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Does Design Matter in a Big Museum?

Last year, I had enough.

In my final year of eligibility, after years of trying, I was refused by the Art Directors Club the title of “Young Gun.” My 31st birthday came and went. I would not be knighted. I was not only not good enough, but now I was too old.

My 31st birthday couldn’t have come at a better time. Given a few more years, I would have proudly gone on spending money on entry fees to become a Young Gun. And it wasn’t so much the losing that got me, but the money I tossed away to have someone judge me unworthy. Is there anything worse than paying to be kicked? Of course, “Young Guns” aren’t just named by anyone. The money goes to be kicked by a boot of exquisite taste.

So we all pay. The winners and the not-winners. But after looking at my checkbook, I decided I just could not financially afford to try to garner design achievements any longer. So I retired from design recognition.

Then a funny thing happened.

My design work ended up in a museum. A big museum. And that big museum had a big show: National Design Triennial at the Cooper-Hewitt.

And it didn’t cost me a dime.

I was tickled. Really. So tickled that I hopped a plane on some short notice and went to see it in person over the holiday. It was humbling to see my work amongst the design disciplines that I would argue “matter” a lot: architecture, industrial design, robotics, and Google.

But there it was: a silkscreened poster of a handgun with a corncob barrel.

In The Smithsonian, folks.

Filed, strangely, under “The People’s Design Awards” web site. Good enough for me. That sounds better than “Young Gun,” I think. “Young gun” sounds immature and out-of-touch. A “People’s Design Award” sounds like my work matters to everyday people.

Then another funny thing happened.

That afternoon I helped a friend move some boxes to her apartment. As we crossed busy Houston Street, we heard a loud boom. In the middle of the intersection, as we crossed, we noticed the manhole next to us was open and emitting six feet of blue flame. Soon Houston Street was closed, the fire trucks arrived, and the manhole cover was found two feet into the earth a block away.

And I was being interviewed with my friend for the 11 O’Clock news in New York City.

I saw something happen. A random event. My words “Six feet of blue flame” were shoved under the eyelids of millions. For a moment, my story (and my new Oregon beard) was known to many.

I was “Jimm Lasser. Eyewitness.” I was not “Jimm Lasser. People’s Design Award Winner.”

Nor, to the public, would I ever be.

If a designer wins something, does anyone give a shit?

I really don’t know. Real people do not read Print, ID, CA, Eye. Real people don’t know what a Young Gun is.

Real people do go to museums; however, and I think my bearing witness to another CoEd fuck up is more notable to them.

So why do we spend all this money chasing the dream to have our work in these magazines if we are really just showing off to each other? Because the recognition is what feeds the beast: it generates more business, it helps you get a better job, it writes the history of the craft. It is the carrot. And we need carrots. Carrots make it all worthwhile.

At the airport I received a text message from a designer I used to work with in New York. I think it put my weekend of triumph as the “People’s Designer” in perspective:

“Hey Grizzly Adams, I saw you on News 4. Who was the blonde in the hat?”

Maintained through our ADV @ UnderConsideration Program
PUBLISHED ON Jan.04.2007 BY Jimm Lasser
ryko’s comment is:

so...who was the blonde in the hat?

On Jan.04.2007 at 12:14 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Awards come and go. Fame comes and goes. Success, titles, offices, accolades, money, possessions -- they all matter zilch, and are fleeting, or tiresome eventually.

As you grow in your career, how you treat people speaks volumes more than what award you may garner. How you live as a person lives on and affects people around you much more than anything you could produce. It affects your co-workers, your employees, your peers, and your family. That's what people give a shit about.

Now, the art you make -- whether it's design, writing, music, furniture, architecture, whatever -- does live on and can affect a huge number of people. But there's an important distinction: people ultimately give a shit about the art, not you. They know and value the thing, not the person that made it.

Awards are nice. Yes, they help bring in business. Yes, they help garner fame, which is nice in itself. And yes, awards are worthwhile accomplishments. But do people really give a shit about you because you won something? No, I think it's delusional to think so.

It doesn't take much to put things into perspective. A talented designer friend of mine was climbing the ladder to fame until she got MS. A couple I know was building a notable design business until their child was diagnosed with leukemia. Heck, a traffic accident can change the course of any designer's life -- no matter how famous or award-winning he or she might be.

You realize real fast about what you give a shit about and vice-versa.

