The other day, I noticed something in my Facebook feed that somewhat irritated me (yes, it’s going to be one of those posts but bear with me as it’s very important). A band, admittedly not one that I know but presumably somebody my friends know, had put out a call to their fans to produce a band logo.

What seems like a fun and lively way of engaging fans is, in reality, a rather more sinister symptom of a deeper problem permeating society. That is, that graphic design is SEVERELY underrated and undervalued. ‘Competitions’ like this are just the tip of the problem. It starts with people being offered band merch, which is already in stock and may be difficult to shift anyway. And the band can theoretically get dozens, hundreds of designs in for review before deciding on one, ONE, entrant to win. What they have done is to have absorbed many work hours from the lives of these people (whether or not they expect to earn money from their illustrations immaterial at this stage) and have expended a comparatively TINY amount of their own resource.

The upshot of this is that it exposes the value that people place on graphic design. It’s as if they think that a design can be dashed off in a few minutes with little to no practice or preparation, or that the very skill involved in illustrating is itself not particularly challenging to acquire or refine. At its very best, the request to do work like this for no pay is mildly annoying. At its worst, the idea is hugely offensive to the sheer amount of work illustrators put into their jobs. I mean, would you turn up at a barber shop and announce to all and sundry that they can vie for the privilege of cutting your hair? If you truly want to piss off a graphic designer, especially a designer who’s just starting out, simply offer them a commission without pay but with the assurance that it will be ‘good for their portfolio’.

Now, I’m not saying that no graphic designer should ever work for no pay; Sometimes, potential clients legitimately don’t have the resource to pay but could still do with having the design work done. If it’s, say, a charity you believe in, then it would be nice if you could consider doing something like that. Not necessarily for your portfolio, but because it’s nice to be nice. Or, conversely, if you’re a band or community group or club or something and you need something designed but no cash, ask an illustrator you know very nicely if they would consider doing the job for you. Just don’t try and pull a fast one by soliciting a competition.

Oh, and if your Mother ever asks you to do some design for her, you had damn well had better let her off the hook! Woman carried you for nine months, it’s the least you can do!