Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Faces of Occupy: Elijah

Click to enlarge
©2012 Paul Davey
I met Elijah a couple of weeks back when I started shooting images at the Occupy LSX camp at St Paul’s Cathedral. I was photographing Indigo, his girlfriend as she sat in the entrance of their tent. Elijah was inside, in the shadows, embellishing some of Indigo’s answers to my questions, as I took shot after shot of her. He was like a colour commentator, allowing Indigo to do most of the talking, to tell their version of the truth. Eventually, he emerged into the daylight and we chatted together for a while. I was more interested in getting pictures than what we spoke about. I photographed them together and separately, but had no real idea of exactly what I was going to do with the images.

  Elijah and Indigo.
Click to enlarge
©2012 Paul Davey
I visited the camp several more times and on occasion spotted Elijah or Indigo in the distance, but I was busy with other photographs and didn’t approach them. Clearly they were long-term residents in the camp.

Finally having decided to do a series, The Faces of Occupy, I came back to the camp with the intention to photograph and interview my subjects. I arrived at the camp to find residents dismantling the kitchen and parts of the “Tech Tent” and loading their precious, mismatched, disparate components that most people would classify as junk, into a van.

The day before, February 22nd, the camp had lost its High Court appeal against eviction and were packing up some of their more valuable items and moving them offsite.

I wandered around the camp snapping off the occasional image – there are rich photographic pickings to be had.  I came across Elijah and Indigo sitting beside the Tea Tent in camping chairs.  They remembered me – and greeted me warmly – as warmly as eighteen year-olds greet any forty-something from the same generation as their parents.

Elijah obliged and agreed to my five-minute interview. 

First name: Elijah.
Age: 18

How long have you been in the camp?
Since day one.

What were you doing before you joined the Occupy camp?
I was travelling in Germany and joined the Occupy Berlin camp. Before that, I was studying in Australia.

Do you have a specialist role in the camp?
I help facilitate camp-related meetings.

What compelled you to become an Occupier?
The tyranny of the rich over the working class, and the impoverishment of the third world by the powerful.

How will you as an individual make a difference?
Through honesty. Through speaking my mind, as a spokesperson for the oppressed and sharing my personal views.

Who is your Enemy Number One?
The greedy upper class

They hoard wealth whilst their workers are impoverished.

Who do you admire?

Too many cat stealing all the bread

What is the best part of being in Occupy?
It’s the all-encompassing work experience. You meet anyone and everyone. I’ve learnt a lot of lessons – we all have – and there are mistakes we’ve made that won’t be repeated.

What is the worst part of being in Occupy?
Fighting within the community.

Is Occupy making a noticeable difference?

How so?
It has sparked hundreds of conversations. Issues are being discussed.

Anything Else?
People need to communicate more.  We need more honest conversations. We lack the willingness to communicate.

Elijah, like any good young revolutionary, plays guitar. His song was obscene but funny, about being in love with a crack whore.
Click to enlarge
©2012 Paul Davey

Copyright © 2009 Paul R Davey. All photographs, text and artworks in this portfolio are copyrighted and owned by the artist, Paul R Davey unless otherwise stated. Any reproduction, modification, publication, transmission, transfer, or exploitation of any of the content, for personal or commercial use, whether in whole or in part, without written permission from the artist is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

More faces from Occupy London

Photographed at Occupy London's Finnsbury Square camp. Click to enlarge.
© 2012 Paul Davey Creative

I have been making progress as a portrait photographer. Or should I say, a reportage-style portrait photographer. In my previous post, I told you how I "had to overcome a secret fear that I have: photographing people". Perhaps I should have been clearer. I have made quite a large proportion of my income from photographing people - particularly people at work - in what I call "Industrial Portraiture".  I have no fear of photographing them, because I know that they have been prewarned of my arrival. I also think I am good at getting them to relax and to do exactly as I ask, posing them and carefully building the shot. I get some pleasing results.

With street shooting, like the work I have been doing at Occupy, I take people by surprise. They are not really expecting me and are certainly not expecting me to stop them and ask them to allow me to make the images. It is that initial encounter where I am uncomfortable, but I'm getting used to it now and will soon have enough experience of working amongst people who sort of know they might get photographed as part of a news event, to taking things a step further and working with people who will be taken completely by surprise.