Sorry to deep-dive, but you asked.

On Jan.04.2007 at 02:18 PM
Rocco Piscatello’s comment is:

Jimm, your work does matter and yes I care. The clients you interact with, the audience who experiences the work, your friends and friends who fully understand the commitment you have to design and yes, even the judges at the ADC care. Each year the ADC receives so many entries and in my mind that's the greatest thing. It's a nice reminder that young people have enormous talent and make a significant contribution. Keep on working.

On Jan.04.2007 at 02:38 PM
Scott’s comment is:

Hystericaly poignant and timely. You just summed up my life. Thanks for showing me there are others in the same boat.

On Jan.04.2007 at 02:57 PM
Pesky’s comment is:

I think Tan pretty well nailed it. Character is formed by how we deal with what life throws at us. It's amazing how tragedy sobers up one's priorities as a designer and as a person. And we're all just one step to the right of that everyday of our lives. Being happy about working is gravy. Awards, I've learned from personal experience, get left behind when you need to evacuate fast.

Maybe getting older means you're getting wiser, Jimm.

On Jan.04.2007 at 04:30 PM
Bryony’s comment is:

Why seek the awards?
Why crave the recognition?
Why not be content with doing your best in each situation?
Why do we need the pat on the back?

As Tan has stated, there are more important things in life and work than a sweet pat.

On Jan.04.2007 at 04:32 PM
szkat’s comment is:

mmmmm, taste that humble pie. great article.

sometimes chasing that carrot can come from trying to explain, over and over again, what your job is / how you do it / why it's important / how you differentiate. to list a few awards on your resume or portfolio site ads credibility to those on the outside, even if the carrots are distributed only on the inside.

that said, i think it's one of life's greatest truths that the best things are unexpected and happen when you're not looking. which in some cases is the Smithsonian, in other cases six feet of flame ;)

On Jan.04.2007 at 04:56 PM
Daniel Green’s comment is:

Congrats on your recognition, Jimm.

For most of the design annuals that I get in, I keep things in perspective this way: If I were an actor, it would be the equivalent of getting cast as part of the cheering crowd in Rocky 27. Even if someone were paying attention, they probably won’t notice my work.

Still, I’m not a “leading man” in the field of graphic design. At this point in my life, I probably never will be. So, I’ll take what exposure I can get, and have fun with it. Perspective is everything.

On Jan.04.2007 at 05:29 PM
Randy J. Hunt’s comment is:

I've found that I can spend money in more fulfilling ways, namely contributing to our NPO clients and lending to entrepreneurs in developing economies through Kiva.

That is not to say that I don't enter design competitions anymore, I do. But I'm more selective and more conservative with the number of entries. I bet I entered 20% of what I did in 2005 and haven't noticed much difference. Maybe that's because the wins were few and far between anyway ;)

On Jan.04.2007 at 06:11 PM
Doug B’s comment is:

Why do we need the pat on the back?

Sometimes (not always) those accolades can lead to better work for better clients.

It's the skyrocketing entry fees that turm me off, however. The I.D. annual call for entries should come w/a credit app...

On Jan.04.2007 at 06:12 PM
Kevin Hopp’s comment is:

Are awards important for your career, yes.

Are they the end-all designation of your creativity? Maybe for people who don't know you, or whimsically wash you away with sudsy insecurity. However, for yourself, I hope not.

There's so much left not to scrutinize.

On behalf of Transit Broadcast we nominate you for the First Week of January Blogger's Clarity Award. May all your truths be fruits.

On Jan.04.2007 at 07:46 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> You realize real fast about what you give a shit about and vice-versa.

It's impossible to disagree with what Tan said; one would have to have antifreeze running through their veins to disagree and say that design awards and accolades should be placed above, beyond and in front of life's many unforeseens. Specially those ladden with tragedy, per Tan's examples. HOWEVER, assuming that you are healthy and your close ones are with you and you lead a healthy and balanced life, there is nothing wrong about finding reward and personal feeling of achievement and success in a design award.

