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Economic Temperature Check

Yesterday, I learned that a local design studio was closing shop. Man, they did great work. It was really sad news, and a big loss to the local design community. But it wasn’t a big surprise.

I don’t know about elsewhere, but the Seattle economy is still in the crapper.

Design firms are all struggling, and growth or recovery is short-lived and unstable. Interactive seems to be doing a little better than print, but not significantly. And size-wise, larger agencies and one-person shops are surviving, while everything in between is disappearing or bleeding badly.

Everywhere I’ve travelled lately, the story and economy seems to be the same. This seems to be the reality, despite the Bush administration’s economic-recovery myth and propaganda.

How is the design-economic climate in your neighborhood? Anyone see positive signs of recovery? Any hope?


“Remember, Red, hope is a good thing — maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies.”
— Andy Dufresne, Shawshank Redemption

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PUBLISHED ON Oct.19.2004 BY Tan
James Song’s comment is:

One thing I'll say is that at least in the publishing world there is a bigger push to phase out print and move into online advertising. Seems like we are reverting to an economy where there are less but bigger companies that will be able to ride out the recession.

On Oct.19.2004 at 01:42 PM
M.’s comment is:

While Canada's economy --on paper -- appears to be doing better, it hasn't really trickled down to the design industry. In fact, the 5-person studio I work for (who shall remain unnamed) will be closing for good at the end of the month, after a couple of years of struggling.

For us, the reasons for our demise are varied, but one of them is that the annual report, which was our bread and butter, is a dead or dying medium, not just in Montreal, but everywhere.

Montreal is an especially small market for corporate print design: very few HQs or even communication departments are located here. Even the Toronto office -- which is still open for business by the way -- has shrunk by about 2/3. And Toronto is still considered the nation's business capitol.

I can only speak for this particular segment of design, however.

On Oct.19.2004 at 01:48 PM
Tan’s comment is:

>a bigger push to phase out print and move into online advertising

That's a good point, James, but online advertising is all about low investment, shallow penetration, and short-term returns. CRM and direct-mail advertising is thriving for those very same reasons.

But advertising in general, is also getting hit hard by this economy. Many long-time advertising veterans have already proclaimed the death of traditional advertising.

On Oct.19.2004 at 01:52 PM
ps’s comment is:

i think tan's observations are true. what i realized with my clients, and potential new clients is that they ask for that proposal and then sit on it for much longer than they used to. or projects get started and then get put on hold only to become rush jobs later on.

On Oct.19.2004 at 01:58 PM
Rob ’s comment is:

I get the idea that things are slow here in Baltimore as well. I really think people are unsure of what to do, what they expect the economy to do and even more importantly, probably won't make any major moves until after the election.

On Oct.19.2004 at 02:58 PM
Shua’s comment is:

I live/work in South Carolina. We've never had much of a design-climate, so the current downturn in work hasn't really affected me. I suppose that's the benefit/curse of the area i'm in... consistency in the minimal amount of work to be found.

On Oct.19.2004 at 03:05 PM
Allison’s comment is:

For the last four years I've ridden out the economic slump in-house at a financial firm. It has been creatively frustrating, but in the meantime I've watched the small firms that I worked for, before this job, struggle and die. And I have watched a number of talented print designers remain unemployed until they took similar positions to mine or - more frustratingly - production jobs.

The whole time I have thought I can't wait for the turnaround, to get back to doing more creative work. But it doesn't seem like it's happening. When I look at job listings they are mostly interactive oriented and, while I do have experience in that sector, print is my first love.

Now I think wow I'm glad I am still gainfully employed doing print design.

So, from my perspective at least, the economic recovery is pretty bogus where design is concerned. And the transition to interactive design as the primary career path for designers seems sad to me. It's such a transitory medium and while it offers lots of creative possibilities give me my ink on paper, my letterpressing, my die-cuts, engraving, embossing and specialty binding and I am a happy woman.

On Oct.19.2004 at 03:19 PM
Don Julio’s comment is:

I think Darwin's theory is more applicable than attributing the state of design to one administration or another. The economy works in cycles and always has. Technology continues to change how we all work and we seem to be always racing to catch up.

When I moved to the west coast at the end of 1992 the economy was much worse. No one was hiring at all - in fact they all just finished laying people off, but everyone had lots of time to talk and do interviews. Then came the boom. Now it's slower again... Michael Vanderbyl talked about this recently, citing his experience over the years and the ebb and flow of the tides of business. It happens.

In California - the joke is "If you are looking for a graphic designer, just throw a rock." (or swing a dead cat, or object of your choice). There are more and more people rolling into the job market each semester - and the competition is stronger than ever.

I fall into the "running strong with minimal staff" category, but used to have 8 people on board. I much prefer it this way as I can be more hands on (which is why I chose this field to begin with), and the machine doesn't require as much fuel every month to operate.

There needs to be a shaking out every so often - just like the dot coms with poor business plans, not every designer has what it takes. Companies are looking for the best and brightest - and there IS work out there. Down times are great times to keep learning and growing so when things are flush you can drop into gear and cruise.

On Oct.19.2004 at 03:20 PM
Mike Ziegenhagen’s comment is:

James makes a couple pretty accurate points at least pertaining to the New York market. I have a company of four people and share an office with other friends that have their own seperate businesses. My group has had a focus on print and complete web builds. The other groups have found a bit more success. What has helped them is focusing on web advertising and maintenance. At this time companies seem to be much more willing to spend little bits of money at a time rather than invest in print or larger projects. They also do a little bit of print, branding etc but tend to farm those projects to us. Their time currently has more value when used toward web ads, resizing and the like. What has helped survive are three things:

1. Working with other small businesses.

There are a few reason why ths has helped. A major one being the fact that other small businesses actually pay their bills. I read a pretty insightful comment somewhere about this (maybe it was on here). It was basically saying that small businesses will pay in a timely manner because all they have is their credit (word) with other businesses. The moment they stop respecting that fact they will have no one to work with. One of the most difficult and frustrating things I have found is working on a big name project and then not getting paid or having to 120 days and to see any payment for it.


