Archive for the ‘Ethics’ Category

How Good is Free?

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

What is the value of creative work? It’s an interesting point of discussion. Jessica Hische and Jon Tan spoke at Creative Mornings Vancouver last Friday and pondered it out loud. It is a subject Jessica has written about to great renown in her blog post On Getting Paid, The Dark Art of Pricing.

There are so many opportunities to pay little or no money for design on the internet. I would equate it to getting a great deal on a gross of chlorine pucks — but you don’t own a pool. Great deal. Not useful. You can buy a logo for $99. It might make you happy, but it’s not going to help your business that much. But, hey…it was $99! If your business is just like all of your competitors’ businesses, you can just slap up your shingle with your $99 logo and let the chips fall where they may. Doesn’t make much difference. But, if you believe your business is truly unique — that you have some competitive advantage — then your logo should reflect that. It should reflect your pride and it shouldn’t just be a picture of what you do, but a representation of your passion in doing it. When you hire a professional designer to work with, you generally get someone with a whole lot of training who asks a lot of questions rather than doing whatever you ask them to do. That’s because they are good at what they do and they respect that you are good at what you do.

Serious businesses get this. They do pay properly for design because they know how valuable it is in building their brand equity. Not all serious businesses are big businesses either. They’re just businesses in it for the long haul.

Another issue with free stuff is sustainability, and this came up in Jessica and Jon’s talk with respect to buying typefaces — or not buying them, as is often the case. A well-designed typeface takes 12-18 months to be drawn, expanded to different weights and point sizes, etc. And this process is carried out by a designer who has 4-6 years of specialized schooling. The professional type design community is small. There are no faceless multinationals making nauseating piles of money on typefaces. So, if you’re not paying anyone for it, then the designer is working for free.

Now, I didn’t go into design because I was a talent with numbers, but I’m pretty sure you can’t get by very long without an income. So, if you don’t make money at what you’re doing, you won’t be able to continue to do it. So, that means fewer type designers, fewer decent typefaces, etc. For the $25 - $150 the majority of typefaces cost, they’re often a bargain at twice the price. Not quite free, but really, really good. When you pay for typefaces, you’re supporting the ongoing development of type for the future. You’re respecting the person who makes this their life’s work. And you’re respecting your own profession by supporting others within it.

Don’t undercut. Don’t work for free. Remember that what you do has value and respect the same in others.

How to Hire a Design Firm

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Mark Busse, former president of the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada, BC Chapter and principal of Industrial Brand in Vancouver has written a very clear and compelling explanation of why RFPs are a flawed process when used to procure professional design services. You can read it here. The bottom line is that design cannot be commodified. It is customized and the choice of providers runs from professionals with decades of experience to self-taught desktop publishers. How do you know the difference and what does it mean to your company? Mark’s Tips for Evaluating a Design Firm are worth republishing here:

  • Tips for evaluating a design firm

  • Consider a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) that includes project goals and budget as an alternative to an RFP
  • Consult with design industry associations like for guidance in selecting designers
  • Consider whether specialization in your industry will be an advantage or not
  • Avoid meaningless descriptions of process by asking to see relevant case studies that show goals, context, approach, solution, and results
  • Encourage discussion and questions by respondents and meet with most qualified candidates in person to judge fit, but choose talent over fit
  • Engage a design team to evaluate and diagnose solutions before requiring a project proposal
  • Ask what happens if after the first phase you are not comfortable working together
  • Clarify what you will actually get in the end and who owns the working files
  • Formalize a written proposal or contract only after an agreement has been arrived at

You’ll Always Get What You Pay For

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

Communication design is one of those “hoodoo voodoo” (thanks Jim!) professions that no one quite understands. They think they could probably do a decent job of it themselves, but at some point they say to themselves, “maybe I should hire a professional”. When they talk to us, they are often gobsmacked by the fees we quote them. Even when we’re quoting our “friend” and “altruism” prices. I’m speaking here of people new to buying design. Our “big” clients understand how it works and generally know the value of communication design and respect it. So I’m extremely grateful for the articulate missive from Blair Enns who understands the issue and wrote this.

Why I Charge More
A Designer’s Open Letter to His Future Clients

“The more I charge you, the more pressure I put on myself to perform for you.