Putting it another way... Lance Armstrong. I couldn't care less about bicycling or the Tour de France. Does that diminish Armstrong's achievements? Does it make his wins a vapid effort quickly dissolving in the self-congratulatory world of professional cycling? He, and all the rest of the riders, and all of us, "compete" because we want to win -- and winning may come in different shapes and sizes for each of us. But if we are not taking what each of us does professionally as a medium to be better, then what's the point? Where is the passion? And the drive? Bicyclers may enjoy from a much bigger audience cheering for them and caring about what they do and who crosses the line first; but it should be no less of an achievement getting selected to the Young Guns. Certainly, less people will care... But it's those that do care (your significant other, your dad, mom, siblings, boss, employees, peers) that matter and make the "win" special and significant.

Belittling our own merits or "pats on the back" is showing a lack of pride in what we do professionally. So, Jimm may be better known now as an eyewitness by a larger populace who will forget him in less than 30 minutes or care more about the "blonde", but those that know Jimm as a designer, will recognize that his one "gun with corn barrel" poster is only one of many successes among others and understands that its only one manifestation of what makes Jimm, Jimm The Designer and what merits him respect as a designer and for which we can be happy for him.

People might not care... but you, as a designer, can. Ain't nothing wrong with that.

On Jan.04.2007 at 08:28 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Good distinction, Armin.

Lance Armstrong is an interesting example -- and certainly a valid one. But I want to add that Armstrong's perceived value as a champion is further enhanced by his battle with cancer and his forged legacy of the Live Strong campaign. Those actions reinforces his character much more than the number of time he has chased the yellow jersey.

I also didn't mean to go all serious about this whole subject. It's cool to be a rock star, no matter how fleeting or impactful. You get chicks, rides in limos, bigger hotel rooms, groupies...

On Jan.05.2007 at 07:18 AM
Nathan Philpot’s comment is:

I don't have anything to say.

On Jan.05.2007 at 08:49 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

'Awards' that you pay for aren't awards as much as they are business models.

But armin brings up good points. If anything, it's friendly competition and who better to compete with than fellow graphic designers. For that, I suppose they have their place. Plus, it's always nice to pad the resume.

On Jan.05.2007 at 12:09 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> 'Awards' that you pay for aren't awards as much as they are business models.

Darrel... Yes, awards are money makers for those running them.

(Another) HOWEVER, thinking that "spending money = award" is wrong. Simply paying to enter does not guarantee you an award. I was a judge for the Young Guns competition – Jimm, you know I voted for you, babe – and I probably went through 100 entrants who had 10 pieces of work each. I voted for 10 or 15 to be considered as winners; that's, at least, 75 people who didn't get a bang for their buck.

For the upcoming STEP 100 competition we pored over 3,300 entries. That's 3% of the entries that are selected. You have to consider the selected entries as the best in a given group, and representative of "better" design as selected by a given group of people (judges). If somebody told me that my odds of getting into the STEP 100 were 0.1 in a 100, I would be pretty damn happy of my award if I got in.

Awards may seem like frivolous money-makers, but if you are willing to play the game, the results are worth (and validate) the expense when you put it in context.

On Jan.05.2007 at 12:44 PM
Bradley’s comment is:

First, "what Tan said."

Secondly, my own perspective:
This is tough. If you criticize the awards shows, then you risk being called a sore loser. One of the more interesting agencies I know of, Gyro in Philadelphia, has a big manifesto on their site about how stupid they think awards shows are. There's a quotation from somebody on the site, and he says something about how awards shows ARE creepy, kinda like the A/V nerds in high school getting their revenge.

Which reminded me of high school, and how in the final assembly after the headmaster read off everyone else's awards (I was a profound slacker), he paused for a moment and said "And special thanks to Bradley Gutting for leadership and moral support of the chess club." I kinda liked that.

To an extent, the awards shows document the history of the industry...in similar fashion to how history textbooks document the history of the world. Which is to say, "not that accurately." I recall my graduate education and the occasionally INSANE emphasis on winning awards, and being horribly turned off by it. It didn't exactly foster the greatest environment and looking back at those years now, I have a much different attitude towards them, and how I myself behaved especially.

Sadly, nobody ever celebrates you for doing what you want to do and doing what you believe in. That just ain't cool. I mean, people TALK about how "cool" it is and might think its neat and stuff, but chances are you won't achieve any great fame from it. You might. You might not.

It's just sad that accumulating the perception of success has taken such a shine these days. I always forgot to put my stuff into the Young Guns, I guess I could do it still because I'm under 30, but eh...I dunno. I know too well what Mr. Lasser felt like, and its a sensation that I'm not that interested in. Approval from some organization I don't care about seems pretty pointless. It'd be much cooler to wind up in a museum. That's rad.

