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So I get back at 1AM last night from six great days in Costa Rica birding (saw 255 species and about 20 “life birds” that I’ve never seen before, including the Scarlet McCaw, come into the office to see the actual INside Innovation magazine (and boy, is it terrific thanks to the wonderful writers at BW and designers at Modernista), turn on my computer and WOW, blasted by Michael Bierut and the hoardes of graphic designers for “spec” work. Whoa, am I on the wrong side of history here? Or is Michael? There are are two conversations we should have here. The least im-
portant, I believe, is the one shaped by Michael about the contest itself. It is causing more heat than light. First some facts. The winner of the contest, the creative ad agency Modernista, pitched its concept for IN and developed its prototype on spec--but was paid for its subsequent work in designing the actual magazine. If I had a million bucks to give them, I would. Katie Andresen, Bruce Crocker and co-founder Gary Koepke did brilliant work. They were true partners with us. When you see the magazine, you'll understand. The reality, however, was that we had a tiny budget to launch a new magazine so we paid them what we could. This constraint was important in the way we shaped our design of the magazine.
David Albertson, a wonderful West Coast magazine designer, asked for and was paid for his initial pitch.
That leaves Stone Yamashita and IDEO who are innovation consultants and not magazine designers. I wanted them in the contest because they are in the same intellectual space in terms of innovation and their clients are our readers for IN. They were also outside the box--outside the norm--and I was hoping for something new and fresh. In short, I was hoping to learn much from both of them and I believe they were hoping to learn a lot from partnering up with us in this first stage of developing a new magazine. They delivered amazing prototypes with novel approaches to a new magazine on innovation. We both learned a heck of a lot working together and they are taking their ideas and prototypes back to use with their clients. That was sufficient payment for them and its OK by me. Indeed, I would argue that this is real compensation and the little money that we could offer these consulting firms at that point was really beside the point.
I use to joke with industrial designers that they needed to demand much more money for their work. They were paid so little that they made less than a second-rate New York shrink. So I find the heated discussion set off by Micheal a bit ironic. I also find the way he framed the events a bit disingenuous. Bad boy!
The larger issue here is the one about business models. I personally know graphic designers who were on welfare for years when times were very bad in the late 80s and early 90s. I understand their position on spec. But in a very competition world, as so many have found, value is not created by rules or prohibitions but by what one brings to the game. Architects, writers, industrial designers, painters, journalists, baseball players, screen-writers and many other creative professionals understand that. Heck, the entire business community around the globe understands that.
Michael decided not to play, even though he would have been paid to play, and now he's complaining.
Well, excuse me. Got to get to work on Issue # 2 of INside Innovation. I hope it will help educate people how to use design thinking to innovate.
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