“The client who grinds me on price is the least satisfied. He gets less attention from me and is most likely to be pissed off at me. And I don’t really care, because to be honest, I resent him. The very fact that he is on my roster reminds me that I’m part prostitute. For him, I’m doing it for the money and as it isn’t very much money I’m not troubled by not doing it well. He pays me a paltry sum, I perform poorly, he gets angry and I resent him. We can have that type of relationship if you like.

“The client who pays me the premium gets my best work. He’s the one I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about, wondering if I’m doing all I can to earn his money. When he calls, I jump. Hell, I call him first. I take pride in moving his business. I try to make myself indispensible to him. I imagine that he winces when he opens my bill (he doesn’t say), but he thanks me for all I do for him. He’s the one I worry about.

“I’m great at what I do, but if someone hires me without giving me the resources (money, time, access) to do a great job, it’s easy for me to rationalize poor performance. When a client gives me everything I ask for, he removes all the obstacles to a high quality outcome. There’s no way for me to rationalize anything less than perfection.

“There is no greater pressure than the pressure I put on myself, and the only way you can add to my own sense of pressure is to pay me well. Yelling won’t do it. Neither will threatening to pull your business. My deep sense of obligation comes from you paying me well enough to dispatch all of the excuses. Then I have to prove to you, and, more importantly, to me that I am as good as I say I am.

“So, I’ve given you my price and it’s the price that I need to charge to bring a deep sense of obligation to the job. Will I work for less? Probably. Can you negotiate with me? Sure. We can have that type of relationship if you really want me to be that type of designer and you want to be that type of client.

“Let’s just understand each other before we get started.”

Where Are We Driving Our Kids?

Friday, January 28th, 2011

I am fortunate to be a member of the sessional faculty at Emily Carr University of Art + Design. I say fortunate because I think I get more out of it than my students do. It stimulates my energy and creativity and it makes me think. For me, the university environment — the academic realm — is like a warm bath. I feel right there and I thrive in it. And, for 80-90% of the fourth year students I teach, it has the same effect.

But it is not like that for everyone. Nor should it be. As a society, we have put academia on a pedestal. A vast majority of parents push their children to go to university, as if it is the only worthy career path. I’m here to tell you that it is not. Sir Ken Robinson has spoken twice at TED Conference in California on education. First, in 2006, his talk called Schools Kill Creativity, he posits that we are crushing the life out of our children and forcing them into molds into which only a portion of them really fit. He spoke again in May 2010 with a talk called Bring on the learning revolution!. I encourage you — with emphasis — to watch both of these talks. This is no light-weight TEDster. Ken Robinson “led the British government’s 1998 advisory committee on creative and cultural education, a massive inquiry into the significance of creativity in the educational system and the economy, and was knighted in 2003 for his achievements. His latest book, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, a deep look at human creativity and education, was published in January 2009.”(1)

I’ve grown up understanding the hypocrisy of pushing children into universities when not all of them are well suited to it. And the greater tragedy is that we see being “not well suited to university” as inferior. It is not inferior. We need hairdressers, dry wallers, plumbers and clerks. These occupations are not “less”. This work is valuable to all of us. We need to respect every worker. We need to allow anyone to feel great pride in what they do. If not, are we then developing our own western caste system?

I think it is in human nature to want to dominate or to serve, but it is less than civilized to encourage the practice. Any education, be it apprentice, trade or life, is — in fact — education. Any great skill, regardless of how it is gained, is still a great skill. Even the most technical careers, peppered with MAs and PhDs are also populated by self-taught geniuses who simply do not fit the standard eduational mold.

I call on all educators and parents to consider — before any other factor — the happiness of their child. What gives them joy? What makes them get out of bed in the morning? Nurture it. Support it. And, if it doesn’t lead to an Ivy League school or a “profession”, celebrate its value. As a society, we need to grow in this direction.


Casey Hrynkow, Partner
Herrainco Brand Strategy + Design Inc.

Creative Commons License
The Value of Varied Choices in Education by Casey Hrynkow is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Design is Not a Hobby

Monday, January 24th, 2011

This is an old and nagging issue for designers of all stripes. It was fascinating, though, to realize that we’re not alone. Witness Raul Pacheco or @hummingbird604 and his post today on the Economics of Free. For some reason, people seem to think that if work is fun, we don’t need to get paid for it. News flash: It’s not always fun and it’s how we feed ourselves and our families. Thanks for the validation from both Raul and John Bolwitt.

When we compromise and do things for free or for ridiculously low fees, we hurt every other practitioner. There is no perceived value in what is given away for free, or priced as a hobby.

