Friend and mentor of many, Pat Taylor has made his mark in the Washington Design Community. He has been a professional designer since 1953 and now is enjoying retirement (or so he claims). According to Taylor creatives never really retire, so it's not a surprise to find him working on comps for a new logo, reading through design articles from his expansive library, mingling with colleagues at an AIGA event, or giving advice to his previous students.
Taylor began his career as an intern, learning how to work fast and accurate. He then moved on to Look magazine in Des Moines, Iowa as a designer of direct mail pieces. He continued to build his career at an ad agency in Appleton, Wisconsin where he became art director. After ten years at the agency he transitioned into building his own business, keeping the agency on as a client. Soon after he moved to Washington DC where his success and reputation continued to grow due to his hard work, strategic business ideas, and passion and talent for design. While in Washington Taylor continued with his design practice and community involvement by teaching for ten years at The Corcoran School of Art.
Taylor is most known for his logo designs which are simplistic and immediate. Their character is enhanced by the tools he uses including; his hands, felt pens, paper, and zerox machines. Taylor has resisted conforming to computer design in his initial work though will sometimes hire production artists to execute his ideas.
His poster designs have this same immediate, quick concept, and hand-tooled illustrative quality as his logo designs. Though Taylor denies being an illustrator, one can clearly see how the character of his marks along with the simple solutions and hand type are what give the posters life and charm. A perfect example of this is his poster for a small Vermont College's performance of “The Fool". This crowned character was drawn quickly with felt pen on a napkin at thumbnail size and enlarged using a zerox, with no touch ups made. The imperfections of the line perhaps could be replicated in Adobe illustrator but it would likely take a lot longer and with the spirit of the drawing being lost. This fear of an idea being lost in execution along with the stubbornness to conform to technological changes keeps Taylor doing what he does best¬â¬€ˆ§thinking, drawing, and designing by hand.
I was recently inspired by a pamphlet from a plumber left on my doorstep. On the marketing piece the tagline read, “Don't judge service charges solely by the time the technician spends in your home or business," which reminded me of the constant struggle by all service industries, including design, to be valued and fairly compensated. The plumber's assessment could be equated to the doctor's rationale where as a patient, you pay for his knowledge and skill plus a share of his business costs. Even if he spends only a few minutes with you, his fee could range from $75 to $175 depending upon his degree of expertise. Do you assess and value your time in the same way?
Designing can be particularly hard for some to value as it may seem more accessible to the everyman than the mysteries of the medical profession. At the same time, design is not easily defined or measured. When looking at the finished result a client may have the feeling she could have created the design herself and in a short amount of time. We are going to have to change that perception if we want to be paid appropriately.
First, you can't expect your clients to value your work until you value your design services and make sure your prices reflect not just the time it took to actually design the project but to also be sure your price covers all of your business expenses (taxes, tools, training, advertising, insurance, etc.) and reflects the quality of your work and your years of expertise and creative thinking. After all, that incredibly simple yet genius logo may have taken only 3 minutes to draw when that creative spark hit but it took you years of brand design experience and learning how to cultivate that spark to get that great result.
Secondly, it's easy for clients to only care about the value received and not the thoughtful process that assures they are getting a quality product. I recommend using flat rates. Charging hourly can get you caught up in commoditizing yourself as you negotiate the contract or add to the scope later on. It's all too easy to confuse things and sell yourself short with itemizing an hourly price. It should make no difference how long it takes you for research, consultation, and design of a logo-only how effective it is and how it will benefit the company for the long term. A flat rate is not only good for you but for your client as well because it allows them to form an accurate budget. They know what the expectations are and can focus on the end result¬â¬€ˆ§your awesome design. A flat rate should still have conditions set in the contract incase the project's scope changes for example. AIGA has great examples of design contracts: http://www.aiga.org/content.cfm/standard-agreement
Now that you've had some time to think about it, what are you worth to your clients?
Designers are often asked to provide our services for free to a worthy cause (i.e. pro bono). This can be a great way to give back to the community while at the same time honing your skills, adding work to your portfolio, and opening the doors to more opportunities. But before you zealously jump in, think about the pros and cons and make sure to maintain your professional standards. The more you consider pro bono work as equivalent to your paying work the more the client will respect you as a designer and value your time.
10 things to consider before you accept a pro bono project or client:
1. Are they a low-budget non-profit and do you believe in their cause? DC is full of nonprofits that have budgets to pay, but that doesn't mean they won't ask for pro bono or reduced rates, so choose carefully and believe in the work they do.
2. Is it a for-profit business? They may tug at your heart strings that they have no money and try to get you excited about their personal project or new business but remember you might be a small business too and you need to make a living. Consider bartering. "Oh you're starting a catering company and have no money for a logo? That's great because I'm hungry all the time!" If you give your work away for free to a for-profit business in hopes that they will have more work in the future for payment it will likely not happen and is not good for the industry. Once someone sees you as a cheap or free designer it will be hard for them to value your work later.
3. Are there any benefits to you? For example feeling good about doing good, portfolio piece, practicing skills, leading to potential paying work, and networking can make it worthwhile. Note: pro-bono design services can not be listed as a donation on your taxes.
4. State your provisions up front and in writing (preferably in a proposal or contract format). Don't leave things too open ended. You don't want to be seen as the ongoing "free designer" or with unlimited time for alterations. Perhaps you'd like to offer art direction only and aren't willing to do production.
5. Prepare a proposal or contract that states how much your fee would normally be for the project. This will help you to be recognized as a professional and will give value to your time. It also gives them an idea of your rates for future projects. Be sure to also list all of the work you plan to accomplish and any expenses that might incur costs such as couriers, fonts, photography etc.
6. Make sure that you have the time and that it won't conflict too much with your billable work or full-time job. Be clear about your availability. You may say yes now while you're slow, but what if the project is delayed and lands on your desk during your busy season?
7. Consider a partial pro bono, in particular for a large or multi-piece project. Let them know that you can offer them a %50 percent rate or that you can do the first 20 hours pro bono with any additional hours being charged at your regular rate for example.
8. Is this for a family member or friend? Would this person gladly return a favor for you? Read this list very slowly and remember it's ok to say no.
9. Make sure you get credit (wether your name is on the printed piece, there's a link to your web page, a mention of thanks in the program, etc.). And if this is a printed piece make sure you receive samples.
10. Have fun! Pro bono work is a great time to push those creative boundaries. The client should be more flexible, allow for more artistic license, and fuss less in return for waived fees.