Around the Fire.
Left to right: Joseph, Leo, Paul
Photographed at Occupy London's Finsbury Square camp. Click to enlarge.
© 2012 Paul Davey Creative

So: Occupy London Finnsbury Square.
I arrived at the camp just after lunchtime on a freezing afternoon.  The first person I encountered was Joseph, who was building his shelater out of scrap wood. I asked him if I could take some photographs and he was kind enough to say, sure.  He was a bit shy, but I clicked a few of him - fairly wide shots - sawing a piece of board. It always takes a few shots to get my mojo up and running, so I decided I'd come back to Joseph later and walked around the perimiter of the camp taking (mostly bad) general shots of the tents and shelters.

The camp has a lot of tents but there weren't a lot of people in evidence, save for a group of three around a fire in a metal bucket. I asked their permission to take some pics and Leo, an Irishman with a gift for swearing that only an Celt can have, was most welcoming. "Take all the fecking pictures you want. Who are you working for?" I explained I was working for myself and was still a bit in the dark as to what I would eventually do with the Occupy images.

Photographed at Occupy London's Finnsbury Square camp. Click to enlarge.
© 2012 Paul Davey Creative

With Leo were Bombadil, a (retired, I think?) English teacher and and other bloke, a jobless Engineer, also called Paul. "Croist! All the feckin' Pauls in this feckin place! This feckin' camp should be Called St Paul's! Feckin' hundreds of you c**ts!" Leo helpfully pointed out.

Photographed at Occupy London's Finnsbury Square camp. Click to enlarge.
© 2012 Paul Davey Creative

I got down to shooting and as the boys relaxed, started listening to their banter and joining in. Topics were wide ranging, from the trivial to the intellectual. Bombadill was talking about sonnets, in particular Shakespear's genius with them and Leo was talking about feckin' Saabs which he feckin' loves. Paul recounted an anecdote that had something to do with helium-filled blow-up sheep attached to a scaffold, attached to the church in his village in Linconshire.

What they weren't talking about was any sort of activism. I got the impression that they're just hanging out, ready to take part in any protests (for whatever cause) should they arise in the future. They were camping. With their mates.  I don't doubt for a minute that they all have deeply held convictions, but once again, Occupy's lack of any concrete core message seems to have taken away any chance of them really doing something. When I pointed this out to Leo, he said something about "at last someone who's fecking honest enough to say what they think".

Photographed at Occupy London's Finnsbury Square camp. Click to enlarge.
© 2012 Paul Davey Creative

Men came and went, sharing the warmth of the fire, taking turns at splitting scrap timber with a hatchet for the fire, joking and telling me about various scrapes with the law, the bailiffs etc. I was having a good time, constantly shooting, listening, trying to keep track of my notes (I failed in the end) and being introduced to new feckin' people. There was Raffy, a skinny young bloke with the world's most unruly hair, apparently the camp's accommodation bloke. Ash, an artist whose shelter was brightly painted, festooned with found objects and decorated with stenciled art. He showed me inside his place - his "dreamspace" where he had further atworks and carefully collected items. It was pin neat. There was another feckin' Paul whose role I wasn't sure of - he's a very pleasant Scotsman.

Photographed at Occupy London's Finnsbury Square camp. Click to enlarge.
© 2012 Paul Davey Creative

Every now and then Leo would disappear inside his shelter to check on his feckin' wife. Loud violent shouting, thudding and crashing would ensue from within as he "disciplined" his "wife" - a carboard cut-out of (I think) Cheryl Cole. "Where's me feckin' tea, ya lazy fecker?" Clearly the camp clown, but equally, no one's fool. These protestors are not the mindless ne'er-do-wells many would like to imagine them to be.

I shot until my camera shutter button started showing signs of its age again, refusing to allow me to autofucus or check exposures, so, with the light befginning to fade, stinking of woodsmoke and frozen to the bone, I headed back to Old Street tube station, Lightroom bound.

Another Feckin' Paul
Photographed at Occupy London's Finnsbury Square camp. Click to enlarge.
© 2012 Paul Davey Creative

Say what you like about Occupy as a movement. But once again, I found the individuals to be fascinating, kind, obliging and excellent, willing photographic subjects.

Copyright © 2009 Paul R Davey. All photographs, text and artworks in this portfolio are copyrighted and owned by the artist, Paul R Davey unless otherwise stated. Any reproduction, modification, publication, transmission, transfer, or exploitation of any of the content, for personal or commercial use, whether in whole or in part, without written permission from the artist is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Faces of Occupy

Click images to enlarge.

Having trudged countless miles around London photographing streetscapes, back alleys, construction sites, dereliction, the Thames, bridges and beloved landmarks, my eye has grown jaded. I have stopped seeing; little seems worthy of a shot. Yes, in this vast city of 7 million people, with its streets and housing estates, its grit, grime and grandeur I, astonishingly, had become creatively blind.