So maybe some of the awards mavens from my younger days can call me a cop-out for choosing to pursue the things I believe in and for doing what I want to do, but oddly enough, knowing what those things are and then committing to them isn't so easy.

On Jan.05.2007 at 01:53 PM
Mark Notermann’s comment is:

Jimm, I appreciate how you brought this up in a way that had me laughing at the end. Well done--and congrats on the museum piece.


In any field that requires creative risk-taking, affirmation feels good, all the more so if the paying clients are often unwilling to follow our creative risks.


I'm curious to hear from more people like Kevin who feel the awards have helped their business or increased the money they can make as a designer. Did someone in an interview see your work? Did you get a recruitment call? a new client?

On Jan.05.2007 at 04:35 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

"Awards may seem like frivolous money-makers, but if you are willing to play the game, the results are worth (and validate) the expense when you put it in context."

I certainly wasn't disagreeing. They are what they are. You pay money, they make money, they pick the best, and if you are the best, you get to say so.

It's up to the individual to decide if the ROI is worth it for them.

Seeing as there are dozens (hundreds?) of design competitions, it certainly seems to be a viable enterprise to get into both as a sponsor and as a submitter.

Speaking of which, when is Speak-Up's Awards call-for-entry being sent out? ;o)

On Jan.05.2007 at 05:32 PM
Ian Lynam’s comment is:

Perhaps notable: the ADC has never stuck to it's supposed age limit for Young Guns. A few of the past few years' Young Guns are Winchesters, not Glocks.

On Jan.06.2007 at 06:43 AM
Ian Lynam’s comment is:

Perhaps notable: the ADC has never stuck to it's supposed age limit for Young Guns. A few of the past few years' "Young" Guns are Winchesters, not Glocks.

On Jan.06.2007 at 06:43 AM
Unnikrishna Menon Damodaran’s comment is:

what is an award?
never had it.
where can i get one?
may be i do not deserve it!?

but heard a lot.
award winning portfolio etc.

i gather it is just a nice feeling.
feeling good about yourselves.
but why only designers?

all professionals need that feeling.
and to give that to deserving people
we need courage and professional maturity.

anyway, congrats Jimm.

On Jan.06.2007 at 08:03 AM
felix’s comment is:

thanks Jimm.

and thanks for sending me a package to the 14th street address that I moved from (I heard theres candy too!)

Jimm fans may also note he and W+K12 were also highlighted in Good a while back... an unbelievablely good rag and effort by W+K12.

Jimm also collaborated with me on this project for New Jersians. It was indeed another money pit, but fun. Thanks Jimm.

Whatever comes your way, you earned it. — Sock

ps- Young Guns is a joke. Nicholas Blechman (one of its judges many many years ago) from the NY Times (now in Heller's post at the Review) asked me to participate. I didn't have a portfolio because Ogilvy (my former employer) lost it... I submitted some postcards inside a copy of Critique magazine in which I was featured... never got in... why? the head of Ogilvy (Boyko) was embarrased to read "to judges: sorry- Ogilvy lost my book and this is all I have". To this day I don't have no portfolio and no Young gun cred. Urgh. THanks O&M! (SFX: gunblast)

On Jan.06.2007 at 10:45 AM
Tselentis’s comment is:

There's no such thing as bad publicity.

On Jan.06.2007 at 01:24 PM
Tan’s comment is:

I think Michael Richards would disagree w/ that statement right now, Jason.

On Jan.06.2007 at 10:27 PM
Callie’s comment is:

Putting it another way... Lance Armstrong. I couldn't care less about bicycling or the Tour de France.

Armin, I can't believe you don't like the Tour de France!!! Maybe you should watch the Triplettes de Belleville and see if that changes things....


On Jan.07.2007 at 01:06 AM
candy’s comment is:

This REALLY made me smile.
Thanks. :0)

On Jan.07.2007 at 01:42 PM
Jason A. Tselentis’s comment is:

I think Michael Richards would disagree w/ that statement right now, Jason.

What's not to like about Prodigal Sons and Daughters, who become revitalized human beings after even the most heinous mistakes. What culture can resist the lore of the born again soul? The villain who becomes a hero? To err is human, to forgive is divine.

