Rochester, Minnesota and Southeast Minnesota has a huge problem. Too many youthful designers, and some design firms, are taking design work at a very low rate causing other designers to have to lower their rate.
I have decided as an educator of graphic design and web design, I can no longer stand on the sidelines and watch the money and the value of design continue to decrease locally. It is time for the Value of Design to be addressed in our area.
Below is the lesson that I give to my students each semester.
Special note to those that read this and fall into this local youthful and design firm category. Even though you may suck at design, and many of you really do, your efforts are still worth more than $300 for web site design. Do yourself and others in the area a favor by charging the correct amount for a web site. (At least $170+ an hour).
Let’s talk money
Some of you are probably wondering, how much money will you be making in the working as a graphic designer or web developer? You probably are now saying: “I should make a ton of money for doing all of this research to do a website.”
Most college instructors will avoid this issue because they either have not worked in the industry for a while or feel that it is a business school’s job to educate you about these issues. I disagree; I believe because it isn’t talked about, the value of design has decreased in the United States. Design is considered a service industry here in the U.S. However, in Europe they look at design as a business and it is much more respected. Just so you know, in China, you are considered a celebrity!
We will only be touching on a very small piece of the pie, it maybe beneficial for you when you go job shopping or if you work as a freelancer.
In the Rochester Area, the value of design is low. How Low? Let’s compare Minnesota by regions using graphic design in the salary search.
(web design is worth more pay more).
Median Wage by Area
|Mpls-St Paul MN||
The value of design
Why has the value of design dropped and continues to drop in the Rochester area?
This has happened for a few reasons. It is important that you know about these issues so you can help make a difference for every designer in the area.
The ‘I need factor’:
As a designer you have this need to design. Without it you feel empty, stuck in this holding pattern. Before you run out of fuel, you feel like you need to land so you take the very low paying design job that is offered to you at $7 an hour.
The same issue applies if you are doing freelance work:
“I am looking for a website, and I was wondering if you could do one for my business for $300?”
Problem: Taking a low paying full-time design job does two things. First you aren’t getting the benefits or the fruits of your labor. Second, you have set the bar for design locally by taking a lower paying entry design position. Now you have hurt me, and the rest of the class!!
For freelance jobs, this is extremely hard on the design industry. Taking a low-ball offer to build a website is not going to improve the local design community. Sure they will have a great looking site, but you probably won’t be able to eat or pay rent after purchasing Adobe Creative Suite 5 for $2000. Before you can get the new software to work, you probably also had to update to a new MacBook at $3000. Who got the better deal??
Solution: Explain to them why you can’t take the job. Tell them that this is what you do for a living, you have college bills to pay off, rent to pay, you have to purchases new software every year to stay current, a new computer, you need to eat! Don’t be afraid to tell them the cost of doing design and if all else fails tell them NO… I won’t do the job.
The ‘recognition deal’:
“I got a deal for you, I need a website, you need to get noticed. How about you build me a website? People will go to it and see what you did and you can get them as a client… If the site is successful I might be able to pay you too!”
Problem: You have heard this before. I know you have; I have heard it many times. This problem is much like the first one. However this has a much larger problematic twist to it. Taking this deal is not a winning solution, you won’t get noticed no mater how successful the site is. When was the last time you heard someone talk about a local website and how great it is? The second part, you will NEVER see money from this person, no mater how successful the site is.
Solution: This one is easy, however you have to do it with a smile, which might be difficult depending on how upset you are about the offer to begin with.
Think about the business, Example: a Pizza shop “I am hungry, how about you make me a pizza? You will get noticed because people will see me eating the pizza, and then they will buy a pizza from you… If I like the pizza I might pay for it.”
(You may loose this person as a client, but did you really want to work for them?)
The ‘family or non-profit deal’:
What if a family member wants me to build a website for his/her insurance company?
A non-profit group has asked me to build there website for them. They don’t have much money or can’t pay me anything for it. What do I do?
Problem: This still has the money and value issue involved. However, sometimes you need to break your own rules to help others. Working for a family member maybe troublesome, depending on the individual they might take advantage of the situation.
Solution: Doing work for family members is an example of when breaking the rules could be acceptable. Some designers will not work with family members, I do work for family members, but it is on my terms only and I still charge them the standard rate.
So what about the non-profit groups?
That is up to you. You need to decide if you are willing to give up your time to help them out. Some design firms do work for non-profit organizations at a special rate, some just won’t do the job at all. Some non-profit groups will want to pay you full price… Example, large medical research institutes, probably can afford your services even at non-profit status.
A few things to think about:
Never work without a design contract. Without a contract you will be used and abused and maybe not paid! Find a good lawyer and have one written up for you.
Think about your education, more than likely you will NOT find your dream design job with a 2-year degree. You should think about getting a BFA in Graphic Design. My first interview was against 50 other applicants; they only interviewed 3 individuals, two with a BFA one with a MFA. (I highly recommend achieving a BFA.)
It is your portfolio not the diploma that will get you the job…
Write this down, your portfolio is the key to your design profession. You still need to have a degree. Very few designers are naturally amazing without some type of visual arts training.
Be prepared to explain what design can do for you clients business. Design will make them look more professional, sales can improve, and more business recognition.
Support the arts! Go to the Rochester Art Center, theatre performances, music performances, dance performances, and art openings. The more you support the arts in Rochester, the better the design community will become.
How much are you worth? How much is your time worth? How much does that computer cost, professional software, health care? How much is graphic design worth? If you take a low paying graphic design job you are hurting the industry, you are hurting other designer, you are hurting yourself and you are hurting me! Set the value of design high but then back it by doing awesome work…
Design Business Books
Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines
by Graphic Artists Guild
The Graphic Designer’s Guide to Clients: How to Make Clients Happy and Do Great Work
by Ellen M. Shapiro
The Business Side of Creativity: The Complete Guide to Running a Small Graphic Design or Communications Business, Third Updated Edition
by Cameron S. Foote