Keeping a small company flexible and versatile has helped our survival. We have a pretty low overhead for both our employees and our office. Leaving ourselves open to doing lots of little projects quickly helps to cover our bills. A lot of these little projects don't often become things you'll be showing off in your portfolio but they pay the rent. We also have an oppurtunity to freelance with other places when things get slow. Which heps quite a bit in a bind.

3. Sheer will and Hope (that's a great quote Tan. One of my favorites. Top five on my movie list)

Keeping hope alive that those proposals you have been sending out that are being sat on will be fruitful.

As far as those types of things being fruitful, we have been seeing little glimmers of hope. Larger projects for which the clients have been waiting for funding are getting closer to fruition. People are starting to get a little money in. Of course as always happens late fall and early winter things get very slow because of companies waiting for their budgets waiting to recycle in the new year. We have gotten a couple "We are definitely using you for this project but it n't going to begin until Jan 1". At least that keeps the hopes up.

What the hell was my point anyway. I had keep stopping and starting while writing this. Basically things look like maybe kinda a little better kinda maybe kinda. I think March is really the best time to judge. January gives an innaccurate portrayal because people sometimes get a little crazy wih their new budgets and overspend.

That's my nickel. Time to go find some on-site freelance until the New Year rolls around.

On Oct.19.2004 at 03:22 PM
ben’s comment is:

lets blame bush for everything...wtf?

if you try hard enough you can succeed at anything.


On Oct.19.2004 at 03:45 PM
Aaron’s comment is:

Yes, lets! The downfall of print is probably just one of those rumors from the INTERNETS.

On Oct.19.2004 at 04:13 PM
Tom ’s comment is:

the economy in dallas is probably the same as everywhere else in the country, however, i think there is still plenty of money to be made. i get plenty of unsolicited freelance jobs and the need seems to be there.....well, for the small clients. i think it is pretty hard to land a large client with everyone fighting over them. but it seems like everyone wants the big fish, and that leaves others to catch all the small fish.

it is sad when a company closes its doors. especially when it is a great firm. but those people ususally pop up again if they are worth their salt. talent isn't based on the economy.

On Oct.19.2004 at 06:13 PM
agrayspace’s comment is:


What firm in Seattle is closing? Don't disclose if you don't want to but I being from Seattle I am interested.

I just moved to Raleigh NC and began work at a small 5 person firm. It sounded like it was a slow summer but things are really booming now. Most of the work is for BioPharma clients which is a huge market in the Research Triangle of central NC. So thats one industry that isn't cutting back. Its more competitive than ever.

I am too new to this area to accurately judge how the entire field is doing here.

Oh and Ben...

Nobody blamed Bush for EVERYTHING. Just record deficits and a net loss of jobs. :)

Watch the knee jerk reactions.

On Oct.19.2004 at 06:29 PM
Tan’s comment is:

>lets blame bush for everything...wtf?

Before you get all defensive, my criticism is with the current administration's ability to paint an accurate picture of the economy. Meaning that at least from my vantage point — the business climate remains in a deep recession, with no end in sight. And unemployment in our industry seems to be rising, not decreasing.

This is in direct contrast to the president's false claim that we've had 8 months of economic recovery and decreasing unemployment. Here is the true picture of the economy.

While I don't expect President Bush to find work for me or put food on my table — I do expect him and his administration NOT to falsely claim economic growth and recovery. Where I come from, that's called a lie.

You're welcomed to disagree in ignorance, ben.

On Oct.19.2004 at 06:35 PM
Tan’s comment is:

And not to beat a dead horse — but here's more local perspective on the phantom economic recovery, from where I'm calling home.

On Oct.19.2004 at 06:45 PM
Don Julio’s comment is:

San Diego is on an upswing with major new development projects all over the city. The conditions seem to vary widely by region.

Maybe Bush just redesigned the truth? Now, if you could just paint those gray Seattle skies blue. Or get everyone to wear brightly tinted glasses.

My washer says it well: Soak. Wash. Rinse. Spin.

On Oct.19.2004 at 08:38 PM
ben’s comment is:

how elementary it is to blame someone that everyone is blaming. i could go all day on this, you know i have to pay more for gas, i have to buy a new spare tire that i can't afford, i have to do many things, but its life. there are so many gumps in leadership roles that don't stand for anything. it has nothing to do with me liking someone or not, i'm just tired of people not standing up for what they believe in no matter what. its like, the hot topics people beat around the bush on...i want someone to just say, i love gay people and i hate guns. or, i'm a christian and i can't talk but i have morals. or whatever, i stand in amazement at all these people attacking bush because its trendy. the media controls you....

On Oct.19.2004 at 09:09 PM
vibranium’s comment is:

When the gun-toting, bible thumping crowd has to go to "the media controls you' that smacks of desperation. You got your chance...you got your guy in the office and he blew it in such a obvious way...it's got you (all) questioning your very fiber.

All I can guess is W's screwed up SO big, SO hard it makes you question every stance you take...it makes your very foundation shakey, and that is scary. And the desperation to maintain everything you believe in...you WANT to belive in your social and economic policies...you WANT to make it work...but W messed up so royally it reveals how poor a stance it all is...

Sorry to hijack the post...I see too many things ahead...very frightning.

On Oct.19.2004 at 09:39 PM
vibranium’s comment is:


On Oct.19.2004 at 09:41 PM
VirginiaFlashMaster’s comment is:

I can understand the disapointment with President Bush's performance in office. I am not too happy a camper. However, the President of the United State, Republican or Democrat, has no direct control over the economy or the job market.

Terrorist attacks, stock market crashes, and corporate scandal simply just happen. Tax cuts at times, may stimulate growth, but still they are just a drop in the bucket.

The economy follows a cycle. Just look at the history of the stock market. It has crashed, and each time comes back stronger. We suffered a fall from the dot.com boom because simply all the companies were overvalued. The market corrected.

As for the current state of our economy, it's a mixed bag. It is good for some, not so good for others. Depends on your field, location, etc. It is showing signs of turning around though, and we technically left the recession a while back; which started before Bush entered office.

That's all for now...

On Oct.19.2004 at 09:44 PM
JBRansmith’s comment is:

I got my guy in office? Not hardley. He hasn't done a damn thing for conservatives in my opinion. Dubya did screw up big time. I think both candidates really stink. I am voting for Badnarik or Peroutka.