SPIN Farming and Design

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

I’m a serious foodie and I grow my own. My sister and I work a community garden plot in Richmond and, with varying rates of success, grow fat Roma tomatoes, fava beans, garlic, onions, kale and arugula. I could be described as being passionate about local food.

Our community garden effort

Our community garden effort

Arzeena Hamir is coordinator of the Richmond Food Security Society and writes for the Richmond Review. In yesterday’s Review, she explained that the BC Association of Farmer’s Markets will hold is AGM in concert with the Richmond Food Security Society March 11-13. They’re calling it Working Together to Strengthen Our Local Food System.

For those who are not yet converts to the local food movement, let me explain, in brief. If you’re buying tomatoes from Chile, they are grown in soil you don’t know about, sprayed with stuff you don’t know about, then shipped at great expense, time and use of fossil fuels to the Lower Mainland. The fact that they might be cheap should worry you. If you buy local tomatoes — or better still — grown your own, you can choose organic if you want to be sure of what went into and on the tomato, but you do know that local means it had a short trip in a truck and was likely picked a day or two ago. The taste is better, the texture is better.

This kind of passion isn’t for everybody, I suppose. I prefer to buy less and buy better. I know that the increases in obesity, cancer and various other diseases seems to have coincided with the growth of factory farms, so I want to pull it back to the local level.

Back to the conference…
Curtis Stone will be giving two workshops on SPIN farming — Small Plot Intensive farming — during the conference. It’s a slightly bigger operation than our tiny little effort, but makes local farming possible in small spaces.

So, how does this relate to design? Design is problem-solving. It’s taking what you have and making something work with it. Whether that’s industrial design or communication design. The local food movement is designing better solutions to our food supply every day. I love food. I love design. What’s not to like? I blog about food here.

Casey Hrynkow, Partner
Herrainco Brand Strategy + Design Inc.

Four Years. Go.

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010


I like this. And I told a few people about it. I was told by one person that only government and power can make the change necessary to save our planet. I will disagree. This is not a black and white issue. There is no single “only way”. Yes, government and power-brokers need to make changes. But I do believe in the power of living by example and voting and shopping with your conscience. I have made significant changes this year. They’re not going to end global warming, feed the hungry or eliminate child poverty and prostitution. I grow much of my own food in the summer. I compost and recycle. I got a much smaller car and use transit almost half the time now. We buy less meat. We only buy organic free range eggs and try to buy organic meat whenever we can afford it. I’m not “living off the grid” as my esteemed colleague Robert L. Peters is doing, but I did look at wind turbines today….(OK, maybe that was going a bit too far).

My actions influence the actions of my family and friends. They see what I’m doing. Even if they “think” about it, that makes change begin to happen. When they change, those around THEM will think about it, etc. That’s what Earth Hour is about. It’s a tiny tap on the hull to start moving the ship in the right direction. With enough tiny taps, this ship WILL move. I like Four Years for this reason. It’s consciousness raising, it’s a start.

It’s a tiny tap on the hull to start moving the ship in the right direction. With enough tiny taps, this ship WILL move.

We can grouse all we like about the fact that someone else should be doing something about “it” or we can get off our holier-than-thou asses and begin to make change happen. If we are more conscious as a society and we’re doing our part, we gradually stop buying what the power-brokers are selling, both literally and figuratively. If they don’t do what a more motivated society wants, they will be voted out or put out of business. That serves as motivation for THEM to make change, too.

The end.

Lessons learned from hosting the 2010 Winter Games

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

In the late months of 1997, the 2010 Winter Games were a twinkle in the eyes of Bruce McMillan and Rick Antonson of Tourism Vancouver, and then Canucks owner, Arthur Griffiths. It was a buoyant time in Vancouver. The economy was humming along. Tourism was growing. We believed in a better Vancouver. We were innocent of the world-changing events of 2001. At that point, the wheels were set in motion for Vancouver to compete against other Canadian cities to win the right to host the 2010 Winter Games. Thirteen years is a long way out to foresee how these Games might be perceived in 2010. Sometimes you just need to take a shot.

A universal truth, however, is that an issue this complex is not so binary that it can be reduced to an either/or concept.

