The Association of Registered Graphic Designers (RGD) has launched an interactive tool titled Free, Fee or Flee? The website (http://freefeeflee.ca/) walks creative professionals, specifically graphic designers, through a questionnaire to consider various scenarios involving requests they receive for free work.
The goal is to help them identify exploitative requests for anything from spec work to free internships, and then suggest how they can respond accordingly.
“There’s a grey area between spec, contests and legitimate pro-bono work – and many common pitfalls. We want to help designers and other creatives understand when it’s acceptable to work for free and when they should expect to be paid,” explained Julian Brown, RGD’s Vice-President of Ethics. “And even more importantly, we want to suggest how they can respond professionally and constructively, no matter what the situation.”
Spec work, or the act of doing work for free in the hopes of payment or as part of a pitch for business, is an ongoing challenge for all creative industries that disregard the in-depth research and analysis that creative professionals undertake to produce effective and creative solutions. RGD’s Rules of Professional Conduct prohibits its members from engaging in this business practice, and RGD’s Ethics Committee advocates against it. “Providing creative work for free is a practice most professional designers recognize as a lose-lose, both for the client requesting it and the designer providing it. But many inexperienced designers fall prey to these requests in a misguided attempt to gain experience or exposure,” said RGD President Stüssy Tschudin. “This site aims to develop their understanding of industry best practices early in their careers, both to elevate the industry and ensure their individual success.”
Nascent Digital contributed its interactive talents and “were a great partner” on the initiative, said RGD. “Education, collaboration and doing the right thing are values that are important to us, and this website provides a tool for new designers to feel supported and be informed. We didn’t hesitate to work with RGD on this great initiative,” said Linda Nakanishi, Nascent Digital’s Design Director. “Writer Doug Dolan supported the initiative by helping us craft the scenarios and responses,” she added.