Being a product designer for the past 15 years, as one can imagine, my network of friends and colleagues is more or less related to the design Industry. They are predominantly graphic designers and architects. My own mother was a graphic designer before she retired around 2004. Besides the practice of design, from a very young age I was in contact with the business side of design, communication of design to clients as well as the financial side of the business of design.
Before the crisis started showing its claws back in 2008 in Greece, design was already a service in crisis since the majority of clients, for decades, had little knowledge about how design could help their business succeed. But this is a different topic. Whatever the status of the design business was before 2008, designers would be more active, more work was available and funds were more easily invested in professional design services.
After 2008, conditions changed drastically. In graphic design, one of the most apparent changes was that a large percentage of businesses started to hire friends and relatives who perhaps knew the basics of how to operate photoshop and asked them to do their best to produce work of minimum quality. This phenomenon was always present since the introduction of digital tools and the organic tools were extinct (this is again a different topic). After 2008 the phenomenon exploded!
Another phenomenon has been the minimization of fees asked for design services. For every project that a client is looking to assign, there is a designer who will offer more for less (or less for less) leading larger design firms to collapse and the majority of designers battling every day to convince clients to hire them for pennies. Despair has led so many designers to offer 1+1 deals where they offer one project for free if they are assigned a second project or, do volunteer work for a brand and propose it hoping for pennies.
One, being scandalously optimistic, could argue that crisis and competition lead to innovation or that competition would favor the healthiest design businesses and kill the weaker ones but that’s not what I wish to convey in this article.
Where I am getting at is: What quality of work can be expected from a designer when their day starts with tears, out of despair and the stress of making enough money for rent, food, the electricity bill and out of fear that their computer will break down and they will not have enough money to repair it or get a new one? I have seen this so often around me the past decade and it is disheartening.
It requires wisdom to see poverty and creativity going well together. They only suit one another after the tears are dry and the creative person returns to creativity for healing and personal expression. However, when a business has to be sustained poverty is a killer of dreams and hope. Hope…
All I can do is hope for the best…