One of the speakers at Saturday's event. He spoke about Julian Assange, about getting him freed, about sinister machinations. Real or imagined?
Photograph © Copyright Paul Davey 2012

Something had to be done.  I also had to overcome a secret fear that I have: photographing people. In the past, I have had confrontations with not-so-unwitting subjects catching me trying to create candid images and to be honest, I have always felt uncomfortable with "taking" photographs as opposed to "making" photographs. I had a long talk with myself and decided that to grab the bull by the horns was the best move. I was going to go and do some street photography of people. Not only was I going to do it, I was going to master it.  It turns out that I am a long way from the mastering objective, but I have taken the first steps.

A couple of weeks back, I headed into Camden, got busted by an old Italian guy in the market when I took a quick snapshot of him and was very sternly asked to delete the image. I did so. I felt bad. I should have asked first and explained what I wanted to do. He would, most likely, have cooperated.  I felt like a thief. Just a few moments later, in another part of the market, I met King. King, like me, is a Zimbabwean. We struck up a conversation and I asked him to let me take some photographs, explained what I wanted and he was only too happy - and I got some great images. Images that honour what he does, and, I hope, honour what I do too.

King. He creates mobiles  from drinks cans and jewellery from cutlery.
Photograph © Copyright Paul Davey 2012

Fast forward to this weekend just gone and penniless (so no fuel to go on my usual countryside walk/landscape shoots) I headed into town. Arriving at Euston with no real plan I wandered through Bloomsbury and eventually found myself in The City. Paternoster Square to be more precise. I noticed it was clogged with barriers and a heavy security presence; Occupy had tried to set up camp there in October. I though I'd go and have a look at the camp surrounding the steps of St Paul's Cathedral, and get some photographs - of people.  Which is what I did - all of them candid, all of them of people who, as media-hungry protesters, were quite happy to be photographed. It was a rich feeding ground and I got several reasonable candid reportage-style shots.  I headed home cold, but satisfied.

 Smoke break. 
Photograph © Copyright Paul Davey 2012

When I got home, I downloaded the images in Lightroom and was after looking at them all, a little less satisfied. It was clear that I had rushed some of the shots I initially thought were good and they were flawed in some way - not sharp, not properly exposed (I always under-expose deliberately by a stop to preserve highlight details - but these were all over the show) and some were poorly composed - I would have to crop them - something I don't like to do because it lowers the resolution of the already low (6.2 Mpx) images. Sigh. They'll be fine for online and small prints.

 Sheila. She was recording the St Paul's bells with a dictaphone and writing notes.
Photograph © Copyright Paul Davey 2012

I published a few of the images on Facebook and was flattered by a few of the comments I received. But I knew I could do better. I also knew that I could have been more honest about the images.  I had photographed them with my current opinion of left wing activists, and had commented about them with the same mindset. I still felt like a thief. And like a bombasitic, opinionated, narrow-minded right wing fascist. Indeed, someone for who I have a lot of respect for even told me I was a fascist - albeit a loveable one.

 Mark. A homeless man with a wild range of conflicting opinions.
Photograph © Copyright Paul Davey 2012 

I had to do better. I knew I could do better and I knew I could be fairer. I would go back. I would engage directly with individuals in the camp, explaining what I wanted to do, asking them their names, asking why they were there, asking, asking, asking. And listening. I took my notebook. I took down names and frame numbers. I had conversations and best of all, I began to understand. And when I got home, I was less disappointed than the previous evening. I had a small number of what I consider to be good, honest portraits of strangers I had gotten to know a little.

Photograph © Copyright Paul Davey 2012

My throw-away rate was still far too high.  Shooting landscapes is a far more considered, methodical task than shooting portraits. You can take your time with landscapes. With portraits, shot during a conversation, things happen a lot quicker. The subject flits in and out of focus as they move and gesticulate - far too fast for my ancient lenses to cope with. Add to this the low light levels thanks to heavy cloud, a flashgun that takes its own sweet time recharging, no image stabilisisng and my still-to-be-cured mixture of fear, timidity and guilt and the overiding ingredient needed for the images was luck.  Fortunately, I did, to some extent, get lucky.

Photograph © Copyright Paul Davey 2012

I published a few images on Facebook and once again, got some very kind, positive comments. I also felt a lot more credible with hese images. They were not stolen. I can vouch for them. They have a back story. The people (mostly) have names. They are more intimate. They are kind.