On Oct.19.2004 at 09:51 PM
ben’s comment is:

vibrator: you obviously didn't read my whole post i don't like bush, but thanks for the attack. i don't like politics period. but i would vote quimby. just stand up for what you believe in, thats all i'm saying. there are no more straight talkers in america.


On Oct.19.2004 at 09:52 PM
Tan’s comment is:

>people attacking bush because its trendy

No, people attack him because he lies, drove the US economy into near ruin, and instigated an unjust and costly war that has all but alienated the world against Americans.

That's not trendy, that's reality.

But in the context of this thread, I'm just focusing on the economic ruin part.

Ben, I'm not sure I understand your last rambling in its entirety, but if you have some intelligent perspective you want to bring up about our economic state of affairs — by all means, please share. And please tell us why and how you think the media is controlling public opinion.

On Oct.19.2004 at 09:56 PM
ben’s comment is:

I love everyone on speakup. Every single one.

On Oct.19.2004 at 10:00 PM
VirginaFlashMaster’s comment is:

Tan, no real argument on the war comments. However, would you like to explain how the President is responsible for our economic ruin?

On Oct.19.2004 at 10:00 PM
Tan’s comment is:

>However, the President of the United States, Republican or Democrat, has no direct control over the economy or the job market.

I don't see how or why you can possibly make this absurd statement. The US president is the CEO of our country. His economic agenda and policies, cabinet members, and governing choices directly affects and influences the economic policies, spending, taxation, the GNP, the deficit, not to mention the consumer confidence and patterns for 250 million Americans.

Your premise that President Bush has no direct control, and therefore blame, over the current state of the US economy is not only erroneous, it's embarrassingly indicative of the general public's lack of knowledge of how our country works.

To all you Canadians and Brits out there — please believe that not all of us Americans are this unaware of our political and economic system.

On Oct.19.2004 at 10:11 PM
ben’s comment is:

This was written in the Daily Record (Ellensburg,

Washington paper) on Wed. Oct. 6, 2004.

It was written by Mathew Manweller, who is a Central

Washington University political science professor.

The title of the article was "Election Determines Fate

of Nation."

"In that this will be my last column before the

presidential election there will be no sarcasm, no

attempts at witty repartee. The topic is too serious,

and the stakes are too high.

This November we will vote in the only election during

our lifetime that will truly matter. Because America

is at a once-in-a-generation crossroads, more than an

election hangs in the balance.

Down one path lies retreat, abdication and a reign of

ambivalence. Down the other lies a nation that is

aware of its past and accepts the daunting obligation

its future demands.

If we choose poorly, the consequences will echo

through the next 50 years of history.

If we, in a spasm of frustration, turn out the current

occupant of the White House, the message to the world

and ourselves will be twofold. First, we will reject

the notion that America can do big things. Once a

nation that tamed a frontier, stood down the Nazis and

stood upon the moon, we will announce to the world

that bringing democracy to the Middle East is too big

of a task for us. But more significantly, we will

signal to future presidents that as voters, we are

unwilling to tackle difficult challenges, preferring

caution to boldness, embracing the mediocrity that has

characterized other civilizations.

The defeat of President Bush will send a chilling

message to future presidents who may need to make

difficult, yet unpopular decisions. America has always

been a nation that rises to the demands of history

regardless of the costs or appeal. If we turn away

from that legacy, we turn away from who we are.

Second, we inform every terrorist organization on the

globe that the lesson of Somalia was well learned. In

Somalia we showed terrorists that you don't need to

defeat America on the battlefield when you can defeat

them in the newsroom. They learned that a wounded

America can become a defeated America.

Twenty-four-hour news stations and daily tracing polls

will do the heavy lifting, turning a cut into a fatal

blow. Except that Iraq is Somalia times 10.

The election of John Kerry will serve notice to every

terrorist in every cave that the soft underbelly of

American power is the timidity of American voters.

Terrorists will know that a steady stream of grizzly

photos for CNN is all you need to break the will of

the American people. Our own self-doubt will take it

from there.

Bin Laden will recognize that he can topple any

American administration without setting foot on the


It is said that America's WW II generation is its

'greatest generation.' But my greatest fear is that it

will become known as America's 'last generation'. Born

in the bleakness of the Great Depression and hardened

in the fire of WW II, they may be the last American

generation that understands the meaning of duty, honor

and sacrifice. It is difficult to admit, but I know

these terms are spoken with only hollow detachment by

many (but not all) in my generation. Too many citizens

today mistake 'living in America' as 'being an

American'. But America has always been more of an idea

than a place. When you sign on, you do more than buy

real estate. You accept a set of values and


This November, my generation, which has been absent

too long, must grasp the obligation that comes with

being an American, or fade into the oblivion they may

deserve. I believe that 100 years from now historians

will look back at the election of 2004 and see it as

the decisive election of our century.

Depending on the outcome, they will describe it as the

moment America joined the ranks of ordinary nations;

or they will describe it as the moment the prodigal

sons and daughters of the greatest generation accepted

their burden as caretakers of the "City on the Hill."

On Oct.19.2004 at 10:17 PM
VirginiaFlashMaster’s comment is:

The President cannot pass laws. He sets the tone, but not the exact policy. Sure, he cut taxes; but that can only help but so much. Ultimately, Congress pulls the trigger on everything. Congress can ease the tax burden on businesses, roll back regulations, etc.

On Oct.19.2004 at 10:23 PM
Agrayspace’s comment is:

Sorry but that column is tripe. And you have shown your colors by posting such a biased and emotionally manipulative screed.

The war in the middle east never had anything to do with bringing Democracy to the Middle East. Thats what they call SPIN.

The fact the W is even a contender in the election is baffling.

On Oct.19.2004 at 10:27 PM
Don Julio’s comment is:

How amazing would it be if the trend in politics was to be honest. Imagine pollsters having overwhelming evidence that the bourgeois not only wanted the "real" story, but were ready to hear it. There should be an annual award for the politician who most closely tells it like it is. The difference in the economic impact of our two choices is probably insignificant at the end of the day.

It sucks that the two main candidates are the best that this country can put forward. The choices are worse and worser in Dubya speak.