On Jan.07.2007 at 02:44 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

I’m curious about the ROI thing a couple of people have mentioned. I’m not talking about personal “I’m so glad everyone at the bar after the AIGA meeting was impressed.” I’m talking financial rewards. Like what your clients mean by return. Is it real for anyone?

My work has received over a hundred awards. That means I have to have spent thousands of dollars over the years in entry fees even if my rate of success is very high. (It is pretty high now when I get around to entering but I assure you it hasn’t always been. I guess I’m and old Gunnar but was never a young gun.) So for an actual justifiable ROI I’d have to have made many thousands of dollars of profit that I would not have made otherwise. That’s profit, not just gross. Getting several $3K projects or a $10K job or two doesn’t count. It would have to multiply the extra work by my profit margin (do I have one?) and get a number significantly higher than the entry costs (fees plus shipping costs plus preparation, etc.) Let’s assume for a moment that I spent ten grand and my profit margin is 20%. I’d need to be able to attribute $50K in extra income to the result before there was any positive ROI.

I can’t track a single job I’ve ever done to an award. I’ve never had a client (new or ongoing) ask about awards. In my academic career it may be important but from the standpoint of business, I could look an IRS auditor in the face and say that it’s a legitimate business expense but I’d have to add “but probably a stupid one.” Does anyone else have a different experience?

On Jan.08.2007 at 08:46 AM
Tselentis’s comment is:

I always appreciate the perspective Gunnar brings to the table. I also itemize those entry expenses, but have to agree with him that spending money in that way does not warrant any immediate ROI. Each designer should be aware of what Return they want to get: peer recognition, new business, a promotion, legitimizing their practice.

On Jan.08.2007 at 09:56 AM
Christina W’s comment is:

I found Gunnar's post interesting... I've never entered a competition as a professional designer, but the couple of student awards that I won were great experiences and introduced me to a lot of people. The really nice thing about student awards is a lot of them have no or low entry fees, you just have to be a member of something.

I am going to submit one of my freelance writing articles to a publications group contest. But there's a clear benefit to this since entries are exposed to potential 'clients' (ie, magazine editors); plus it's in a niche market so it's not like throwing myself in with 3000 other entries. It's interesting that it doesn't quite compare to design competitions... Exposure in our community is proportionally less likely to result in a job, since most jobs come from outside.

But it would be really cool if someone from Pentagram picked your stuff out of the slush pile and said, "Hey, I think this is kinda good."

On Jan.08.2007 at 10:37 AM
Bradley’s comment is:

There was a cover story in Ad Age a few months ago about the ROI of awards. Of course, that was for the numbskull industry I work in, "advertising." Ad people REALLY like their awards, and the entry fees for Cannes and D&AD hover around $1000+ if I recall correctly, so they like them enough to deal with that expense (the article did not, however, account for travel to France, party dresses and tuxes, etc).

But, what they found, was that winning awards does tend to bode well for the agency financially. Personally, I'm skeptical of that connection. I think its more a matter of the agencies who win awards just also doing better business...because I've seen plenty of award-winning agencies flounder.

And Gunnar's very real experience speaks volumes. The hardest part of this business remains getting clients, and that usually comes down to one's ability to network, talk business, sell, and make deals. I'm not sure how many clients know what the One Show is or differentiate between the prestige of various competitions.

On Jan.08.2007 at 01:12 PM
Tan’s comment is:

ROI for awards is very much measured like returns for PR. It's rarely a one-to-one, direct return, but rather, it's an amalgam of returns from multiple channels -- some directly measurable, some not.

I once had an annual report, which had made AR100, make it onto a Business Week article. The equivalent PR value was probably around $80,000+ for that single hit. Now, can I directly prove that the hit resulted in acquiring a new AR client? Well, no. But I can assure you that the firm maximized that article to death in all marketing materials for the firm from that point forth.

So in that instance, the award led to industry recognition, which became a marketing tool that almost assuredly garnered more business. That's the ROI, Gunnar.

Most of the large agencies -- ad and design -- have defined budgets for award submissions. They do, in fact, see it as a PR expenditure. I do know for a fact that during the heavy award seasons, it's not unusual to see $5k to $10k a month in submission fee spending in the larger agencies.

On Jan.08.2007 at 03:07 PM
Daniel Green’s comment is:


Good question on ROI.

I certainly can’t say I’ve had a customer come calling because of an award. From a business perspective, I see the payback in two ways...both of which are difficult to put onto a balance sheet.