 Indigo and Elijah. Indigo is eighteen, first came to the camp with her parents who wanted her to see how the other half live. She stayed. She told me she does go home for baths as home is just ten minutes away. Elijah is an Aussie, arrived in London after spending time at Occupy Berlin.
Photograph © Copyright Paul Davey 2012

I also came away with much more of my own opinion of the whole Occupy movement. Was I impressed by them? Not very. Did I gain new respect? For some individuals, yes, for others, no. Occupy is a loose assembly of disparate agendas. Many of them are loopy, many of them want to wipe out one system and replace it with another, founded on ideals that ignore such immovables as human nature. A small corner of the camp had the "Tent City University" where workshops and talks were being held; active activism. But the rest of the camp was largely peopled by people who were just "there". Cohesion seems not to exist at anything more than a superficial level and there are clealy several factions within the camp whose regard for the current leadership is low. There is an undercurrent of jealousy. There is a plethora of mixed messsages, of diluted and uncompromising positions, of militant and pacifist ideals.

 Mada. A lovely bloke. A full time activist who has lived in the camp from day one.
Photograph © Copyright Paul Davey 2012

But there is also hope. Some small miracles. Homeless people feel for he first time in a long time, that they belong. They have a shred of identity, a little scrap of dignity, of feeling that they are part of something good, even if some of them may have misinterpreted the mixed messages at the core of Occupy. I can live with that and I respect that. There is Joey, a long haired, bearded, bespectacled homeless character who has appointed himself the camp's bin man. He has a position, a responsibility.

The camp itself is filthy. Cooking smells mix with powerful body odour and the stench of portaloos. The ground is stained with spillages of indeterminate origin (the smell of urine pervades) and there are cigarette ends, the odd condom package, styrofoam food punnets, water bottles and Starbucks coffee cups. There are banners and posters with various messages, requests and dubious "facts" relating to the haves and have-nots. Bewildering.

Photograph © Copyright Paul Davey 2012

I am gald I visted the camp. I am glad I listened. I am no closer to a grounded opinion of my own, other than to say, they are a mess. A blight, that on the one hand, demands attention on the landscape of the current system, and on the other is self harming, thanks to the idealogical free-for-all that accepts almost any agenda that goes against the "system". Whatever that is.

Copyright © 2009 Paul R Davey. All photographs, text and artworks in this portfolio are copyrighted and owned by the artist, Paul R Davey unless otherwise stated. Any reproduction, modification, publication, transmission, transfer, or exploitation of any of the content, for personal or commercial use, whether in whole or in part, without written permission from the artist is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Good, Cheap, Quick

Small businesses and start-ups taking their enterprise to market usually have two things in limited supply: money and time. They need to get selling fast, but they also need to establish their credibility in the market place. They need good, relevant, creative marketing collateral quickly at the lowest possible cost.

That's all very good, but the reality is, you can have good and cheap but you can't have quick. You can have quick and good but you can't have cheap. Of course this observation is relative to the type of service you engage. If you use a freelance such as me, you'll pay a lot less than if you were using a mid-sized agency with its additional overheads.  They'll quite possibly take you to lunch. But with a freelance, you will miss out on the added services and sometimes unnecessary trimmings (that "free" lunch?) that a mid-sized agency can provide. They have not only designers, but marketing experts. People who will help you with strategy, a team of copywriters and designers who will spend time brainstorming your brief. Often they will have two or more teams working on different approaches to your brief. But the time mounts up... and to some extent (remember, it's relative), cheap and quick go out the window.

At the other end of the scale, you can log onto whichever crowdsourcing site takes your fancy and get hundreds of pitches from creative freelances around the world. You could quite possibly end up with good, cheap and quick. Or not. I have previously written about crowdsourcing and have also written about what really goes into a professional design process. Professional design with due process takes time. Time is money. Ignore the due process and you could end up with a lovely (or not) looking piece of design that does nothing for your business.

Good: How to get it.
The ingredients for a good job are many, but the basics are this:
  1. Talent. Much like owning a pen does not make you Shakespeare, owning a computer and all the necessary software does NOT give someone talent. You need to be able to see the genuine creative talent shining through.
  2. Due process. I can if I wish, knock out an acceptable brochure or flier within an hour or two; buy a couple of stock photos for a few quid, bang out some text, add a drop shadow or two and Bob's your uncle. But I don't. I have a process that ensures what I create does the job it is supposed to. Which costs money. I spend time working on a strategy, then a concept. I spend time crafting the copy. And before I even do that, I endeavour to properly understand your business and your market, because how on earth am I going to effectively communicate otherwise?
Cheap: How to get it
You want to save money, not throw it away:
  1. Prepare a decent, detailed brief. If you don't know how to do this, a good freelance will help you prepare one with all the salient points and objectives clearly expressed. Understand what you are buying: the freelance's time, so don't waste it. Have your ducks in a row.
  2. Be realisitc. You will not get the same level of service from a freelance as you will from an agency. You will not have an account manager, you will not have a team beavering away in the studio for you. Instead, you will have one hungry, experienced individual who will be in direct contact with you. Don't expect long boozy lunches, though!
  3. Pay on time. If you pay late, your next job will be likely to cost more or you'll maybe have to find another freelance, which is time consuming and wasteful of the legacy of knowledge regarding your business your designer will have built up.
Quick: How to get it
You want it fast, so smooth the way
  1. Adhere to the above points
  2. Become a favourite client. Freelances have to sometimes juggle jobs. Make sure that the guy doing your work wants to make your job a priority.

