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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
 

An Open Letter to Political Candidates on Copyright

Posted by Rebecca Blake on August 03, 2016

Copyright Alliance logoThe Copyright Alliance has published an open letter to the 2016 political candidates, advocating for a strong copyright system and a safe and secure Internet. The letter asserts that strong copyrights protect free speech by “...preserv[ing] the value and integrity of what one creates,” and that protecting copyright is complementary to Internet freedom. The letter also warns that entities claiming to be pro-creator are funded by online platforms and have worked to block efforts to protect creative content from infringement and piracy.

The letter stresses that stronger copyright protection is a non-partisan issue: “The creative community stands united in support of a copyright system that will continue to make the United States the global leader in the creative arts and the global paradigm for free expression.” Individual creators are encouraged to show their support for the letter by signing a petition on the Copyright Alliance's website.

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.

The Handbook Primer Series: Now in Android Flavor!

Posted by Rebecca Blake on May 03, 2016

Want to read our Handbook of Pricing & Ethical Guidelines on your tablet, but don’t have an iPad? Now you can – our digital Primer series has just been released for Android. The Primer series repackages our popular Handbook as three volumes, which can be separately purchased. Volume 1, Business Practice Essentials, covers the professional relationships illustrators and graphic designers develop and the ethical standards needed to maintain good working relationships with clients and other professionals. Volume 2, Professional Issues & Legal Rights for Graphic Artists, covers the often confusing issues, such as copyright terms, work-for-hire, sales tax, and work on spec, that both self-employed and staff graphic artists encounter. Volume 3, Trade Customs & Pricing Guidelines, explores customary professional practices and provides sample pricing tables and salaries for various disciplines within the graphic arts industry. 

The Android version of the Primer Series can be purchased from the Vital Source eTextbook platform. The Primer Series in iOS flavor can also be purchased from the iTunes store. Those who prefer to read in the bathtub and don’t want to risk dropping their electronic devices, can always buy the original Handbook in paperback from Amazon or any local bookstore.

Primer Series vol. 1 Business Practice EssentialsPrimer Series Vol. 2: Professional Issues & Legal RightsPrimer Series vol. 3: Trade Customs & Pricing

Adobe Design Achievement Awards Strive to Prepare Students for the Real World

Posted by Rebecca Blake on April 12, 2016

ADAA 2016 logo image

Adobe’s annual contest of student work, the Adobe Design Achievement Awards, is in full swing, with students entering to meet the June 19 deadline. Adobe partners with ico-D, the International Association of Design, in producing a unique competition that strives to assist registrants in navigating the transition from student to full professional. A full slate of benefits and prizes reinforces the educational aspect of the competition:

  • All registrants are eligible to be chosen for a mentorship with a creative professional, and are subscribed to tips emails from 99U, as well as the 99U Quarterly print magazine.
  • Semifinalists are also invited to join the online ADAA community, attend for free an Adobe Career Bootcamp, have their entries appear in the ADAA live gallery, and can display ADAA online badge on their LinkedIn and Facebook pages.
  • Finalists additionally receive comments on their work from the judges, are invited to partnered events with local design firms, will be nominated for three years for an Adobe Creative Residency, receive a one-year subscription (or extension) to Adobe Creative Cloud, and have their work appear permanently in the ADAA Showcase.
  • Winners have their expenses (travel, hotel, and conference pass) paid for a trip to San Diego to attend Adobe MAX: The Creativity Conference, and receive a trophy.

The ico-D Mentorship Program is uniquely geared to assisting students in bridging the career gap. Mentors select students from all ADAA entrants for either a portfolio review or a mentorship. The mentorship is described as a 5-5-5 – five virtual meetings (online or by telephone), over five months, devised to address five predetermined goals that will either improve the student’s design skills, or assist the student in launching a career. Since mentors are pulled from ico-D and Adobe’s global networks, they represent a broad range of professional activity and locations.

Students are encouraged to enter up to three examples of existing work in different categories, from fine art, to commercial, to social impact. (That last category reflects ico-D and the design community’s concern with sustainability, and encompasses work created for social or environmental causes.) Entrants must be older than 18, and must be enrolled in an accredited institution of higher education. To accommodate larger scale projects, such as video work, groups may also submit entries, so long as one individual is listed as the team leader. (The competitions rules are posted online.)

While the final submission deadline is June 19, early bird semifinalists will be announced on May 24. Final semifinalists will be announced on July 18, with finalists and category winners projected to be announced in August and September.

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