Archive for the 'Graphic Design' Category

Commercial Slavery

My name is Ben,

I am not an alcoholic..

I do part time lecturing in Graphic Design at a College of Art, dealing with BA Graphic Design students. Part of my work is to help create the scenarios whereby students have things in place before contacting studios and agencies to gain work placements, and this new Americanised idea of ‘Internships’. Unpaid experience, which in a lot of cases is being left on the periphery of the industry for some weeks and not utilised as much as the could  and should be.

Some do get paid, and that is how it should be, if they play an active and contributory role whilst they are there. I thought slavery had been abolished? Graduating designers are being taken on for 3 month stretches and not sure what the conclusion may be…fresh blood as they are, full of pulsing creativity, working free and being forced to live with the worry of debt and feeling a burden. Not the best way to nurture the creative resource and the talents of the future.

When will the powers that be, realise that there should be a system of payment for graduates that echoes the need within the industry for new talent…funded by the Government, or a pool resource from the industry? Although they are job seekers what repayment do they get from the fees they paid and the blood, sweat and real tears that the ones I work with attain…all for free. 

Seems it is time for recognition of this system and change for the better.

A rant? Or a concern.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T (worst internship ever)

Most of the posts on the site talk about internships based in the UK- here’s one from a graphic design graduate who spent a summer working for a web design company in Philadelphia, U.S.A, land of the free (labour):

I had an internship last summer at a web design company. I am a graphic designer who has graduated college but took on an unpaid internship to learn more about the industry and learn about web design. I made all of this clear in the interview. My “boss” every day treated me with no respect. Yelled at me when I didn’t understand things and asked for help. To the extent that one time I asked for assistance on something I didn’t understand and he laughed at me and said “Jesus Christ you think you’re ever gonna learn about web design?” in front of the whole office. Furthermore, I asked for assistance on a new website and in front of the whole office he yelled at me “THIS COMES UNDER THE CATEGORY OF FIGURE IT OUT YOURSELF!” Figure it out myself? I’m an unpaid intern trying to learn from industry pros (although it’s hard for me to say he was anything close to professional). This should come under the category of help out your unpaid intern who’s doing your work for free. My “boss” took every opportunity to embarrass me in front of the office. By the internship’s end, he looked at my portfolio site where I claimed that I helped out on various projects at the internship and stated exactly my extent in the project. He then embarrassed me in front of the whole office yelling “Why the hell are you going to take credit for someone else’s work?” What the hell???? I spent all summer working on those projects and for me to state that I assisted on the projects is worthy of spilling out to the office that I’m taking credit for other people’s work? Even though I receive ZERO mention on their website for the graphic design and coding I’ve done for their projects. The featured projects on their site are all projects I worked on! Needless to say, after those outbursts I quit…

and I’ve never quit anything in my life. It would have been nice to be a little bit appreciated. I was never offered a lunch on them. I was never invited to company functions unless I had to videotape something for them. I had a really crappy experience there and tell everyone in the area that they’re a bunch of A-Holes, with the exception of the lower level people. Sorry to make this so long, but my experience has really frustrated me- that I worked a whole summer for free as a college graduate doing work that any designer would be paid at least $20/hr to do, while a 15 year old at McDonalds is doing the most unskilled labor and being paid more than I was.

Maccy Ds

Benevolent corporates

Payback time

Many designers treat interns as a convenient source of unpaid labour. However, Adrian Shaughnessy argues that we shouldn’t forget to give something back:

We designers are quick to grumble about sharp practices – free-pitching and a cavalier approach towards intellectual property spring to mind. But we can only claim moral superiority if our attitude to interns is beyond reproach. If we refuse to pay for their services, or if we pay them a fee, but neglect to devote time or effort to advancing their knowledge, we are no better than Hammond or all those unscrupulous clients.

When I had a studio, I always paid interns. I didn’t pay much, but I paid something, and I always made sure that I spent time with each one. Sometimes they had to do the sandwich run or make the tea, but I never asked anyone to pick up my dry cleaning. I’m sure there are a few designers who didn’t get my full attention and left without much discernable increase in their knowledge. But I’ve met quite a few of them since and I haven’t been punched yet. There’s still time, I suppose.

2013635_DW_Opinion

Even prostitutes get paid…

I’ve been working as an “intern”, (or if you prefer, substitute the usual ‘unpaid, unappreciated, exploited office helot without whom the entire company would implode’) in a business organisation  for the past 3 months. Technically, I should be getting some specific experience and in fairness I have been, for a given value of ‘some’. The trouble is all the other stuff I’ve been asked to do. Like organise and book my boss’s holiday, book restaurants for his friends, find tickets for shows, go to the supermarket, squeeze fruit into juice for 5 hours for a cocktail party etc etc. My boss once made me go to the cash machine, and honestly I have never been so tempted to commit a crime in my life.

The most recent outrage He Who Must Not Be Named has perpetrated was to ask me to track down a certain kind of foodstuff as a gift for some friends: and this item, believe you me, is rare as hen’s teeth. Probably rarer. So I call up Harrods, Harvey Nicks, Selfridges, all the major supermarkets and some of the minor ones too. No go. Then I trawl through the internet. No luck, except a cash and carry who demand you buy 100 of them. For a moment I’m tempted to do so, just to see his face as 100 of the dratted things are unloaded into my his hallway. Most people by this stage would give up, but my boss is made of sterner stuff; that sort of attitude did not win us the Empire. No lily-livered surrender for them. He Who Must Not Be Named resembles an angry deity, propitiated only by the sacrificial sweat of their workforce. Boss decides that the thing to do is to ring up the factory where it’s made –in China.  He reasons that everybody speaks English these days so they must have someone who can help. With some scepticism I call them, and sure enough the person on the other end of the line has no idea what I’m saying and eventually I thank them for their time (in English, since my school didn’t stretch to Mandarin) and hang up. I’m told to send an email, which I duly do. This saga has started to haunt my waking and sleeping: I’m so irrationally stressed about it that I’m almost weeping in frustration. This is compounded by being sent texts about it at 9pm on a Sunday evening, for example.