Copyright © 2009 Paul R Davey. All photographs, text and artworks in this portfolio are copyrighted and owned by the artist, Paul R Davey unless otherwise stated. Any reproduction, modification, publication, transmission, transfer, or exploitation of any of the content, for personal or commercial use, whether in whole or in part, without written permission from the artist is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Process and Gestation of a Logo Design

"I need a logo for my sportswear company. It must be really classy and like Nike and adidas but not exactly the same lol. I can pay between £40 - 60. I need a top job done and if your good enough you can do my website :-)" [sic, sic, sic, sicety-sic]


The above is a fairly typical example of a new business putting the word out that they want a logo designed for their brand which will take on the world. One look at the budget and I will do one of two things: Message the client and with withering sarcasm tell him his budget is ridiculous; or, ignore the ad completely because there is no way I will attempt to compete against youngsters who live at home with mum and dad, or far eastern designers who can make a good living by undercutting us designers here in the UK.  I usually ignore these sort of ads - there's no point in engaging with someone who is that ignorant or unrealistic.

But hold on. "Ignorant". Surely that is not the guy's fault. He maybe just doesn't know what goes into a logo design and with a better understanding he will adjust his budget accordingly. I'm an optimist, so perhaps I should educate him. Education separates the once ignorant, now educated, from the terminally pig-ignorant.

Here is my reply to the above client. Lets hope he reads it and isn't dazzled by the rock-bottom prices of Mario DeCunha in the Phillipines:

Dear Andy (for that is his name)
I am very interested in quoting for the design of your sportswear brand identity, but I fear my price will be a fair distance beyond your £40-60 budget.  There is a good reason for this as the actual design process takes many hours of hard work and will use a lot of my hard-won experience to achieve a professional, well conceived design that will win the respect of your market.

Here is my process. Times include local travel time to and from meetings

1. Client interview. 2 Hours. This is a meeting where we can both get to know each other and more importantly, we can discuss exactly what you wish to achieve with your brand. I ask a lot of questions such as:
  • What sportswear do you make? Shoes? Clothes? Football strips? Golf wear?
  • What is your target market? Men? Women? Serious athletes? Casual exercisers? etc.
  • Are you intending to create a premium brand or something for the lower end of the market - if your brand were a car, what would it be? A Rolls Royce? A ferrari? A BMW 3 series? A Nissan Micra?
  • Are your designs original or are you simply overprinting ready made garments?
  • Where do you see your brand in one/two/five/ten years?
  • How do you plan to get your brand into the shops?
  • Will you be selling online?
  • Which brands do you admire - and why?
  • Which brands do you not admire - and why?
  • What colours do you want to use?
  • Have you established your brand name yet?
  • Have you registered your domain names?
  • Have you checked to see whether there are similar brand names already in the market?
  • Is there a unique selling proposition?
  • Are you confident that you are not breaching anyone's copyright or registered trade mark?
  • Is your business in a position to trade - are you properly capitalised?
  • Can you abide by my payment terms?
In this interview, I also expect a grilling from you, Andy. You need to know that I'm a professional and not a chancer - after all, I'm about to send your original budget into the scuppers.

2. Quote and Establish the brief. 1 hour. Based on the information and notes made in the interview, I write up a brief and prepare a quote.  I submit this to the client and if you're happy that we're both (forgive me) on the same page you sign it off and pay the deposit.

3. Due Diligence. 3 hours. Before I start designing a logo, I look at what's around in the market. I look at the websites, ads and whatever else I can find belonging to competitors and brands to which your business aspires. I do my own checks on domain names to see what's close to yours and to build a list of suggestions for alternatives.  I copy logos of competing brands and put them on a single sheet, so I can get a true picture of what I'm up against.

