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Taking Credit

Given that I see a lot of portfolios belonging to young designers I notice a lot of familiar work that I know was not “created” by the person who is taking the credit.

I place “created” in quotes because we all know that graphic design is collaborative and many hands may shape a particular work. But I’m NOT speaking about a large multifaceted campaign, but rather works that are clearly the vision of a single individual. I won’t name names, but I’m talking about CDs, book jackets, logos, posters, etc. that have been definitively credited in, say, annuals, shows, etc. by rightful others, not the person(s) in whose portfolio (or website) I see it.

So the question posed for discussion is this:

What is the accepted protocol? At what point is an associate or assistant (or intern) allowed to claim responsibility (or partial credit) for a particular sample?

And what is the convention for crediting such work?

I for one feel that I’m being deceived if I know who did a particular work or, worse, if I find out later that the person presenting it as their own merely kerned the type, or made the mechanical.

This happened recently when I was reviewing samples submitted for MFA admissions. When the submitee was queried about why the work was in the portfolio the answer was vague and misleading.

Of course, young designers need solid credentials, but there should be a standard by which degrees of participation on a particular project are recognized without being deceptive.

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PUBLISHED ON Jan.05.2004 BY steve heller
M’s comment is:

I'm a designer in Montreal, and I used to have arguments with a friend who was also a designer about this subject. He would ask endlessly for advice on his portfolio, which he would always include work that he'd be the "design monkey" on: he'd work on ad/marketing/identity campaigns that he hadn't thought of the initial concept and he'd pass on the dervivatives as his own. He always had some sort of lame excuse, such as, "Well, when I go to the interview, I'll explain exactly what I did for this job" etc.

I know it's hard when one is at the bottom of the pecking order of a studio to have a project to yourself, but I still maintain that it's dishonest to pass off projects that were not your brainchild as your own. (Of course, I suppose this is one of the reasons I have a rather meager portfolio after working for the same firm for 3 years.)

On Jan.05.2004 at 02:04 PM
damien’s comment is:

This isn't limited to individuals, though you'd think that at the individual level you'd be able to portion credit more easily than at the team level.

It is tough being ambitious and not having enough to prove your potential - but hopefully one is not chosen by their portfolio alone.

However, what impetus does a young designer have to be honest and clear when firms are vague about the details and make dishonest claims? So people try to leave things open to interpretation so that perhaps the perception is greater than the truth.

If more people told the truth about what they were capable of, took credit for what they actually did then we would find we would be scooby-doo'd less and less by people in team collaborations.

(being scooby-doo'd is the experience of working with someone whom has positioned themselves as something different than they are, and in a moment of conflict they're revealed to be less capable, or completely inexperienced at what they were on the team to do.)

On Jan.05.2004 at 02:23 PM
Brent’s comment is:

I struggled with this last year when updating my book for a job search. About three years of my work experience was spent in advertising on the lower end of the totem pole. I have some pieces that weren't my concept but worked on them extensively to where type treatments, color choices and layout were my idea. I'm ok with leaving these in my book, even if they're not the strongest pieces from that time in my career. Others, where I had only some input, that might have been stronger came out in favor of those that were mostly me.

I like to be able to talk about each piece and explain what I was feeling and why I made the decisions I did in an interview. I can't do that in good conscience when the piece isn't fully mine. I think it's really hard to know when to draw the line between mine/theirs when you are just starting out and working on a team following a pre-concieved creative plan. This is the number one reason I miss studio work.

On Jan.05.2004 at 02:25 PM
Rick Moore’s comment is:

From an ethical standpoint, I just don't feel comfortable putting stuff from my day job into my portfolio. This is the reason why I do freelance work outside of my day job. My book contains pieces that have the concept developed by me, were designed by me, and delivered by me. I decided a long time ago that the only way I would ever be able to showcase my skills was to do stuff on the side. (I hate showing stuff that I did in school—even though some of those pieces I consider my best work—because it seems that anyone I have ever interviewed with wants to see "real" work.)

On Jan.05.2004 at 02:50 PM
Sarah B.’s comment is:

Being a fairly recent graduate (BFA 2002) - I followed a simple rule of thumb for myself - if I did not complete at least 80% of the work (physical) and collaborated on at least 50% of the design (idea) well, I simply did not include it in my portfolio. Unless -- it was a group effort, and then all of the other designers were/are named.

Fortunately, I knew a few professional designers before I graduated and they STRESSED the importance of portfolio work - so I made a huge effort to find positions that would actually help me in building my portfolio.

From my experience with classmates... many did not have those pieces that would get them through and interview, and they ended up using class work and taking all of the credit for work they had done at various internships (if they even had that).... it is that double-edged sword... you cannot get a job without experience..and you cannot get the experience without a job...

and many of them did not think that the "Stealing" would be noticed...

On Jan.05.2004 at 02:56 PM
mrTIM’s comment is:

Interesting subject.

I think that including collaborative/team built work is a bit less dishonest if handled correctly. In my portfolio I have 2 projects that were created with others, but right there on the label I mention how involved I was in the initial creative process, and the actual creation of the project. (In one it was all creative, in another it was about 1/2 and 1/2.) I've always found that during interviews this gets a good response. Plus it usually gets a chuckle when they read about my 63.483% creative process....

As far as the young designer taking credit for other's works; I can't think of a better way to "f" yourself out of a career. No matter how cool your stuff may look, initially, if you lied about creating it then it will be painfully obvious pretty soon.

I had one guy in my old school that copied just about everything straight out of the latest Communications Arts. There was one time that during a glowing critique (after a year of telling him not to do it, and none of the teachers catching on...) I finally stood up and said "ok, that's enough, this is bull____!" and slammed a How mag. down onto the table that "his" project pictured. He failed that project, but never stopped ripping off other peoples work. Infuriating.

He now serves me coffee.

(oh, new posts...)

I totally agree with Sarah about the "double edged sword."

For me though I found that if I tryed to sell myself instead of my portfolio then I made more of an impression.

On Jan.05.2004 at 03:20 PM
Ginny ’s comment is:

"There should be a standard by which degrees of participation on a particular project are recognized without being deceptive."

I don't know if there necessarily has to be a standard per say, but there could/should be a discussion in one's education regarding ethics in the design profession.

I mean when putting a portfolio together, it all comes down to honesty, or lets face it, dishonesty. And those individuals will have to own up to it one way or another, if not in an interview then in the professional arena. By misrepresenting their work, they're really only hurting themselves.

I remember what it was like to have a"light" portfolio as a young designer. But instead of including other people's work in my portfolio, I did a bunch of pro-bono and freelance work to beef it up. This also allowed me to be more creative than the corporate work I was doing and it allowed me to show a wide range of ideas and work. Lets keep in mind that not all work in your portfolio HAS to be professionally produced. You can use your skills as a designer to show ideas that are truly your own by creating unique and one-of-a-kind pieces.

On Jan.05.2004 at 03:23 PM
KM’s comment is:

I don't understand why someone would want to show work they didn't create. What kind of gratification would one receive knowing that they got a job or position from a deceptive portfolio?

With that said, I think if you worked on a project even if it was a miniscule role, than you should be accredited to the work for which you were responsible. There have been plenty of times in the past where I simply finished a job my art director had started. Sure, I might have done 80% of the "work" but it's not my design and don't take creative responsibility for the project.

If you have any reservations about including a piece in your portfolio - then don't include it.

On Jan.05.2004 at 03:45 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

I don't think we need a standard for common sense. Just show what you've worked on and clearly state what roles you played in the process.

Since most of my work these days is web based, rarely is a project the work of one person. I personally find collaborative design much more productive and find nothing wrong with a person showing work they did as part of a team provided they clearly point out their particular roles.

On Jan.05.2004 at 04:01 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> At what point is an associate or assistant (or intern) allowed to claim responsibility (or partial credit) for a particular sample?

Unless they were essential to the development of the piece they should never claim a piece as theirs. Partial credit? Yes. As long as it is explicitely expressed in the interview or portfolio.

What I find even more troubling than the question you posed Steve, is when grown wo/men with 10+ years experience do this. I am in fact, a victim of such evil crime. (Yes, I am exagerating for dramatic effect). Anyway, when I was at marchFIRST I did this logo, it ain't the 8th wonder of the world, but I dig it… back to the story, I can safely and factually say that I did it all by myself, I came up with the idea, I did the execution, and the creative director simply loved it and approved it. He never had any creative input on it, except for a color combination that was hideous and the client didn't like. Then a year after the whole m1 fiasco a friend of mine directed me to the former creative director's personal portfolio and there it was: my logo with him stating that he was responsible for the design of it. Ridiculous, the guy had an extensive portfolio (which I now find not very credible) of work done over 10-12 years, I would assume he would have the common decency to at least say he just art-directed it (which he didn't even do). It just boggles me what people will do to get ahead.

I did tons of stuff at marchFIRST that I would never put in my portfolio. Mainly because I was either a production bitch (a title we used frequently among designers there) or I had just optimized a few images for the web or simply because the idea wasn't mine. Some of them were big accounts like Coca-Cola, DuPont and McDonald's, stuff that would give any portfolio "credibility," but the work was tainted if you will and I wouldn't be able to talk about it passionately in an interview. So if I have a moral after all this, it would be to just show work that you have done, that you love and that you can explain without having to memorize the design brief or the process you took to get to the solution. If you set the financials and body copy for an annual report but you sweated every single To kerning pair and when you got the final printed piece you went "Fuck, that is some bad ass typestting I did" then put it in your portfolio and brag about the awesome kerning you did. Your passion will be contagious — and remember, some employers do get excited about kerning so don't be ashamed of having just done that.

On Jan.05.2004 at 04:20 PM
freelix’s comment is:

Plagerism and ownership is probably the most bickersome, prickly areas for us or anyone trying to break from the pack. I noticed on the cover of this weeks Times Book Review there was an image "created" by Dugald Stermer which was footnoted "after" the original creator. Honest. Commendable, though rarely afforded by the rest of us.

Times they are a changin' and change is good and often neccessary.

- Dylan "after" Truman (?)

On Jan.05.2004 at 04:20 PM
Bram’s comment is:

Reviewing portfolios, I don't mind seeing work that a designer didn't create or direct, and, in fact, like to see some — as long as they explain and show where they added value in the project. Especially for junior-level designers, the ability to take direction, work on a team, and still bring something to the project is a mighty desirable trait.

The protocol should be to include work that shows ability — whether it's directing, illustrating, or typesetting. Be upfront about who did what, take pride in your contribution, and demonstrate how it improved that project and can help others.

Portfolio reviewers should make it clear that honesty and commitment are at least as important as the ability to design.

On Jan.05.2004 at 04:23 PM
Todd W.’s comment is:

As several others have pointed out, this isn't limited to young designers. I recently visited the site of a new agency in town where several former co-workers ended up after the dot-com collapse. The agency founders are veteren ad guys, but wedged in the portfolio section are examples of VERY high profile, iconic ad campaigns that, to my understanding, were created by TBWA, giving the impression that this new agency had something to do with them.

On Jan.05.2004 at 04:59 PM
pk’s comment is:

there is craploads of my work from the mid-nineties in the public which i regularly see credited to other people. this is not a trend or subject which should be relegated to younger designers.

most recently, i saw a piece i made in 1997 for thirstype and credited simply to "thirstype." that's sort of true, but it's misleading. the feature leads the reader to believe it's nothing but work by rick valicenti.

this piece was something i created by myself. the initial concept was rick's, but i soon discovered it simply wouldn't work...so i changed it to a very different and more provocative idea.

of course, since i did it under thirst's tenure and was paid for it from thirst coffers, it's generally presented and accepted as something rick made. drives me up the frigging wall.

