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Communication Design

Bring your Blood Pressure Up: Spec Work Documented on Social Media

Posted by Rebecca Blake on February 25, 2015

@forexposure Twitter streamIf you’ve been advised to keep your heart rate steady, you should probably avoid @forexposure_txt on Twitter and shitspecwork on Tumblr. @forexposure provides a steady stream of outrageous requests for free labor. Some of the requests are from businesses one could safely assume have a budget: “You will be doing interviews for a real media outlet. Our prices are affordable and way cheaper than classes.” Some make it clear that the projects have no funding: “In the past contributors have been expected to buy a few copies of the book to help with funding.” Almost all promise some sort of payoff in exposure: “In exchange you get exposure on my account when I tag you in my Instagram pictures.

The Twitter account is maintained by comic artist Ryan Estrada. The posts are often breathtaking in their audacity and general cluelessness: “We do have a budget for professional services, BUT WE DON'T WANT TO SPEND IT.” While the Twitter stream is so comical it’s hard to believe, Estrada assures us “These are real quotes from real people who want you to work for exposure.”

Until recently, 3-D illustrator Timothy Reynolds published the Tumblr spec work blog shitspecwork. The blog featured submissions of requests for free work from large companies, such as HBO, Audi and Coca Cola, to music bands looking for free poster design, to posts by individuals trolling for free labor. Some of the posts cover headline-generating campaigns, such as the Canadian government’s student contest for a logo for the 150-year anniversary of the country’s confederation. 

Unfortunately, Reynolds has ceased to post to shitspecwork. Last December, he sent out a request for anyone willing to take over the blog. Earlier this month, he posted that “I gave up on http://shitspecwork.tumblr.com last year because it took a lot of negative energy to run it. But if anyone wants to take over, lmk.” Interested parties can contact Reynolds via his Twitter account. No doubt there will be a wealth of material for anyone interested in documenting requests for free labor.

Right: @forexposure's Twitter stream.

Have a Cool Sustainable Design Project? Renourish Wants to Know

Posted by Rebecca Blake on February 20, 2015

RenourishEric Benson and Yvette Perullo of Renourish, the initiative to promote sustainability in communication design, are working on a book for graphic designers who “want to integrate a sustainable ethos into their workflow.” The book, Design to Renourish: Sustainable Graphic Design in Practice, seeks to teach real-world solutions to successfully collaborating with clients on creating sustainable work – projects which meet ethical and environmental standards. The authors would like to incorporate case studies of client projects, with in-depth interviews of the designers.

Designers are encouraged to submit comprehensive campaigns that meet one of Renourish’s print or digital minimum standards for sustainability. Projects can include print, digital, environmental graphic design, and packaging design. Projects must have been completed in the past five years. Student, self-promotion, and speculative works will not be considered. Projects must be submitted online by March 2.

Designers wishing to learn more about how they can make more sustainable choices in their professions can view our archived webinar with Yvette Perullo. In “Renourish: Qualify as a Sustainable Communication Design Practice,” she and guest Gage Mitchell review how designers can utilize the resources Renourish has developed to make greener and more ethical choices in running their practices.  The archived webinar can be viewed for free by Guild members, or is available for purchase for $35 by non-members. Other Guild webinars on sustainable practices include “Designing for Social Value: Following Your Heart to Commercial Success” with Doug Powell and “The Truth About Paper: Positioning your Design Practice as ‘Green’” with Laura Shore of Mohawk Paper.

Buying your Own Logo – At Least it was Cheap

Posted by Rebecca Blake on February 11, 2015

After our November article on designer Sacha Greif’s investigation of Fiverr, we were contacted with an unbelievable story. Apparently The Logo Factory, a logo design and branding shop, had their logo ripped off on Fiverr not once, but three times.

At the end of last October, The Logo Factory founder Steve Douglas discovered an old version of the company logo on Fiverr. Knowing Fiverr’s notorious reputation for non-responsiveness when it comes to infringement complaints, Douglas contacted the designer directly. To his relief, the logo was removed immediately. However, a few days later, Douglas was notified by Jeff Fisher of Logomotives that the current The Logo Factory logo – in all its 3D glory, and including the “founded in 1996” tagline – was appearing in another Fiverr designer’s portfolio. Since their logo is a well-recognized, trademarked asset, Douglas couldn’t ignore the infringement.