4. Sketch and doodle. 3 hours. Before I start working on my computer, I get my pen and a sketch pad and start playing about with ideas for the typography and the accompanying symbol. Several pages later, I might have three to five different ideas that I can then start drafting up on the computer.

5. Create 3-5 options. 4 hours. Based on my sketches and doodles, I create three to five different designs, often (but not always) only in black and white. Colours come later, because the first thing to get right is the basic typography and its relationship to the symbol, if any.

Five initial designs  - well, four and a half, actually, as one was derived directly from another.
  6. Present the options. 2 hours. This is best done in a meeting so that I can properly discuss each option and get the required amount of feedback from you, Andy.

7. Refine the selected option (colours). 3 hours. Assuming you have selected one of the five options (if not, we go back to stage 4) I then refine the design.  The first thing to do is look at colours, bearing in mind the information picked up in the initial meeting. This is an incredibly important stage as the  brand colours will need to work effectively in many different situations - with the logo on a photograph, with the logo on a dark background, on a light background, on the web, in print, cut out of vinyl, embroidered on garments etc. etc. I usually end up creating another two or three colourway options for you to choose from, showing them in situ on ads, garments etc.

Yet more options. The client had established which basic design he liked, and just wanted to see variants of the design.
As most of these were simple colour changes, it took about 2 hours.

8. Final refining. 2 hours. With the colours sorted, it is now time for final micro detailing. I blow up the design to fit on an A3 page and get stuck in to getting the typography perfect, kerning the individual glyphs, altering the shape of certain elements and making sure that the shape of the symbol is perfect.

9. Presentation for sign-off. 2 hours. I take my finished design, beautifully printed on photographic paper and mounted on board for your approval and sign-off. Upon sign-off, I present my invoice for the balance owing.
A final three variants. The design took a lot of back and forth between me and the client as we homed in on what he wanted.

10. Creation of master files and brand guidelines sheet. 4 hours. Upon receipt of the final balance payment I create a series of master files in various formats, as well as a brand guidelines sheet to show correct use of the design in various applications, for you to pass on to other suppliers.

So there you have it. At least 24 hours of work is required if you want a professionally designed logo that has been properly briefed, researched, conceived and designed to help your brand compete in your market.

The final design. Note that even at the last stage there was a change when the client decided to reposition as a nursery rather than a daycare centre. These things happen, but add to the cost.

Do you need to go to all this fuss?

That is a question which only you can answer, but in my experience, the most successful brands are those that are properly conceived in the beginning.  If you are serious about your business, have excellent products or services to offer a very fickle market, then don't you want to get things done absolutely right? A brand identity is not an expense. It is an investment in your business that helps to define you, that helps set you apart, that helps make you appealing to your market.

I hope this gives you a clear understanding of my process, Andy, and shows you how it would be impossible for me to do anything of substance for you for the price of your original budgeted amount.

Kind regards


Copyright © 2009 Paul R Davey. All photographs, text and artworks in this portfolio are copyrighted and owned by the artist, Paul R Davey unless otherwise stated. Any reproduction, modification, publication, transmission, transfer, or exploitation of any of the content, for personal or commercial use, whether in whole or in part, without written permission from the artist is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Crowdsourcing: How to abuse a Freelance Designer

For many small businesses there has opened up a new and exciting opportunity for getting work done at a price that fits your budget. Crowdsourcing.

Crowdsourcing is a simple concept. You register what you want done on a website and freelances like me quote to do your work. You choose the designer who best fits your budget and he delivers your work a few days later. Brilliant.

The problem is, when you source from the crowd of designers who pitch for your work, you get to see some ridiculously low quotes - and being the small business owner that you are, you are mighty tempted to go for the unbelievably low prices on offer.

I have a word of caution: If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.

I regularly lose work to "designers" who quote so low that it is impossible that they are working above - or in fact anywhere near the minimum wage. The client - that might be you - then forks out a pittance to the successful designer and two days later gets his logo or whatever. Well, you get what you pay for. It can be argued that a logo design for instance, is a bit of type with a symbol. Fair enough, it is. But that's a bit like saying a cake is a bit of flour with some eggs, sugar and butter. That doesn't mean it will be a good cake or a memorable cake. It might in fact mean it will be a tremendously yukky cake.

A genuine designer - such as me - is similar to a master baker; a craftsman. A genuine designer designs logos. We know our ingredients - fonts, colours, printing processes etc. We understand markets and we know about things such as brand personality, character etc. We can make our ingredients work properly so that when, after lots of agonsing over microscopic details in letter spacing, shapes and line widths as part of our careful preparation, we pull our finished design from the oven it is not only pretty to look at but appropriate to your business and your market. Most of all though, we know bad design when we see it. And there's an awful lot of it about these days as unskilled, inexperienced owners of DTP systems brand themselves "Graphic Designers" and jump on the crowdsourcing bandwagon.