On Jan.05.2004 at 05:11 PM
marian’s comment is:

pk's comments edge toward my own little wondering. The company I formerly owned has a kick-ass portfolio, 95% of which is the work of 3 designers (including myself) who are no longer there. They have the legal right to use the work -- the company owns the copyright -- but in presenting that work to potential clients, is that not as misleading as an individual presenting work they only did, say, the production on? As I say, this is just something I wonder about--it doesn't get me riled up or anything, it just seems an interesting dilemma.

On Jan.05.2004 at 05:26 PM
pk’s comment is:

in response to marian's comments:

it's fairly misleading. but it's also a question of sales; they need to have something to present in new biz meetings. if they can back up the work with equivalent work of their own, then more power to 'em. if not...that's a problem. there are a few cases in which work i helped create at thirst simply isn't shown in public because rick knows he can't capitalize on the techniques presented, so there's no reason to build a false expectation.

he also made a compelling argument at the first seriouSeries (armin's house) about how the studio changes personality as artists move in and out of it. i think it's a great idea if you want to ensure your work is always fresh, but it does present a bit of a bugaboo if the potential client insists upon seeing evidence of staff longevity. not a huge deal, though.

this is soemthing i wrestle with all the time. but i think i've made peace with it by ensuring that everyone's name and role is present in my own portfolio.

i was freelancing with a studio in 2003 which had a few of my pieces on hand for a new biz meeting. the creative director had the gall to present something i'd designed and written in 2001 as one of their own projects. i was appalled. never seen anyone be that ballsy about it.

On Jan.05.2004 at 05:39 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Todd, the same thing happened with the same creative director I mentioned above. When m1 died he went on to a smaller firm out in the west coast, and whatdoyouknow? The work we did at m1 was being claimed by the new firm. That is misleading. I wrote about it here a looong time ago.

On Jan.05.2004 at 05:44 PM
Mr. Jones’s comment is:

I am puzzled as to why a designer would show work that wasn't their own? The part of the design process that I enjoy most is the creation of a unique solution and saying "Look what I did."

I see this happening with big firms too. How can multiple agencies design the same project. campaign, etc.?

Could it be that their ego is so big they only think they have contributed in some way and are unaware that they had nothing to do with the project? (I know that we have all worked with people like this.)

Do you think the average client even notices this kind of thing? Do the perps ever get caught or is this something that just gets under our designer skins?

On Jan.05.2004 at 05:48 PM
ps’s comment is:

They have the legal right to use the work -- the company owns the copyright -- but in presenting that work to potential clients, is that not as misleading as an individual presenting work they only did, say, the production on?

i don't think it is, afterall it is still the company that created it. a client hires the company as a whole, and not an individual. also, keep in mind that while we might have the brilliant creative idea, often there is a sales person, research team, production etc that are just as much part of the process. and they should be entitled to take credit. i think as long as individuals state their role, than that is fine.

i used to work in this ad agency, my second job out of school. my stuff never got produced. it was always too different for the client. so i never got any credit. it was quite frustrating. until the boss of the agency called me in his office and told me that he realized that my "different" concepts helped trigger the final results. and while i never got official credit, i realized how important my invovement was and that in return gave me the freedom to continue what i was doing. (maybe another reason why sketchbooks, or comps are a great thing to take to a job interview. )

the part of "taking credit" that really bugs me, are client lists of small design firms. they list every company that they have ever come across. even though it was not their client, but a client of their employer in a previous life. i mean, its okay to state that you have worked on a project for a company (maybe state for whom), but please, that does not make them your client.

On Jan.05.2004 at 07:20 PM
Steve Heller’s comment is:

This is not a question of plaigarism. Fact is, I see plenty of that going on, too.

Its a question of what an assistant, associate, or even a design director believes he or she is entitled to lay claim to for purposes of self-promotion. And barring any codified ethical standard anyone can show anything and claim some iota of responsibility if pressed. Which is ridiculous.

Just because an apprentice stretched Warhol's canvas, or pulled his silkscreens doesn't entitle him/her to credit.

Its fine to include every minute professional detail on a resume. (i.e. 1968- 70 Apprentice to Andy Warhol; stretched his canvas and pulled his silkscreens). And usually resumes precisely spell out exact roles so there is no ambiguity. But when a piece of work is shown in a portfolio it implies total creative input.

I know of a former design associate to a known designer who shows a few logos and CD packages that he/she worked on in a support role while at said known designer's studio on his/her portfolio website (how's that for hiding idenity?). In the case I am referring to the studio's name is actually given on the site, but the implication is that said associate was the principal designer, when in fact the relationship was much more tenuous. This is misleading, but it is also injurious to the principal designer who actually did the creative work.

Why should that designer, who doubtless has the same work in his or her portfolio/website, have to be put in a defensive stance having to explain why it is on one (or more) portfolio sites. Its crazy. Its frustrating. Its unacceptable. And if you look at it another way, its malfeasance because it could very well mean that by using the work the associate is in direct competition with the actual designer.

Ours is an ethical profession, but this practice of laying claim to credit based on proximity should not be tolerated. Amen.

On Jan.05.2004 at 08:57 PM
jonsel’s comment is:

What do you guys think is the ethical boundary for work that transports itself from one agency to another? Here's a big agency hypothetical. A large team — designers, strategists, namers — work for a very large client. Many contributions lead to the final strategy and then the final design. Creative Directors were always in design crits along with design directors and the senior designer who actually made the final, physical solution.

Skip ahead two years.

Many of the original team have left and are now scattered at different small firms. The primary players —�the ones who really solved the problem —�can all rightfully claim portions of the work as their own. The chief strategist is at Firm X, while the lead senior designer is now at Firm Y. Both are principals at their respective firms. Can either of them lay claim to the solution in their agency's portfolios? Can they lay claim if they explicity said the work was done while at another agency?

This is a big ethical area that intrigues me the most, as I'm now building a small business with work that I did at other agencies. There are some projects where the ownership is clearly mine — concept, design, the sell. In other instances, I may have designed certain parts — say the print system but not the logo. But I may have been the leader on that project. Do prospective clients really want to be told my specific role in each project? At what point do I need to be worried about infringing on my previous employers' rights to the work? Is this worth worrying about at all?

On Jan.05.2004 at 09:35 PM
pk’s comment is:

Just because an apprentice stretched Warhol's canvas, or pulled his silkscreens doesn't entitle him/her to credit.

this analogy is at the very heart of the issue being discussed. the design practices are highly collaborative, yet the culture itself relies on an artificial rock-star-like cult of personality. this is not art. this is marketing design for consumer culture.

Why should that designer, who doubtless has the same work in his or her portfolio/website, have to be put in a defensive stance having to explain why it is on one (or more) portfolio sites.

there was a site i worked on a few years ago that won several coveted awards. several folks who worked on it moved on to other jobs, and now the project is showcased as part of no fewer than four different corporate portfolios. legitimate or not?

On Jan.05.2004 at 09:42 PM
Steven’s comment is:

I agree with PK. I don't think that singular notions of authorship are applicable for a lot of design work. In fact, I had to deal with this very subject when I was putting together the portfolio area of my site.

A lot of the work that I did for Macromedia had critical elements that were created by Research Studio, aka Neville Brody and all of the other super-talented people that worked for him. I have an immense amount of respect for Neville and I've tried to be fair and clear about this authorship situation by including a credit line to the side of the image and by describing my role in the text that accompanies most of the imagery. And I've tried to use this same tactic with other freelance projects that I've done since then. I think this is being honest and not misleading.

Yes, significant initial parts of Macromedia projects came from other people. But, I was also significantly involved in the creation of these projects. In fact, with a number of these, I was the one who actually wrote the nuts-and-bolts corporate style guidelines. I was the one who worked with the marketing managers over content and layout needs and controversies. I was the one who pulled the late nights to make sure that all the corrections were harmoniously integrated into the format and everything was perfect. Okay, I didn't do the wonderful illustrations and the initial format; but there was a whole lot that I was involved with and these aspects were just as, if not more, important in the big picture. And I'm very proud of this. (Can ya tell?)

Now if I were putting up this work and not framing the context of my involvement, and thereby implying a greater role, that becomes unethical. And sadly, some people do exploit the creativity of others. But in the end, I believe that Karma will always have its return.

I do think it is abhorrent and infuriating is when C.D.s or Snr A.D.s sort of abduct the work of the people underneath them, like in Armin's case. (BTW Armin, that C.D. you mention is still showing some Zurich work in his portfolio, but the firm in San Jose has modified their name and their site no longer shows the work you mentioned.) Very senior creatives should know better. But some are more interested in the glamor and the money of their position. I like to think of those kinds of people as the "tangentally creative." And I've worked for people like that, as well. Happily, eventually these people tend to self-destruct when under the pressure to perform at the level of the work that they've ripped.

On Jan.05.2004 at 11:54 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Ok, we're talking about design credit on two levels -- from an individual designer's perspective, and a firm's perspective. These are two different issues.

First, my view of a firm's claim to a design. A firm laying claim to work isn't necessarily project-specific based, but is client-specific based. The truth is, every firm has talent that come and go, and some are more impactful than others. But the creation of any specific design is due in large part to the environment and other intangible circumstances throughout the process of that project at the firm -- including other designers, the art director, the account manager, the production staff, the print manager, etc. Sure, a logo usually ends up as the result of a single designer -- but the opportunity and the "product" of the client's money is squarely the property of the firm. A client hires a firm based on a number of things -- the body of work, the reputation, the personality, price, fit. It's never because of an individual design piece or an individual designer (unless it's the principal creative).

I didn't really understand this until I ran my own place, and had a staff. In my capacity as the owner, I was the one who would find the client, woo them, and gain their trust. I was the one who negotiated budgets, set up schedules, coordinated and swung deals with printers and paper reps. I provided the computers, software, electricity, and ethernet. As the owner, my role was to set up the opportunity, and do everything I could to make it possible and easiest for the designers in my office to do good work -- including creative direction. So the work that my senior designer did was never his individual effort -- and the resulting work is as much the firm's work as it is the designer's and to a large extent, mine. Because at the end, it was the firm's client, opportunity, and combined effort.

So you can bitch about it all you want, but any work that you did at a firm is their property to use however, whenever, wherever they'd like. You may use it in your portfolio to freelance or find another job -- but your claim to the design is not absolute. And your personal portfolio is never transferable to your new place of employment -- not for new bizdev, not for any situation. It's not their client or their accomplishment. It was just partially yours in the first place.

(Of course, the exception is when you start another business of your own like marian -- but that's another complicated situation.)

Now, the individual claim to credit. I agree with most of the posts above -- that an individual's design credit is a black & white issue, not grey. You should only claim your own design, or piece of design if it's a larger campaign. It's called integrity.

If you want to show that you have collaborative design experience working for large projects and large brands -- than list it in your resume. Or talk about it during your interview, and elaborate on what you know and have learned. But it doesn't really belong in a design portfolio, which is meant to showcase your individual design abilities and skills -- not others'.

And creative direction of a design is not creation of a design. I don't think instances like Armin's account is common -- it's unique to the fucked-up circumstances of dot-bomb disasters like MarchFirst. Creative/art directors depend less on a portfolio -- it's more about supervisory abilities and client management experience, among other things. Or at least that's how it's supposed to be.

And lastly, I believe in design karma -- and design hell (perpetually restocking a Wal-mart for all eternity). Goes around it does.