On Oct.19.2004 at 10:28 PM
ben’s comment is:

yeah, i didn't get to finish due to my dog raping the neighbor, i was going to ask what you thought about that column, my friend sent it to me and i just wanted some thoughts....

On Oct.19.2004 at 10:32 PM
VirginiaFlashMaster’s comment is:

Well, I am going to sign off for the night. Let me leave you with a quote from a hero of the past who never quite made it to the top, but he tried. This would best represent my personal philosophy...

"I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution or that have failed their purpose, or that impose on the people an unwarranted financial burden. I will not attempt to discover whether legislation is "needed" before I have first determined whether it is constitutionally permissible. And if I should later be attacked for neglecting my constituents "interests, " I shall reply that I was informed that their main interest is liberty and that in that cause I am doing the very best I can." - Barry Goldwater

On Oct.19.2004 at 10:35 PM
Tan’s comment is:

No disrespect to prof. Manweller, but CWU and Ellensburg is far from being the center of the political science universe. Your school is known more for agriculture engineers than congressional pundits.

>He sets the tone, but not the exact policy.

Again, wrong. A president selects and appoints cabinet members that have the authority to recommend and implement policy and spending on everything from commerce, to transportation, to national security, to energy allocation, international trade policies, and education. Congress has oversight on just a portion of national spending. And it can say yay or nay — the creation of economic policies sits squarely on the president and his administration. There's no such thing as "setting the tone".

We're not even taking into account consumer confidence, and market consequences due to domestic and international factors that the president has direct influence over.

What do you think a president actually does — make speeches and attend diplomatic parties?

On Oct.19.2004 at 10:37 PM
Tan’s comment is:

I have to sign off for tonight too.

But I want to say thanks to ben and VaFM for sticking with this conversation. Politics can be a very heated thing to discuss. Discourse is a true privilege of democracy.

On Oct.19.2004 at 10:44 PM
ben’s comment is:

bad religion's new cd is good

On Oct.19.2004 at 10:44 PM
DutchKid’s comment is:

Once a nation that tamed a frontier, stood down the Nazis and stood upon the moon, we will announce to the world that bringing democracy to the Middle East is too big of a task for us.

Well, I hate to say it, but it is.

If you're interested in the European point of view: the majority of the people don't take Bush seriously at all. Starting a war based on lies doesn't go down too well here, either.

The Bush administration should understand that being the only superpower left doesn't mean you can do anything you want to the rest of the world. Even if you truly think it's in their best interests.

However, even he doesn't exactly improve matters, you can't blame only Bush for the economy. Here in Europe designers are struggling as well. I have friends in Berlin who find it impossible to get a job, and tell me design agencies are closing down one after another.

On Oct.20.2004 at 05:58 AM
vibranium’s comment is:


Wow. Nice one. Clever.

On Oct.20.2004 at 08:32 AM
jo’s comment is:

I, too can speak for the Baltimore area and say that things aren't all that great down here. I just graduated from college and splashed my resume all over the place, even had a few interviews, and ended up getting a job as an in-house designer for a non profit as kind of a fluke. I really wanted to be working in a firm with other creatives, but everywhere I went people said, "We like your resume, but we can't pay you," or "Great portfolio! Wish we could, but money's tight."

It was very nerve-wracking, given that I got married two weeks after graduation, had to pay the bills, and had to face the prospect that since my husband was still a student it was my job to rake in the cash...

On Oct.20.2004 at 09:20 AM
szkat’s comment is:

things like the aforementioned article keep me awake at night, wondering how many people take these sort of messages to heart. it's like this one guy who was my best friend in college - now he's in seminary in florida and ranted to me for 90 minutes last night about how NPR is a leftist device and how Bush is the only leader on the horizon right now with any sense of Christian morality. he and i are still friends, but we don't agree on much like we used to.

it's frightening me, frankly. so many Christians i know are voting Bush because Kerry is liberal. but at the same time, although i'm not on a bandwagon for either, the fact ALONE that i'm seeing so many people so adamant about ousting one man makes me think it's time for change. and although my faith makes me intuitively go one way, there are so many things that make me want to take the other path.

it seems that this election, more than any i've ever been aware of, is about the lesser of two evils. i get upset when i realize i'm asking myself "who do i not like less" when i should be asking myself "who do i like more."

i feel like good men will not be made until good men emerge. and when our two possible leaders both seem arrogant and underhanded, where will that lead our people?

the article seems to boil down the election to one issue, and that is pointed out here:

Down one path lies retreat, abdication and a reign of ambivalence. Down the other lies a nation that is aware of its past and accepts the daunting obligation its future demands.

all the proBushers say, "the right decision is not always the popular one." and to that i say, no shit, but not since Vietnam have we not known why we were going to war. for WWII we collected scrap metal and grew victory gardens. for this war, we drive our cars, curse the price of gas, and give the attendant the finger. we march and yell and protest but feel impotent and then question the motives of the man we reelect.

tell me how that sends a message of power to the world. how does that connect to landing on the moon and defeating the Nazis?


oh yeah, the topic. the chicago market is doing pretty well, i've gone through three jobs in nine months, but if you look in new places you'll find new things... i.e., i never thought i'd work at an architectural firm. but here i am. and i love it.

On Oct.20.2004 at 10:17 AM
dbosse’s comment is:

I don’t speak often, but this entanglement is reaching lows in too many areas for me not to voice my opinion.

Unlike most of you, I do not work for a design firm. I work for an in-house design department for a major insurance broker, so my perspective is probably a little different than most of you. “I work directly for the man”

I think we need to realize that our profession is expendable. It is expendable in the eyes of the ceos and major corperations through out our country. In a recession or depression design, marketing and advertising are the first to go and the last to come back. We lost 6 of 10 in our department after 911 and haven't hired anyon since, with our company going 15% in the last two year.

Tan brought up “consumer confidence” in his slap against President Bush over the ecomony. Consumer confidence runs our economy and corporate America runs most of it. When consumer confidence is low, we as individuals don't buy unnessessary goods, we will buy only what we need. Corporation follow a similar policy, but instead of not buying goods, they cut cost. So if consumer confidence is low, thousands of people are going to be laid off. That leaves individuals with even less money and their spending will drop even further, taking the whole economy with it.

