Recession is the root of design evils

The Chartered Society of Designers’ statement on free-pitching reads: “Clients rarely benefit in the long run from such a process since in a free-pitch the designers’ approach is inevitably constrained by limited time so that there is likely to be less involvement in the brief and the designers solutions may be inherently superficial.”

While this is true, it is futile to argue that clients do not benefit. All businesses have been cutting costs, and while most clients are aware that free-pitch work is inferior to paid work, some of it will be acceptable.

If free-pitching were to end tomorrow most designers would not notice any difference. Long hours, low pay, cramped working conditions and un(der)employment would not go away. The free-pitch debate is a distraction from the root of our problem: the effects of the recession.

It is also worth noting that the trend towards more casual terms of employment is not exclusive to design. There has been comment in the press about the rise of competitions as a way of soliciting upwards of 100 proposals while only paying for one of them: the winner. Free-pitching represents part of a 1990s landscape along with unpaid overtime, freelancing and short-term contracts. Real jobs and the development of a collective outlook for the un(der)employed is what is required.

Stopping free-pitching – or even closing down design courses as some have suggested – are not the answer. The solution should not be less design when there are so many design challenges: creating user-friendly interfaces for on-line environments such as the Internet, or combating RSI and Sick Building Syndrome. The only way out of our predicament is to get to grips with its root causes.

Kevin McCullagh

Nico Macdonald Design Agenda


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