Many people have rightly raised concerns about funding the Games in lieu of other more egalitarian causes. Hosting the Games has been associated with tossing the elderly out of their homes, hiding the homeless and canceling surgeries. Although the rhetoric has been a bit maudlin, much of this may indeed be true. Mistakes and misuse of power exist. I understand the frustration of advocates for the disenfranchised. They have seen Vancouver “gulping the Koolaid” since the Games began. A universal truth, however, is that an issue this complex is not so binary that it can be reduced to an either/or concept.

Spending on culture is never a waste
There was so much angst and anger leading up to the Games about how we could spend money on a “party” rather than health care, education and social housing. There is absolutely no doubt that we must put more into all of these priorities. But this is not all that human beings need.

I cannot imagine a modern society where physical needs are the only concern. People  are recharged and psychologically fed by interacting with society. The ancient practice of meeting in marketplaces and forums is critical to our well being. The eloquent part of that interaction is through the arts. The arts allow us to imagine, to stretch beyond our human form and to escape the day-to-day of just getting by.

I don’t really think anyone but a handful of people had any idea what the Games would do to the streets of Vancouver. We have poured into them, talking to each other, shouting and clapping and laughing. I’ve seen people break into spontaneous dance and song.  Street performers, singers, artists, designers, actors and musicians have pulled us out of our February doldrums and shown us how amazing Vancouver can really be. People say that they want more and they want it to continue. Who can blame them?

We have peeked out beyond our parochial viewpoints and enjoyed the presence of our global family.

We like the world

Vancouverites seem to have discovered that it’s pretty cool to have the world show up. We saw it during Expo ’86 to some degree, but a lot of the people who are now seeing this were babies in 1986. We have peeked out beyond our parochial viewpoints and enjoyed the presence of our global family. A big part of what the Olympics is about is making the world a better place. One of the three Olympic ideals is to “build a peaceful and better world through sport”. That is a very succinct statement but captures issues of the environment, culture and social need. It is a fact that exposure to new ideas makes us more tolerant, more generous and helps us to think more broadly.

We could have done better
Oh, yes. We could have done it better. Not one thing, done by anyone, anywhere at any time has ever been flawless. The Olympic effort as been no exception. There are some big blights on these Olympics. The heavy-handedness with which brand management was handled is now infamous. Not everyone got equal billing. First Nations got too much, and they got too little. Our cultural mosaic was not represented well enough for many. The balance of opinions was not represented. Bad people ruined the legitimate protest of good people.The litany of wrongs is long and bitter.

We have amassed a knowledge cache from this that can be put to good use — from funding formulas that work and don’t work to the unerring reliability of the Zamboni.

So what do we do with that? We have amassed a knowledge cache from this that can be put to good use—from funding formulas that work and don’t work to the unerring reliability of the Zamboni. The populace has discovered in staggering numbers that public transit works quite well and I think we’ll see far more use of it going forward. We’ve had time to stare at what being Canadian is about. Perhaps now we’ll have a better idea of how to define ourselves to the world.

Would we do it again?
That’s a great question. I think that we may have collectively realized that this wasn’t such a bad experience. I suspect we will see some long-term economic growth from it, however incremental. If you believe that economic growth increases our ability to fund the social safety net, then economic growth will be a good thing for everyone in Vancouver and the province of BC, not just the privileged.

I think that hosting the 2010 Games was good for our collective psyche. We found out a lot about ourselves and about others. We figured out how to pull together.

If we do something like this again, we will do it better. We need to embrace legitimate protest and honor it, listening carefully to what it asks us to see. We need to consider an even broader perspective of legacies than even these groundbreaking Games managed to do. And, hopefully, we’ll do it while we still have that valuable cache of knowledge at hand. If that is wasted, it will indeed be a lesson lost.

Casey Hrynkow, Partner
Herrainco Brand Strategy + Design Inc.

“Wood fibre: the oil of the next decade”

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

I heard this odd headline on the radio today: the oil of the next decade….wood…I could hear the execs at several forestry companies I know high-fiving themselves all the way from Granville Island.

But, I’m thinking maybe we’ve done the save the trees thing to death. No argument with the idea that we were mowing down old growth faster than a small lawn, but we still need wood and the people who know how to harvest it. And we still need fibre.

I believe we have lulled ourselves into complacency thinking that using computers has somehow saved the earth from a catastrophe.  But no action is possible without an equal and opposite reaction, if I remember my physics correctly. We may need to consider using fibre as a resource going forward. Not necessarily all wood fibre, but we need fibre. I think there is a way to make it work, to the benefit of our planet. Goodness knows, it’s time to have a look.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am cribbing from facts presented in  ”This is Ed, #13 Balance” presented by the New Page Corporation — a paper company in Miamisburg, Ohio. And I am a child of the westcoast, home of one of North America’s primary softwood lumber resources. But facts are piling up from other sources that compel me to go toe-to-toe with the status quo, an attitude I’ve had trouble carrying around my whole life.

