Spec & Crowdsourcing Work Hurts Us All

Mention the word ‘spec’ in a room of design professionals, and you will hear resonating boos and witness faces cringe in discontent. Why you may ask? Well it’s a slap in the face to say the least to the design and advertising community.

What is it?
Spec work is any type of work done by a creative individual (designer, copywriter, illustrator, etc.) for a potential client or future employer with no guarantee of compensation. On rare occasions, if the client likes the work provided, he/she may pay you, but probably not what the work is actually valued at. Crowdsourcing is just as unethical as spec. Basically, a company or a person announces a design job that’s available to everyone. Once they’ve received and reviewed all the free work that was submitted, they pick a winner. The winner would be the only one that gets compensated. Everyone else – suck it up buttercup. This may stump many people outside of the design industry. After all, what person in their right mind would work for free and have it actually be the norm? Exactly my point here. It’s ridiculous, and it should stop.

Where does it happen?
Better question – where DOESN’T it happen? When the US Department of Interior is crowdsourcing , you know the US is in trouble design-wise. Recently, the department announced they were in need of a new logo for their 65,000 plus employee agency. This would be a big job for a design firm or a professional freelancer to add to their portfolio. Instead, they went the cheap route and offered a mere $1,000 to the victor. Due to the fact that this is a government agency, it has stirred quite a bit of outrage within the design and advertising community. The actual value of a logo, which represents a company and is an integral part of their branding is NOT $1,000. According to The Graphic Artists Guild’s (Handbook of Pricing & Ethical Guidelines), the cost for a logo ranges from $20,000 – $50,000 which usually includes buyout of copyright.

Another well-known company that is doing the deed is…Huffington Post. They’re having a HuffPost Politics Icon Competition encouraging anyone to enter and posted this:

“Do you know your way around Photoshop or other design programs?”

So do they get paid? Not monetarily. The winner’s compensation is that they will use the winning logo and credit will go to the designer.

Does it really benefit client?
They seem to think so. They figure what a great deal to have a plethora of diverse logos/artwork to choose from and for cheap or even free in some instances. Here is a small list of reasons it actually hurts the client:
• Unoriginal and poor quality of ideas and designs
• You could be sued for trademark infringement
• “Designer” doesn’t have the time to ask questions about your company or service. They are not    intimate, so chances of them creating a design that reflects you accurately is dim.
• Poor to no communication between the client and designer
• No time for research
• Chances of seeing a version of your design somewhere is VERY likely

How it hurts the designer
The way I see it, any designer who knows the value of their talent, experience, and skill will not and should not participate in these practices. It could possibly leave a scar on your design career because you are devaluing yourself. In today’s economic climate where design is not considered a commodity, it’s even more important to boldly claim your worth. For those young designers who are eager to get their work out there – THIS IS NOT THE WAY TO DO IT. Here are some reasons why:
• One by one, it devalues the entire design and advertising community
• Endless hours of design with no guarantee of compensation
• You as the designer are not protected when it comes to copyright
• Client chooses the design he/she simply likes, with no chance of the designer presenting his work and the rationale for his design
• Little time and usually no opportunity to revise designs

One way to do pro-bono work that is ethical is to check out some non-profit agencies and community groups who are in need of a logo or branding collateral. Another route could be to ask a friend or family member if they have any design needs and in return can offer a trade. This way you make it known that your work has value.

Is there ever a good opportunity to do it?
Spec work has been around for a long time, especially in advertising. Different firms may be offered an opportunity to present some initial concepts to a potential client in the hopes they will win the account. Previously, agencies made their money from media sales, and so creative work was given away as a way to profit from the media. Now this is not always the case, and each agency employs a different structure. An agency that’s starting out may be more inclined to include spec work in their proposals, whereas, a stable one wouldn’t dare. They figure they have paid their dues to be the strong agency they are – and they would be right.

Bottom line
No one is going to push you to do what you don’t want to do. The choice is yours. It’s based on your ethics and principles. I just caution you to be very careful and answer this question:

“When is the last time you went to the doctor, mechanic, attorney or grocery store and told them after services were rendered you will gladly pay for their service/product if and only you were satisfied?”

…Yeah I thought so

Links and Resources

Common Design and Print Terms

The world of design and production is filled with all kinds of fun terms. For those unfamiliar with the industry, the terms may sound imaginary, almost like going to a mechanic who tells you your flux capacitor needs to be fixed. So, how do you know your agency isn’t blowing smoke? Below are some common terms that sound funky, but trust us – they’re real and we know what we’re talking about.

Bleed – Printing an image past where the final print will be trimmed, which allows color to extend all the way to the edges of the final print.

Collect – Gathering the artwork, along with fonts and images, in the final format needed for output.

CMYK – Abbreviation for cyan, magenta, yellow and key (black), the four process colors.

Four-Color Process (4cp) – Any printing method that utilizes CMYK to create the illusion of different colors.

Gang – To combine multiple jobs on one print plate in order to reduce costs and set up charges.

Ghosting – When an image on one side of a document shows through to the other side.

High Res – Files which have a “high resolution” DPI or “dots per square inch” count.

