Yesterday, a graphic designer posted an ad on Craigslist titled “Designer Looking For People To Do Their Job Without Pay (Anywhere)” which poked fun at people who post ads on Craigslist asking designers to do free work for them. I emailed the designer asking for a short interview. The designer, who goes by the name Mr. Furley, responded and was gracious enough to answer some of my questions. He was a wonderful curmudgeon.
First off, can you describe yourself a little? Maybe, how long you’ve worked as a graphic designer and what kind of work you’ve done?
Mr. Furley: I have been a graphic and web designer for over 15 years now. Throughout my career, I have had a chance to get involved with just about every aspect of graphic and web design—from print, to animation to video and web I have had my hands on all sorts of projects. To date, I have worked with clients as small individuals to well known entities and bands. Currently I am working with a very large restaurant chain as well as an international iconic band.
What motivated or inspired you to create the Craigslist ad? Was there one last straw that broke the camel’s back?
Mr. Furley: I decided to create this Craigslist ad as a satirical piece to all these people who seem to think that all designers, artists, models and musicians are so desperate for work that they will do anything to get their name out there, including working for free. Also, to let them maybe see how stupid and rude they look when they request us to work for no pay. Any artist that has had experience trying to find work, not only on Craigslist, but just about everywhere, knows how daunting it is reading ads saying things like “I don’t have money, but I will give you a share of my business because my business is going to take off like Facebook,” or “I can’t pay you but you will end up with a great piece for your portfolio and I will tell all my friends about you” and so on.
Look, even students straight out of school have enough in their portfolio to get them started. And if you are offering your designer “stock” in your company as payment, it just shows you are a horrible business person, and that your company is going to fail anyway. So let’s just stop all this nonsense and offer cold hard cash for services just as you would if you go into Home Depot and buy some hardware to build your storefront. If you can’t afford the service, then you don’t get it. It’s as simple as that. I can’t afford an expensive car, but do you see me going to the dealership telling the sales guy, “No, I can’t pay you, but think of how many people will come buy cars from you when they see the designer for (insert name of one of my bigger clients) driving your car around town!” No, I wouldn’t do this because it’s arrogant, rude and stupid. Yet people think it’s ok to do this to us.
Why do you think these people place these ads? Meaning, why do you think they ask designers to do it for free in the first place? I can understand a scenario where maybe a friend or family member asks this as a favor, but a stranger posting an ad looking for someone to do free design work for them is pretty mind-boggling.
Mr. Furley: It is completely mind-blowing. As for why? I really don’t know for sure, but I can speculate. I feel that the people who are asking for these handouts are ignorant to what it actually takes to design a logo or website. They think as designers, all we do is get high, draw with crayons and push a button on our computer and magically things get produced.
I also feel that these people don’t care about others at all. They are rude arrogant “business people” that care about nothing but themselves and making money for themselves and will use people as tools to get what they want. The sad thing is there are a huge amount of people like this. Just look at the Craigslist “Gigs” section. You will see what I mean. I’ve sent emails to some of these people politely asking them why they think designers are so desperate they will work for free. The responses were mind-blowing themselves. They were all rude—basically telling me to mind my own business, and if I had so much work to do why was I wasting my time emailing them. Many of them were so rude I don’t feel comfortable repeating what they told me. It was lots of name calling like 12-year-olds at recess. So bottom line: I think the people doing this are your stereotypical oblivious jerks that want something for nothing.
Is there anything incentivizing people to ask graphic designers to do free work? Meaning, is this a thing that happens because there are (perhaps, inexperienced) graphic designers agreeing to do work for free to gain experience?
Mr. Furley: Yes, I do, and I think its the combination of a few things. People just don’t get design. They think when we make a logo we are just drawing an image with a name of a company on it. What they aren’t seeing is that when we design a logo we are designing a piece that will provoke something in a person. We are provoking people to feel the need to buy from this company. Its not just crayons and construction paper. When we design advertisements, we aren’t just placing an image on it saying “buy me”, we are creating a display that gets a viewer to do something. And with applications like Instagram filters, people think what we do is so simple even a stupid phone app can do it. I also feel that some of these same people feel since that they can take the red eyes out of their family portrait, or make a flyer for their local band with Word, that they are graphic designers and advertise themselves as such, and that people who hire them see how crappy their work is, which results in them thinking all designers are like this. There are millions of “designers” out there, and less than half are actually talented designers.
How do you think entry-level graphic designers who want to make a career designing should go about gaining experience?
Mr. Furley: Do what I did. Figure out how to get some experience for yourself. Create fictional companies and create advertisements for them. Offer your service to friends and family for free. Offer your services to non-profit organizations and charities you are interested in. Do not work for free. It’s as simple as that.