On Jan.06.2004 at 01:52 AM
marian’s comment is:

Steve (Heller), I can understand your outrage, but I agree with the collaborative attribution others are promoting. By your standards my own situation would be less clear: I concepted, designed and sold (in person or by detailed rationale) many of the pieces for my former company (which i owned), some with brainstorming and feedback from others, some without. Most design firms are run by designers: my former company no longer is, so those pieces don't actually represent the work of that company any more. However, legally, it's very cut and dried. They own the copyright, and I, by contractual agreement, have the right to use the work in my portfolio provided they are credited with copyright.

So here's what I do. In my own portfolio, most of my pieces are credited to me for design and them for copyright. On the web I explain in first-person terms what design decisions I made making it clear I was the one thinking and concepting. Where there were collaborations I list either myself + other designer, or designer + myself, depending on who had more input. When I show my work I always say "What I am about to show you was made while I was part-owner of ... etc. so if you've seen it before or see it again in their portfolio, that's why." (However, I somehow doubt that my name is ever mentioned when my former co.s portfolio is shown.)

However, obviously not everyone is as forthright. Are you advocating a formula, or some kind of agreed-upon standards?

On Jan.06.2004 at 02:12 AM
Steve Heller’s comment is:

I am suggesting standards be writ in stone. But I realize this is improbable. These standards should be taught in design school where the almighty portfolio represents an entire senior year (in most schools). Definitions of appropriate credit should be made clear at that time. Remember people do cheat, and misleading credit is a form of cheating.

Marian's case is common and this too can be made clear. In a work for hire or employment situtation the creator can use the material with permission but cannot abuse the privilege (just ask film title designers).

But while I'm making pronouncements about ethical rights and wrongs. I also want to ditto Armin's complaint. The credit issue goes both ways. While a c.d. or d.d. or a.d. has every right to attach his or her name to a project that he or she had oversight, distinctions must be made that allow for integrity to flower. If that junior or senior actually did all the creative work, then that credit should be respected. Armin, your boss should acknowledge your integral role and that he had the good sense to hire you and/or direct you to do even better.

There are lots of shoulds and shouldn'ts in my sermon, but its better to try to enforce standards than ignore them altogether.

On Jan.06.2004 at 04:51 AM
DesignMaven’s comment is:

Happy New Year to All.

Apolgies Armin, I'm aware I promissed no more long post. This is a LOADED TOPIC.

I'm back well rested. Needless to say the Topics keep getting better and better.

First and Foremost, Armin I will answer your POST from 2003 within the next week

or two. Referencing the Identities for WACHOVIA BANK.

I am sure my response will bring a smile to your face.

As well, I will answer Art Chantry's Post of PAUL RAND being a Corporate Whore from Nov. 2002.

I recently learned of the Post. I have the Industrial Design Magazine Art is referencing.

Read it several hundred times. And think Art is wrong. RAND NEVER CALLED HIMSELF A GOD!!!!!!!

Anyone that is a regular reader or contributer to Speak Up should read Steve Heller's Article

in Print Magazine Design Annual 2003 pg. 28 Titled CREDIT Report.

Certainly worth perusing. However, slighly different from this article and post. Nevertheless a stellar article.

The article deals with whom deserves credit within the Food Chain of Design Firm(s) and Consultancies.

From September 2003 to November 2003 I had a major Disussion and Debate with a very close friend whom was employed at SAUL BASS and Associates from 1965 to 1969

Both Steve's Print Article and Speak Up Articles are timely.

While I cannot divulge the content of the electronic transmissions. I will highlight some touch-points of the Conversation.

My friend was an entry level Designer at Saul Bass and Associates. Never had any Direct contact with Bass. As he told me the only time he saw Saul Bass was when he came to the back of the Atelier to get a Soda Pop.

Other than that, he and his staff members only saw Bass at employee Birthday Parties, and Thanksgiving.

They were not allowed to have any Direct Contact with Bass. Which is understandable. I bring this up, because I asked him if he ever talked with Bass in reference to his Illustrious Career.

The answer was no. Because of the Structure of the Organization. Only the Marketing Department and Senior Design Staff had Direct Contact with Bass.

Long story short. We argued about whom did what at Bass. How much of Bass' own work did he actually create himself.

My friend professed he thought Art Goodman created all the Illustration at Bass. And I told him he was wrong and provided him with the documentation.

I am a BASS and RAND Scholar. As well, Boast one of the LARGEST PRIVATE COLLECTIONS in the world of Bass and Rand Artifacts.

He thought it amazing I provided him with this documentation. Yes, there were projects Art Goodman Illustrated himself.

There were projects Bass and Art Goodman Illustrated Together.

There were personal projects SAUL BASS Illustrated himself. There were projects that Bass gave to subordinates to Illustrate

and Design. At the same time gave them credit where credit was due.

Which is what I explained to Roger Ebert. Roger Ebert wrote an online Article stating that it was proposterous that SAUL BASS claimed he directed the Shower Sequence in Psycho. Which was not Janet Lee's Account.

As well, I provided Roger Ebert with the Research that he could not Repudiate. That SAUL BASS certainly did create and direct with Shower Sequence in Psycho.

This was published in a 1964 Hollywood Entertainment Magazine. Which Sir Alfred Hitchcock could have easily Repudiated when he was


I wrote explaining to Roger Ebert no Artist or Design Master ever created a work of Art by himself, because of time contraints.

Artist employed what was called Artisans and Designers employed what were called Assistants or Associates.

I'll partially post what I wrote Roger Ebert:

Historically, Artist, and Designers have always had what was called artisans if you were a painter and/or sculptor. Assistant or associates if you were a Designer.

Because of time constraints and creative demands; MASTERS have almost never created a

total work of art without help.

Michaelangelo, Leonardo, Rodan, all had artisans (stone carvers)

to rough cut a sculpture. Maybe three or four artisans (stone carvers) would rough cut a sculpture before the MASTER would

complete his work of art.

The MASTERS contribution was the likeness of his subject-matter.

One third to one fourth of the total sculpture. The artisans (stone carvers)

completed three fourths of the work.

None of the artisans (stone carvers) are ever credited for their contribution.

The same is true for painting; textiles; design; architecture music, film etc.

In Graphic Design, and Advertising Art Directors are notorious for getting credit for other peoples creations and ideas.

That's not to spite Art Directors. Thats the norm. It is a given, when you enter the ARENA of Visual Communication the

Art Director has CARTE BLANCHE. It is ADAPT OR DIE!!!!

In Film the Director has CARTE BLANCHE!!!!!!

Mr. Bass, was one of few Design GODS to give credit to his associates for their creations. When most Design Firms never acknowledged their Designers for their creations. The norm was and in some cases still is, the owner of the firm get the credit and/or the entity itself

is credited.It's called a team effort.

It was unheard of in the early days of Graphic and Industrial Design for individual efforts to be acknowledged.

In this respect, SAUL BASS was a very generous man.

Furthermore, Mr. Bass would allow entry level and Mid-level Designers to be credited when

they contributed to the Design process. To facilitate their careers. Unheard of in the Design Industry.

I agree, if the owner of the entity gives Birth to the Idea or just magically wave his/her

hands. They are the Visionary's of the Project.

In reference to Steve Heller's Article in Print Design Annual 2003 (titled Credit Report)

Credit acknowledged or not acknowledged is the GENOROSITY of the Visionare or Lack-there-of.

Which brings me to MARK KOSTABI. Not many people reading and writing on Speak Up will know MARK KOSTABI. Other than Steve Heller.

MARK KOSTABI was a Protégé of Andy Warhol. Whom in the 1980s dominated Pop Art.

I used to see this young KID on all the News Magazine Programs such as Entertainment Tonight and a few others.

This KID MARK KOSTABI was brutally HONEST. He would say things like THE MASTERS HAND's never touches a work of Art.

He built his whole reputation based on the principals of creation of the Old Masters. I loved this Kid. I was working in

the Industry as an Illustrator. I would say to myself. 'How the HELL DOES THIS KID know Rembrant, Peter Paul Reubens, and Titian never completed a work of Art by themselves'.

Well you had to see MARK KOSTABI to believe him. Like PENN and Teller with Magic and Illusions. Kostabi revealed the secrets of Art and Design

no self-respecting Artist or Designer would talk about.

Kostabi would have his artisans actually paint fine art from his Designs or better scribbles on paper. KOSTABI, would simply SIGN HIS NAME

or put a few strokes on canvas.

He would simply say. "This is how Rembrant, Michaelangelo, and Rodan did it".


Needless to say, MARK KOSTABI was a MARKETING GENIUS. HE is now Filthy RICH.

And to this day, does not COMPLETE A TOTAL WORK OF ART BY HIMSELF. Currently employs

more Artisans than he employed in his HEYDAY.

I credit MARK KOSTABI with being BRUTALLY HONEST and having a GIMMICK.

Very similar to Penn and Teller revealing Magicians Secrets.

KOSTABI was the FIRST to reveal the working methodologies of the Old Masters.

Outside of the Art World.

The only other PASSION I have that rival Design is my Passion for Monticristi Panama Straw Hats and Beautiful Women.

I've said all that to say the CREATIVE PROFESSION is a GAME. And often times it is unfare, uncaring and Cruddy.

Hiarchy work and positions at First Tier and Second Tier Consultancies are based on who you know.

Most of the Positions advertised in the newspaper or on the internet are job discriptions for people

already working at the entity.

The LAW emphatically states if you have a position opening. You must advertise that position.

The law does not state whom you are to hire.

I love Design with a Passion unknown to MAN. I EAT IT, DRINK IT, SLEEP IT, BREATHE IT, PISS IT, SHIT IT,


Certain aspects of Design bother's me which is a area nobody is willing to discussed.

There is a overwhelming concern about the young Designers trying to get his/her foot in the door

by lying in reference to what they did or did not do.

At the same time. What about Design Organizations or Creative Entitiies that hire based on NEPOTISM, RACE, GENDER

or the young lady that walks through the DOOR most likely to GO UNDER THE DESK.

Apologies to all women.

These topics are rarely discussed. Yet they are practiced everyday.

I'll give you some examples. When I was graduating out of school many years ago. I was told by my Design Teacher.

1. Don't be in such a HURRY to get a job in your career.

2. Never Tell an Art Director you have a Good Idea. Because, he will steal it from you and not credit you.

3. Play Dumb!!!!!!!

I found all to be true. I never succumbed to number three (3)

Approaching Fifty. I thoroughly understand number one. Simply stating, you can emulate BASS and RAND. Chances are you will never work on their level.

Reality check, something else that was true told to me by another Designer. The further down South you go the more Liberal they will be toward Design Idiom. The further North you go the more snobbish they will be.

Meaning, Design Consultancies and Firm(s) only wanted Designer(s) from Big Name Schools on their Letterhead.

This was true as well. I have never met or worked for another Designer or Consultancy that knew as much about Design as me. Bar None.

I've gone toe to toe with Graduates from Harvard, YALE, Princeton, Oxford, Art Center, CranBrook, Illinois Institute of Design,

and The Chicago Bauhaus. Designers from BASS YAGER, Landor, Lippincott & Margulies, Anspach Grossman Portugal, Siegel & Gale. (many others)

When I Spoke Listened, Learned and complimented me on my knowledge and expertise which exceeded their knowledge of Design. And I'm very largely SELF TAUGHT.

As you will bare witness when I address Steve Heller on the inaccuracy of Design History.

Norman Rockwell once said when he was young. One of his first interviews was in New York with an Art Editor.

The Editor look at his portfolio admired his draughtsmanship and asked young Norman Rockwell was he published.

Norman Rockwell said he told the Art Editor that he was published by another renowned Editor in another locale. However,did not include the work in his portfolio.

