Category: Self-Reflection

What does sustainability mean in the context of graphic design?

Design Can Change is a great resource that educates designers on the current changes we are seeing in the climate around the globe and the impact these changes will have on our future. They specifically link the core role of designers and the relationships they have with suppliers and printers to achieve outputs (examples outlined below).

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Image credit: Design Can Change

As designers, it is interesting to learn how we can both influence clients to become more sustainable and work with suppliers and printers to identify sustainable options. And as more people are demanding environmental accountability, it is crucial that designers endeavour to reduce their footprint and ensure they encourage and are able to provide sustainable options.

What is Cradle to Cradle design and how can you see this applied in the graphic design industry?
Cradle to Cradle identifies a unique approach to design whilst considering reducing environmental toxicity. It is identified in the 2002 book written by architect William McDonough and chemist Dr. Michael Braungart, called ‘Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things‘. It discusses how products should be created in accordance with the cradle-to-cradle life cycle model as opposed to the cradle-to-grave model – the core difference being the focus on a waste-free end result (as opposed to a disposal phase). Cradle to Cradle suggests that industries have a responsibility to protect and enrich the environmental ecosystem.

As a result, the Cradle to Cradle Certified product standard has been developed to guide both designers and manufacturers through an improvement process judged in accordance with five quality categories. These categories being:

  • Material health – knowing the chemical ingredients of every material in a product and optimising towards safer materials.
  • Material reutilisation – designing products using materials that come from and can safely return to nature.
  • Renewable energy and carbon management – foreseeing a future in which all manufacturing is powered by 100% clean renewable energy.
  • Water stewardship – treating clean water as a precious resource and essential human right.
  • Social fairness – designing product operations to honour people and natural systems affected by the creation, use, disposal and reuse.

Some examples of Cradle to Cradle Certified products are a plant-based laundry detergent, Mushroom Materials (seed husks and stalks combined with mushroom roots) in place of plastic foams such as Styrofoam, and bricks made from clay.

I can see Cradle to Cradle being applied successfully in the graphic design industry through having a solid sustainability strategy. New Paper Leaf, outlines some great considerations relevant to the graphic design industry.

Firstly, a designer can check whether the design solution must be a printed piece, or whether it can be digital (eg PDF/web-based). If it can be web-based, the designer can consider using web hosts that use renewable energy or who purchase carbon offset credits.

If a printed solution is necessary, there are many other considerations that can be taken into account to minimise environmental impact (or to aim for a neutral impact). Some examples include:

  • work with local printers to reduce emissions from transport/shipping,
  • maximise the use of the paper when designing (consider unnecessary excess trimming, bleed and the ability to print multiple pieces per page),
  • consider the next phase of use for the printed piece (could it have dual purpose or serve another purpose after primary use),
  • consider what the paper stock is made from (trees or straw, 100% recycled, has it been bleached, etc),
  • consider what inks and coating the paper stock and printer uses (vegetable-based inks rather than petroleum-based, UV coatings, varnishes, laminates and metallic inks can be non-recyclable),
  • consider what finishing processes the paper stock and printer uses (saddle-stitching is preferred to petroleum-based glues when binding),
  • does the chosen printer have a waste reduction strategy? (waterless or digital printing, FSC Certified, etc), and
  • if the item needs to be packaged, can it be packaged in a material Cradle to Cradle Certified?

A local graphic design studio (whose work I was browsing recently through their newsletter), is Papercut Graphic Design. They caught my eye as I noticed they have created their own ‘green tick’ (below).

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Image credit: Papercut

Even though they’re not at a Cradle to Cradle approach, they proudly identify “from the inception of the design, through the studio, in the choice of paper stock, to the selected printer and to the end of the lifecycle, the products sustainability and reduction of carbon footprint has been considered and managed for the least impact or longest life“. In addition to “…the design should be print friendly and the hosting should be powered by solar wind or a combination of both. Papercut manage the production process of web and print products through the studio so that the most sustainable requirements are met, resulting in the smallest carbon footprint” for web.

The Papercut Green Tick of Approval is a wonderful representation of Papercut’s commitment to sustainable business practices and design. They market the tick as something that both sets themselves apart from other design studios, as well as something that organisations should be eager to display. On reflection, I think having environmental and sustainability policies and strategies is a great asset for any freelancer, studio or organisation. It helps spread awareness, identifies accountability and influences change in the current climate.