President Bush did the right thing in cutting taxes and it help in ways that most will never reconize. Actually, the most recent Nobel winner for economics, said President Bush’s only failure (economically) was not cutting taxes enough. This is the area where I feel Kerry (after he wins) will get in the most trouble. Corporations are going to make their money, so if he raises taxes, they will respond by firing people(oh, laying off). If he raises minimum wage, blue collar jobs will be cut and 6 months later inflation will accur. The ecomony will then balance itself and the people that were helped by the rize in minium wage will be right back where they started and more will be unemployed.

On Oct.20.2004 at 10:20 AM
David V.’s comment is:

VirginiaFlashMaster’s comment is:

The President cannot pass laws. He sets the tone, but not the exact policy. Sure, he cut taxes; but that can only help but so much. Ultimately, Congress pulls the trigger on everything. Congress can ease the tax burden on businesses, roll back regulations, etc.

Well then its lucky for Bush he HAS the congress. Remember, we dont just have a Republican president. We also have a Republican Senate and House. Bush had every advantage a president could hope for. Not to mention that the media, until very recently, was in a post 9/11 state of paralysis when it came to criticizing Bush in even the tiniest way.

On Oct.20.2004 at 10:35 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

lets blame bush for everything...wtf?

Ironically, Bush didn't seem to come up in the conversation until that comment. ;o)

On Oct.20.2004 at 11:08 AM
amanda’s comment is:

interesting political discussion! I will remain from going on a Bush ranty this morning though, and stick to the main question.

The market here is so-so, more good than bad. I am a one person firm and I am keeping a steady work flow. Have kept a steady work flow ever since I went on my own two years ago. I can only think of one or two 1-2 week period of panic about no projects, and even then it was due time for me to work on promotion and marketing stuff anyway.

Last I checked, Edmonton was one of the fastest growing cities in Canada, so I suppose that helps. Lots of industrial type clients of course, but when you are a solo you just need 2-3 corporate industrial clients (aka bread money), and then you can fill up the rest of your time with fun artsy stuff or illustration work (aka what I like doing).

Shops never really close up here - I heard about one a couple of years ago, but the art director was a nut job and he deserved it. It's pretty sad when a piddly $500 cheque to one of your freelancers bounces (yes I was the freelancer and I was not impressed).

The state of work down South is really really frightening to me. I feel lucky to be in a semi thriving market.

On Oct.20.2004 at 11:19 AM
Jeff Gill’s comment is:

Tan wrote: No, people attack him because he lies, drove the US economy into near ruin, and instigated an unjust and costly war that has all but alienated the world against Americans.

That's not trendy, that's reality.

Tan, I've got to offer a little clarification. I'm an American living in the UK. As a result I get more news from around the world & especially Europe than most Americans. And I've also got my personal experience.

For the most part the world doesn't have a problem with Americans; they are, in fact, rather fond of us. It is the present administration that they don't like, and to a much much lesser extent, America the country.

So less cringing, please. It isn't becoming.

On Oct.20.2004 at 11:30 AM
ian’s comment is:


i don't even know where to start...so i won't yet.

On Oct.20.2004 at 11:56 AM
laura’s comment is:

Now I think wow I'm glad I am still gainfully employed doing print design.

I feel the exact same way. I came out of school all cock-eyed and ready to take on the world, but realized my options became limited to...okay somebody, anybody hire me because of the economy we're in. I am definiately grateful for the job I have, but am currently looking for work in Vancouver, and to my surprize it's looking not too shabby! Things in Canada seem to be on the up and up.

On Oct.20.2004 at 11:58 AM
Michael H.’s comment is:

> Once a nation that tamed a frontier, stood down the Nazis and stood upon the moon, we will announce to the world that bringing democracy to the Middle East is too big of a task for us.

That article is ridiculous.

It's the cause. None of us are 100% certain exactly why we are over there in Iraq. There are at least half a dozen other dictatorships that equal or rival Saddam's ugly regieme, yet if America is so forthright in it's fight for freedom and democracy, why aren't we in those other countries? It doesn't make sense, therefor our resolve is not as resolute as it could be. But for the right reasons it will be.

I think most of us (Americans) realize that if Kerry is elected the war will more than likely continue, but in a different way. The fight for freedom and democracy will also continue, but in a different way.

Back on track...

Here in Austin I feel like I'm in a protected environment being in an in-house design department, but I still peruse the job market by checking out the local job listings online. There seems to be a bit more in volume over the last year, from the previous one.

On Oct.20.2004 at 12:08 PM
Tan’s comment is:

>It is the present administration that they don't like, and to a much much lesser extent, America the country.

Yes, I agree with your clarification. I was referring to US diplomacy and international relations—as embodied by the current administration—not necessarily individual Americans. Our aggressive, independent international policies, coupled with our overwhelming military capabilities — has turned us into the big bully on the block. No one loves a bully.

And who's cringing? Nothing wrong with trying to fully understand the political and economic world that you live in. Especially when our national election is only a couple of weeks away.

>President Bush did the right thing in cutting taxes and it help in ways that most will never reco[g]nize.

Let's take a look at something. When Bill Clinton left office, we had a 2000 federal budget surplus of $230 billion, the largest in US history. In stark contrast, our current 2004 federal budget deficit under the Bush administration is approximately $500 billion. Please note that both CNN and PBS are non-partisan, neutral, public sources.

In fact, Bush inherited a projected $5.6 trillion ten-year surplus. That $5.6 trillion surplus is now a $5.2 trillion ten-year deficit — a fiscal decline of $10.8 trillion in just three years. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 1/28/04; www.govexec.com, 1/29/04]

What does this have to do with tax cuts, you ask? Well here's what Bush himself claimed:

"And we can proceed with tax relief without fear of budget deficits, even if the economy softens." —Bush, Kalamazoo, MI, 3/27/01

According to the non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

"Tax Cuts Will Cause 35% Of Projected Deficit -- Greater Impact Than Spending Increases: 35 percent of the fiscal decline over the next ten years is due to Bush's three tax cuts, combined with likely changes to the tax code proposed by Bush. Only 28 percent of the deterioration is due to spending legislation, with about two-thirds of that increased spending representing increased costs for defense, homeland security, and the war on terrorism." [10/27/03, 1/28/04]

"Tax Cuts Caused 56% Of Deficit In 2004: In 2004, Bush's three tax cuts over as many years reduced revenues by $270 billion. In 2003, Bush's tax cuts caused 44 percent of the deficit; the tax cuts reduced revenues by $166 billion in 2003 under a $375 billion deficit." [10/21/03]

Bottom line: you can't have it both ways. You can't spend like there's no fucking tomorrow, and at the same time, cut tax revenues and misinform the public that it won't affect anything. That's either incompetent stupidity, or an outright lie. You decide.

