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The Third Age | Financial | Mo Becker

In the Third Age and the Green Movement, there are two main reasons why it has taken so long for our society to catch on. Those reasons are convenience and cost. When discussing cost, there is more to consider than just money. Time and energy are also ways that we pay for things. In this article, the ongoing argument of the overall cost-effectiveness of recycling is outlined. In 1996, columnist John Tierney posted an article saying that,

"Mandatory recycling programs, ...offer mainly short-term benefits to a few groups -- politicians, public relations consultants, environmental organizations and waste handling corporations -- while diverting money from genuine social and environmental problems. Recycling may be the most wasteful activity in modern America..."

Granted this was in 1996, when the whole idea of 'being green' was just gaining momentum in the States, but I think that he touched on some common beliefs that some of us still hold today. Maybe not worded so harshly, but there is a question of how financially responsible some recycling and composting options are. Is it really worth it? On the other hand, Michael Shapiro, director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Solid Waste responded to this with the statement,

"A well-run curbside recycling program can cost anywhere from $50 to more than $150 per ton...trash collection and disposal programs, on the other hand, cost anywhere from $70 to more than $200 per ton. This demonstrates that, while there's still room for improvements, recycling can be cost-effective."

Here is another article dealing with the same issue with solar panels.

Made in the USA: Still Alive? (financial)

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I browsed the web for this topic, as I wasn't quite sure where to start. I knew that I wanted to talk about manufacturing and jobs going over seas. But my opinion altered some after reading the following article:
Made in USA Is Alive and Well: Manufacturing Goes High-End and the USA is Still the Global Leader

I wouldn't say it changed it completely, but it did make me more aware which was the point. I was going to come in saying how it's terrible how jobs are all going overseas, blah, blah, blah. But after reading this article, I had an "ah I see" moment. It basically lined up a few simple facts: yes a lot of the production for our lower cost items is going overseas, because let's face it, we can't compete with the wages or the amount of people willing to do the job. BUT what I didn't know is that US manufacturing is still doing well. Extremely well, in fact:
"The U.S. by far remains the world's leading manufacturer by value of goods produced. It hit a record $1.6 trillion in 2007 -- nearly double the $811 billion in 1987. For every $1 of value produced in China's factories, America generates $2.50" (Perry).

So we're still outputting a ton of goods, and making a lot of money off of it. According to the article, we're building things that no one else can build! We've moved high-end. We're making military planes, weapons and parts for space shuttles. It's exciting, right? Then how come people keep complaining that jobs are going overseas? Well, they are. But we're producing so many goods still! We're still making so much money from manufacturing products! That's all true as well.

Our problem is that we're just too productive. You heard me. The reason we can produce so many goods, and make so much money and STILL continue to lead the world in manufacturing as far as numbers go is that our workers are so much more productive. What this means is that companies can get rid of more employees because the ones they have continue to produce more each year. "Once this recession runs its course, surviving manufacturers will emerge more efficient and profitable, economists say. More valuable products will be made using fewer people" (Perry). This does say a lot for our productivity and work ethic, but it means less jobs. That's great that the companies that survive the recession will come out of it more profitable, but if they also come out of it not needing to replace the people they cut during the recession, then it's definitely not improving job prospects for anyone.

The point is, that being aware of these things helps you see the world around you better and have a deeper understanding of what' s going on. I get that the numbers are there for the companies, they are profiting still. And when you hear that guy complaining about all those jobs heading overseas, you can correct him. Sure, some of the jobs are being sent over there but the truth is, we're just too productive. Companies don't need to employ as many people as they did in order to get the job done. Beneficial to the businesses, but it sucks for the job market. Hopefully, however, we will use our productiveness and develop all kinds of innovations that will help spur the job market forward in the stead of all our manufacturing jobs.

Usability & The Financial Agenda | Sarah Schiesser

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The notion that budgets and funding are often the driving force in allowing designers to deliver the best possible solutions is an issue that is both relevant and problematic. In a short book entitled Our Daily Debates, students from the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam discuss design ethics and financial motivations over coffee, documenting their conversations. The students claim that it often comes down to the clients not always knowing what to ask for and not understanding the scope of possibilities available to them. It's not that people don't want innovative, functional design, it's that time and money play a bigger role in prohibiting the creative process to fully take shape and form. In another interesting conversation, the students concluded that design is either cheap, fast or good--pick any two! Think about it. If design is cheap and good, then it cannot be fast. If it's fast and cheap, it's unlikely that it will be very good and lastly, if it's good and fast, it's certainly not going to be cheap.

So what does this mean for us?

As designers, we use our skills to help focus and strengthen the messages and agendas for our clients. We have the ability to improve our surroundings if we produce comprehensive, conceptual design, but in practice, someone else generally dictates the agenda. Therefore, as individuals we have a moral choice about who we work for, although that decision is also typically influenced by our economic need. As a student, I naturally have idealistic views about design and with student loans paying for a majority of my expenses--let's face it, I have an unrealistic perception of the 'real world'. However, I wholeheartedly believe that if you're in design for the money--you're not in it for the right reasons. Yes, design isn't everything (and shouldn't be) but if you're invested in this profession beyond your bi-weekly paycheck, start looking beyond the financial barriers and don't allow money to motivate your design.

In an article by Joshua Johnson on Designshack.com, the author advises his fellow designers to take joy in designing for a living because it's what you love to do, rather than designing for financial gains. For Joshua, design was very much a part of him and how he viewed the world--so choosing this pathway wasn't a means to an end, but the only means to enjoy a fulfilling, passionate, inspired life. I can apply these same ideals to my personal experience with design. If I stop and think about everything I've gained from my design education alone, the benefits are overwhelmingly positive. Yes, I may one day regret those all-nighters in the studio, vending machine meals, and the cigarettes that helped me cope with stress, however, the human interaction, the collaboration with fellow creatives, the understanding and desire to demand better of our society and the thrill of being able to create has been an ultimately fulfilling experience that I hope will continue into my professional career.

Sources:

Larsen, Nina Stottrup. Our Daily Debates. Veenman Publishers (2007).

Johnson, Joshua. "Why Money Shouldn't Motivate Design." July 2010.

It might seem counterintuitive, but times of economic recession may actually be the best time to market a new product, service, or organization. A recession, which we are all so familiar with today, is defined as "a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real gross domestic product (GDP), real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales." While this definition is somewhat vague, recessions have very clear consequences, including reduced consumer spending. How can reduced spending possibly be good for business? We can look at a real-life example, of which there are many, to find out.

Companies like General Electric, IBM, Burger King, and Microsoft were all started during economic downturns, but one of the biggest success stories of recession marketing is the Walt Disney Company. Walt Disney founded his animation studio in 1923, just before the Great Depression began. Normally, companies that make non-necessity items (anything but the basics of food, clothing, and health/sanitary products) are the ones who suffer the worst during economic downturns. When people are spending less, there is less demand for non-necessities and companies must instead create demand through marketing. Disney became popular at the height of the depression in the 30's because he was able to tap into the desires of the market. What people wanted was hope for a better future, or at least an escape from their dismal reality, and Walt Disney delivered that message in his cartoons. The Disney Company allegedly got by during tough economic times by following this model:

  1. What if anything was possible? Brainstorming ideas, like these attractions that were dreamed up but never built by Disney.
  2. Is it actually possible? Not everything creatives dream up is logistically or physically possible, so parameters like budget and time constraints have to be considered.
  3. Do we want to do it? Just because something is possible doesn't mean you will find it fulfilling or worthwhile.
  4. Should we do it? This is one of the most important questions to ask when launching something new into the world, whether it is a product or a new company or anything in between, because it asks whether the new idea is relevant and useful to the rest of the world.
  5. Let's do it.

Walt Disney has been quoted as saying, "I've heard there's going to be a depression. I've decided not to participate." This is the kind of attitude people launching new products or businesses need to take if they want to be successful and even profitable during times of economic crisis. Companies can emerge from a recession successfully by going against the grain; instead of following gut instincts to cut costs across the board, companies need to continue to invest in advertising. This helps them stay relevant while other companies are cutting advertising budgets. Consumers will best remember the brands that advertise the most, and they will be more likely to spend money on those brands both during tough times and once financial stability has been restored.

Communication | Financial | Lindsey Ostby

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As we all know, communication is a vital part of our society. It is a necessity to survival in a growing and competitive economy, especially in the world of design and advertising. So the question is, how does the input cost of communication affect the outcome? If we spend more money, does that mean we get better results? Looking at this from a wider spectrum, we can compare the two extreme financial values of communication, at least extreme examples in my opinion.

For example, on one extreme end we have the infamous Super Bowl commercials. Companies such as Anheuser-Busch, Coca-Cola, Frito Lay (Doritos), are spending millions of dollars to have their commercial advertised over a 30 or 60 second spot, hoping that the majority of people watching the Super Bowl will see it. Only the most clever and best communication strategies are presented, giving certain companies the label of being prestigious and most creative. The commercial from last year that stands out in my mind was for Doritos, called "House Rules".

These commercials build a positive association with a brand and are truly memorable. The buzz built around the Super Bowl commercials have become extremely high, some only watching this event for the commercials (actually, make that about 10 million Americans who watch the Super Bowl only for the ads). Communication of these ads reaches about 3 times more viewers than a regular commercial.

On another extreme, we have the free (or cheap) use of the Internet and social media. More and more companies are using sites such as Facebook or Twitter to communicate about their brand, their ideas, news in the company, etc. The difference between free communication and communication that is paid for is that we, as consumers, have to sift through a lot more junk. But when we find something interesting or relevant to us, the goal of effective communication has been achieved. Also, companies now have to communicate to more segmented audiences, making it difficult to reach a wider range of people. Even so, the upside of effective communication over these cheaper platforms is word-of-mouth and brand recognition, along with establishing positive associations and loyalties with a company or brand.

In this day and age, we can now ask ourselves, "Does the cost of communication really influence its effectiveness on an audience?" I really can't say whether the financial value of communication achieves better or worse results, but it is apparent that both forms of communication can be successful.
Funny thing though, the Doritos commercial was created by a filmmaker in California for only $80 who submitted it through an online contest...It now has 6,414,156 views on YouTube (make that 6,414,157).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0EVSP_6XZA&NR=1
http://www.fritolay.com/about-us/press-release-20100207.html
http://www.prlog.org/10526018-post-super-bowl-social-media-research-shows-motorola-doritos-hyundai-and-dove-most-powerful-ads.html
http://www.humankinetics.com/excerpts/excerpts/viral-effects-boost-value-of-super-bowl-ads

Financial Education in Design = Astronaut Food

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I'm gonna talk about money. In many different and terribly connected ways. Figure two weeks before half of us graduate is a good time for this, right?

This is what a graphic designer is, according to the big kids. A description stale as crouton bread, and ashy in color, but it can be an informative perspective. Especially since we'll be trying to sell a lot of our work to colorless, odorless people (muggles is the term for them).

What it comes down to is, we have a monetary value, depending on where we live, who we are, and what we know. But, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as designers with a "broad liberal arts education and experience in marketing and business management," we are "best suited" for "developing communication strategies."

Sound right? Maybe/probably not? That's a matter of knowing yourself. Hard as they might try, the Dept. of Labor can't help you know yourself. But once you get there, it's good to know what yourself can buy.

Some light numbers about that. Who wants to move to D.C. now for 68K a year? Nevermind, "Federal Executive" work sounds terrible. No one wants to do muggle work, even if it gets you more jelly beans. (For those that do like jelly beans, I apologize, and jump to the last paragraph).

So, let's talk about spec work. Greg Eull from Proximity Worldwide came into my Interactive class the other day, and he was talking about the amount of spec work he has done in his career. He even showed some of it to us. Really cool stuff, but he didn't get paid a dime for it. "It's the way the business works" he says. Colle + McVoy, Capella, Brainco. Everywhere he has been, they have done spec work. Furiously fast, imaginative, and sometimes useless spec work. "You get mad about it, yeah, but then you say, 'Alright, what's next?'" he shrugs. He shrugs because he loves what he does, which has put him on many projects that he is quite proud of that did get used. Know "Yearbook Yourself?" He worked on that from square one (it made it on Jimmy Fallon!)

My mentor does muggle work. Hasn't always, and won't always, but right now, she does interactive work at the Federal Reserve here in the cities. Her husband does page layouts for Game Informer magazine. He's a gamer. "No one does this for money, obviously" she says. She called her husband stupid for almost not taking that job.

"If you want to make money, go be a...I don't know, something that makes you lots of money." Take that to the bank.

Waste | Financial | Tarin Gessert

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Over the course of the semester, I've discussed waste from a variety of standpoints. I've outlined the effects of paper consumption on the environment, the way that that designers addressing trends on a personal level can lead to more or less waste and pollution, and how promoting trinkets and trash is wasteful and doesn't benefit society on a social level.

It seems that all of these points also relate to the financial agenda. Not surprisingly, reducing waste can reduce costs. Why pay for some trinket to be made with your logo on it, when it will become waste? And paper isn't getting any cheaper. If you can use projectors to display process work, or digital presentations to show clients instead of physical boards, why not? It's cheaper, and better for the environment. Producing products without wasteful packaging also saves money.

Designers must always work with finances allotted to them -- goes along with the problem solving part of our job descriptions. How can we convey this message with this budget? I think it's fortunate that many wasteful things cost money. I believe most of us know this, so we will need to try and talk our clients into saving money while saving the environment. It's always about the money. We can suggest producing a product sans the plastic packaging by mentioning the dollar amount our client will save by doing so.

A great trend right now is social media. Not only do companies save money by using free tools such as Facebook and Twitter, but they aren't producing physical waste. If a company normally uses direct mail as a form of advertising, they can switch to Twitter coupons or email blasts and have a similar effect (depending on their audience).

The city of Wauwatosa in WI recently announced that they are no longer going to be mailing paper copies of their quarterly newsletter. Instead, the newsletter can be found online and can be requested to be sent via email. It's estimated that this change will save them $35,000 a year. Not mention several trees in the process.

In conclusion, money rules the world. As designers, if we use media that is waste-less, we can help the environment, and we can save our clients money. We can come up with ways to save money while producing less waste. We have the tools and the creative talent. We are problem solvers.


Here's a link to 5 Creative Catalog Techniques that save paper, and money.
http://www.retailonlineintegration.com/article/5-creative-catalog-techniques-that-save-paper-costs/1

An article about how using PDFs can reduce paper costs
http://articles.techrepublic.com.com/5100-10878_11-1054281.html

Some interesting papers that discuss using daylight in schools -- saving electrical costs by using the resources given to us.
http://www.innovativedesign.net/paper.htm

Recyclability - Financial Agenda | Barbara Hicks

Obviously, talking about recyclability from a financial point of view is going to be a complex discussion. Even if we just confine the topic to how much it costs, in actually money, to recycle normal household items (aluminum, plastic & paper) the subject still gets extremely complicated: who has the contract in that area for collecting and hauling recyclables? How far does the stuff have to be hauled? Who does the actual recycling? How much does that cost? What is the demand in that area and at that time for the recycled material? Will it end up in the landfill anyway? These are just a few questions that need to be addressed to even begin to have a financial discussion about recyclability, and it doesn't even scratch the surface of the topic. What about all of the other things that might be recycled, such as water, petroleum products and construction materials, just to name a few? And how do we weigh the costs that go beyond money? What about the air and water pollution caused by re-manufacturing all that material, and the energy that is consumed in the process?

There is no question that some recycling is a good thing, but we shouldn't just assume that recycling is always the best thing. According to J. Winston Porter, president of the Waste Policy Center and former policy administrator for the EPA, "there's a point at which you shouldn't just recycle for recycling's sake." Quoted in an article in the Washington Examiner (http://washingtonexaminer.com/local/dc/too-much-green-millions-spent-recycling), he goes on to say that the greatest negative impact of the recycling process comes from trying to haul too much too far. It's sort of a catch 22, because it's much more politically popular to engage in the recycle process than it is to build a landfill, but a lot of the recycle process isn't helping the environment or saving energy. For instance, recycling glass is a net loser. Ground glass is essentially sand and not inherently harmful in a landfill. Collecting it, hauling it and storing it is probably more harmful to the environment by adding all those vehicle emissions than just letting it rest in a landfill. On the other hand, glass is heavy and helps localities reach their target recycling goals (which are calculated by weight).

It just seems to me that the recycling madness is one of those things that could and should be a good thing but, like so many other things, has been perverted by politics and the demands of uninformed do-gooders.

In contrast to the above bitch session, let me share with you something that looks like a real recycling success story. In June of 2009, the Seattle Times featured and article about Mike and Tricia Barry from Danville, California, who basically recycled a whole house! After they purchased a 1950s bungalow on a prime lot, they discovered that the home's foundation was bad, the rooms were too small, and it wasn't up to code. They decided the whole thing had to go. Being environmentally friendly types, the couple chose to have their home deconstructed for reuse rather than having it torn down with a bulldozer and dumped in a landfill. They hired a contractor licensed for deconstruction to take down the house and then California Deconstruction and Building Materials ReUse Network picked up the materials and brought them to Habitat for Humanity and other organizations, including Corazón, which helps build homes for people in northern Baja California, Mexico.

danvillehouse.jpg
The last remnants of the old house in Danville, Calif., that was recycled or reused.

As designers one think that we have to be aware of is how much energy we put into a project and are we getting paid the right amount of money for the amount of energy we put into a project. Yet as students still it is hard to know how much your energy and time is worth. One thing that I know several people have struggled with, as have I as a graphic designer still in school, is the UNPAID INTERNSHIP. I am one of those lucky people who have an unpaid internship. At first when I got the unpaid internship I was weary and hesitant, because working for free doesn't pay the oh so many bills that like to come my way. Yet upon discussing what I would be doing and after working there for a couple of weeks, I developed a change of mind when it came to my unpaid internship. Though not all unpaid internships are going to be great there are some that are completely worth your energy.

I came across an article that has 4 really good tips when it comes to dealing with an unpaid internship. An unpaid internship is only worth your energy if you are getting real training, like you would be in a class room setting or a part time job. Also make sure upfront before you start you unpaid internship that you have discuss what your role will be and that you will get real hands on experience. Also make sure that the internship isn't abusing you, for example making you work on a project that they should have hired somebody full time for. Take control of you unpaid internship and make sure that it is something that is beneficial to you and that you have work that you can show and that overall improves your skills and the quality of your portfolio! Because you are not getting paid for time and energy you need to make sure it is worthwhile to you. Also it can be extremely fun!

One of the possible ups about an unpaid internship is that instead of doing B.S. work like answering phones and getting coffee, is that because you are unpaid you may get assigned to some big projects to help out with. For me to have an unpaid internship that I can gain a lot of knowledge and experience from while still in school, outweighs doing B.S. work and getting a measly pay. So don't always be so hesitant take an unpaid internship. As long as you do research and have a clear direction of what you will be working on while completing and unpaid internship it may sometimes be your better option.

Unpaid internship Laws
Why unpaid internship can be worth it!

Inspiration | Finance | Matt Pabich

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I wasn't sure how I was going to connect these two thoughts for this blog post today, but then I began thinking about what (for the most part) what the end result of a project is: a finished graphic design piece and a paycheck. I started to wonder how the two were connected in terms of inspiration. Do the number on the paycheck affect the quality of the design. In other words does the price tag or budget attached to a design inspire better or worse design?
I feel like this can go so many ways; first I will play the con game. And say no, the budget doesn't affect the design. Good design is good design. It would be to say that a client who can't afford a project that would cost an insane amount wouldn't get your quality work. It is more a reflection of your character; and would reflect poorly upon you. Not to mention that it wouldn't be in your best interest at all to do low quality work, why wouldn't you do a your best design regardless the price tag. Money doesn't do the inspiring it merely set the parameters for what materials you can use and perhaps a timeline.
Now and the other side, I would say that 'yes' design is affected/inspired by budget and your paycheck. One way that I think it does in a big way is what the budget allows as far as materials go. Using French paper for a program versus using Office Max's card stock is going to make a large difference in the choices you make for colors, and how the ink goes onto the paper. Can you afford to have the business cards letter pressed? No, ok well maybe we need to pick a different typeface then. It is simple, but ultimately I think that we are inspired by finance when it comes to design. I don't think it is a bad thing at all, but something to be aware of.

Check out these links on costs of production and maybe comment on how you think they could inspire/affect your design:

250 sheets of 80lb. 8.5" x 11"
Smart White French Paper
$33.75 (plus shipping and handling)

Click Here

250 sheets of 80lb. 8.5" x 11"
Boise HD:P Color Copy Laser Paper
Available at Office Max
$14.99

Click Here

I think that it mostly comes down to the name you are attaching to it. Saying that you printed it on French paper instead of Office max may be worth 20 bucks to someone and in a similar way to use French or Office Max may inspire someone differently.

Space Efficiency (Environmental Agenda) by Lauren Maus

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Environmentally responsible design is important in every aspect of our lives. A huge part of this is how we use our space. I read a recent article that wrote about how for the first time, 50% of the world's population lives in cities (http://www.unfpa.org/pds/urbanization.htm). This incredible urbanization is something that we all need to deal with, as there becomes less and less space.