In the Creative Gallery of Sustainable Communications, what ad has the most impact for you and why?
When considering the ads most relevant to graphic design, the below ad really speaks to me.

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Image credit: United Nations Environment Programme

The ad’s headline is “A perfect packaging doesn’t involve” and shows icons of water, oil, hazardous chemicals, petroleum, trees, carbon dioxide and animals.

I like it as it identifies the fact that nature can produce perfect packaging itself. It doesn’t need the shiniest, sturdiest, most-cushioned, easily-produced, man-made material. The world often thinks man can better the Earth, but it is already pretty spectacular to begin with – all we need to do is look to nature for our solutions.

Packaging is required on a temporary basis when comparing it to the product it holds, and is used to contain, protect, present, identify, inform and advertise. Even though it is important, the negatives can outweigh the positives when we produce tonnes of excess and non-recyclable packaging.

Environment Victoria outlines that the packaging process already takes a lot of energy, water and natural resources to produce, and identifies that when we throw away packaging after a single-use, these natural resources are lost. They also advise that in Australia, we’ve doubled the amount of natural resources we use to produce packaging in the last 30 years – that’s only produce! That does not mention the effect of the litter it produces and the earth and wildlife it destroys post-use.

I find it quite disappointing to learn this, as I don’t think environmental destruction was a consideration before these types of processes became the norm. Upon reflection, it seems having environmental accountability is a commodity and not something everyone should be doing out of responsibility. This is saddening and I am concerned about my previous ignorance.

List five things a graphic designer can do in their practice to decrease their impact on the environment.
After conducting my research, it is actually hard to limit myself to only five. Some steps I can personally take would be:

  • to suggest alternatives to printed materials and explore whether the clients needs could be met through a digital outcome,
  • to consider the emissions of unnecessary shipping/transport and use local printers,
  • to check what paper stock and inks the local printer uses and discourage unnecessary varnishes and coatings,
  • to maximise the use of the printed material, and
  • to check whether web hosts use renewable energy to power their servers.

Design and ethics

I would personally summarise ethics as conducting oneself in a transparent and moral manner. AGDA defines ethics as professional conduct expectations in the client/designer/subcontractor relationship. This covers:

  • A designers obligation to the client (best interests, conflicts of interest and confidentiality).
  • A designers responsibility to other designers (free pitching, existing commissions, plagiarism and criticism of others’ work).
  • Commissions (details for securing and accepting commissions and subcontracting).
  • Fees (charges, free pitching, reductions, other financial interests and selection of another designer).
  • Design competitions.
  • Self-promotion (content, credit and use of designer’s name).

What is free pitching and how does it affect the industry as a whole?
Pitching is the competitive provision of design services (including concepts) for a client in an attempt to win new business. Therefore, free pitching is when the designer does not get paid for these services/concepts. Free pitching can come in many forms and can be either client or designer initiated, such as (and not limited to):

  • Design competitions where the chosen designer’s “prize” is publicity.
  • Handing over design concepts with the premise of potential future paid work.
  • Deliberately providing free design to displace other designers.

Free pitching can also be referred to as speculative work (spec work), predatory pricing and unpaid competitive tendering.

DIA claims free pitching “undermines the value of design services and destroys the professional standing of designers”. In short, by providing services for free, a designer is identifying and communicating their time, skills and product (design) is not worth paying for, which in turn, destroys both a designer’s credibility and the design profession.

DIA also discusses how design is commonly considered as an industry and not a profession. Many other fields in which people gain qualifications and have representative bodies, don’t require any form of pitching – think doctors, accountants and tradesmen. For example, try asking three accountants to complete your tax return, pitch the completed outcome and provide the paperwork to you, for free, in a bid to gain future business (or that you will tell your friends how great they are).

Further arguments against free pitching also outline that pitching delivers:

  • work designed to win the pitch, rather than provide the best solution,
  • an undercut of the financial viability of design,
  • unexperienced and less qualified designers to the process, providing a poor representation of the design profession, and
  • higher freelance rates for paid projects for designers who accommodate free pitching but still need to earn a viable income.

A great resource I came across was NO!SPEC, which is a group of designers whose aim is to educate both designers and clients on the negative effect of spec work. This site outlines that design organisations across Australia, New Zealand, the USA and the UK all fundamentally oppose spec work, and provide consistent advice that a designer should not undertake any work without adequate compensation.