Imposition – A layout of pages on mechanicals or flats so they will appear in proper order after press sheets are folded and bound.

Kerning – Adjusting the lateral space between letters.

Leading – The vertical spacing between lines of text.

Mock Up – A to-scale creation of the original printed material possibly containing instructions or directions.

PANTONE® Matching System (PMS) – Numbering system for identifying 3,000+ colors created through combinations of 14 primary color inks. The Pantone Company produces numerous color-matching systems for standard print and computer applications.

Pixelization – Process of enlarging image pixels to increase image size, resulting in jagged edges and blurry images.

Preflight – Process of checking a graphic file for potential problems before sending it for final output.

Spread – Two pages that face each other and are created as one visual or production unit.

TrueType – The most common format for fonts that work on both Mac OS and Microsoft Windows operating systems.

Vector Image – A computer image that uses geometrical primitives (such as points, lines, polygons and Bezier curves) to produce mathematical descriptions of paths for the graphic, which eliminates pixelization.

Wireframe – Is a visual guide that represents the skeletal framework of a website, like a blueprint.

Anyone who wants to talk like the designers do can pick up a Pocket Pal by International Paper. It’s a great resource for everything graphic arts related and here’s where you can find it: http://www.internationalpaper.com/US/EN/ Business/CPIP/PocketPal.html

If you’d like to skip the homework assignment and need some help from evok’s creative team – give us a call at 407.302.4416.

Apple & Microsoft vs. Android. What Does This Mean for Consumers?

It’s clash of the titans in the mobile, tablet computing and mobile OS arena. With the crowds screaming for blood and mass confusion in the marketplace what is a consumer to do? As an advertising agency we constantly have to have our fingers on the pulse of the industry to see what emerging technologies and software are coming center stage to making sure we maximize our clients dollars while keeping them relevant. There is still no viable ecosystem in the mobile/tablet market place. Giants are emerging in the arena and some are even teaming up with long time foes to gain market share. Because of this, you are left with fragmentation, an over-saturated marketplace, way too many choices to make and compatibility issues.

Apple has created a niche for themselves and are the dominant force in hardware and software. But if Apple sours your stomach and you are feeling brave there are some sure bets to satisfy your computing needs. Google has shaken the Apple tree and Android has emerged as the forbidden fruit and a significant player while allowing other hardware companies to enter the battleground. The difference is that you can’t really compare the two or even the other players (Rim, Blackberry etc.). Apple’s hardware is only sold with their software where Android is purely software running on other manufacturer’s hardware. Even with Google’s recent purchase of Motorola I don’t think full integration will be seen in the marketplace until mid 2012. There are also so many flavors of Android that even getting apps to run on all machines cross-platform is an amazing feat.

Google was also tag-teamed recently by Apple and Microsoft when they purchased certain patents making it more expensive for anyone using Android and not Windows Phone OS. So obviously you can see who are the marketplace giants.

“But I just want to check my email and update Facebook and maybe play Angry Birds!” I feel your pain, in order for the market to unify we need to create an ecosystem and uniformity across a small group of dominant systems. The profitability of apps has been unparalleled and the shift in the way society has integrated into technology is amazing. So when it comes down to brass tacks and you the consumer have to make a decision what should you do? What goes on behind the scenes should not really influence your decision too much. Here is what you should consider:

1. Choose a device that will accomplish your basic needs.
2. Pick a reputable company that has made a commitment to their product line.
3. Look at the amount of applications available/compatible for your device.
4. Read the consumer blogs to see what your peers think of the device.
5. Look at Youtube for product reviews.

Now that we’ve covered that, let’s talk about what is on the horizon. If you purchase an Android device there is a new App store in the mix. Amazon is popping it’s collar with its own app store and right out-of-the-box are offering a ton of great applications. They are even giving one “Paid App” away everyday. I hope Google is ready for another throw down because this will seriously affect the Google Marketplace (their current app store). Not to mention, Amazon is gearing-up to enter the Tablet war with two new tablets code named “Coyote and Hollywood” with very low price points. I am sure this is directed at Apple so the rest of the year should get very interesting.

(Stay educated and happy shopping.)
Christopher LeBlanc – Creative Director @ evok advertising
Follow me at @chriskleblanc or @evoklarry to get info, tips and relevant news.

Write or Right?

It seems every time I turn around there’s another article, paper or blog post with a list of tips on ways to improve your SEO or what not to put on your resume or the best shortcuts to use in Photoshop. Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t get over how often these pieces contain sentences that run on forever, grammatical errors, misspellings or are just poorly written. Having recently marked my twentieth year working as a copywriter in advertising, I thought I’d put my own list together. Most of it is advice I’ve picked up from others but I’ve also included a few of my own musings on the subject. By no means is this a complete list or in any particular order of importance. It’s simply a few basic tips on writing I hope will help.

1. Find your own voice. The writing is always stronger when it comes from a true place.

2. Everybody thinks they can write. Truth is most people can’t.

3. Vary the length of your sentences. – A general rule of thumb is to use short sentences to emphasize ideas and longer sentences to explain the idea.