Not one of the above designs was completed in under two days. Each was subject to countless sketches, doodles and tweaks before being selected as good enough to present to my clients.

Look, you could get precisely the right thing for less than a hundred quid if you're lucky, but there's also a good chance that you will have spent a hundred quid on something you hate. Or worse still, something that gives your competitors an undeserved advantage, because in the eyes of your potential customers, your brand is unappealing or sending the wrong message.

There's an old adage about cream always rising to the top. Cream costs more than milk. And really good organic cream from a good dairy costs more still. You get the picture.

As a small business and start-up specialist, I know only too well the constraints of your budget. I know that every penny counts. A brand design or flier, brochure or website has a job of work to do. Make sure it does what it is supposed to do, because there's a good chance it could be undoing what it is supposed to do, turning people away, sending them off to your competitors.

So: Abusing a freelance designer. How to do it.

1. Set a ridiculous budget. A good, professional brand identity designer will take at least a couple of days to establish a proper brief, diligently research your competitors and your market, create design options and then refine and deliver a final, signed-off design. Three or more days is likely because a good designer has processes that he will follow. Processes that ensure you get a good result. So there is no way that a good designer is going to do you a logo design for £50. Look at £300 - £500 as about the minimum you should budget.

2. Make the designer do a free pitch. Many people think it is a sensible idea to ask a shortlist of designers to submit ideas before making a decision. I agree. But pay them for it! You don't wander from restaurant to restaurant enjoying free starters before making a decision where to have your dinner, so why do this to a freelance? We are people who have to eat, feed families, pay mortgages etc. just like you.

3. Act like Mr Big. Freelances are just like you. We are small business owners. We too are conscious of how precious our time is, so be considerate of our time. If we say something isn't going to work, don't expect us to waste time to proving we are right. Accept what we say and move on. You want a new logo, not to win a pissing contest.

4. Lie to your freelance. Every single client I have is trying to grow their business. I know this and I understand it. Telling your freelance to keep his costs down "this time" on the promise of future work is something we hear day in, day out. And we don't believe it. Pay the full whack and once you've established yourself as a loyal, lucrative client, you might be in a position to negotiate a better rate.

5. Expect credit. Forget it. At least not in the beginning. You are a stranger. Would you lend money to someone you hardly know? Many freelances go bust on the back of unpaid bills. I've been there and I know many others. Pay at least 50% up front (Some of the better crowdsourcing websites hold the money in escrow) and the balance on completion of your work (I never release any usable files until the money's in my bank). No ifs, no buts.

6. Second guess your freelance. Sure, you're the client and all that, but more often than I like I have clients showing me someone else's solution to the brief I'm working on. Again, I will use the restaurant analogy: Would you carry one of Gordon Ramsay's dishes into another (possibly better) restaurant expecting the chef there to be happy?

7. Keep your freelance in the dark. You are looking for strong results, right? Well, you need to keep your designer informed and up to date with what you are doing. You should consider your designer as part of your inner circle - after all, he's the one creating your public face. Too much "need-to-know-basis" is a bad thing. If you are unhappy with your freelance, talk to him. If you are happy, tell him too - better still, say it with work. We love work and love to be loved, just like real people.

8. Be unfaithful. If your designer is doing good work for you, be loyal. Build a relationship - an alliance. Sometimes small business owners are tempted into shopping around for every new project to save a few pennies. This is a bad idea on several fronts. You will lose the continuity of design and your messages will start getting mixed when clarity is key. Your freelance will feel more like a whore and less like a partner - and will quite likely act accordingly. Quality will be inconsistent - sure you may get some genius work from elsewhere, but the lack of consitency will drive a bulldozer through your corporate image.

9. Be impatient. Freelances are one-man-bands. As such, we are not always in a position to immediately start work on your project. From time to time you may have to wait a couple of days before your work can begin. Explain the urgency of your project and if it is indeed time-critical there's a likelihood that your freelance will shuffle his schedule to accommodate you. When this is not possible, don't just run off to the next designer you can find. Give the known quantity - your current freelance - a chance to pull in some help of his own - we're all part of networks and have trusted, quality-assured buddies who can help us out when the pressure's on and you'll find that your consistency is maintained.

10. Undervalue what has been done. It's not just a logo. It's not just a brochure. It's not just a website. These are all business-critical components that help make up the engine of your brand. Sure, some components might only have taken a couple of hours to produce, but you wanted the work done, now recognise its value.

