Burns’ article on CMI: copyright management information. Burns advised visual artists to put a visible copyright notice on work they post online, since doing so provides the artists with additional tools to bring to bear, should the work be infringed. In her follow-up article, “Your © is More Than CMI,” Burns goes into greater detail on how to effectively use the copyright notice, and why doing so is such a good practice.
First, Burns explains that the copyright notice must include the copyright symbol, the date of publication, and the copyright owner’s name. (For those confused on what the date of publication is, she goes into a bit of detail.) She then explains that if an infringer uses a work that had a copyright notice removed, the infringer can’t claim “innocent infringement” – even if the infringer got the artwork from another source, and had no idea that a copyright notice had been removed. Burns cites two copyright cases that support this rule: BMG Music v. Gonzalez and Maverick Recording v. Harper.
Infringers who have used works from which the copyright notice of watermark was removed have violated §1202 of the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act). Burns calculates that the infringer could be looking at a minimum of $3,250 in damages ($750 for the infringement, and $2,500 for the DMCA violation), and possibly attorney’s fees.
Of course, none of this will apply if the visual artist hasn’t first registered his or her work with the copyright office. Remember, a work must be registered before an artist can sue for copyright infringement.While an artist can register work after detecting that it's been infringed, damages are limited if the work is registered after the infringement occurs. WIth a background in business and marketing management for a photography studio and a design firm, Burns is huge advocate for visual artists. Her website, Burns the Attorney, features a steady stream of articles on legal issues creative types need to be on top of.
Workgroups Present to the International Design Community at ico-D Platform Meetings
Posted by Rebecca Blake on September 09, 2016
ico-D, the International Council of Design, represents the interests of design associations, educational institutions, and promotional organizations globally, and the Guild has been a member since 2007. The ico-D Platform Meetings were held late August in Pasadena, CA, providing an opportunity for members to meet and discuss the work of the organization’s professional and educational workgroups. As head of the workgroup on National Design Policy, the platform meeting was both an opportunity for us to connect with international designers, and the culmination of a lot of hard work.
The ico-D “platforms” were established to provide an opportunity for members to work on projects in between the organization’s annual member meetings. Platforms were established for each of the categories of ico-D members: Educational, Professional, and Promotional. At the first Professional Platform meeting (which the Guild is part of), ico-D member associations listed three topics they wanted to focus on: National Design Policy (NDP), Communicating the Value of Design (CVD), and Design Certification (DC). Workgroups were established for each topic last summer, and as the Guild’s representative to ico-D, I was asked to head the NDP group.
During the past year, the workgroup met frequently via Skype, often at odd hours to so that members from Malaysia, Indonesia, Canada, South Korea, the US, and Australia wouldn’t have to miss their sleep to participate. We also conducted interviews with designers involved with the design policies of their home countries or states – a fascinating peek into the varied “design ecosystems,” the relationships between the design sector, businesses, governmental agencies, and the public. (See the article National Design Policies: Why They Matter.)
Discussion sessions at the platform meetings brought in fresh perspectives from associations representatives and design educators from around the globe.
At the Pasadena Platform Meeting, the NDP workgroup was allotted a half day for presentations. That permitted NDP workgroup members to present on what is occurring in their countries, from an elegant and proactive system (South Korea), to the first steps to crafting an NDP (Malaysia and Indonesia), to attempts at a regional design policy (Australia), and finally, to a failed attempt (USA). At a member Q&A session, attendees spoke about the political and economic conditions in their home states that hinder (or help) the creation of coherent design policies. I also participated in the CVD “Design has Value” session, co-presenting with designer and ico-D friend Zelda Harrison on Communicating the Value of Design to Government.
The workgroup sessions were punctuated by the ico-D annual general meeting, a tour of the Pasadena College of Art and Design, a fascinating panel discussion on Design and Complexity, and a workshop on sustainable design. Based on the quality of the discussions at the meeting and the interest from members in joining the workgroups, the Platform meeting was a success. But what also became apparent is the amount of work still left to develop valuable resources for ico-D members, and to create a space where international design associations can collaboration on crucial projects.
Below: “Learn to Create. Influence Change.” The College of Art and Design’s motto is displayed prominently in their machine shop.
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.
AIGA’s “Get Out the Vote” Poster Campaign 2016 Resonates
Posted by Rebecca Blake on August 29, 2016
In every election year since 2004, AIGA has conducted a "Get Out the Vote" poster campaign. The campaign solicits designs from AIGA members for posters urging citizens to vote. The posters are then made available to the public for free download and printing under a Creative Commons license. None of the submissions reference a political party or candidate, and AIGA’s submission guidelines stipulate that the posters must be non-partisan. In a fraught election year characterized by negative campaign messages, the belief in “the power of design to motivate the American public to register and turn out to vote” is heartening.
The submitted posters cover a wide range of messages, styles, and imagery. Several designers equated non-voters with sheep, while others illustrated American theater critic George Jean Nathan’s quote, "Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote." While the designs adhere to AIGA's non-partisan standard, some recurring themes do reference this year’s election campaigns. A number of the designs mention women's suffrage, or the 96th anniversary of women's right to vote — no doubt inspired by the first woman nominee of a major political party. Other posters play off reports of the increase in Americans Googling "move to Canada" after Trump won the Republican nomination. A number of design luminaries, such as Milton Glaser and Debbie Millman, have contributed their own creations.
The “Get Out the Vote” campaign is conducted by AIGA in partnership with the League of Women Voters. The project falls under AIGA's Design for Democracy initiative, which strives to use design tools to make interactions between government and citizens more transparent and trustworthy. AIGA designers are invited to submit designs through November 8, and a curated exhibit of the posters will be presented during AIGA's annual conference this October. Members of the public are encouraged to download, print, and display the posters.
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