4. Use a dictionary. You can’t trust spell check.

5. The word THAT. – One of my copywriting instructors in ad school used to fine us for using fluff words in our copy. Some words cost a quarter, others fifty cents. THAT was a dollar word. In almost every instance you can remove it from a sentence and you’ll never know it’s gone.

6. Write, rewrite and rewrite. If you want to get it right.

7. Read what you’ve written out loud. – If you stumble over a particular phrase or section rewrite it. By reading your work aloud you can hear if there’s a problem area.

8. Read your copy backwards. – When you’re finished writing scan your copy from the end to the beginning. It’s a quick way to proof for any glaring errors.

9. Being organized is half the battle. – Outline or frame your thoughts before you put them into words. It will make the writing process go much easier.
10. Respect your reader. – If your copy contains misspellings, grammatical errors or is just poorly written, it makes you suspect in the eyes of the reader. If you couldn’t take the time to get the copy right, why should your reader believe the content is credible?

Strengths & Weaknesses of Magazine Advertising

There are thousands of magazines in which you can purchase advertising. They can be local, regional, national or even international. And though purchasing space in a magazine can be just right for your product or service, before you take that leap (hopefully with significant research to fall back on), you must still be aware of both the strengths and weaknesses associated with advertising in magazines.

· Highly targeted – Magazines are successful at reaching certain selected audiences such as women, parents, auto-enthusiasts, sports fans, etc. Also, many national magazines are capable of targeting to specific regions. So, for example, if your client only has locations in the southeast, you can still look at purchasing in a publication such as Sports Illustrated by buying only the southeast region.

· Allows for heavy copy messages – If you have a complicated message or want to call out specific features of your product in more detail, magazines allow for the space to do this. These are best for branding.

· Long shelf life – Most magazines will stay around a home for at least a week and some for more than a month. Many are also passed on to someone else. This allows for repeat exposure to the primary reader, as well as exposure to the pass-along reader.

· Receptive Audience – Readers subscribe to magazine so they will most likely be receptive to the message, as it will reflect their interests.

· Tangible – The reader can touch it and feel it and can spend as much time with it as they want, unlike television where the messages are only :05 – :60 in length.

· Trust – Consumers tend to trust what they see and read in magazines. Somewhat like a newspaper, it offers that third-party credibility that so many of us subconsciously desire.

· Not intrusive – There is no control as to how a person reads a magazine. They may flip by your ad without even seeing it.

· Lack of immediacy – Since a reader may not look at their magazine for days or even weeks after receiving it, it is best to have a branding message versus a message with a limited time offer or one that needs an immediate action.

· Early close dates – Many magazines require advertisers to have their ads to them 1-2 months prior to publication. This means that creative and marketing need to have complete campaigns well ahead of a publication date. As you can imagine, this may not work for all promotions/campaigns.

If you have any questions about whether magazine advertising, or even print advertising in general, is right for your product, feel free to contact evok at 407.302.4416.

Playground Rules in the Real World

There are many simple concepts, probably ones that you heard since you stepped foot in an educational system at the age of five, that really define basic principles in your everyday life. Oftentimes businesses overanalyze the key to a successful business relationship, but it really goes back to the playground basics we learned since day one. Keep it simple, thorough, and personal and you will find that you are a step ahead of the others trying to find that magic formula for success.

Here at evok, we’ve always been told that you can hear a smile through the phone. Even if you are not face to face with your customers, they can sense your attitude through your voice, your written words, and especially your actions. Stay positive. In customer service especially, an attitude can make or break a relationship. Being helpful, accountable, and available is essential to forging a bond with any customer, new or old.

Countless times we have witnessed people in customer service who guarantee something they cannot deliver. It’s simple; if you give your word then you need to do everything in your power to make your promise happen. If you cannot always remember what it is you are promising, find a way to keep track of
it. Write it down; make note of what you need to do. If your word is broken, even just once, you allow doubt to be a part of the relationship, which is not conducive to gaining additional business.

The more you listen the more you hear. In order to be able to give your customers what they want, you have to know what they want. In order to know, you must ask and listen. If you show a genuine interest in your customers, not only will it build a stronger relationship, but also give you the ability to satisfy their needs in a greater way.

We all procrastinate; it is a part of being human. But in business, procrastination can lead some customers to believe they are not your priority. Stay on top
of your game. Be one step ahead of your customer. If you know that every Wednesday they ask for a specific report, make sure it is waiting for them Tuesday night. It is amazing what a little bit of hard work will do for their appreciation of you.

Cliché, we know, but a happy customer is a loyal customer. You should never want to deliver anything less than your personal best. The quality of the product and service you are offering is paramount to the success you will have in your business relationship. Don’t get lazy. Even if you’ve had a loyal customer for ten years, they still deserve the top-notch attention and service you would offer to
a potential new client. Customers are the reason you have a job to begin with. Without them, we have nothing.

These are just a few adages that we have all heard time and time again. Go back to the basics. The real world is not as complicated as everyone tries to make it. Just by using these simple five steps, you have already started to improve and enhance your business relationships.