The difficulty, as always, was in getting Fiverr to respond to the notice of infringement. Appeals via their social media accounts went unanswered, and Douglas knew from experience that the only way to reach Fiverr directly is to open an account – an onerous undertaking exacerbated by the amount of SPAM the site sends to registered users. Instead, he decided to purchase his own logo directly from the designer. The experience made all the more surreal by the designer’s insistence that the logo was an original. The “final” artwork was delivered speckled with a  “free trial” watermark, obviously generated by some trial version of software the Fiverr designer had used to cull the logo. The designer messaged Douglas to say he was removing the logo from his portfolio. Since this had been Douglas’ goal all along, he was more or less happy with the result.

Unfortunately the story doesn’t end there. Ten days later, Douglas got another notice from Jeff Fisher: yet another Fiverr designer was showcasing the old The Logo Factory logo. As Douglas wrote, “Whack a mole indeed.”

You can read Douglas’ full story on The Logo Factory blog.

Below: the pixelated, watermarked logo, delivered by the Fiverr designer. Worth every cent of $5?

It’s Dying: Glaser’s Stark Message on Climate Change

Posted by Rebecca Blake on February 02, 2015

It's Not Warming Its Dying logo'Hoping to galvanize public demand for effective policy addressing climate change, Milton Glaser unleashed a campaign titled “It’s Not Warming, It’s Dying.” As one would expect from the designer of the iconic “I Heart NY” logo, the campaign is built around a logo: a stark graphic of a globe, it’s green field almost completely obscured by a black gradient. The campaign urged contributors to purchase buttons and t-shirts; all proceeds went to creating more buttons and t-shirts. The goal was to create a visual message to politicians, showing a groundswell of public concern on climate change. The campaign was publicized with a Twitter account, using the hashtag, #itsnotwarming. The hope was that the campaign would go viral, beginning with students from the School of Visual Arts, where Glaser teaches.

The campaign had its critics. As Joe Romm wrote on Think Progress, the slogan, “It’s Not Warming,” reinforces climate change deniers. Romm also wrote that the focus on the earth, implied in the globe, fundamentally doesn’t work as a PR message. Instead, he feels that a better message would emphasize that people perish directly as a result of climate change, as witnessed by the 6,000+ deaths which occurred as a result of 2013’s Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. Jeremy Porter on Grist took issue with the #itsnotwarming social media campaign, pointing out that communicators advise against repeating the language of one’s opponents.

Glaser disputed the criticism. As he told WNYC’s Brian Lehrer, he feels the term “global warming” is reassuring and comforting: “You begin by attacking the phrase itself… the truth of the matter is that the earth is dying, and wouldn’t it be nice if today was the beginning of the most important date in human history, which is the date we decided not to let the earth die.”

Below: The campaign buttons made an appearance at the ico-D (Icograda) General Assembly in October.

It's Not Warming buttons at ico-D

Free Range Fonts: The Google Web Typographic Project

Posted by Rebecca Blake on January 29, 2015

Any web designer scouring through the Google Web fonts library knows how stultifying it can be to find the right combination of faces. After peering at the third (or tenth) waterfall of characters, serifs and weights start to blur into a typographic mess. Self-described tech-tinkerer, Femmebot (Phoebe E.), has come up with a  solution to show web fonts in their natural environment: Google Web Fonts Typographic Project.

The project sets Aesop’s Fables, from the Project Gutenberg translation, in Google web fonts. A minimum of two web fonts are paired, and are set in elegant layouts which combine the faces with background images, illustrations, and simple shapes. The result is a scrolling cheat-sheet of sometimes surprising, often pleasing, typeface combinations. Better yet, the selected fonts are listed on each layout and are hyperlinked to their page on Google Fonts. In most examples, the page designer is credited and linked as well. Google Fonts Typography continues to be a collaborative project, and Femmebot is accepting submissions through her Github account.

The project is the first in Femmebot’s larger initiative: 25x52, or 25 projects in 52 weeks. While the 25x52 seems to be a bit behind schedule – only seven projects have been completed since last summer — the projects have yielded interesting discussion and collaboration. In her end-of-year retrospective, Femmebot shares a thoughtful analysis of what the initiative has taught her about work and the perception of achievement.

Below: screenshot from Google Web Fonts Typographic Project. Used with permission.

Screenshot from Google Web Fonts Typographic Project

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