Sunday, June 7, 2009

To Design or Not to Design: Commentary on

So here's the background: I graduated in January 2009 from the top communication school in the US with honors and a degree in advertising (I'm not trying to be snooty, just bear with me - this all comes into play later). When I started looking for jobs I had at least 3-5 design/marketing/advertising firms looking into hiring me. And then Fall/Winter of 2008 hit, and so did the height of the economic crisis. Suddenly, those promising, possible job offers turned sour. The story was now "we really like you, but we can't hire you (we don't have space, we don't have money, we decided not to add anyone to the team), but we wish you the best."

So I'm facing bills of school loans and a monthly car payment, and I'm one of the lucky young designers who has had parents to keep a roof over my head. But I can't stay here forever and I don't want to - and I can't fall back on my parents for financial support. There's little opportunity for me to find a job in the design field right now (especially when designers with a lot more experience than me are willing to work for peanuts since they were laid off) and even admin positions which only require a GED won't even ask me for an interview.

I'm a young designer, who's been looking for a job for nearly six months with no results. What am I to do? A friend of mine told me about So I took a look. I was wary of it at first because you put so much work into something that you're most likely are not going to be able to get diddly-squat out of, but looking at the dismal numbers of my bank account, did I really have much choice? And after several weeks, I won three contests, which was a life saver for me. I was able to pay that much more off on my car payments.

But, I agree with a lot of other blog posts (here and here) who absolutely LOATHE the idea of 99designs. It cheapens real design, and the client doesn't get the best product, but hey it's dirt-cheap for them, so do they really care? It's hard for me really. I really don't like the idea in some ways. The site allows clients to "take advantage" (and the designers do this willingly), of young, poor designers. Am I starved for experience? (as one of the blogs says) Of course I am! But, a main part is because of this economy - places that were once willing to hire me now don't have the funds. Unfortunately, now many people assume design should be cheaper than it is. They are horrified when I ask for a measly $10 an hour for a logo (this is figurative, but true).

I'm highly educated for my field from a great school, but I can't find a job. It saddens me that I participate in something that in the long run weakens good design, but I also am indebted to the only site that has allowed me to pay my bills in a state that has 12.1% unemployment and growing.

What's your opinion?

Oh boy. Sorry for the long post!


  1. I say, if you're still creating work you're proud of, and would show it to a possible employer in the future, why not? I would think of it as... expanding your portfolio!

  2. I was in your shoes when I got my grad degree in '82 and US was in a recession then as well. I took any work I could get in my field (sculpture) just to get working. The money wasn't great, in a lot of cases, but I just kept at my studio work (on the side, at night, etc.) In 1985, my portfolio won me my first NEA artist fellowship...but I still had to work for a living. Guess the trick is to balance the creative work with being practical in order to pay ever that works out for you! Build that portfolio as it's part of your "ticket!" Good luck!

  3. I'm new to your, just today...

    I can totally see the objections to 99designs {or CrowdSpring...have you seen that one?}...I also know that when you're just starting out, that you need money, experience, and work for your portfolio. So, you do what you have to do! It's tough out there for designers, I know!

    Your stationery is adorable...have you pursued selling wholesale? That might be something that could tide you over until you get the job that you really want.