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.