On July 4, 2018, local celebrity Jameson Blake tweeted a seemingly innocent request asking Graphic Designers to make a cover banner for his social media platforms in return for a "shout out."
Understandably, this did not sit well with graphic designers and content creators, who creatively responded to his requests.
He has since taken down and "apologized" for his careless tweet arguing that he was “basically seeking volunteers, no one HAD to do it. I wasn’t obligating anyone to make one. It was just a favor.”
It is easy to dismiss this issue and blame it on ignorance or carelessness on Blake’s part. Surely, a young celebrity would not consciously risk irritating content creators
Gratis work (content done without any payment) and spec work (short for speculative work, where clients demand to see the finished material before agreeing to pay or buy it) are terms and situations that content creators are sadly too familiar with. The arguments against these types of scenarios have long been raised but sadly, the problem still persists.
"But whether it was innocent or not is hardly the point here. What James (and everyone, really) should understand is that his request is symptomatic of what is plaguing the design and content industry: a lack of respect"
Filipino writers, designers, illustrators, and other content creators are some of the best in the world at what they do. More sophisticated digital tools and social media may have made it more convenient for them to spread and showcase their work, but it has not made the process of creating any easier.
Perhaps the most important thing clients need to understand is that much like a doctor, a lawyer, or an engineer, content creators provide a real and practical need in society—to effectively communicate an idea or message. The right choice of words, color, type, notes, animation all serve the purpose of turning a mental idea into something tangible to the senses in the clearest way possible. All industries benefit from good content and design and the absence of it can cause real consequences, like Steve Harvey announcing the wrong pageant contestant as the winner or Al Gore losing the election because of the infamous butterfly ballot design used in Florida. As the legendary Italian designer, Massimo Vignelli boldly proclaimed “The life of a designer is a life of fight against the ugliness.”
For clients to simply wash their hands and use the “you don’t have to do it if you don’t want to” or the “no one is forcing you to submit” excuse every time they are called out not only reeks of disrespect and arrogance but of stupidity as well. Jameson Blake apologized by saying that “Probably a shout out would have done nothing but I could have returned the favor by promoting the artwork to be known & exposed and you never know, people would actually like it” which only shows that he really does not get it. It is arrogant because he thinks his opinion means that much, it is demeaning because he presumes to know what designers value, it is devious because he is promising something abstract for something concrete, and it's stupid because he thinks his promotion is valid currency.