He gave the Editors name. The editor whom was interviewing him left the room.

Norman Rockwell said that was the fastest exit he ever made in his life.

He said he left the interview, because he thought the editor was making a call to the Editor he gave the phoney reference.

Norman Rockwell, stated that he never lied again on an interview.

Lesson learned.

I suspect everyone has tried their hand at pulling one over on prospect employers.

What bothers me more that Designers taking credit for work they have not produced.

Creative Entities that continue to require Designers to forward Original Copies of works

produced. Gone are the good ole days when Designers received multiple copies of their Designs.

The prospect employer states work will not be returned. I can't believe in 2004 this is continued being practiced.

Creative Entities that require you to submit online Samples and you never get the call for interview.

In the good ole days portfolio drop offs and work was randomly stolen or blatantly copied.

Prospect employees that lure you in their company to perform a particular job discription that was advertised.

When you get the job change the job discription changes. The employer tell you, "We don't actually do everything advertised in the position posting.

Prospect employers that interview you. Never compliment you on the quality of work in your portfolio.

You leave or send them a self promotion brochure.

Two weeks later you see one of your Design Ideas brought into Fruition with minor changes to concept.

Nothing you can do because Ideas are not copyrightable.

Most important, you know the entity you just visited is a major newspaper. They did not have a Design Staff.Employed printers to handle production. The work you created was sent to their retained Advertising Agency.

You were not good enough to get the job. You were good enough for them to STEAL your Concept.

How Cruddy is that???

I can go on and on and talk about the friend of a friend that get the job with little or no experience in Design.

And I can talk about the prostitution that goes on in Design. Again, the young lady that get the job because of whom she sleeps with.

I apologize if I have offended any of Speak Up female audience. In a effort to keep it real


In all fairness to the female community. There are some male Designer(s)whom prostitute themselves (sleep around) for personal gain in the field of Visual Communication.

Being a heterosexual straight male. I'll apologize to Speak Up's gay audience or male GIGOLOS.

My comments are used to illustrate a point.

Most important, the person that does not get the job because they're the wrong color.

Whether, American Indian, East Indian, West Indian, African American, Latin, or African.

I can tell you HORROR STORIES of KICK ASS DESIGNERS that did not get the job because they

were not Caucasian.

Until Visual Communication, e.g. Graphic Design embrace an entire Cultural Heritage the problems

Discussed by Steve Heller, the Speak Up Audience, and myself will continue to exist.

Visual Communication is Plagued by Greed, Corruption and Whore Mongering. Not the kind of Whore Mongering the disillusioned Art Chantry spoke of PAUL RAND.

I am speaking of Consultancies, Firm(s) and People selling their souls and doing anything to get the jobor and win the account.

For instance the story of a First Tier Advertising Agency Media Buyer whom was asked by the client to help her children with their homework. A TRUE STORY.

Horror Stories of clients whom command their Consultancy on Retainer provide spec work for FREE

and generate ideas for free on projects they were not retained.

If not the client would end the relationship with the creative entity after project was completed.

I will end by inquiring of Steve Heller because this is your TOPIC OF DISCUSSION "CREDIT".

As I informed you and the readers I have gone toe to toe with the Best and Brightest in Design from all over the World.

If you are not comfortable answering this question in public I'll give you the option to answer in private.

I will give Armin or Tan permission to give you my email address.

I am curious to know. If Design History is about TRUTH and ACCURACY.

With all the articles you have written in reference to Design Luminaries over the past fifteen to eighteen years.

With all the books you have written in reference to various periods and style of Design.

I have not read one article you have written celebrating the Design Accomplishment of Georg Olden, Reynold Ruffin, S. Neil Fujita and Clarence Lee.

I will go on Record stating Phillip Meggs never wrote in reference to these Extraodinary Gifted Designers.

Georg Olden (African American) one of the Foremost Designers of our Time. Started his career in Washington D.C. at the United States Information Agency. Later transcended to CBS TELEVISION as their first Director of Creative Services under the Corporate Design Direction Bill Golden.

At that time, Georg Olden position was more Prestigious than Lou Dorfsman. Whom was the Art Director for CBS RADIO.

Georg Olden was voted by Idea Magazine in the 1950s as one of Fifteen Great Graphic Designers in the World.

Along with Saul Bass, Paul Rand, Herbert Bayer, Lazslo Moholy-Nagy. (10 others)

Georg Olden was creating Title Designs years before my BELOVED SAUL BASS.

Olden was hired by CBS in 1949.

Reynold Ruffin, (African American) Founder of Push Pin Studios with Milton Glaser

and Seymour Chwast. Although, Reynold Ruffin left Push Pin after one year Push Pin was his Idea along with Milton and Seymour.

I am amazed with all the Publicity Push Pin has received throughout the years.

Credit is always MYSTERIOUSLY given to Milton Glaser, Seymour Chwast, Edward Sorel and Paul Davis.

If memory serve me at this writing Edward Sorel did not come on the scene until after

Reynold Ruffin Departed. Because in the early days of Push Pin work was slow.

I have never read an article in reference to Push Pin which credit Reynold Ruffins

as a Founding Father of Push Pin.

Every Illustrator that has ever worked at Push Pin to include Peter Max has received acclaim and recognition for their accomplishment.

Peter Max worked at Push Pin for two weeks to one month.

There has never been a major article or profile written in reference to Reynold Ruffin. Certainly, a Major Force in American Illustration

and influenced a Generation of Illustrators and Designers.

Reynold Ruffin contribution to Visual Communication is no less than

Milton Glaser, Seymour Chwast, Paul Davis, Isadore Seltzer, Edward Sorel and John Alcorn.

S. Neil Fujita (Hawaiian) Many of Speak Up contributors and audience is not

familiar with the work of S. Neil Fujita. The History Books or Historians

never gave S. Neil Fujita Credit for his accomplishment, to include Steve Heller

and the late Phillip Meggs.

S. Neil Fujita was a KICK ASS, TAKE NO PRISONERS DESIGNER. A contemporary of SAUL BASS, PAUL RAND, Herb Lubalin, Erik Nitsche, Dr. MF Agha, and Alexy Brodovitch.

Most Notably, S. Neil Fujita created the Logo and Film Symbol for THE GODFATHER.

The Identity with the hand holding the Puppet Strings.

S. Neil Fujita had no weeknesses when it came to Design. Like Bass and Rand he did it all.

Identity Design and Consultation, Packaging, Record Album Design, Book Design, Magazine Design,

Advertising, Marketing and Promotion, Exhibit and Displays, Motion Graphics. S. Neil Fujita created

the Original On Air Signature for The Today Show For NBC Television.

Curiously absent from the Annals of Design is the Accomplishment of S. Neil Fujita.

Never received the Art Directors Club Hall of Fame Award or The AIGA Hall of Fame Award.

Most important never selected to the most ELITE DESIGN ORGANIZATION in the WORLD The crem de la crem

Alliance Graphique Internationale.


Before anyone ask. Yes, Bass was a member as well as Rand and Herbert Bayer. When you DIE your name is removed.

The Alliance Graphique Internationale is so ELITE you can only get voted in via recommendation of members and the board.

Someone asked on a post I wrote. "How do you become a WORLD DESIGN MASTER"." Do I get a Platinum Card.

I knew it was a Flippant comment. Members of the Alliance Graphique Internationale are considered


Last but not least is Clarance Lee (Hawaiian) Studied at Yale Univt. Student of Paul Rand.

Worked at IBM with PAUL RAND. Before starting his own Design Consultacy and moving

back home to Hawaii.

Clarence Lee is a Tour De Force in Visual Communication his work emcompasses the Full Spectrum of Visual Communication. His work in Corporate Identity and Pubication Design, Environments is second to none.

Clarence Lee is now approaching his late sixties or early seventies.

He continues to practice Design until this day in Hawaii.

Not known by many without knowledge of Design History Clarence Lee studied under both

PAUL RAND and Bradbury Thompson.

Many LEGENDARY Design and Visual Communication the general public thought PAUL RAND

created were actually created by Clarence Lee.

Noted project that come to mind. Clarence Lee created the Identity and Livery Design

for Northwest Orient.

Certainly, with the accomplishment of Clarence Lee in Visual Communication.

He deserves a Special place in Design History and Design Hiarchy.

Mr. Heller, I can name more that never got Credit for their accomplishment.

I anxiously await your response of the aforemention Design Luminaries that

never received Credit for their Accomplishment.

Apologies for any mis-spelled words. Poor sentence structure or wrong punctuation.

On Jan.06.2004 at 05:29 AM
Steven Heller’s comment is:

Whew!!!!! What a post.

With all due respect I will answer this openly as your query is about historical credit, which, however, is a topic unto itself.

Have I written about any of the names in your query? Yes. But not as lengthy biographical profiles. Its beyond my ability to cover the entire field of worthy historical figures. I've made choices based on various criteria just as other writers have done. Julie Lasky, editor of ID, for example wrote extensively on Georg Olden in PRINT a number of years back. A significant article with curious and tragic biographical twists that I reprinted in my book Graphic Design History. I've also had people talk about Olden at one of my Modernism and Ecclecticism conferences in the 90s. Paula Scher wrote about Neil Fujita in her AIGA talk on the history of CBS records, which I republished in the AIGA Journal when I was editor. I know of Clarence Lee's contributions (I refer to and I believe I even quote him in my book on Rand). Incidentally Victor Margolin has written extensively on African American designers in Chicago, and presented a stellar paper on the subject at the AIGA Looking Closer conference, which I co-chaired a few years back.

Reynold Ruffins was a founding member of the group of Cooper classmates that founded Push Pin. He was part of Design Plus (the precursor to PP) along with Sorel. Both moved on to PP as well. Sorel left a year or so prior to Ruffins, who in turn left to pursue his illsutration career and do fantastic kids books. I have just finished writing the text for a book on the Push Pin Graphic, which does indeed focus on Chwast and Glaser, but does not ignore Ruffins (I'm afraid that Max is mentioned only in back-handed passing).

I am often sent letters from people saying why not write about lost or forgotten designers. I try to follow certain leads, but as noted I don't have the time, energy, or ability to do all this work. What's more the only thing that makes them lost is the paucity of design historical forums. I do sometimes get a chance to rectify this in the obits I write (what an irony). Thank heavens for Ellen Lupton, Martha Scotford, Victor Margolin, Pat Kirkham (who has written a definitive bio of Bass), Jerry Kelly, Kerry Purcell, Johanna Drucker, Paul Shaw, and others who have documented careers and movements. Michele Washington has done a great job in this respect, and I published her work in Graphic Design History, too.

Returning to the issue of credit. It is important for historians and documentarians that credit is correct because its often the first reference point for developing history. The next is digging to find who really did what and when. Bass always took credit for the Psycho sequence but rarely got the "official " credit. It appears now that he certainly did do what he claimed. Was it necessary to dig so deeply to find the truth. Hitchcock did not do him justice. Rand did the vast majority of the work that emanated from his ad agency (and made a point of signing everything he did). Other people's work at the agency was not signed. Perhaps that work was simply to minor to address. Perhaps another historian will determine it is not. Alvin Lustig, about whom I am now writing a bio, signed everything as well. But he had people like Ivan Chermayeff do mechanicals (and after Lustig went blind, he even transcribed Lustig's verbal notations). Chermayeff never put a Lustig work in his portfolio, but he did do work for some of Lustig's clients on his own and under his own name.

Anyway, Design Maven's focused query to me is important. Design history needs to be scrutinized. Its too easy to accept a false statement for fact, which is why its important to accurately document work that is done today, it will be the fodder of the next generation of historians or mavens.

On Jan.06.2004 at 07:51 AM
Armin’s comment is:

If Design Maven's post proves anything is that life is not fair. Or a bitch. People get screwed (no pun intended in regards to the wo/men under the desks, a dubious thing to mention by the way) on different levels: some get their ideas stolen after sending in a portfolio for review and others get ignored from the anals of history. Which goes to prove nothing specifically about our profession. More like a life lesson.

> I am suggesting standards be writ in stone.

I agree Steve. (A bit of a rant coming). For some reason graphic designers don't like to have things written in stone, because graphic design is such a subjective practice with many ifs and buts. Rules, regulations, acreditation??? Hell no, never! We are creatives, we can not be pigeon holed into what we can and can't do. Right? Well, I think it's crap, we would be better off, as a whole, if we had some standards written down on different and various issues. Oh well. Someday.

On Jan.06.2004 at 10:06 AM
damien’s comment is:

Rules, regulations, acreditation???

Yes - surely like Architecture, this would allow graphic designers to not only accept the accreditation but the code of ethics that goes with it.

If we think the entry into graphic design is tough, with not being able to show experience until we've had it, how do you think Architects get to design and build skyscrapers?

Design wouldn't stop dead if there was a form of accreditation, if anything it would help industry integrate it better into its own business process. And perhaps fuel better formal education of it and weed out all of us autodidactic designers who cut corners and never studied formally. And I'm one of them.

On Jan.06.2004 at 11:59 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

DesignMaven...this is a BLOG...not a thesis paper. Keep it short if you want people to read it. ;o)

"What do you guys think is the ethical boundary for work that transports itself from one agency to another?"

This is just my opinion, but the work always belongs to the firm, and if a designer had a significant part in the work, it should belong to him too. Most firms forbid you from taking work you did, and allowing the new firm you are working for to show it as their work. THAT SAID, I've seen high profile firms that have this very policy do the exact same thing themselves.

Personally, I loathe restrictive non-competes. If you need those in your employment contracts, perhaps you're not a great employer.

So, IMHO, I find nothing wrong with Firm X claiming a project that their designer did in their name, nor do I find anything (ethically) wrong with the designer showing their work as part of Firm's Y portfolio if they go to work for them as an example of the skillset of Firm Y's team, as long as the other Firm Y clearly states that it was work performed by so-and-so while employed at Firm X.

As for crediting work, if we're referring to design awards and such, it's really just ego issues we're talking about. I'm not too worried about that. You know what work is yours. If we're talking about plagiarizing work to for monetary gain (showing someone else's work to get a client, for example) than that's clearly unethical.

On Jan.06.2004 at 12:14 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> Most firms forbid you from taking work you did, and allowing the new firm you are working for to show it as their work.

The other day I was checking out the new studio by former Winterhouse employees (Giampietro and Smith): www.studio-gs.com. I think it serves as a great example of what we are talking about. Here we have a new business whose current portfolio is comprised mostly, if not solely, of work done at their previous employer (Winterhouse), but they are very explicit about the fact that it was done at another firm under the direction of an art director. I am assuming this was done under both parties' consent.

On Jan.06.2004 at 12:40 PM
Jason’s comment is:

It is about consent. Can we have regulated credits? Sure, why not. Why not give the designer credit along with writers, editors, photographers, project managers, principals, and printers. If the others go unnamed, then the designer should go unnamed. Isn't design a collective activity?

Design theorists and journalists have even looked outside our practice to analogize our creative actions. From information architects to designer as director, there's no shortage of comparisons. Yes, the film director has "carte blanche." Their vision guides every aspect of the content, performance, lighting, setting, and sound. This has similarities with design. But at the beginning and/or end of the film, you witness the 100+ people who helped the director achieve that vision. Rarely do I see this on a brochure, poster, or annual report.

Steve, I've been fascinated with your design entrepreneur ideals. This seems like the only way for a designer to own it all. Your book gives some fine examples of how designers have attempted to take ownership from start to finish. Have an idea. Invent a context. Give it form. Take the pictures. Make illustrations. Visualize logos. Revise it along the way. Settle on a final product. Look for funding. Have it produced. Take the loss. Pocket the profit.

I've been on that solo ride. It's a lot of fun, it feels a bit lonely, and even as the "owner" there are so many people along the way who help me reach my goal. Whether it's the studio, agency, or entrepreneur, no matter the situation, we must champion the design while giving credit to the appropriate parties that created it. Equal contributions deserve equal credit.

On Jan.06.2004 at 12:58 PM
chris’s comment is:


in the ad world, many agencies show work as theirs if their creatives have done it, even at other places. I know agencies that will show clients nike stuff, even though that is a wieden+kennedy client, because their ad or cd has done that piece of work at a different agency.

On Jan.06.2004 at 05:04 PM
ryin’s comment is:

great topic of discussion, but what message is sent when a firm principal that takes complete creative credit for a project they actually had no other part in other than bringing in the client. this happened to me recently in the print regional annual of all places...a poster i art directed and designed for an annual event i named was selected for the northwest region, yet my name was nowhere to be seen...if supposed 'professionals' don't set the proper example for giving credit where it's due, how can we expect younger designers to do so. granted this is probably an aberation and not the norm, but still.

On Jan.06.2004 at 06:23 PM
scott’s comment is:

Now this is a good topic.

Having been fortunate enough to start out at a very prominent studio and to now run a studio of my own, I have seen both sides of this situation. And while I agree that no one should be going around claiming s/he did something that s/he didn't, the issue of credit is very complicated.

When it comes to crediting a studio, that's easy. If something was produced by that business, that business did it. It doesn't matter who did it or when--they did it. We show plenty of work on our site that wouldn't exist if it weren't for people that have long since left.

Beyond that, there is no black or white with credit, unless one person came up with the idea and made the thing from beginning to end (allowing for the proverbial canvas-stretching and so on to be done by others). But it's rare that a project goes that way.

Back in the day, I remember complaining endlessly about my boss getting all the credit for the work done by me and my co-workers. No matter what, we were always lost in the shuffle, regardless of how much of what project was done by whom. But there were two things I didn't get.

First, as Tan said, the principal/creative director/aesthetic overlord of a studio is the one that made it possible for that work to exist--by landing smart clients, creating an environment that is conducive to good work, bringing together good people and letting them do great things.

The second thing is that most people want to give credit to one person. The genius myth, the cult of the personality--whatever you call it, people believe in it. It's too complicated to think about the actual creative process. It's much easier to say [insert famous person] "did it."

I saw this at my old job, I've seen it elsewhere, and I encounter it today with our own work. Yes, our work could not have been done without me. But it could also not have been done without everyone that works with me. So I have to fight to give credit to the people that work with me.

So I think it's virtually impossible--and potentially dangerous--to try to impose standards on how things are credited. The world is already predisposed to give credit to the person at the top of the totem pole anyway, and as I said things are usually much more complicated than that.

In every designer's portfolio there's going to be work from all over the place. But it's easy to tell who that person is by looking at what all the work has in common. If s/he did great work at [insert cool studio] but crappy work on his/her own, that says something. The opposite does too.

On Jan.06.2004 at 08:19 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

I second the suggestion that Steve’s “Cold Eye” piece in the Print “2003 Regional Design Annual” is worth everyone's time. If you're interested in this sort of issue you might move Citizen Designer up on your Steve Heller reading list. (Many of us can only afford the time and money for fifteen or twenty of his books and have to keep the other sixty or eighty on our “to do" lists.) My contribution to that book is about plagiarism rather than design credits but touches on some related issues. If you’re still saving up for the book you can read my article at http://www.gunnarswanson.com/writingPages/Plagiarism.html.

My take on design credits is not unlike my take on plagiarism: Maybe I’m na�ve but telling the truth seems like an easy solution to a lot of problems. Saying “I did xyz on this” rather than implying that you did everything makes you look like part of a good team. Forget ethical considerations; lying is stupid. You probably aren't as good at it as you think. People hire you because they trust you to do something. If there’s any hint that you aren't truthful about what you do that has a real potential to erode trust.

On the issue of giving credit to others, I doubt that there’s much chance that someone will think less of a designer who says “My concept. I did the abstract mark. So-and-so did the lettering for the logo.” More likely they’ll think “She is connected with who does what best” or “This guy is a mensch, giving credit to others”

Maybe lying works better than I think. I’ve noticed a lot of graphic design firm's websites that display their client list visually—by showing the clients’ logos as links to their projects. It sure looks to me like they are claiming to have designed the logos and the related identity program. How many people fall for that?

On Jan.06.2004 at 08:28 PM
Al-Insan Lashley’s comment is:

Those being dishonest with themselves and their portfolios should repent.

Let me go for the blue ribbon of generalizations: I believe there are two types of production designers. One is working to become a full-fledged designer/ art director. The other is not as concerned with design as he/she is with paying the bills (i.e., is only looking for more production work).

I believe it's appropriate for a production designer who is looking for more production work, to have a portfolio full of the work he/she has done on big-name projects, and take credit for it as a production designer.

If someone is doing production design and presenting themselves as the creative decision-maker or impetus behind their projects, then they should be producing work "on the side," as Rick Moore said above. Show student and "side" freelance work only, until their portfolio shows enough of their strong creative thinking to gain them an art director position. There are so many resources for getting attention paid to your creative abilities, to them I would say- don't sell yourself short. Do you best work, then get it shown, that's how it works!

As has been said here, dishonesty of this type will do the most damage to the person's own career- not to mention damaging professional relationships (bridge burning). It's just not common sense.

On Jan.06.2004 at 09:18 PM
freelix’s comment is:

Design Maven, you remind me of Chantry. You rock , buddy.

Try not to take his (an my) anti-Rand rant as an end all, but rather, a passionate observation on the business of design.

Like many of the people on this site, I am a huge history buff and could spew all day on it. Later this month I get the honor of presenting Woody Pirtle to the AIGA San Diego. I'm more nervous about that than actually speaking.

Lustig, to my eyes, is long due for a Steven Heller close-up. I'll be first in motherfucking lines. So bitches, back the hell up. -Shizzle

On Jan.06.2004 at 10:07 PM
debbie millman’s comment is:

On a more karmic note, true story: Several years ago, we were interviewing for a senior designer. We saw lots of people, lots of books. Our ACD was heading up the search. One day she came into my office, eyes wide, slightly shaking. Apparently the centerpiece in a young designers portfolio was actually the ACD's. She had designed the piece, in its entirety. Concept, implementation, mechanical, the whole thing. Even went on press with it. She didn't know what to do and came asking me for advice. I told her to get the piece back. I still can't believe that someone would have the nerve to actually steal an entire piece of work.

On Jan.07.2004 at 09:17 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

"but what message is sent when a firm principal that takes complete creative credit for a project they actually had no other part in other than bringing in the client."

A firm can/should take all credit for all work created by its staff. That's not exclusive to the graphic design industry, that's how it is in pretty much any industry.

Also note that 'no other part other than bringing in the client' is *the* major part of any project. ;o)

On Jan.07.2004 at 09:49 AM
Armin’s comment is:

"L?l"h)?o back to one of my comments from yesterday, this would have probably been more appropriate then. And it might just be funny to me. If Steve's Print column Separated at Birth accepts nominations I would like to propose this:

From Winterhouse

From studio gs

(Yes, I'm kidding, I don't want to nominate it, I'm just happy to point it out).

On Jan.07.2004 at 09:59 AM
jonsel’s comment is:

Quoted from the Credits section of Winterhouse's site: The photography shown at this site is presented courtesy of Rob Giampietro and Kevin Smith, former Winterhouse employees who also helped to develop this body of work while employed here. We invite you to visit the website of their new company based in New York City, Giampietro+Smith.

