While doing my daily post-workload Twitter re-cap today, a fellow designer and creative influence tweeted this site. it’s called Creative Allies, and they appear to function as a middle man of sorts between visual artists and musicians, with the intent to help you get your artwork into the hands of rock stars in the market for some. At a glance, it looks like a nice toy for pop music-loving photoshop enthusiast and aspiring designer alike to get exposure to all the right people - supplying free templates for just about any kind of merchandise you could stick an artistic rendering of your favorite rock star on - but as any young designer, photographer or illustrator fresh out of school and trying to go it on their own and make a reasonable living with their craft knows by experience, doing work under the speculation of possible profit can be a slippery slope.
There’s no shortage of crowdsourcing these days when it comes to even the most lucrative brands. Gap saw some huge backlash when they counted on the public to pool together new logo ideas after massive disapproval of an frankly vapid new identity (Mike Monteiro of Mule pretty much gave this issue it’s last rights, complete with proper burial and 21-gun salute). Granted, that was a little different - a multi-billion dollar company asking for what largely amounts to free work - while these guys, like the increasingly popular Crowdspring, are simply trying to level the playing field between the snooty design community and the regular folks with spare time and Illustrator.
(Yes, that was a Forbes article. Take a second to let that irony sink in.)
Basically, it comes down to the common reliance on young, enthusiastic designers to work under the promise of “exposure” in lieu of adequate compensation. As you put in time and gain experience in the design community, that hook never really disappears; there will always be potential clients looking for something for far less than what it’s worth, assuring you that it’ll open all sorts of doors for you in the long run. Exposure is exciting, but it doesn’t keep the lights on. The good news is that there are still clients who know what they need from professional designers and marketers to have a proper branding strategy. These are the clients that respect good creative, value healthy working relationships and compensate fairly, while those who buy cheap, well, they get cheap. Sites like Crowdspring, Creative Allies and 99 Designs have their place. Creating is fun, and these sites celebrate that, and hell, we all want to be published on these here internets every now and then. However, truly great creative from those who are serious about what they do is more valuable than a few bucks, a free lunch or some perceived resume filler. Know what your worth and be compensated for it.