On Oct.20.2004 at 01:15 PM
Don Julio’s comment is:

I think it goes... Lesser of two weevils. Can we add sex and religion into this string too?

Does anyone really feel an administrative change will turn the tides? The economy is a bit like a giant freight train moving ahead full. Any changes the Kerry camp might implement are realistically going to take years, not

months to put in place. Just in time for the next election and someone to blame him for the last four years - and so on. The Clinton adminstration - and the Reagan office also had eight years to stay the course.

W may be sitting in the locomotive going woo-woo, but the fuel for the engine is consumers and corporations. You can blame the captain of the Exxon Valdeez for knocking a few back on the job and wreaking havoc on the coastline, but the blame path is not as direct with an administration. The senate and congress got in line to make this shit happen as well, it's just funny that now it's supposed to be one guy's fault. They all had the collective power to say no. Afghanistan was not unavoidable and started the cascading military expenditures. I think the economy is a collective clusterfuck.

My perspective is merged from a twisted creative, liberal view and a business owner's conservative one. Just call me Sybil.

And the beat goes on...

On Oct.20.2004 at 01:32 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Economic discussion aside, thank for those who've chimed in about their region's health. It's encouraging to hear that some cities are recovering a bit. You new grads out there should be paying attention.

But don't stop re: the economic/political melée. Hey, it's my thread, so I can alter the course however. Personally, I much prefer discussing economics and politics rather than the philosophical profundities of design that we had a few weeks back.

On Oct.20.2004 at 01:45 PM
Greg’s comment is:

I liken the current political situation to high school. Remember that kid in high school who everyone liked because his brothers were all captains of the football squad, and even though he wasn't that good at football he still got the starting QB position because that sort of thing supposedly "runs in the family"? That's Bush. He's a nice enough guy, and I don't think he's evil, but there are other people waaaay more qualified to be president, and besides, he's got way too many people telling him how to be quarterback.* Frankly we wouldn't be in this mess if more moderates would have joined up with the Republican party in 2000 and gotten McCain nominated.

Anyway, the topic... I'm particularly interested in this, because it's what's going to affect me in the job market that I want to enter pretty soon here, since I'm still working the same in-house job I've had since I was in college. Wichita has no real market for a huge number of creatives, so the economy doesn't factor in much, but more discourse over the markets in other areas of the country would be greatly appriciated.

*I apologize to those who read this that didn't grow up in a small midwest American town... go watch Varsity Blues if you want to know what I'm talking about.

On Oct.20.2004 at 02:02 PM
Don Julio’s comment is:

Frankly we wouldn't be in this mess if more moderates would have joined up with the Republican party in 2000 and gotten McCain nominated.

That was a missed opportunity.

On Oct.20.2004 at 02:19 PM
Vac’s comment is:

At first I didnt like McCain. I am vehemently opposed to his positions on Campaign Finance Reform and his willingness to cave at times on the 2nd Amendment. However, I never imagined President Bush could be this bad. In hindsight, I think I wish McCain would have won. He has a great rating from CAGW, and would not have proposed all of this out-of-control spending that Bush has.

On Oct.20.2004 at 02:43 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

Does anyone really feel an administrative change will turn the tides?

An adminstrative change will certainly bring about changes, if that's what you are asking. There's no doubt that the incredible debt we are in is going to be a huge problem sooner or later. The sooner we start fixing it, the better IMHO.

Frankly we wouldn't be in this mess if more moderates would have joined up with the Republican party in 2000 and gotten McCain nominated.

It wasn't as much about lack of support for McCain rather more about a very cunning/suspect campaign strategy by the Bush team.

I still say McCain should have run this year anyways.

On Oct.20.2004 at 02:47 PM
Jeff Gill’s comment is:

And who's cringing?

Sorry, Tan. You have an incredible magnetism that pulls the unnecessary incendiaries right out of me.


The Llandudno/Bangor economy seems to be all right for supporting me, a few other one-man shows, & 3 little studios. Little web companies come & go like everywhere else.

On Oct.20.2004 at 03:31 PM
Valon’s comment is:

Whew...haven't been here in a looong time. Tan, by the way, two great posts (+Focus Group Test)...well, little late on this post, but here's my two cents..

And size-wise, larger agencies and one-person(two-person) shops are surviving, while everything in between is disappearing or bleeding badly.

Yea, its very interesting. I've talked to many people around and they've all said they're struggling. Things have been quite well here, I guess low overhead lets me not charge to much and offer quality*.

*more time spent on projects.

On Oct.20.2004 at 03:32 PM
Tan’s comment is:

>You have an incredible magnetism that pulls the unnecessary incendiaries right out of me.

In other words, I tend to incite fights around here, is that what you're saying? :-) No arguments there. Whether you agree with my threads or not, you can never say that they're boring chats.

...and welcome back Valon. It has been a while. Don't be such a stranger...and thanks.

On Oct.20.2004 at 03:53 PM
Schmitty’s comment is:


also available for freelance.

That's my take on the situation, regardless of the rumors on the internets (God that cracks me up! Thanks Armin)

On Oct.20.2004 at 04:54 PM
Schmitty’s comment is:

to append the previous post


Willing to relocate to Minneapolis/St. Paul area

Also available for freelance

On Oct.20.2004 at 05:00 PM
Valon’s comment is:

thnx Tan ~ I will try and keep up...I guess from having Armin so close now (North Jersey - New York) I'm cautious of what I write :) - jk Armin — ~~Welcome East~~ by the way.


Interactive seems to be doing a little better than print, but not significantly.

