Design Council role in deterring free-pitching

The one thing guaranteed to set the hackles rising in design is a mention of free-pitching. No other subject provokes as much correspondence, or sparks off such an impassioned bar-room debate whenever two or three designers are present – except, perhaps, football.

Most designers rail against free-pitching, but many get on and do it anyway when, as we say in our analysis of the latest debacle, the carrot is big enough (News Analysis, page 8). Some rely on definitions to get them out of an ethical jam – it wasn’t really what you’d call a free-pitch, they say. Others blame the industry bodies, clients, other design consultancies – anyone but themselves.

We’ve shouted it loud before and we up the volume once again: a client can’t expect to get good work any more than a design group can hope to establish a mutually respectful relationship if creative work is given away for free. The client won’t get the best a job deserves; and the designer risks having ideas ripped off without payment. No one wins, least of all the design profession.

The Packaging Design Association’s recent trawl finds packaging clients looking for creativity and long-term deals from their designers, elements of which should exclude free-pitching (News, page 5). Yet still, as the Department for Education and Employment scandal shows, the message is not getting through to other client sectors.

The current row will likely draw more cries of anguish from the design industry, as official bodies wave their professional codes in support of good practice. Chartered Society of Designers president Stefan Zachary might even carry out his inaugural threat to ban offenders from the CSD.

But what of the Design Council? It’s just not good enough for its director Andrew Summers to remind us that designers are not the council’s only concern and mouth about identifying an “appropriate” role. In this instance he should be arguing strongly on the clients’ side, be they from Government or commerce. What good does it do UK plc to settle for the mediocrity born of free-pitching?

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