I have a Master’s degree from Durham and this is what I’m reduced to. Like an idiot, or a masochist, I take it, partly because I’ve been brought up to be helpful and partly because I’m so desperate for a job now that I’d probably Morris dance naked on the House of Commons roof if it meant someone would offer me one. I’m terrified that any refusal will lead to a terrible reference, so my boss can dangle the prospect of a permanent position at the end of this stint (which, incidentally, has no official end date, so I could be working for free forever or until I find another job), ensuring that I never refuse to do anything, no matter how absurd or mundane. In the meantime I am effectively paying, since I have to pay for my own travel expenses, to have my dignity and self-respect peeled away, layer by layer, as though flayed alive. Even prostitutes get paid for their services; interns have to pay their punters. And meanwhile employers still want their pound of graduate flesh, and we still give it to them.

I want a cocktail

I want a cocktail

We need to recognise the value young talent

As an ex head of department of fashion and textiles at UK and USA universities I am all for gaining experience through practice in an industrial context. Having said that it should be during the period of ones degree, not after their studies as graduates. 

Students of art and design are now clients, they come into education with a purpose, to gain knowledge and skills and develop an intellectual agility in preparation for their future career. With luck they fine tune creativity to a point where an innovative approaches to problem solving is second nature. 


With most students struggling to maintain their studies in a climate of financial constraint, often living below the national poverty line, it would be criminal for educational establishments not to provide a placement program of some description during the three or four year study period. I have always been of the opinion that during this placement period some sort of remuneration is required whether a small salary or reimbursement of expenses, even students have to eat and pay their rent and not all are blessed with wealthy parents. 


The provision of a placement program during study not only provides the student with an attractive CV, it also develops a discourse between industry and education that in turn can provide many other benefits not necessarily apparent at the time. I just wish that government bodies where more supportive of our young thinkers as they are the future for societal, economic and creative innovation.

This comment originally appeared on the Creative Review website.

I simply cannot find a placement that offers remuneration of any kind

Employers and MPs taking advantage as graduates struggle to find jobs:

The new elitism that is freezing out poorer graduates:

These articles sum up some of my frustrations with trying to find work at the moment. I simply cannot find a placement that offers remuneration of any kind, even travel expenses. This wasn’t so much a problem when I held placements alongside my 1st and 2nd year studies, which weren’t particularly involved as I lacked the software skills to do any real work back then. But I no longer have a student loan to depend on, and now I’ve graduated I feel my five years of college and university education merits something better than doing the work nobody else in the studio wants to do, for free. Given the current economic climate, I could barely travel and survive working for free where I live, never mind those who offered me unpaid work in London. Whenever I challenge an agency on their refusal to offer a wage, their stance is always ‘we’re doing you a favour’. How?  

I realise I’m inexperienced (though I do have a year or so of studio experience) and don’t claim to be the finished article, but after studying 5 years of diplomas and degree courses, I’ve at least shown that I’m willing. If you like my portfolio enough to have me working in your studio, pay me what my education and skills deserve. Really, is that too much to ask? 

Some of the agencies offering me unpaid placements count Coca Cola, Nissan, Manchester United, Sony and Nickelodeon amongst their clients. Some have over a hundred staff, and have numerous unpaid interns each week. Some are part of multinational corporations. Do they seriously expect anyone to believe they cannot afford to pay interns £5.73 for a few hours a week? They continue to exploit graduates, because everyone else is doing it and getting away with it. If a company doesn’t pay tax at the end of the financial year, Inland Revenue will quickly be on their case. Who is monitoring design companies to ensure they pay workers minimum wage? Nicky Campbell, we need you sir… 

Banks are offering training schemes of £16k or above for graduates who have not necessarily studied an associated subject, yet I’m expected to work for nothing in an industry I’ve trained 5 years to get into. It just doesn’t seem right. After almost 6 months of writing, emailing and calling agencies and getting the same response, I’m now on the brink of taking work in another industry. I don’t want to close the door on design, but if our own industry doesn’t value its graduates enough to pay them minimum wage, then it doesn’t leave me with much choice. I went to university to escape the low paid call centre, data entry and bar jobs I’d spent years doing. Now design agencies want me to work for less than that? Are you kidding? 

Talent is not the issue here, since studios seem to like my work enough to invite me in; but I simply cannot compete against those with families able to support them on stints to London working for free. £240 per month Jobseekers Allowance doesn’t go very far where I live, so travelling to another city is completely out of the question. The way I see things, unpaid placements are tantamount to discrimination against all those who want experience, but do not have the financial resources to enter the industry as an unpaid trainee. 

I’ll end with some great advice someone gave me recently: If you’re offered unpaid work that should be paid, perhaps you should consider reporting the company to the Low Pay Commission at www.lowpay.gov.uk


Interns Anonymous

We want this website to be a forum for interns to share their experiences and discuss the ethics of unpaid employment. Most importantly, we want this site to be a place where YOU can tell us your story.

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