Now, here’s a bit of a pin to burst the “paperless era” bubble. 200 million items of e-waste are thrown away every year in the U.S. alone. You may have seen the images of peasants in Guiyu, China scrambling over piles of mercury (and worse) laden computer waste. It’s just getting shipped where no one in the western world has to look at it or think about what it’s doing to people and the planet.

Here are some more facts:

> 70% of toxic waste in the U.S. comes from e-waste
> Burning a CD produces 4 times as much CO2  as printing a single annual report
> Spam emails sent annually have the footprint of driving a car aound the globe 1.6 million times.
> 57% of the paper consumed in the U.S. was recovered for recycling in 2008, while only 18% of the three million tons of electronic waste in the U.S. is recycled. (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

Electronic devices, particularly older ones, contain numerous hazardous materials that are harmful to human health and the environment. Lead, mercury, arsenic, barium, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, to name just a few — all are increasingly finding their way to the water table through landfills around the world. Source

Over my years on this planet, I have observed that we as human beings are compelled to polarize. For the majority of us, it’s either black or it’s white.  Forestry bad. Greenpeace good. Socialism bad. Free enterprise good.

Come on, people. Think about it. It’s not that simple. If it was, we would have it all solved by now. We are complex beings. There is a lot to consider. And yes, we only have one planet. But it must sustain not just the albino bears and the maiden hair ferns, but us as well. So how do we find a balance?

We have to think not just with our hearts, but with our minds. We have learned to use resources. Now we need to learn to use them judiciously. In balance. With care. Wood is a sustainable resource, properly managed. Never mind hemp, grasses and all other manner of quick growing fibre. We also need our computers. I, for one, will not give up blogging. But, once again, everything in moderation.

My overall point is that we have all but crushed the forestry industry in the last decade. I saw it coming in the early 80s. We had forestry clients. I asked them if they were paying attention. They laughed — and now they’re all gone. Every one of them that we worked for is NO MORE. There were good people working in all of them. People who cared about nematodes and bitsy thingies that lived in the soil and supported biodiversity. They were passionate about living things. It’s not black. Nor is it white. If there is good in this world, so there is evil. We need to be watchful. But we need also to consider not running repeatedly from starboard to port. The boat will sink.

Think about it.

Casey Hrynkow, Partner
Herrainco Brand Strategy + Design Inc.

Who is entitled to design?

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

Ray and I got into a lively discussion tonight about the accessibility of design. We talked about the philosophy behind the Bauhaus. Was it elite? Was it socialist? For those disinclined to dig for ‘what the heck Bauhaus was about’, my take (and anyone is invited to disagree with me here) is that there was an overarching concept of universality in reaction to the industrial revolution that sought a return to more purity and simplicity, as well as things that were hand-crafted. However, at the time, I believe that the aesthetic as geared to a “trained” eye — someone who valued the “no frills” philosophy of the deutscher werkbund which created entire homes in this image — from walls to furniture. As altruistic as it was, it still offered something so different from the aesthetic of the time that I can imagine that it may have been seen as aseptic to the “common man”. I should mitigate my comment by saying that, clearly, it was a movement with legs as it has informed the enduring modernist movement, an aesthetic which I greatly admire.

I do feel more comfortable, though, in the presence of objects that have more humanistic intent. I said to Ray that I thought Phillipe Starke gave usable things personalities and stories. I like that concept and thought it was compelling. Ray aptly pointed out that, try as he might to make his chatckas  affordable, Phillipe Starke has been forced to worship at the alter of profit, just like everyone else. His creations are relegated to being described — and priced— as exclusive. Industrial designer Yves Behar of fuseproject believes in this storytelling and takes it further.His $100 laptop has gone further to make design more accessible. But then there’s the problem of giving laptops to kids who just need three squares or even a daily allotment of clean water.

So, does design need to be affordable to be accessible? Does making it affordable make it truly accessible? Is it only for the rich or the highly educated? Can altruism hide its products from profiteers? I think it all warrants some thought.

Casey Hrynkow, Partner
Herrainco Brand Strategy + Design Inc.