I will quote one of my colleagues from an agency in South Jersey —

"We're not doing any print projects anymore, because for one - we end up loosing money since clients don't want to spend a lot, and second, doing websites and online advertising is much easier when it comes to correcting and updating information."

It's been the same around here: clients have tight budgets and they'd rather spent their budget on websites and online advertising. For some reason that seems to satisfy more. (!?)


Everyone: sorry I'm totally off of what's really happening in this discussion (i.e.: politics, elections...) -- honestly, because of joining the discussion so late, didn't get a chance to go through all the posts...

On Oct.20.2004 at 05:08 PM
Jason’s comment is:

Well I came back home to Ohio from Phoenix AZ. Lots of other Phoenix based interactive & creatives have shrunk or just folded. That was a year and a half ago. From all my contacts out west it hasn't really gotten any better. The only people who seem to be hanging on or actually doing well are solo acts, but they tend to be to bussy to enjoy it.

On Oct.20.2004 at 05:12 PM
Steve Mock’s comment is:

3 man team here. Brand new. Just spun off from a fat agency. Doing well in the Glass City. Lots of TV. Motion work. DV is rocking. Ink on paper is hanging in there. Occasional web this, flash that.

Finding that the business is fragmenting. Whereas there used to be several 20-30 man (woman) shops, now there are only a few. The rest of the business is picked up by lone old-timers (who may or may not have run their own agency upon a time) teaming up with small, agile gangs of creative.

Printers are still fighting tooth and nail around here. Web-only firms are tanking.

Overall economic temp... a breezy 75. Sunny, some patchy clouds.

On Oct.20.2004 at 05:31 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> (God that cracks me up! Thanks Armin)

I think the Internets link came from somebody else… can't take credit.

> I guess from having Armin so close now (North Jersey - New York) I'm cautious of what I write :)

North Jersey? Yeesh, don't worry, I wouldn't go up there just for something you could say here. (Joking too, of course; I'm sure North Jersey is lovely this time of year).

On Oct.20.2004 at 05:42 PM
ian’s comment is:

Tan - inciting fights on unboring threads - i love it! keep it up.

temperature check

i live and work in denver, colorado. however, i’m not a great barometer for this area. i work in a design / advertising studio of 18 employees (4 designers and 1 copy writer). we specialize in resort real estate marketing (aka 2nd homes) and people with enough money to buy a 2nd home pretty much always have money regardless of how little the rest of us have. as a result, we have kept busy, almost [knocking on wood] too busy. a lot of firms in this area closed shop or greatly reduced numbers over the last two years. it took me 18 months and i think something like 40 résumés to find this job over 18 months ago. when i got this position it was a choice between this and, well nothing [i couldn’t even get a job tuning bikes at a bike shop due to a lack of bike shop experience]. within the last 6 month i’ve seen a lot more job posts on art directors club of denver and aiga colorado’s web sites. but that has slowed down as of recently. i get a half-hour-old-cup-of-coffee warm response from other designers when i ask how it’s going for them. like “it’s going [pause] good [almost a question]” in other word it could be a lot better.

political temperature check

i hate it. i mean i really fucking hate an election year. the closer it gets to the election the worse mood i get in. the ads are the absolute worst! pete coors (yes, of coors brewing company) is running for u.s. senate out here and his ads and the ads against him are horrible (example: “pete coors makes great beer, but his views on...” i’m not even kidding. what lies! his beer is crap.)

part of the problem for me is i was raised by hippies then went off and joined the marine corps. talk about conflicting political view points. frankly, the dubya scares the crap out of me. what the hell is he going to do to our country with another 4 years. i strongly support our military and the need for it. don’t mistake that as a statement that i support this war on iraq. it really pisses me off the way bush is using our military. his actions have been proven to be unjustified. but my wanting to support a strong military is about as deep in the republican waters as i dare wade. doesn’t mean i’m swimming with the democrats either. they freak me out too, just not as bad. i wish third parties stood a chance.

the only upside is if he wins, he only gets 4 more years. what a long, strange, hold-your-breath trip that will be...

david v. made the point earlier that both the house and the senate are republican. so if kerry wins, how hard is it going to be for him to make significant changes? not to mention the people bush has appointed are extreme conservatives.

> What do you think a president actually does — make speeches and attend diplomatic parties?

if only dreams really did come true...i believe douglas adams said it best:

”Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.” amen!

here’s something i really don’t understand. one of the premises of our country and why it was founded in the first place is for a separation of church and state, right? so why in the hell can the president attempt to make policies against abortion and gay marriage because it’s against his moral christian beliefs? where the fuck is the separation of church and state there? i swear i’ve even heard him quote or at least make reference to the bible in speeches about why gay marriage is wrong and will destroy the fabric of marriage and our nation. we straight folk are doing a perfectly fine job of destroying the fabric of marriage. what’s the divorce rate up to now, like 49.5%.

oh, and that article by mathew manweller posted by ben...what a bunch of shit!

> we will announce to the world that bringing democracy to the Middle East is too big of a task for us. fuckin eh right it is. that might be why the rest of the world isn’t trying to force it and doesn’t want to help us do it either.

i told you this stuff pisses me off.

again, well done tan!

On Oct.21.2004 at 01:53 AM
David V.’s comment is:

Having bloviated on the political theme, I will now try to contribute to the ACTUAL subject of the thread...

Things have picked up considerably in NYC. It's still tough, but there has been a decisive uptick in work for all of my freelance friends, most of whom were sitting on their hands and sweating for most of the last 2.5 years. Suddenly they're getting work again, calls are actually returned, contracts get signed etc. It's still tough though. It seems like a better time to be a freelancer — if you've got the hustle — than to be looking for a full-time position, because those are very few and far between.

It's hard to know how this reflects on the national economy though. NYC's recession was particularly brutal because of 9/11, so I cant tell if things are actual better again, or merely not as catastrophic as they were.

On Oct.21.2004 at 09:08 AM
dboss’s comment is:

Bottom line: you can't have it both ways. You can't spend like there's no fucking tomorrow, and at the same time, cut tax revenues and misinform the public that it won't affect anything. That's either incompetent stupidity, or an outright lie.