Lastly, the DIA classifies free pitching as unprofessional and asks the conclusionary question: “Are you in the business of winning pitches, or designing?”.

Why is it important to have a code of ethics in the graphic design industry?
Just like any other profession, a code of ethics is important in order to establish the appropriate and acceptable behaviour of a professional group, in order to reflect its values. A code of ethics in the graphic design industry is especially important as it identifies graphic design as a responsible profession, it also identifies what is ‘fair play’ and sets the standards of professional service and conduct. This benefits the client as they can gain a better understanding of how their designer should carry out their business and why.

What is the difference between a copyright and a trademark or patent?
Copyright © is the legal rights to the expression of a concept or idea, but not the concept or idea itself. Copyright is automatically granted to the creator and can provide protection of websites, photographs, graphics and illustrations. If work is created for an employer as part of a day-to-day job, the copyright belongs to the employer. If working as a freelancer for a client, the copyright is often identified in a written agreement.

A trademark is the legal rights to the concept or idea itself, and can cover a logo, phrase, colour, sound, scent, shape and aspect of packaging. A trademark doesn’t have to be registered (TM – unregistered trademark), though it’s legally more difficult to stop others from copying or imitating the trademark. A registered trademark ® comes at a cost, and needs to be applied for and approved. A registered trademark is easier to defence against infringement in a court of law.

A patent protects an invention and how it works or functions, it also comes at a cost and needs to be applied for and approved.

What measures do you need to take as a freelance designer to protect your creative output?
There are a number of measures I can take as a designer:

  • Do not copy other people’s work (even temporarily to express ideas).
  • Understand copyright licences for images and fonts and use them legally.
  • Include a copyright notice and symbol for my designs.
  • Advise confidentiality if providing concepts to a client before an agreement is in place, ie “all ideas are presented in confidence and are owned by me”.
  • Search the trademarks database available at IP Australia to make sure I am not infringing any registered trademarks.
  • Ask for documentation to confirm the client owns the copyright when asked to modify a design.
  • Identify in the agreement (signed by myself and the client) who owns the intellectual property (IP) rights – if I am giving them up, I should include a clause on folio use for myself.
  • If I own IP, I should keep track of the renewal dates.
  • Understand it is up to me to protect my own copyright.

What is my (graphic design) worth?

I found it a little difficult to research how much a freelance graphic designer should charge per hour. Throughout my research, I also found the debate on fixed pricing versus hourly billing very interesting.

Just Creative gave me great insight into the reality of pricing graphic design services. Some key points I have taken away are:

  • there’s no exact formula,
  • my prices will affect my own outlook on my services and the client’s opinion of my services,
  • uncertainty is common,
  • pricing can be a good way to weed out the time wasters,
  • potential clients may think the prices are too high no matter what the price, and
  • starting out I will probably have to charge less than I would like.

Tuts+ also outlined nine factors to consider when determining prices. These include: expenses, desired profit, market demand, industry standards, skill level, experience, market positioning, level of service and who the client is (whether they are high risk, etc).

The AIGA Survey of Design Salaries outlined the average salary of a junior designer (print/web/interactive) in 2014 was $40,000 USD, and $60,000 USD for a self-employed designer – though I acknowledge this probably doesn’t include ‘junior’ self-employed designers and is a reflection of USA standards, not Australian.

After checking Seek (an Australian site), I found salaries aren’t often outlined for graphic design job advertisements. Though, from what I did find, the average salary offered to a junior graphic designer is between $35,000-$50,000 AUD (for a mid-weight graphic designer this jumps to $50,000-$65,000 and a senior graphic designer as much as $80,000-$100,000). I then used Pay Calculator to work out the hourly rate for a junior graphic designer based on the above figure, which equates to between $17-25 per hour (based on a 38 hour working week). I understand the above hourly rate is based on a salary where the employee is entitled to leave provisions, etc. So a freelancer would have to account for leave and potential periods of no work, among other things, in their pricing.