It's always smart not to burn your bridges.

On Jan.07.2004 at 10:40 AM
Valerie’s comment is:

>Anyone that is a regular reader or contributer to Speak Up should read Steve Heller's Article

in Print Magazine Design Annual 2003 pg. 28 Titled CREDIT Report

Does this exist online anywhere? I'd love to read it but don't have this issue of Print.

On Jan.07.2004 at 11:03 AM
marian’s comment is:

I still can't believe that someone would have the nerve to actually steal an entire piece of work.

I know a local (multi-award-winning) interior design firm who have TWICE had it brought to their attention that someone else (2 different companies, 2 different occasions) was presenting their entire portfolio as their own work.

I think an appropriate thing for your ACD to do would be to come back into the room and say, "That piece fo work you showed, is actually mine. This interview is over, and you'll be hearing from my lawyer." That should scare them enough never to do that again. (Can you imagine? Coming home and your spouse asks, "So how'd your interview go, honey?" "Uhhh... not so good.")

On Jan.07.2004 at 01:40 PM
pk’s comment is:

god. conversations like this are the reason i save every single bit of information for every piece...emails go into one folder, faxes another, and every single iteration of the actual work is saved and archived. you never know when you'll have to prove you do what you say you can do.

On Jan.07.2004 at 04:15 PM
Sam’s comment is:

So I have a question---today a client came in and we sat together and designed a CD for his band. He had a photo he wanted to use and a style in mind. We had to ditch the photo (apparently Man Ray failed to sign a model release before he died). So I found some other stuff and we scanned something generic and did it all up. He even had an idea for a logo-like seal for the inside. Am I just a production monkey on this one? In the most literal sense, the only idea I contributed was the art. Would it be misleading to future clients to show this as my own work?

By the same token, isn't it a little misleading for students to claim their work is entirely their own? What about class critiques and teacher suggestion--is that different than art direction? Just to be the devil's advocate.

On Jan.07.2004 at 10:28 PM
Bill Drenttel’s comment is:

I am pleased that Armin picked up on the similarity between the Winterhouse online portfolio and Giampietro+Smith's website. Kevin and Rob worked for us and helped us create a large body of design work over the past two years. We still collaborate on projects — even though they now have their own firm and are two hours away. They are very talented designers, and we learned a lot from them.

Thus, this is not really a case of "separated at birth," which generally is about appropriation of an idea by others. This is, instead, a case of intentional collaboration.

Giampietro+Smith are showing work they helped create while working for Winterhouse, and they acknowledge this fact. Winterhouse shows the same work and acknowledges their contribution, as Jonsel points out above. G+S's photographs of our projects were better than ours, so they kindly agreed that we could use them too. We also wanted to launch a new online portfolio as a part of a larger Winterhouse site, and we adapted their portfolio site with only marginal changes.

Sharing credit can also mean sharing the work. Everyone wins.

On Jan.08.2004 at 09:40 AM
jonsel’s comment is:

isn't it a little misleading for students to claim their work is entirely their own?

I suppose it is misleading, but I would be pretty surprised if any AD/CD didn't understand the collaborative nature of student work and the role professors play. On the flip side, any student who insists that their fellow students and teachers had no effect on their work is likely to be a disaster to work with professionally.

Am I just a production monkey on this one? In the most literal sense, the only idea I contributed was the art.

You can bill this as a collaboration between artists, in my opinion (that assumes you want to put it in your book). Were his sketches so detailed that you could scan them and drop everything in exactly as he laid them out? Probably not. The physical act of designing is still yours, even if your client was looking over your shoulder the entire time.

It's quite clear that almost no design work gets completed without several sources of input from client to friends to designer. If you play a significant role, then it is yours and can be shown in a portfolio. Really, only fine artists get to claim the distinction of being the sole creators of their work.

On Jan.08.2004 at 10:41 AM
Greg’s comment is:

I find this topic interesting, in it's depth and scope. As a toddler in the world of Design, I'd like to throw in a cent or two.

As a design intern during school, I helped form a new logo for the local zoo I worked for. The Senior Designer on the piece did the concepting, but asked me one day to try and refine some of the illustration for the globe in the logo (I still remember her saying "Chunkier Continents! CHUNKIER!"). Now, every now and again I see the TV commercials that the logo appears on, and tell my friends that "those are my continents," but I would be LOATHE to include my name in it's creation, and even more so to include it in my portfolio. To do so would be to lie to a potential employer. But I find that a lot of my former classmates of a year or so ago are involved in this very practice. I can't exactly fault them, either. I think it's a facet of the greater design world, that one must be "bigger than oneself," if one is going to get a job. Self-promotion almost is FORCED to be shameless in this job market. To get a job you must be experienced, and to gain experience, you must have a job. It's a vicious cycle, and one that encourages in some cases, the very thing that it seeks to destroy.

On Jan.08.2004 at 11:01 AM
Sam’s comment is:

Yes Jon, but a client that a student or recent student is pursuing might not understand anything about the school situation. And if the student moves to a new city and has done school projects that use business in the old city, or fake business...anyway I'm just saying. It's a gray area.

As for my situation, I could say well, I did all the things Tan describes a studio doing--I built the relationship and created the trust so that he came to me with this CD. I have the computers (though I don't really think this counts as any kind of creative input or intellectual ownership). And this may be no small matter, but I present as a designer (as the psychology profession says). This means a client comes to me for design, not layout. When it turns out they want lay-out, I either pass or do it quick for some reason other than creative ownership and portfolio-building.

I recently had a different client trace my original design for a business card and move the elements around. This is not really much different from her sitting here having me move things on the computer, just more analog. The difference from the CD is, she was using elements I thought of in the first place.

I know it sounds like no one's steering the ship over here at SPI, but it's not the case!

On Jan.08.2004 at 11:14 AM
JonSel’s comment is:

Jeez, Sam. As Felix might say, grow a set. ;-) Seriously, that tracing thing sounds dreadful. Aside from throwing a hissy fit on the spot, the only recourse is really to take it and grit your teeth. I've had a client be an "expert in color" and therefore dictate to me PMS colors. Ugh.

I'm just not overly troubled by the student situation. A lie is a lie, whether someone else knows about it or not. I don't think a student is misrepresenting their work if they say they did it, because they did. If they worked on a team, they should say so. Crediting group critiques and teacher suggestions is nice, but it is really unnecessary. I don't credit professional critiques and friends' advice, even if they played an important role in certain decisions. It is much like the false humility of many award acceptances. Yes, they couldn't have done it without craft services, but, really, who cares?

On Jan.08.2004 at 11:58 AM
Designmaven’s comment is:

January 8, 2004

Dear Mr. Heller:

Many thanks for taking time out of you BUSY and HECTIC schedule to entertain my query. Design History Inaccuracy, Georg Olden, Reynold Ruffins, S. Neil Fujita and Clarence Lee.

I am aware of the Demands you make of your personal and creative time.

The information you shared was educational and enlightening.

Your Candor is beyond Reproach.

I purchased two copies of the Print Article on George Olden in the 1990s.

Georg Olden descended from GRACE with a self destructive lifestyle and died tragically in 1973 at the hands of his German Girlfriend.

Paula Scher's book was recommended to me by my good friend Roger van den Bergh. Renowned Corporate Identity Designer. I'll have to purchase a copy. Especially if text acknowledges S. Neil Fujita whom was her Mentor

at CBS Records.

Thanks for acknowledging the existence of Reynold Ruffins as a Founding Father among Push Pin Elite

Glaser, Chwast and Sorel.

I will send you Clarence Lee's contact information. He is a Design God in his own right.

I'll go on Record saying if Alvin Lustig had not died at such a young age and Lazslo Moholy-Nagy.

No telling where we would be as Visual Communicators.

Lustig led his Generation to include Bass, Rand, Lionni, Matter. (others)

Usually not credited as being a Forbearer of American Corporate Identity. Lustig was a leader in that EXPERTISE.

With his wife ELAINE LUSTIG.

I always said, Pound for Pound Alvin Lustig and Herbert Bayer were the Greatest Designers in


Saul Bass and Paul Rand are my Favorites. Bass and Rand possessed more RANGE than any Designer(s)

in the History of Visual Communication. (Bar None)

Please acknowledge in your Bio of Lustig. Alvin Lustig Designed a HELICOPTER for Roteron in 1946-47.

Lustig was a GREAT EDUCATOR taught at Yale before before our Beloved PAUL RAND.

Mr. Heller, thanks for acknowledging Bass created the Shower Sequence in Psycho.

I always knew it. I've had the documentation for approximately twenty (20) years.

In the future would you consider writing or attempting to Chronolize the History Of Corporate Identity in America, Europe and Far East. Which is an Encyclopedic and MONUMENTAL TASK.

Nevertheless, a History of Corporate Identity Compendium needs to be considered and brought into Fruition.

Couple more names I want to mention G. Dean Smith and Morton Goldsholl.

Morton Goldsholl ruled mid-west Design (CHICAGO)in the 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s.

G. Dean Smith was a Preeminent Designer and Corporate Identity Designer before he gave up his private practice in San Francisco to Partner with SAUL BASS.

Again, I can go on and on. Totally agree it is a difficult task to write in reference to the accomplishment of every noted Designer.

You seem to be the only Historian making major contributions. With Phillip Meggs deceased you are carrying the ball alone. Everyone else following your lead.

Your are my Favorite writer and Historian. When Phillip Meggs was alive it was you and Phillip Meggs that GROOMED ME.

Fifty percent of what I learned can be equally divided between you and Phil Meggs.

The only other writer I can compare with you and Phil is Patricia Allen Dreyfuss.

She wrote for Industrial Design, Print, Communication Arts in the 1960s.

She was Well researched and took the reader on a JOURNEY.

Keep up the Extraodinary Excellent work you're doing.

If you ever decide to write a Compendium on Corporate Identity please inform me I am at your BECK and CALL.

Will end by saying, Ivan Chermayeff is a class Act TRUE GENTLEMAN and SCHOLAR.

Comes from GOOD STOCK. Of course Serge Chermayeff was his Father.



On Jan.08.2004 at 12:21 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Ivan Chermayeff comes from Woodstock?! That hippie. *waves fist angrily*

Oh, GOOD Stock…

Silly joke, I know. I imagined having the conversation in person, and I would have walked away with the idea that Chermayeff was in fact from Woodstock, because I would have been afraid to look ignorant and ask. Right. Off to lunch.

On Jan.08.2004 at 12:31 PM
DesignMaven’s comment is:

To Freelix:

I love Art Chantry. True we share some of the same


I understood what he was saying in reference to RAND.

Like Art Chantry. I love looking at OLD Logos and

Identities. Art doesn't look at anything beyond

the early 1960s.

I don't look at anything beyond the 70s for inspiration.

I like some 80s stuff as well. Depending on who Designed them.

In FAIRNESS. RAND said, "GOD chose him to be in the position he was it".

That's akin to saying, "I'm Blessed and Fortunate".

RAND also stated the WORLD CALLED him a GREAT DESIGNER. And because of that. He is the Measuring Stick of how Designers should be Judged.

Again, this was said because the FEMALE author was being difficult and challenging Rand on his

theories and belief.

I have found the Industrial Design Magazine.

Will POST Verbatim what was stated by RAND

on Chantry's Forum. Nov. 2002



On Jan.08.2004 at 12:51 PM
Sam’s comment is:

Oh, those were just examples of client/designer-credit complication. Nobody said any of her tracings ever got printed. Anyway, that's a whole other topic of handling clients. But at SPI we don't throw hissy fits. Company policy.

