By now, we all know the format; earnestly written placards inserted into poorly shot self-portraits, wedded to an equally well-meaning hashtag. It’s ready for the kind of thoughtless sharing that comes so easily on Twitter and Instagram; share it and your responsibility is done. You’ve raised awareness! Good for you! 👍
As you may have guessed, there’s a but.
The protest (I hesitate to call it that—what about crafternoon project?) sails past an important structural point; no one else really cares about your time except for you and , if you’re lucky enough to have some, your loved ones.
Valuation assumes a market ideology; it is a transactional term which doesn’t match with the self-empowerment ideal presented within these tiny snapshots. I’m sure we agree that people should get paid for their work; but why? Getting paid assumes that the work being done is valuable to someone.
A basic understanding of market economics will tell you that things only have value as far as they are desirable. You’re smart. You get it.
It’s easily forgotten, but design disciplines are crafts. With the notable exception of architecture, very few of the disciplines require a degree for you to practice them. In fact, if you’ve ever used Microsoft’s execrable product Microsoft Word to pick out a font for your report, you’ve done graphic design. Sure, you probably did a shitty job and sailed right past Curlz MT, but you’ve done it.
Picked out a cushion for your couch? That’s interior design. Sketched out a trestle table? I guess that would be industrial design…
Point is, many design disciplines have a very low barrier to entry, and can be practiced by almost anyone. You just might not get paid for it.
This protest appears to be founded on an assumption that because you have a certain set of skills you should get paid to use them. Bullshit. You’ll only get paid as long as those skills are considered to be valuable. Design, as the beautiful henchman of capital, likes to think of itself as bringing value to objects within the market.
That may once have been true; doing a layout for a magazine was once a highly technical and time consuming task. We’ve been able to bang one out in a solid afternoon or two for almost a decade now, maybe longer. I don’t remember because I’m not old enough.
Anyway, lower barriers to entry mean more designers. More designers means easier access to their skills. Easier access means costs will come down, thereby diminishing the amount of money that designers are going to extract from their clients.
Why do you think everybody switched to web design in the late 90s? Because no-one knew how to do it. They probably still don’t, but at least they know how much a website should cost. (Apparently the answer is $10 a month. This website is brought to you by Squarespace, the all-in one digital platform that yada yada you get the joke)
This ease of access to software meant training designers was a lot easier, too. If you listen to the people which say that “design is problem solving” (which I still doubt), then it’s just an application of logic wedded to an aesthetic outcome. This means that all you needed for teaching were a few Macs, an Adobe Suite or two, and the ability to instil mercenary ideals and basic critical skills.
Voila! Designer glut.
I went through design school with a class of 80(?) students. The majority of these students aren’t working as designers; instead, they’re toiling away doing designer-ish jobs, where their design skills are seen as an adjunct to their other role. Usually that means marketing, but could equally be admin assistants, or probably baristas. Definitely baristas.
This is a really long way of getting to my point; your time doesn’t have value, but your skills do. Instead of asking for someone to value your time, find a way to get some valuable skills, and remember that skills are valuable only if they are rare or very highly developed. This is obviously a more challenging repsonse to carry out than simply writing a hashtag to raise awareness, but doing anything properly is hard.