Thursday, May 31, 2012

The value of art and design

An interesting post came up on a Google group that I subscribe to recently: a call for a contest design for a jersey.

I responded and out of it came a very interesting discussion. I value aesthetics, beautiful art, gorgeous bicycles, well designed and well thought out clothing, furniture...all of it. I often spend a long time making decisions about things because I weigh the looks and design of the thing very heavily. Those things matter very much to me.

I am an artist and a designer, but I don't pay the rent this way. If I could figure out how to do it, I would. In a heartbeat. No question.

So I champion people who make a living for themselves through art and design. And their time is valuable.

An artist named Molly Crabapple taught me that contests aren't great for artists and designers, and I feel strongly that this is true.

Contests, while often good intentioned, ask artists to make work for free on the off chance that their design will be picked. Now sure this may appeal to many, and they can be fun and people may create something for it because they will get something out it. But they still ask people to work for free, which sort of devalues their work. Does that make sense?

I feel very strongly that having a need for design (no matter what it is) is a great opportunity. It is an opportunity to hire someone whose work you like.

It values their work. It allows them to keep paying rent and to make work which will make the world in turn a more beautiful place. It matters. Still with me?

Many of the responses to my post made me see that people don't understand what I'm talking about.

Volunteering to do something because you get something out of it is wonderful, but that's not what I'm talking about.

Thinking that the professionals need not respond to a contest because the amateurs might want to do it for free is also not what I'm talking about.

Also, if we follow this thought to its end, a poorly designed thingamagig is just tomorrow's Goodwill run. Why? Because we don't love and value it the same way as something that was well designed or is inherently beautiful. A beautiful thing often takes hours of thought and many rounds of rework. It is a valuable thing, one that we should want to enjoy for years to come!

What I'm talking about is being in the position to hire an artist or designer to make something beautiful.

People will buy, crave or want something well designed. Look at Apple products. Look at gorgeous bicycle frames. Look at Rapha clothing.

What I want to communicate is that art has value. If you like an artist's work, consider hiring them rather than having a contest. It matters.

If you don't know who to contact, contact me. I will point you in the right direction. Art is a feast for my eyes and I see lots of it. I can give you names of good designers and artists.

This is not about me. This is about what is good for all of us. If artists cannot pay their rent and be valued, this world will be a sad ugly place. I just cannot let that happen.
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