And I am beginning to suspect DesignMaven's first name is "Hank."

On Jan.08.2004 at 01:04 PM
JonSel’s comment is:

And I am beginning to suspect DesignMaven's first name is "Hank."

The man never rests

On Jan.08.2004 at 01:34 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

A bit off-topic but Mr. Maven points out “G. Dean Smith was a Preeminent Designer and Corporate Identity Designer before he gave up his private practice in San Francisco to Partner with SAUL BASS.

Dean Smith was responsible for the Boise Cascade mark and the marks used to identify Yosemite National Park, the various hotels there, the Yosemite Climbing School, etc. After he became design director for Bass Yager I told him that if I hadn’t known better and someone had shown me the AT&T logo (the 1968 one with the bell) I would have guessed it was one of his. He laughed and said he’d told Saul that perhaps their sensibilities were too similar.

In addition to his work doing elegant reductive marks (he liked my description of Boise Cascade and the Yosemite marks as being to logos what Helvetica was to type) he was very talented in his use of type. I can’t remember who told me that Dean and Jim Cross were the only two West Coast designers who got how to make the whole flush left Helvetica thing work early on but I haven’t found evidence to the contrary. Dean died in the late ’80s after only a short time with Bass Yager. (Jim Cross lives on happily in the Napa Valley, BTW.)

On Jan.08.2004 at 02:10 PM
Krystal Hosmer’s comment is:

I was just poking around the web cause I am working on my own website. I looked at an award list to clairfy which ones I had won last year and saw this year's list is just out. I was none to happy to discover that a

former employer has won two IABC Bronze Quills

for work that I did (at least 90%) while employed there and has not credited me on the entries.

I was wondering how the design community views this situation? Should you credit and ex-employee or not? I left on a decidedly sour note, but still feel that professional courtesy and honesty should have put my name on the entries. Last year in the same show, an ex-employer did credit me. Does your firm credit ex-employees as a rule or is it a case-by-case thing depending on what terms the employee left under?

And from your own experience, if you have had this happen to you i.e. not being credited for your work in a show or other public way, how do you handle it? This is the third year in a row that I have won at that show.. so should I still claim the award/recognition, verbally or in my own promotional materials or portfolio showings? How would you deal with the person/firm who witheld the credit?

And you know what really smarts, one of the awards is for their new identity, which I designed and which I HATE! The owner saw it on a series of type samples on a page and said "it's done!" then I was stuck with it.

On Jan.09.2004 at 01:41 PM
jami anderson’s comment is:

Back to the client direction topic, I had a client come in and sit at my shoulder while doing a cd cover which, of course, was quite nerve-wracking not to mention exceddingly annoying. A majority of the time, I would alter my original design by moving elements around to where she wanted them, only to change them back or make it better once she left. She never noticed the finished product wasn't what she had dictated and was usually what I had originally designed for her to look at.

She did come up with a few ideas that were good, such as what images we should use for different panels and what "llok" she wanted the cd cover to convey. I used these suggestions in the design and integrated everything she wanted thrown in. Well, now the CD design has been nominated for a Grammy and she wants art director credit. Was she, in fact, an art director? I have absolutely no problem giving credit where it is due but a designer she is not, just as I am not a musician. Is there a title or credit we can give a client when they are more involved with a concept than other clients who have relatively no input?

On Jan.15.2004 at 08:10 PM
munki’s comment is:

This issue concerns me a lot lately, since a coworker recently told me that my firm would actively spider the web for my name and portfolio after i move on to make sure i don't use any work i did there. They've done it to several previous employees, and the latest one was quite recently. We've been threatened with legal action if we we're ever found using work done at the firm in our porfolios... even work that we did on our own, from the ground up. Its a small agency, so projects are the concept, creation and execution of a sole designer with minimal direction from the owner. They won't even accept us using the work with clear labelling of "created while at XXX studio, under the direction of xxx".

They're also pressuring us to sign a very restrictive non-compete which states that we can never ("at any time, at any place in the world") work with any other previous employers of the firm and that we are not allowed to ever use anything we did there to promote ourselves. Plus, they're insisting that i'm not allowed to take any freelance, even if its pro-bono (which i do on a regular basis for a few non-profit clients) and that any endeavor of any sort that i undertake, even if its not within the core capabilities and functions of the firm, that it could be claimed by them since i'm on staff. Do they own the paintings and soft sculptures i do on the side? Their answer is yes. I'm starting to wonder, if this is going to be the case, should I just leave now since none of my work there can be used in my portfolio without fear of retribution? Do I have any recourse?

Is this completely insane, or is it standard now to sign these all-encompassing contracts and give up all bragging rights to your work plus agree not to do any sort of creative work that they aren't getting money and credit for while you're on their roster?

I haven't been able to find many good resources about this type of thing online, so any links would be appreciated!

On Jan.08.2005 at 06:25 PM
ps’s comment is:


sounds like a bunch of crap to me. i'm surprised people want to work for firms that claim to have policies as such. even more that anyone would sign an agreement as such. as i understand it, in the end, even with signed agreements -- especially if they seem to be forced on you -- all has to be within reason. there is such thing as common sense which the law does respect. there are some things that they have a right to request, but there are plenty of rights that you have as well. one of them is that you will be able to show work in your portfolio to get another job. i think its more or less scare tactics they use. i recommend subscribing to creative business and taking advantage of the free phone advice there. or. talk to someone on the board of your local aiga chapter. they might be able to point you in the right direction

On Jan.08.2005 at 07:09 PM
munki’s comment is:

Thank you for the reassurance ps. Luckily i haven't signed yet and have no real intention to if i can get a new job before their deadline to sign comes up. I'm going to check out the link you mention and then going to get my portfolio in order this weekend, complete with credit to everyone else who worked on the projects ;-) . time for a new gig.

Is it common for graphic design firms to have artists/designers sign non-competes? (reasonable ones) I thought they were mostly for developer types - especially since they create code and applications that the company may want to keep from being reused on later jobs.

The issue of firms using the work of their ex-staff is interesting... the last place i worked had a complete turnover of quality experienced staff (designers, PMs, everyone) and have since replaced them all with cheaper, inexperienced designers who really aren't very good. Yet they still use the portfolio full of projects done by people that are long gone - and continue to represent themselves at that level with our old work - AND without displaying any of the last years work that is not very good (and often outright crap). Maybe if they were a larger company where the processes were still in place and there were some sort of creative direction still bringing that quality of work. But it seems like what they're doing isn't any better than a designer who shows something their art director did and claiming full credit.

I know, i know... i keep ending up working for places with a terrible sense of ethics and responsibility. Cross your fingers and wish me better luck on the next one! They all seemed so nice in the interview! I think i'm going to seek out a bigger, more established company to design for where things are more clear cut and they try to follow some sort of guidelines and ethics.

On Jan.08.2005 at 07:59 PM
Michael Surtees’s comment is:

one of them is that you will be able to show work in your portfolio to get another job.

peter (aka ps) is entirely correct. We had a lawyer that deals within � speak last year in Edmonton for the GDC. A similar question that you address munki was asked. If I recall correctly and repeat what ps mentions: within the spirit of getting another job you can show work that you did online. However you need to be honest and explain what you part of the work you designed. again as ps mentions, talk to your AIGA to invite a lawyer to speak in your area.Just make sure you don't make unsubstantial claims online as you could be sued for slander.

On Jan.08.2005 at 08:23 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> Is it common for graphic design firms to have artists/designers sign non-competes?

Munki, from my experience and other designers I have talked to, yes, it is common. But it is within the boundaries of common sense, not within the realms of soul-selling, neurotic dementia. Most non-competes make sense: six months to a year where you can't get close to a client of your former employer and some also state that no client within the same industry of their clients. Somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but non-competes become more common as you become more experienced and higher in rank. It is easier for a senior designer, creative director to walk away with some clients than a jr. designer. And also, small firms are probably more prone to losing clients to a former employer, since designers in small firms have more contact with clients and vendors they become familiar so it's an easy jump for the client if the designer is nicer, cheaper, better or all of the above than the employer.

> Plus, they're insisting that i'm not allowed to take any freelance, even if its pro-bono (which i do on a regular basis for a few non-profit clients) and that any endeavor of any sort that i undertake, even if its not within the core capabilities and functions of the firm, that it could be claimed by them since i'm on staff.

That is absolutely insane. I bet there is a polygraph next to the water cooler at this place. Unless I had no option, I would not sign anything like that. Not only is it stupid, it's, it's, it's… man, it's stupid.

On Jan.08.2005 at 08:34 PM
Tan’s comment is:

> Is it common for graphic design firms to have artists/designers sign non-competes?

Armin is correct. It is common.

However, what most designers don't realize is that non-compete agreements are legally worthless in every state except Florida and Massachusetts (as close as I can recall). I've had to deal with non-competes on both sides, as an employee and an employer, and have spoken to a few labor attorneys on the issue throughout my career.

The bottom line is that most states favor protecting employees over employers. What that means is that you have a right to do and use whatever is necessary to find gainful employment, even if it means accepting work or "taking a client" away from a former employer. Labor laws also unconditionally give you the right to use and include any work from your past employment history to find and gain future employment. You may use it to promote yourself in whatever fashion you deem reasonably necessary, including online. State labor laws strongly protect your rights as an employee. Unconditionally.

There are a few rare instances where an employer have been able to prove an employee's willful intent to bring financial harm or discredit his/her former employer's reputation — but these are extreme situations where partnerships have split badly, or there are other issues at play. Even in these instances, financial reparations are difficult to win.

Non-compete stories are like urban myths. People hear of firms doing this and that, but most likely, these firms are sending out a few scary-sounding letters meant to intimidate scared former employees. Usually, that's all it takes to propagate the myth.

But going to court and enforcing a non-compete is a whole other matter that's much more costly and difficult for the employer. Believe me, state laws go to great lengths to protect the rights and welfare of employees. Unless you deliberately bring about direct, harmful action to your former employer, any non-compete agreement you may have signed is completely worthless. Ask any labor attorney.

>non-competes become more common as you become more experienced and higher in rank.

Actually, it's the reverse Armin. Like I said, non-competes are really used to scare unknowing underling employees. When you get to the director and executive levels, none of the agencies will insult you with the pretense of a worthless non-compete agreement. The larger agencies also have many of the same clients — Microsoft, Sony, Proctor & Gamble, etc. — it would be almost impossible for a designer to go from Futurebrand to Seigle/Gale or Landor and work for completely different clients. Non-competes just become non-enforceable and therefore, irrelevant.

In the rare event that a non-compete is truly necessary and the agency is prepared to enforce it, the reciprocal cost for that agreement is substantial. It's like asking for an exclusive contract with an artist — it costs big bucks to buy and own a hired gun.

>Plus, they're insisting that i'm not allowed to take any freelance

Now this is a totally different matter. An employer has the right to set forth codes of conduct and reasonable expectations and restrictions for salaried employees while they are employed. If a firm feels that taking on freelance work, even during off hours, would constitute a credible risk or affect your performance while at work — the firm has every right to set guidelines restricting such activities. Now that doesn't mean they can fire you for accepting freelance, it just means that they can point to a restriction of employment that you willfully violated. Just like being tardy to work, surfing porn on office computers, or frequent insubordination, these instances can be accumulated and documented to prove reasonable cause for dismissal.

Of course, this also includes the restriction against accepting personal freelance work from existing company clients. That's a no-brainer.

On Jan.08.2005 at 10:19 PM
JonSel’s comment is:

All of my freelance clients ask me to sign non-competes. With some modifications, I usually sign. I've had agencies attempt to require me to inform them of all other assignments I have so they can be the judge of whether or not there is a conflict of interest between clients. I had that clause struck, as it could have actually caused me to violate other confidentiality agreements I've signed with other agencies. Nice, right?

