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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.

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?

Molly Crabapple on Thriving as an Artist in the Internet Age

Posted by Rebecca Blake on February 04, 2015

Artist and writer Molly Crabapple is no stranger to controversy, having co-founded the burlesque life-drawing class Dr Sketchy’s Anti-Art School, creating large-scale works on the financial collapse for a crowd-funded exhibit, The Shell Game, and reporting in words and illustration on topics such as Guantanamo Bay for Vice. She also has come into her own as a creator during the Internet age, an era constant and rapid change in the ways artists grow their careers. It’s not surprising that she was asked to share her thoughts on achieving creative success in that rough-and-tumble environment.

In “Molly Crapapple’s rules for creative success in the Internet Age” Crabapple offers some pithy and realistic advice for artists.  She addresses the pitfalls of comparing one’s success to others, advising creators to take a close look at the trajectory of well known artists’ careers, and pointing out that her own success was not the result of a “big break.” Much of her advice is the kind of common sense your mother would pass on (but expressed in refreshingly frank language): don’t be a jerk, treat your fans with respect, don’t be lazy, move past rejection.

It’s when she addresses the financial aspects of working as a creator that Crabapple hits hard. She particularly advises against working for free – either by creating original work for contests, or for clients with money – pointing out those who do so are gutting the market for other artists. Some of her strongest language is reserved for online platforms that encourage artists to post work: “They're just using you to build their own thing, and they'll discard you when they sell the company a few years later.”

She summarizes by encouraging artists to be idealistic about their art even while being cynical of the business of art. As she wrote, “Nothing will save us but ourselves and each other.”

Illustration © Molly Crabapple. Used with permission.

Artists, Money, and Envy

Posted by Rebecca Blake on January 26, 2015

Colleen DoranWhen the San Francisco Gate reported that author Danielle Steele’s assistant embezzled $400,000 from her accounts, many comments to the article relished the author’s financial woes. The rancor of comments led cartoonist/writer Colleen Doran to muse on the conflicted relationship artists have with money. It’s a situation made toxic by low expectations, envy, and hackneyed stereotypes.

In Art and Money, Doran describes her pursuit of financial stability as a bid for freedom to pursue her art — a habit of fiscal prudence she shares with F. Scott Fitzgerald. Yet artists who are financially successful are met with scornful envy. Doran writes:

“What sick mixed messages this ambivalence about material success sends to creators. They are constantly told they are fools for being artists, doing work for the love. Then they are told they are fools for doing art for money. They are fools for not managing money well. Then they are told that artists are constitutionally incapable of handling money because they are foolish artists.”

(Fitzgerald is spared this abuse because he died practically destitute, although because of his wife’s overwhelming medical bills, rather than any artistic financial ineptitude.)

The point of Doran’s article is one that she repeatedly makes: knowing how to manage money can make the difference between being a full-time artist, or one held back by juggling thankless part-time jobs. Buying into the stereotype of the starving artist, and denigrating those who are successful only holds artists back from realizing their goals as creators and successful business owners.

Photo of Colleen Doran used with permission.

Making Brands (or at Least Their Logos) Responsive

Posted by Rebecca Blake on January 22, 2015

Last fall, UK designer Joe Harrison unveiled his exploration of scalable logos. The result was Responsive Logos, a simplistic website featuring the logos of major brands such as Coca Cola, Walt Disney, and Kodak. As the viewer resizes the browser window, the logos respond, becoming both smaller, and stripping away elements. At the window’s smallest size, the smallest recognizable feature remains: Chanel’s interlocking Cs, the Guiness harp, Nike’s swoosh. As Harrison wrote on his website, “The concept aims to move branding away from fixed, rigid guidelines into a more flexible and contextual system.”

The logo project follows his earlier Responsive Icons project, in which a detailed graphic of a house resizes and sheds gables, windows, the chimney, and the door as the screen resizes. At the screen’s smallest size, only a simple house shape is left. Harrison started the project to explore “the perfect balance of simplicity in relation to screen size.”

Both projects utilize SVG files, deployed as image sprites. The sprites are packaged with CSS rules and media queries into an encapsulated SVG file. Smashing Magazine analyzed Harrison’s Responsive Icon project, and published a detailed how-to. They conclude that scalable SVG icons satisfy some key needs, for responsive ads, logos, and application icons. With Responsive Logos, Harrison elegantly illustrates their application in branding.

Logos from screenshot of Responsive Logos. Used with permission.

Responsive Logos screenshot

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