11. Forget your manners. Freelances have to be super polite to win business, and to keep the relationship sweet. We like earning the money you pay and we are always grateful for the work., but nothing is as sweet as the moment a client calls to say thank you, well done. Us creative types are just like everyone else - sensitive little sausages who will work harder for the people who we like the most.

Copyright © 2009 Paul R Davey. All photographs, text and artworks in this portfolio are copyrighted and owned by the artist, Paul R Davey unless otherwise stated. Any reproduction, modification, publication, transmission, transfer, or exploitation of any of the content, for personal or commercial use, whether in whole or in part, without written permission from the artist is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 2, 2009

I want to become a Government supplier: X = 5,000,000

I have decided that I no longer care whether doing government work is boring. It is not. Nothing that makes you rich is boring - and becoming a supplier to HM Government or to Boris's London will make you very, very rich.

How rich? Well for painting a big "X" on a busy intersection you get five million quids. Yes, Five million quids.

Today saw the launch (or do I call it an opening?) of the new "Tokyo Style" intersection of Oxford and Regent Streets in London. These two very busy streets are at the epicentre of what must be Europe's busiest shopping district. The Tokyo style intersection will hold traffic going in all directions so that pedestrians can cross in all directions, including diagonally.

Judging from the aerial camera angles on tonight's London news, those people crossing diagonally all meet in the middle and dance with each other. Well, most dance. Others headbutt each other. Very curious. To help choreograph this new dance, the powers that be have paid five million quid to some people to come down with their lorries and surface the road with a special high grip substance, in the pattern of an "X" in a box.

My question is, why didn't they pay me just four million? Hell, for four million quid I would have made a much prettier design. There'd still be an "X" for that is what they would have asked for, but it would be a magnificent "X". It would have been an "X" with character, with flair. It would have been an ironic "X". It would have been slightly post modern with a twist of pre Raphaelite about it. I would have used a subtle palette of colours to help relax those who are stressed, yet also to excite the shoppers into spending money. I would have submitted a few carefully drawn options first and shown them to Boris over a long, boozy lunch, which I would have paid for. Hell, I would have done this job naked whilst smacking myself on my bottom with a rolled up copy of The Spectator if they wanted. I, for just four million quid, would give exceptional value for money. I would give my best.

Seriously though, where did five million quid go? The launch do?

I've been noticing this sort of ridiculous spending a lot lately. The Air Force decides it wants to give Flight Lieutenant Jim Jimminy McJimble a shiny new Eurofighter, so they go to the Ministry of defence who in turn go to Messers Thrust and Lift who quote a price of Some sixty eight million of her Majesty's shiniest sterling pounds. Yes, they pay sixty-eight million pounds for a single seater plane that doesn't even have room for a hostess and a drinks trolley.

At the same time as the Ministry of Defence is shelling out, actually, hosing away, £68 million per plane, British Airways decides Captain John Johnathan Johnstone is deserving of a new Airbus A320. That will cost between £40 and 50 million, depending on the layout configuration. And it carries lots of people and it has hostesses and a drinks trolley. And a kitchen - of which I approve.

It might be argued that the Eurofighter is hellish clever and pretty damn supersonic and all, and maybe it is, but I think that much of its cost lies in the fact that the government is the customer. I have a strong feeling that the makers would be able to sharpen their pencils a whole lot.

You hear it time and time again from government how this costs thousands and that costs millions if the government is paying, but if its private enterprise paying, see the magic as thousands turn into hundreds and millions into thousands.

America's not immune to this either. I read today that they are getting tired of the bicycles they provide as part of their free public transport initiative, getting stolen. The bikes cost $3,500 each. Each!!! Now, I know a thing or two about bicycles and I can tell you that a very, very good mountain bike can cost that amount, but there are very few of them about. I can also tell you that the commuter scheme's bikes are simple, uncomplicated and tough, but certainly not worth anything near even $500. It is ridiculous. Someone got rich.

Anyway, enough bitching. If you are Tony Brown or Gordon Blair or whoever is running the country, give me a ring and tell me what you want done. By the way, I have some military grade toilet seats, tested by genuine military bottoms in a simulated combat situation, that I can let you have for just £9,999 each. Military grade, I repeat.

Copyright © 2009 Paul R Davey. All photographs, text and artworks in this portfolio are copyrighted and owned by the artist, Paul R Davey unless otherwise stated. Any reproduction, modification, publication, transmission, transfer, or exploitation of any of the content, for personal or commercial use, whether in whole or in part, without written permission from the artist is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved.