Time to act on the practice of free-pitching

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The latest newsletter from the Chartered Society of Designers closes with a report by George Butlin on the progress made by the Professional Standards Committee. It mentions the “controversy” surrounding an accurate definition of “free-pitching”. Although it states that the society’s position is “unambiguous”, I feel a rain of sugar laden lumps is on the way.

Small and large practices have suffered this expensive, insulting and degrading practice for several years now, while the CSD is still trying to define it.

The key error of the CSD has been its failure to grasp this nettle when it was young. It is a waste of time defining “free-pitching” while ignoring the more common term, “tendering”. Most clients want you to “tender” – this is the financially responsible, sanitised process, so beloved of accountants, that avoids them having to tell you directly that they want you to do a scheme for free. It has the added benefits of helping design managers to justify subjective decisions and cover their backs at the same time.

Surely the simplest thing for the CSD to do is set a minimum hourly rate that must be charged for all creative visual and written work, whether inside or outside of a contract. The only exception might be work for a charity, that is not in competition.

I have been trying desperately to get some action or even acknowledgement of the tender/pitching issue from Government and the CSD. I have suggested suitable targets for the CSD to approach and convince that tendering or pitching is a poor way to commission creative work that, ultimately, can only be judged subjectively. No response.

I have suggested the CSD hold an “amnesty for members” to report their tender/pitching experiences and its effect on their business. It has not responded. I believe the CSD has little understanding of the facts and the true cost in wasted hours and lost income for sectors of the industry. Such information is vital if any campaign is to be convincing.

I ask anyone who cares about this, and wants to do something positive, to send the CSD this information. Alternatively contact me for a questionnaire and I will then forward this to the CSD anonymously on your behalf.

CSD President Adrianne LeMan should have two major goals: to change the attitude that makes tendering or pitching for design “good management” and, therefore, a legal obligation for most organisations, and to reverse the ever-reducing “contact” hours design students have with qualified designers. Without these, standards will fall and our international reputation for design will be lost.

Alan Bird

6 Raleigh Drive


Surrey KT10 9DE

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