The fixed pricing versus hourly billing debate raises some interesting considerations. Miranda Marquit, a professional writer who has experience in graphic design, advises that clients often want a quote for the project rather than an hourly rate. Meaning, if you can estimate how long a project will take, you can transfer your hourly rate into a fixed price for the project. For example, if the hourly rate is $60/hr, and designing a flyer will take 2 hours, the quote could start at $120 and include a further price buffer to account for extra tweaking time. Miranda also discusses the importance of having an agreement with the client for any graphic design project. The agreement should outline what services and product the quote includes, and should cover the following:

  • number of revisions included
  • what exactly the designer will produce
  • provision for additional charges that go outside of the original scope of the project
  • additional fees, such as a premium for rush jobs

In the end I emailed AGDA directly to get a better idea of what freelance junior graphic designers should be charging. Steve from AGDA wasn’t able to give me freelance rates but he did advise the following for junior designers working within a studio:

  • Junior Graphic Designer (0-1 years) = $33,222 or $23.50/hr
  • Junior Graphic Designer (2-4 years) = $42,013 or $27.50/hr

I understand this isn’t all the information out there, but it gives me something to start thinking about. Since I am a student only halfway through completing my double degree (Graphic Design/Communication in Advertising) and I already have full-time employment, I would be looking to freelance on the side and not as my main source of income.

I also understand my technical skills aren’t yet as advanced as a graduate graphic designers, so I would need to work a little slower on projects to start with. Meaning I wouldn’t want to transfer this extra time spent on projects as a cost to the client. Meaning I would ideally want to charge based on “reasonable” job timeframes (whilst also considering complexity of job, etc).

I think I would only be comfortable charging a base rate of approximately $25-30/hr to begin, and would only be able to fit in approximately 5 hours of freelance work a week.

Below is a timesheet branded with my personal logo, which I could use as means to track my hours completed per week for a certain client/project.

Timesheet

Managing myself and managing others

I completed the Johari Window tool to find out how others see me in comparison to how I see myself. The 5 attributes I picked for myself were:

  • intelligent
  • knowledgeable
  • logical
  • organised
  • witty

I work full-time and study part-time, so being organised is crucial. I like to learn, gain knowledge and share knowledge and I much prefer deductive reasoning over inductive reasoning, so see myself as quite a logical thinker. I also appreciate smiling and good humour, so like to work it into my interactions with others. I think all of this is communicated in my ENTJ personality type result as well.

I asked 20 people, consisting of friends, some family, university peers and work colleagues to use any 5 of the Johari Window attributes to best describe me. The results were:

  • 60% organised
  • 40% confident, intelligent, trustworthy & witty
  • 35% independent
  • 30% friendly & self-assertive
  • 20% able, clever & helpful
  • 15% giving, idealistic & logical
  • 10% adaptable, cheerful, dependable, energetic, extroverted, happy & proud
  • 5% accepting, calm, caring, kind, knowledgeable, observant, reflective, sensible & warm

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I read A Client’s Guide to Design by AIGA to understand how the design process works in a professional environment – to give me a better understanding of what qualities might be important in the design profession.

What attributes described in Johari Window exercise do you see as key to dealing with clients?
When dealing with clients, communication is important. Having the client clearly identify goals and objectives is key for the designer to achieve anything worthwhile. Therefore, I think one has to be: able, adaptable, caring, confident, dependable, dignified, friendly, helpful, mature, organised, responsive, sensible and trustworthy.

What attributes are key to dealing with your colleagues?
Working with colleagues often requires collaboration, as well as an understanding of diverse personalities and differing views. Drawing from my experience, I think one has to be: accepting, adaptable, dependable, dignified, friendly, helpful, observant, patient, mature, self-assertive, sensible and trustworthy.

What attributes are key to dealing with yourself?
In order for one to develop and succeed on a professional level, I think one needs to be: able, adaptable, clever, dependable, idealistic, independent, intelligent, observant, organised, reflective, responsive, searching and trustworthy.

What attributes are key to dealing with your boss?
There are a range of attributes that one might want to demonstrate to a boss in order to be viewed as a valuable employee. Therefore, I think the following attributes are important: able, adaptable, calm, confident, dependable, helpful, idealistic, knowledgeable, mature, observant, organised, reflective, self-assertive, sensible and trustworthy.

How does your version of the Johari Window differ from your close contacts?
Funnily enough, there were no attributes I picked for myself that others didn’t pick for me. I suppose this shows that I have a reasonable level of self-awareness.

