I'm celebrating local design.
Last week 200 designers gathered at Proctors in Schenectady for an AIGA portfolio event. One half of the designers were graduating college seniors. One half were professionals—the vast majority of whom were seasoned practitioners. It was a veritable who's who of the local design scene. In addition to seeing some really great work from the students I renewed connections, met a designer I've only known through Instagram, heard about a new printer and made some introductions.
Last week I also took a screen printing class at Troy Cloth and Paper. I've admired and purchased the shop's quirky prints, totes, t-shirts and note cards for several years. Now in addition to some new dishtowels with my own artwork printed on them I've got a new skill and a new appreciation for the work that goes into their products.
If you had asked me thirty years ago about the design scene in my area I would probably looked at you with a puzzled expression. I might have even laughed out loud. But a lot has changed in a relatively short time. First, the large regional design studios and advertising agencies broke up. Then there was a broader societal emergence of the freelance culture. And of course, personal computers and the internet have allowed us to work efficiently from anywhere. And finally, the rise of social media has empowered us to maintain real connections with a broad audience.
It is a great time to be a designer.
But sometimes it can also be a little depressing. Last week I received an email from a local retailer that I admire as much for their products as for their mission. In the email they were asking customers to vote on new logo designs through the website 99designs.com.
If you don't know 99designs, they are a crowd sourcing platform that connects clients and designers. On the surface it sounds pretty good. But, if you look into the process you will see that it is based upon the concept of MANY designers doing work for free with ONE designer potentially getting paid. It isn't about partnerships, or understanding the client or working towards a common goal. It is about fast and cheap—and it exploits designers. Every design organization has panned the practice as has the national business press. Suffice to say, I'm not a fan.
At the same time, I get it. Business owners are busy. They are focused on running their businesses and they don't know how to find a designer. The yellow pages are not the resource they once were. Googling local graphic designer brings up a startling hodgepodge of businesses—none of which are actually designers. So where do you go? What do you do?
Next time please call me.
Well, maybe not me. But call around. Is there a business that you admire locally with a great logo and website? Find out who did the work for them. Ask your neighbors, friends, colleagues and competitors. Call your local chamber of commerce. Or ask the barista at your favorite coffee shop. I guarantee that someone will have a referral. (Remember my suggestions about your business cards? Maybe you will be that referral.)
If that fails, go on the AIGA website and find a design professional in your area and call them. Most designers will be happy to refer you to an appropriate colleague. I'm always happy to. I know that I'm not right for every client. Every designer has their own niche. Every client has a unique set of needs.
I may not be the designer for you but maybe I can help you find the perfect designer for your next project.
Are you looking for a designer with a quirky illustration style that can create great infographics. Call Curtis.
Are you looking for an exquisite publication designer who can create a design system and keep it fresh and exciting. Call Christie Ann.
Are you are looking for an experienced creative director who can carry your project from concept through production. Call Lauri.
Do you have a favorite four letter word that starts with F? Love fonts? Do you like to support indie projects? Hop on over to Kickstarter and see what my friend Curtis has in the works.