The biggest issue addressed by a non-compete is keeping employees from taking clients and fellow employees with them to start another firm. In this case, it would be unethical to show a portfolio of work obtained in another firm's employ and represent it solely as the work of your new firm. I'm very clear that certain pieces in my portfolio were done while employed at firms X, Y, or Z. That way it is upfront that I'm not misrepresenting my abilities or experiences.

On Jan.08.2005 at 10:45 PM
Tan’s comment is:

>keeping employees from taking clients and fellow employees with them to start another firm

Yes, ethically, it's the right thing. But legally, it has little merit. Clients have the right to work with whoever and whatever agency they want. Employees also have the right to work wherever they want. It's not slavery, for goodness. No non-compete can restrict those rights.

Of course, why bring about conflict when you can avoid it? If you can avoid poaching a former employee, then you should do it. But having said that, poaching employees and clients is a regular sport in most design communities, including Seattle.

On Jan.08.2005 at 11:09 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

It is reasonable for someone to ask that you not steal their clients. The nature of working as a designer for a firm is that you develop relationships that have, to a large extent, been provided by your employer. It would not be honorable to put them at a disadvantage for that nor would it be reasonable for them to stand by and watch someone do it. The “same industry” thing only makes sense if you are in the position to know proprietary client information and your working for a competitor puts your former employer’s client at an unfair disadvantage. If this is being done for reasons other than the reasonable extension of a non-compete contract that they have signed with their client then it is unfair. (I would guess that it is also unenforceable but I should include my standard disclaimer: Anyone who takes legal advice from a graphic designer is an idiot.)

Non-complete contracts are less common and generally less enforceable as you go down the food chain. It may be reasonable to block certain employment of someone who is directly connected to proprietary information and has been grandly compensated. It is not reasonable to limit the livelihood of someone who has no important secret knowledge and would be severely hurt by such limitations.

It is not unheard of for an employer to demand to approve any outside employment by a full-time employee and to disallow anything that competes with them in any manner or limits your ability to perform.

It is reasonable for someone to demand that you not represent their work as yours. As employers, they have done more of the work that allows your design than you realize. Saying that you did their project or even that you did their project for them could cast them in a poor light and could take undue credit. It seems that they could not reasonably object to your using work clearly labeled with your role and indicating that you did it as their employee.

If you show work that you did while in their employ and are honest about your role, what are they going to do? Send you a sharply-worded cease and desist letter? So what? You could then decide what they could do and you should do next. If you have posted an honest description of your role and a link to their site are they going to want to show up in court and claim you’ve injured them? And is a judge going to find for them?

(At the point of ignoring a cease and desist order it might be wise to consult an attorney about whether they could get legal costs in addition to a court cease and desist order if you lose.)

On Jan.10.2005 at 01:15 PM
Tan’s comment is:

The fact is, business development sales people in this business are hired as much for their reputation as they are hired for their rolodex. Meaning that some clients will follow certain employees — whether it's a sales person, a top executive, or a trusted art director. It has nothing to do with knowing "secrets" — it's simply the nature of building strong relationships in business. Every firm out there has lost clients due to crucial employees leaving, and every firm out there has gained a client due to the hiring of a valuable employee. Sure it's unethical, and should be avoided if possible. But to stand back behind a hollow non-compete agreement is hypocritical.

The fact is, most firms out there began with an employee that took a client from his/her former employer, who started with a client from his/her former employer before that, and so on. It's not as shocking or scandalous as some have proclaimed — hell, it's almost a rights of passage.

Now as to the legitimacy of non-compete agreements — I can only say that I've had direct experience with this, and two HR directors from my current agency have similarly dismissed their legal worth. But Gunnar's right, don't take anyone's advice here. Consult a labor attorney or an official from your state labor department. I'd really be surprised if you hear differently (except, unless you live in Florida or Massachusetts).

And I still warn that it's within the rights of an employer to set restrictions for freelance work. Employers have the right to set guidelines for personal conduct and activities outside of work — if they feel it would impact your performance during work. I agree that it's incredibly unfair, and it's very uncommon. But nevertheless, it's still legally valid under most state labor laws. Again, consult a labor attorney whether or not you believe my advice.

On Jan.10.2005 at 10:56 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Sorry to keep beating this, but this is an excerpt regarding non-compete enforcement, taken from an online Enterprenuer.com article:


The Enforcement Difficulties of Noncompetes

The downside of noncompete agreements is they're often difficult to enforce and, in some states, may not be enforceable at all. Many state courts have ruled that noncompete agreements are too restrictive on an employee's right to earn a living. (Tan — most states means all states except FL and Mass.)

In California, for instance, noncompetes are generally only enforceable in connection with the sale of a business and not for employees. In Alabama, where I live, noncompetes are generally enforceable in only two contexts: the sale of a business and in connection with employment—but even then the enforcement requires there be a valid interest worthy of protection.

Some states require the noncompete be signed at the beginning of the employment relationship and will only consider the enforcement of a noncompete signed after the initial employment date if the signing was accompanied by a promotion, a raise in pay or another event that elevated the employee to a more important role within the company.

To be enforceable, noncompete agreements must be reasonable on three accounts: time, geography and scope. Regarding time, you can't restrict someone from competing with you forever. One to three years is the accepted time period for most noncompetes. As to geography, you can enforce restriction in the general area where you conduct business, but you can not enforce the restriction beyond those boundaries. And for scope, the agreement can restrict certain actions on the part of the employee, but can't be so generally restrictive that the employee won't be able to earn a living working in the same industry in a noncompetitive position.

One interesting thing to note: Noncompete agreements aren't enforceable against certain professionals, like doctors, CPAs and lawyers. (Who do you think writes all those noncompetes?)

At this point, the best thing you can do is contact your attorney to see if you have other grounds for suit, then contact your customers and let them know what's going on. Explain the situation regarding the former employee, but do so calmly and resist the urge to tell them what you really think of this guy. Showing your anger to customers is not going to help you keep their business.


The last part of this advice points to the crux of the dilemma — if your client wants to leave you, does going to court to restrict them from using a former employee going to ultimately win that client back? Of course not. The relationship has already been broken — so why make matters worse and waste time and money on something that can't be mended? It just doesn't make sense. There are plenty of other clients out there — use your time and energy moving on. Just do a better job keeping your clients the next time.

The article goes to great lengths to explain how NCAs work, but ultimately what matters is that few courts, if any, will uphold those contracts. That pretty much makes NCAs worthless IMHO.

On Jan.11.2005 at 01:59 PM
Zoelle’s comment is:


When is the next poster contest?

On Jan.11.2005 at 02:48 PM
Rob Giampietro’s comment is:

We love when designers get in touch and share their portfolios with us, but this particular designer seemed to have been more than a little inspired by our website...


If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then we are just bowled over.

On May.10.2005 at 05:16 PM
BlueStreak’s comment is:

Rob, for whatever it's worth, I first thought of Design Observer when I saw your site. And my first visual connection with the Jeremy Mickel site was the book "Better Type" by Betty Binns. I don't see a big connection to the GS and JM sites but think they are both well done.

On May.13.2005 at 11:26 AM
Jeremy Mickel’s comment is:

Rob, et al.

I just finished that site recently. I'm a designer out on my own for the first time right now.

Rob, I would definitely agree that I was influenced by your site. But I also think it's a standard menu and image interface (and I think I make the navigation a little easier than yours). And I didn't knock off your colors, typeface, or anything else like that.

All that said, I'm a print designer trying to get started. I just got an office space in the east village with some other designers, and I'm really excited to get started.

I'm also going to be working with a web designer and photographer, in trade for my design, to make something better in the next round.

This is the first post I that I've made, and I have to say that my experience doesn't do much for the 'Speak Up is full of snooty designers' thing.

Rob, I emailed you when my site first went up. A friendly message letting you know what I'm doing. I heard nothing from you until I was searching my url on other search engines, and came across your post. Nobody likes being talked about behind their backs.

Anyway, hello everyone. And I have no idea for Betty Binns is.

On May.21.2005 at 02:00 PM
Jeremy Mickel’s comment is:

I meant, I have no idea WHO Betty Binns is.


On May.22.2005 at 04:38 PM
BlueStreak’s comment is:

Here's a JPEG of the cover of the Binns book. It's been sitting on my shelf for about 15 years and was the first image I thought of when I saw the Jeremy Mickel site.

On May.23.2005 at 09:42 AM
Armin’s comment is:

> and I have to say that my experience doesn't do much for the 'Speak Up is full of snooty designers' thing

Jeremy, give it time. A few years more of working and you might naturally develop some snootiness.

On May.23.2005 at 10:35 AM
man, I missed you’s comment is:

Doesn't anyplace (architecture, engineering etc..) with many people working on projects experience this? I mean this dates back to early art history, people taking credit when they didn't “do anything.” This is where you thank the internet and knowing people in the industry because it’s REALLY easy to find out who did what. This is why it’s increasingly hard to get away with the “i thought it all up myself” scenario. I say people who need to pretty much lie only get so far while people thinking up ideas cant help but succeed. With that thought in mind I don't feel the need to concentrate on who’s hoarding what it all comes out in the creative. I cant say it doesn't “steam” me why people feel the need to take more credit then they deserve but in the end I’m glad I’m not that kind of person.

On May.23.2005 at 11:33 AM
Jeremy Mickel’s comment is:

Thanks, guys.

That really does look exactly like my site! I guess it's better to design something that looks like a book called Better Type than for it to be called Hideous Typography.

I don't think Speak Up is full of snooty designers. Through the AIGA Mentoring Program I have met several of you, and you're all very nice. Debbie, Bryony, Mark... maybe others?

Debbie, I read something on this site about you becoming involved because someone was talking about you on here? Maybe it's not such a bad way to get recruited... Anywho, back to work.

On May.23.2005 at 04:40 PM
Rob Giampietro’s comment is:

Rob, for whatever it's worth, I first thought of Design Observer when I saw your site.

I'm not surprised, BlueStreak. My partner, Kevin Smith, was part of designing the inital prototype and logo while he was still at Winterhouse. The interface of DO, however, is pure Moveable Type, right out of the box.

Rob, I would definitely agree that I was influenced by your site.

So would I, Jeremy. And I don't mind that you were, I'm sorry if it came off the wrong way. I was trying to add depth to the comparison Armin made earlier to Winterhouse's site and our own, and thought yours was an interesting twist on the equation. (Armin, I appreciate the comments you made when drawing this comparison, and I hope Bill's subsequent comment clarified the matter somewhat.)

Rob, I emailed you when my site first went up. A friendly message letting you know what I'm doing. I heard nothing from you until I was searching my url on other search engines, and came across your post. Nobody likes being talked about behind their backs.

As I recall, you wrote asking specifically for work with G+S and I responded with a friendly note of encouragement. We get a lot of e-mails from designers wanting to share their work with us, and I do my best to respond to them all. I wish you now (and did then) the best of luck with your work in the future. Again, I meant no offense and think it's unfortunate to see these hostilities aired here. Over the years I have learned that credit is free and critique is constructive. That is all I was offering.

On Jun.13.2005 at 11:39 PM
Jeremy Mickel’s comment is:

Thanks for the clarification, Rob.

I didn't remember getting a response from you when I first emailed you. That's why I was a little peeved by your posting.

No hard feelings.

On Jun.15.2005 at 12:09 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

Can anyone look at this and tell me if these guys are Saul Bass?

On Jun.15.2005 at 08:12 PM