Tan, I think your letting your personal politics get in the way of what I was actually saying. I like the passion though I am not justifying the war or the spending for it. I am soling talking about the tax cuts. Three times in our country's history Presidents have cut taxes during a reccession, John F Kennedy did it in 1961, Ronald Reagan did it in 1982 and Bush started it in 2002 and did morein 2003. In each case the reccesion took a bounce in the right direction. Dispite what you might think, the economic bounce in this case, far exceeded those of the past.

Deficits Deficits in this case don't matter. Thats not to say that I don't think that we are spending too much money over seas, but the reason deficits don't matter is because our economy runs on consumerism. If the people aren't willing to spend their money, then deficits are going to occur without heavy spending. It doesn't matter if taxes are at 90%, if people, including companys, aren't willing to buy anything, then the government won't make any money. An economic professors of mine once compared our economic system to Walmart. Walmart doesn't make a profit off a single sale. They keep their prices way down, make a small profit on each good and allow those profits to add up with massive consumption.

As for the bottomline , I am not sure about the incompetency, the stupidity, or the outright lying, but in the case of the tax cut, it was the right thing to do.

On Oct.21.2004 at 10:40 AM
Tan’s comment is:

>but in the case of the tax cut, it was the right thing to do

I think tax cuts, in moderation, was necessary. But spending needed to be tightly controlled in lieu of decreased revenue and an inevitable budget deficit. That didn't happen.

And deficits do matter. As the national deficit grows, so does the interest, which comes directly out of the budget, creating more deficit, and so on.

To suggest that greater consumer spending would offset the national deficit shows that you're confusing personal and corporate income tax with sales tax. A rise in consumer spending has little effect on the national tax revenue base.

Moreover, a growing national deficit actually has the opposite effect — it forces individual states to increase their sales tax in order to reconcile reduced state revenues caused by the national deficit. This, in effect, inhibits growth in consumer spending. Don't believe me? Read this.

Cheney is the one who said "Reagan shows that deficits don't matter.." — which is a complete crock of shit. Any legit economist will tell you that an increased deficit, coupled with a shrinking ratio of import : gross domestic product is a formula for economic disaster and bankrupcy. If this deficit is left running at this current pace, our US public debt will compete with the size of our gross domestic product.

One last point. Keep in mind that our trade balance has never been more unfavorable. This means that our national ability to pay off our growing domestic debt has never been weaker. Sure, consumerism may be high due to the disproportionate tax cuts, but the money isn't staying in America. It's going overseas — and subsequently, possibly worsening our trade imbalance. If you're running a business model that loses money with every sales (our federal deficit), increased volume (greater consumer spending) will only make matters worse.

On Oct.21.2004 at 02:02 PM
Sonyl’s comment is:

As I conducted my search for my first real job out of school, in LA, I found that while firm jobs were somewhat slim, print or web (a few more offerings in interactive, but still) one design field is still going strong: porn.

I guess if you really need a job...

I held out for more *ahem* respectable position.

On Oct.24.2004 at 04:15 AM
Jason T’s comment is:

Lately, any one of these might be better than unemployment.

On Oct.24.2004 at 11:28 AM
ian’s comment is:

Jason T. > i don't know about that. which is worse? a bad job or a bad design job? i think i prefer mannual labor jobs over bad design jobs.

On Oct.25.2004 at 10:13 AM
Adrian’s comment is:

1) The design market does not always reflect what the reports show to be true. Design and Advertising budgets are usually the first to go when things are bad and near last to be reinstated when things pick up. So, when the reports say the economy is picking up, it is and eventually it will end up in our laps.

2) The economic downfall cannot be blamed entirely on this presidency. Most people seem to think the previous presidency was a presidancy of high times and prosperity, which it was, but at a price. The dot.com boom and Y2K(scoff at me if you like) helped fuel our economy. Actually it bloated our economy, all those jobs that were added to ensure a Y2K disaster had no where to go when it was all over, companies could not retain their services. The dot.com's stocks were worth far too much than they should have been. (Watch out for Google, it's heading in the same direction) Companies had stock worth $100+ before they actually produced anything, that iwas sure to catch up with them and the investors, which it did in 2001. Enron and all the other bloated earnings and holdings reports are also not the entire blame on of the current presidency. If you think Enron, MCI and Adelphia had started cooking the books only during this presidency, you are quite naive.

IMHO - The previous presidency is as much at fault as the current one.

On Oct.25.2004 at 11:02 AM
Greg’s comment is:

I personally am choosing to blame all of my financial problems on the Garfield administration.

I mean, sleeping and eating lasagna all the time? The bubble had to burst, man.

On Oct.25.2004 at 12:37 PM
Darlene R. Trowell’s comment is:

Because of technology both photographers and design firms are losing their clients. Several people are producing their own products because it's cheaper.

On Oct.26.2004 at 07:12 PM
Sholto’s comment is:

I run a small travel business that produces no print at all, or at least very little. However, we need tons and tons of design as everything we do is designed.

My problem has been finding designers who understand my business and have flexible and appropriate working practices. My backgrounds is the arts and when I started in the Internet in 1992(!) designers weren't really interested.

There is more and more requirement for design, but perhaps a changinfg business model for designers away from being execution to being advisers, helping businesses like mine use design better. I may be different but I sense everybody knows more about design now so designers have to retune this approach and there will be the future prosperity for the professional designer.

On Oct.29.2004 at 04:04 PM
Michael H.’s comment is:

>Here in Austin I feel like I'm in a protected environment being in an in-house design department...

Boy do I want to take that comment back. Our graphics department just got cut in half, and I was in the half that was let go. All the hugs were nice and I'm getting a lot of support from colleagues who have other contacts they can get me in touch with.

So now I'll be on the front lines and can let you guys know (for those interested) how the market looks in Austin. Wish me luck!

On Nov.05.2004 at 05:27 PM
Jeff Gill’s comment is:


I'm terribly sorry to read of your being let go.

Best of luck on finding the next thing. And here's to it being even better.

On Nov.07.2004 at 02:15 PM
Michael H.’s comment is:

Thanks Jeff, I appreciate that. I feel pretty good about this (in that I do believe the next thing will be better) but it's like I told Tan, I'll start to sweat if it's been a few weeks and I still have no luck.

On Nov.08.2004 at 02:09 PM