First of all, I’ve had clients thrilled to have their work get an award because it helps validate their efforts to their board of directors or other stakeholders. If their communications programs were failing, of course, or if the client relationship was sour, an award here or there wouldn’t make up for it. However, in conjunction with successful results, and award is icing on the cake.

Second, I’ve seen awards beneficial in recruitment. If a firm is winning awards, their peers take notice. It becomes a place where people want to work, which gives the company a broader pool of talent to draw upon. I’ve seen this at work in professions outside of the graphic design field, as well.

In both of these situations, however, the value of the award is in direct proportion to how much it is recognized in the client or peer circles. In my experience, a client is much more likely to be thrilled with a communication award related to their specific industry than they are with an award from a top design annual. Design peers, however, seem to be only impressed with elite design-field awards.

On Jan.09.2007 at 08:31 AM
felix’s comment is:

"I’ve seen awards beneficial in recruitment." —daniel


As an experiment, I recently sent out an awards cred mailer and frankly, they don't work. I don't know what works, hell I blog all day.

irony-cdote: IKEA called up a few years ago and we did some poster for their stores. I entered them in a show (American Illustration) and won a "web prize". I couldn't care less about a web prize so I asked my client; "hey, we won an award. should we pay their fee?"

IKEA: No. I hate awards. Awards are bad for the head."

ME: "Oh. Yeah, you're right. Let's not do it. By the way how did you find me?"

IKEA: "That Parsons poster in The AIGA 365 Annual"

On Jan.09.2007 at 01:46 PM
mydarndest’s comment is:

A quick back up to the high school ...
I know about losing... my high school football team was 1 and 9. I wanted to win every week but the lesson learned was to appreciate being an underdog and thinking I have to work harder to do well.
Is is a reason that I named my business...
I still enjoy competition. Especially, in my industry and competing agains the big dogs. Lose or Lose again.
I have got close a few times!
Good article and good comments... thanks.

On Jan.09.2007 at 05:27 PM
Bill Klingensmith’s comment is:

A quick back up to the high school ...
I know about losing... my high school football team was 1 and 9. I wanted to win every week but the lesson learned was to appreciate being an underdog and thinking I have to work harder to do well.
Is is a reason that I named my business...
I still enjoy competition. Especially, in my industry and competing agains the big dogs. Lose or Lose again.
I have got close a few times!
Good article and good comments... thanks.

On Jan.09.2007 at 05:40 PM
Ellen Lupton’s comment is:

In my view, the reason to participate in awards and exhibitions is to contribute to the discourse of design. It's a way to share your work with other people, both inside and outside the profession. Rather than think about whether the awards or the exposure gets you more clients, think instead about whether its worth the time and effort to have your work seen and possibly preserved beyond the arena in which the client will be using it. If you don't care about that exposure, then don't bother. But if you want colleagues, students, bystanders, and other design observers, present and future, to see what you do, then give it a shot. Participating in conversations like this one won't get you jobs, either, but it means being part of a conversation.

On Jan.10.2007 at 10:45 AM
Pesky’s comment is:

Ellen, you're probably right in the assertion that design contest participation contributes to a visual dialogue and documentation just as a blog does conversationally. One might say that if you're work is great it'll float to the top, but I don't believe this is always the case. Or only sore losers grouse about contests. My problem with that comes down to no longer having an interest in annuals or needing outside affirmation of my work. I used to care, and periodically I still do, just not as a constant.

For instance, for years I had work in Print Magazine's Regional Annual, not always my suggested selections, but work that reconfirmed their take on regionalism. (ie: New Orleans equals saxophones and gumbo.) But I seemed to have dropped out of sight when I submitted post-Katrina art. This was some of the best work I'd done in years. They have their reasoning, but now I don't care.

On Jan.10.2007 at 12:13 PM
felix’s comment is:

There is also another reason not to enter design contests; plageurism. Most of the people who read industry rags are students and young professionals- not CCOs and high level decision makers. This creates, or enables an opportunity for knock-offs (especially in foreign markets). I've seen this happen to Brian Cronin and Anja Kroenke so many times it makes want to quit.

Of course, it can work in your favor too but by and large our industry isn't full of Christoph Niemann wannabees (like me). Clients genereally look for style, not content, and thats where ethics issues arise.