In Midwestern America, this isn't something most of us had really ever had to experience. I remember for the first time my family had an international visitor stay at our home for a few months. Shino was from Japan, and this was her first time to the US. We have a four bedroom home, and so I took her to our guest room in our basement, and she immediately went to open the closet door because she thought that is where she was staying. The guest room was so overwhelmingly large to her that she couldn't believe the whole space was hers. In most areas of Asia, many people live in homes less than 400 sq feet.
Because of the environment I come from, I am used to a lot of space. Living in the place I do now, it's too big for me and I have a difficult time with upkeep. It's really just inefficient, and a lot of space goes unused. I think this is fairly common in our culture, particularly in the area I come from--Suburbia, the urban sprawl.

I came across this article last year (http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/01/domestic-transformer.php) and was reminded of it for this blog post. It intrigued me then, by the simplicity of its design and the pure efficiency of it. The article is about architect Gary Chang, who lives in a 300 sq foot apartment in Hong Kong and his excellent design solution on how to deal with his small space, and squeeze as much out of it as possible. If you watch the following video, you can see it at work: http://www.noob.us/miscellaneous/24-rooms-packed-into-one-tiny-room/. I felt like his design was great design because great design really is utilitarian in nature. It solves a problem and answers a question clearly, concisely and beautifully. His solution really made me think about space and how it is used, and how design can be applied to fix valid issues in the world.

Distribution -- Financial Agenda -- Sarah Even

Distribution and the Financial Agenda-
By Sarah Even

In my last post, I quoted Dictionary.com for the definition of distribution as, "the delivery or giving out of an item or items to the intended recipients, (such) as mail or newspapers," and "the marketing, transporting, merchandising, and selling of any item." I think this definition can be broken down further into the delivery of information to a recipient. This is one of the biggest concerns of businesses. They always ask the question, "how do we tell people about our service or product?" Unfortunately, we are often limited to the variety of ways we can achieve this distribution of information because of financial issues.

Especially in this slower economy, we have to always be on our toes for cheaper, reliable ways to get ideas out there. One way of doing this is to use a company like Outbrain who has started a tool called OutLoud. OutLoud charges the company $10 a month to post their article, blog post, or information on relevant sites to increase traffic to their website/blog. The company says it is perfect for, "the social media director, trying to build community by exposing larger audiences to a company blog, or to conversations happening on other sites about their products (and) the excited marketer wanting to drive word-of-mouth by amplifying positive reviews and articles about their company." So, for only $10 a month, they could be increasing their sales dramatically.

Yes, this is a way to distribute ideas, but essentially it can improve sales, and therefore benefits the business. A smaller industrial design firm in Eden Prairie, MN, Whiteboard Solutions, could get their name out there a lot cheaper using OutLoud. They have a blog, (http://www.whiteboardps.blogspot.com/), that could be posted all over other design blogs and design related sites to gain interest in their company. For smaller companies like this, it is so much cheaper and easier to pay a small fee per month than to have someone on the inside post links all over the internet every day.

Now, if you take the definition of distribution literally, you can still come back to the idea of the internet being an easy and cheap place for it to take place. Consider iTunes, the sale, delivery, and storage of music is all done digitally. iTunes (or Apple) doesn't have to foot the cost of shipping and handling, or the cost of producing CD packaging. Online books do the same thing. Companies are really taking advantage of the possibilities for distributing their ideas and products through the internet. As designers we really need to get creative and think of all the possible ways we can get many different types of people looking at our work.


Noff, Ayelet. "OutLoud: A New Way to Distribute Your Content." Socialmedia.biz. Nov. 2009. Web. 22 Oct. 2010. .

WhiteBoard Product Solutions. Web. 22 Oct. 2010. .

Quality and the financial agenda -- Know the hidden costs

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In my post from last week, Richelle responded and posed the question to me: "How do we get back to quality?" One answer I thought of brought me into the financial agenda, in that cost always plays a factor in purchasing. This reminded me of an important discussion on the status of our food system in the United States. I have always been health-conscious, but watching two eye-opening documentaries, King Corn and Food, Inc., greatly impacted my perspective. The problem as framed in each of these movies is simply that the quality of our food is extremely poor, as discussed in King Corn.

As Walter Willet says in that video, "most of what we've done in agricultural (so-called) improvements and in food processing have actually degraded our food supply from a nutritional standpoint." In a different section of King Corn, one farmer even says "We're not growing quality, we're growing crap!" Even if you choose to eat "healthier," you're often still eating modified foods that have been changed to grow bigger and more quickly than their natural counterparts, leading to a tradeoff. That tradeoff is the nutritional value of the food itself. In this, you can see that a decision has been made to place quantity as superior to quality.