Three of the five attributes I picked for myself were within the top responses (intelligent, organised, witty), which I am quite pleased with. I would like to think I am a switched-on individual and I think this is demonstrated by the fact that I work full-time while completing my double degree part-time. I also love a good joke and come-back and appreciate a dry sense of humour.

The top responses in my blind spot are: confident, trustworthy, independent, friendly and self-assertive. I’m not offended that people view me as self-assertive, as I think they mean it from the perspective that I’m not afraid to tell it like it is. I would like to think that being viewed as friendly means I am not harsh or offensive in my self-assertiveness! I do value trust, I understand that things happen but I think a high level of transparency is important to maintain trust.

I think my personal response of knowledgeable that of which only 5% of respondents agreed, I actually meant clever. If I had to pick again I think clever would be a more apt description as I definitely see myself as more resourceful than knowledgeable – so think clever would be a better fit.

Something to make note of is the fact that able at 20% was only deemed a personal attribute by work colleagues. Out of the 6 work colleagues that I asked to respond, 66% deemed me able. So I think the responses could have been vastly different if I had asked 20 work colleagues to respond. This shows that attributes important on a personal and professional level can vary.

How does this exercise make you think about your position in the workplace?
I think these results show that I can work soundly on my own and would potentially be a good boss. I think my main areas to improve on would be working with peers and co-workers, in terms of being more patient and letting others have a go. I wouldn’t say I am not a team player, but I think I need to learn that I don’t always need to take the reigns (so to speak). I think I would also like to start acknowledging when others may have the answers to the questions that I am too busy researching for myself.

Brand: Me

I like to consider myself from a brand perspective, in terms of how I represent myself, especially online. For example, the look and content of my Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram all have a considered aesthetic – I like to make sure what I post contributes positively to how I aim to be seen.

From a graphic design aspect, I’ve dabbled in designs for my own personal logo a number of times. Since I am always learning, exploring and broadening my tastes I haven’t locked anything in before (I still have a few part-time years at uni left). Therefore, I answered questions on Logo Tournament to prompt me to think a little more formally about the type of logo I’d like to create for myself.

I would like to use my real name as my business name, so I opt to name it Stephanie Brink Graphic Design. My target audience would be any business or individual requiring good quality graphic design solutions.

What are the top 3 things I’d like to communicate to my audience through my logo?
Simplicity, quality and reliability.

What style of logo?
I’m leaning towards a wordmark (company name in a stylised type which may include abstract or pictorial elements) or letterform mark (very small amount of letters to represent the business).

What colours would I like to use?
Ideally, none. I’d like a neutral design, black and white, possibly grey or a spot of natural colour if necessary.

Do I have any logo ideas or additional information?
Firstly, I am a little obsessed with the Trivia Serif typeface. I love classic, timeless logos like that of Vogue, and Trivia Serif reminds me of it.

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Image credit: My Fonts

I also scoured Pinterest for logos that align with the look I want to achieve and found these: (images are links to original source)
logo3
logo1

logo2

I have utilised the sliders below (courtesy of Logo Tournament) to help describe how I want to communicate my personal brand.

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Finally, the below logo is what I have come up with:
SB logo

I enjoy this design as it is sleek and simple. As they say, simple is hard – and this design actually took me a while to complete! I like the use of lines and negative space to essentially create a puzzle where the viewers mind must complete the picture. I incorporated the Trivia Serif Bold typeface with Lane Narrow. I like the quiet and subtle feel it creates, while the use of serif and sans-serif type together (and the bold/light contrast) proves how well the two can work in harmony. They also reflect two different types of graphic design – print (serif) and web (sans-serif).

As the above design doesn’t display my whole business name, it could also be used in conjunction with the below typography (for my website and business card). Please note: the serif typeface below is actually Baskerville – I only used this in place of Trivia Serif Regular which I haven’t purchased yet (I only purchased the bold version for my logo).

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Below is an example of my logo being used on a template CV I created.
Resume
I opted to keep it formal and optimise the use of white space. I often overcrowd documents with information so this was an ideal opportunity for me to explore a more minimal design. I made use of two typefaces, Baskerville and Univers – ideally though, I would use Trivia Serif Regular with Univers (Univers is more legible than Lane Narrow, which is a more stylised sans-serif type). I like how this CV design combines both a modern and traditional look – much like my logo!