The conversation always inevitably comes back to the creator's well-being and/or intellectual property rights- which is like watching paint dry.

So paint in the style of your choosing. Carefully.

On Jan.10.2007 at 02:19 PM
Pesky’s comment is:

Don't forget Felix, how many people have made their careers shamelessly swiping Guy Billot, Brad Holland and Anthony Russo. And there's more little illustrators everyday coming into the boat with that strategy.
It's tragic - but common. If the only trend in advertising these days is for these art directors to only buy cheap rip offs and click art, then it's a race to the bottom for Design.

We just have to find other avenues to sell our graphics.

On Jan.10.2007 at 08:05 PM
Pesky’s comment is:

Jeez, I'm talking to myself now. LOL...Felix might be narcoleptic 'cause I didn't hear any response....
Oh well...nevermind.

On Jan.12.2007 at 11:11 PM
tim belonax’s comment is:

While entering in award competitions is a great way to add to the discourse of design (I wholly agree with Ellen Lupton's statement), what ever happened to the quintessential end-point of one's occupation: putting food on the table and a roof overhead— providing for one's family?

On Jan.14.2007 at 01:49 AM
Keith McCord’s comment is:

In the words of my great professor:
But if you want colleagues, students, bystanders, and other design observers, present and future, to see what you do, then give it a shot.
Not that we need to all aspire to greatness, but i think a big part of life as an artist is the ability to "leave your mark" long after you're gone. I took history of design with Ellen at MICA, and many of the people we studied were those who did something to make their work timeless. Look at even the broader field of art. The artists we know and study, for the most part, are the ones who participated in salons and the like...
There are a limited few of those crazy eccentrics who burned most of their life work and only 3 paintings remain to carry on their legacy.

On Jan.15.2007 at 10:45 AM
felix’s comment is:

response... ?—pesky

agreed. no response neccesssary. its worth mention that knocks offs perform a much-needed service: they nudge stale illustrators off their ego-driven, foolish pride and onto to newer, better territory. Problem is once you hit 40, have kids, then find new territory, you're one foot in the grave.

btw- pesky: i think we hired you about 15 years ago at david carter design in dallas (i was intern)- you were hired by gary lobue (great guy) or lori wilson or sharon lejeune (great gals)- all from your backyard: USL (university southern losers).

On Jan.16.2007 at 02:26 PM
Pesky’s comment is:

Felix, (as they say: with all due respect...)

A couple of points of contrast: Knock offs, as you call them are NOT a much-needed service if, as you say, their function is to push out established illustrators.
Theft of style is a lack of personal creativity on one level. When someone does it once or twice you can excuse them for...I don't know... laziness. But to build a career ripping off a specific individual's style is predatory. The original illustrator/designer spends years making a personal style that is defined and marketable and than some imitator takes swiping to the next level of infringement: undercutting the original illustrators market. I just don't like it. And I find illustrators who do think that it's perfectly OK to be exploitive sharks. You'd think the ocean is big enough to catch your own fish.

I agree with you that competition sharpens all of us. I know you don't mean it as harsh as it came out but to call established illustrators stale, ego-driven and prideful shows more than a little resentment and jealousy. Having met some of the top illustrators in the USA, sure, some of them - a small minority - are jerks to the nth degree. AND terribly insecure. I've also met some splendidly generous designers who helped me out during tough post-Katrina times. They know who they are here on ::SU:: and elsewhere. Designers are no different than anybody else about jealously guarding their turf. When I see someone who is ten times better than I am, I admire them. So, young puppies: strive to exceed your own expectations and you'll be in that league. Respect is earned not anointed.

You must be a young guy to think age 40 is "one foot in the grave"....laughing... I'd hate to disillusion small children, but life doesn't end after 25. It just looks that way.

USL? I'm assuming you mean LSU: Louisiana State University. Never went there, Felix. I went to Pratt Institute in Brooklyn on a dean's fine art scholarship before heading south. Man, I love the South. All my New Orleans buddies are spread out all over now.....

On Jan.16.2007 at 04:14 PM
Samuel’s comment is:

Don't waste your resources on meaningless and corruptible endeavors.

Instead, do something meaningful that will touch lives and change things for the better.

On Jan.30.2007 at 01:46 PM
Pesky’s comment is:

"Be true to your teeth and they won't be false to you"...as seen in my dentist's office this morning...

On Feb.02.2007 at 11:31 PM