So why is this happening and why is it being perpetuated? Food, Inc. offers part of the explanation.

I think this video shows that consumer choice plays a significant role. American culture is highly value-driven. Average Americans don't want to pay more than they have to, and this is especially the case for low-income families. As Mrs. Gonzalez says in Food, Inc., "when you have only a dollar to spend and you have two kids to feed, either you go to the market and try to find something that's cheap, or just go straight through a drive-through and get two small hamburgers for them ... sometimes you look at a vegetable and say 'OK, well we can get two hamburgers over here for the same amount of price.'" With a prevalence of low-quality, flavorful foods that are cheaper than less enticing high-quality foods, it's no surprise that things like fresh produce are losing out. However, Americans' perception of value in this situation is being distorted by practices in the food industry. The reason that all of the junk food is so cheap is because the corn used in them is heavily subsidized. This means that the actual price is not reflected.

In this I find a key point on how to get back to quality. In order to make good decisions, I believe consumers need to know the actual cost. A cheeseburger at McDonalds costs one dollar, but what are the hidden costs? What about the cost of staying in shape? What about the health costs that could be incurred if you develop diabetes? What about the health costs of fighting increasingly stronger strains of e-coli because of the cattle are being fed antibiotics? Perhaps these questions seem a bit alarmist, but trends show that problems such as obesity, diabetes, and resistant strains of bacteria are on the rise. Once you examine the hidden costs it doesn't seem to be very high quality anymore. As designers, we can try to reveal hidden costs by creating packaging that's not deceiving and is as clear as possible about the actual quality of the item. We can also choose to work for and support causes that raise awareness on issues such as these. On an individual level, we need to be more outspoken about hidden costs. Consumers today have a vast audience available to them through the internet, so if we know of a concern with a product we should make sure others know too. Once consumers know the accurate costs, they will be able to make better decisions on quality.

Another important factor in getting back to quality is removing obstacles that distort costs. In the example I've given, the subsidization of corn plays a large role in the success of nutrition-deficient foods. However, if corn was not subsidized, prices would change drastically. For example, sodas would become much more expensive as they adjusted to the actual costs of producing corn syrup or switching to sugar. This would help to level the playing field. Additionally, removing subsidies could then cause farmers to look at growing other crops, which would then lower the cost of fresh produce items. In order to combat such distortion, we as individuals need to use our voting power. In some cases, this may mean choosing lawmakers that oppose distorting factors such as subsidization, and by actively letting them know what we want. Additionally, we can place a vote every time we purchase by choosing to buy a certain quality product. If there is enough demand, new competitors will attempt to fill the gap that others aren't. Although this may not be as applicable in all product areas, I do think it's important to be on the lookout for factors that can distort individuals' perception on quality.

Kate Carlson | Health_Finance

| 1 Comment

What does financial health mean to you as a designer? Does it mean you need to get a job when you graduate in order to pay off your student loans, create widely seen campaigns, design junk in order to make enough money to buy your hopes and dreams, or focus on smaller that make you happy but pay less? This is a very big question we all must ask ourselves, as we are soon to be graduating graphic designers!

I was curious about the average salary of a graphic designer in today's economy, so I did a little research and came up with a few statistics that "On average, entry level designers can expect to earn $30k-$35k. Graduates with competence and worthy portfolios can expect to earn around $40k-$45k, with potential to earn closer to$75k with experience. If you become a creative director of a firm, you are more likely to earn $85k-$100k." (wiki.answers.com) This is what I basically expected, but the question comes to mind what if we don't want to work for a corporate company or firm? And if we want to choose the path of designing things we enjoy for less, how on earth are we supposed to pay back those large amounts of loans that we took out in the first?? These big questions and concerns can weigh heavily on our stress levels and ultimately influence us on our overall career path decisions. Do I take my dream job and not be able to pay back my loans? Or do I take a job I fear I wont love and suffer through it in order to pay that money back??

Well I think it all comes down to what we think success means. Ellen Lupton wrote a very interesting blog on AIGA website titled "What is Success?" she writes:

"Success is more than going to work everyday and getting paid. Success means finding personal satisfaction in your work and loving what you do. And it means engaging with a social world: a world of clients and employers, but also of readers, users and other designers. It is those things that make us rich."

I full heartedly agree with this statement, I just hope that by working hard and trying to do things I love I'll be able to achieve success in my personal point of view.


>>http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_average_annual_salary_for_a_graphic_designer_in_the_US

>>http://eee.aiga.org/content.cfm/what-is-success?searchtext=salaries%20of%20a%20graphic%20designer

You Don't Have to Work in a Design Firm - Pleasure/Financial

| 1 Comment

After hearing about Dan's career path on Tuesday, I was really inspired by how flexible he was when trying to find a job. He really made it seem like it was completely normal (and more financially stable) to take on a variety of jobs that are of interest to you that still somehow relate to what you learned in school. I feel that a lot of what we are learning in our major tends to prepare us for a career at an advertising firm, design firm, or in-house department. Fortunately, there are many of other outlets for designers. Each of us must think about the price of pleasure and how we want to live of our lives, from uber-glam to sweet and simple, and consider what type of career will be financially able to support that lifestyle.

The beauty of learning graphic design is that we are trained to create imagery, learn how to work with type, and work in business settings with business-related goals in mind. Some related jobs that are more image-related include: photographer, illustrator, animator, floral designer, textile designer, and storefront window display designer. Some jobs that focus on type include: publication/layout artist, sign painter, letterpress entrepreneur and information graphics designer. Some more business-focused jobs include art director, marketing strategy and design manager. There are even jobs out there that haven't been created yet, so it is up to us to seek those in need of our unique experiences and talents.

Designing freelance is also another viable option, both full or part-time. I met with my mentor last weekend who is a freelance designer, and I was asking her all sorts of questions about the pros and cons of working independently. Similar to Dan's job-finding experience, she says that the work just comes to her from the connections she has made over the years. One thing that stood out is that there are cycles each year where she knows there will be more or less work. She is able to stay afloat financially by predicting timelines of different projects and how she bills them, and relying on the fact that there is little to no work to be found in January, and taking that as an opportunity for a vacation or break.

As far salaries and personal finances go, I was able to find a very vague statistic on a very vague group of designers. According to the AIGA salary calculator a Minneapolis designer working in an organization of 10-99 employees with a local and national client-base will make between $42,000 and $60,000/year, not considering the type of organization. As you can imagine, those numbers can change drastically depending on the organization, city, size of the firm and client-base. If you are interested in calculating your potential salary, you can find the calculator here.

References
http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos090.htm
http://www.designtalkboard.com/design-articles/job-descriptions.php
http://www.designsalaries.org/calculator.asp

Emerging Economics | The Financial Agenda | Angie Miller

| 1 Comment

Financially, I'll state the obvious: in the United States we're much more privileged than emerging economies. We can look at emerging economies and finances in two ways: how can we help them, and how can they help us?

First, how can we and how should we help them? Commonly, our financial relations with emerging markets are well-meaning efforts to combat poverty. We want to help, and we know that our excess money can in some way help those in need. How do we help, though? What do children in developing countries, for example, really need? One well-meaning, highly-critiqued project decided technology was the answer:

Another ... project that missed the point was the $100 laptop. Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the Media Laboratory at MIT, launched his project at the World Economic Forum in Davos. To the delegates in Davos, $100 probably sounded cheap; many were paying $1000 an hour to be there. But in Mali, where 90 percent of the population lives on $2 a day, this cheap laptop would cost people two or three months' earnings. (www.designobserver.com)

This struck me - 90 percent of their population lives on $2 a day, and I complain when I can't pay my $450/month rent with cash to spare. Maybe our efforts, if we are even making any, are missing the point. Other education-oriented non-profit organizations such as Room to Read (http://www.roomtoread.org/) can reach thousands more through less "technological" means and a lower cost. On the other hand, emerging economies will never compete with us if they cannot catch up in technology. In our self-absorbed culture, we don't even consider how many people could be taught to read at the cost of the new iPhone we buy for ourselves. Maybe we need to just be reminded of a little worldwide perspective. As designers, we have a large role in speaking to the general public. We can choose to make our community aware of the rest of the world, and we can choose to publicize ways to help.

Picture 4.png
The $100 laptops distributed through the famous education-promoting project in emerging economies.

Second, how can we learn financially from emerging markets? The Wall Street Journal argues that in our current economic hard times, we can look to emerging economies for wisdom. Struggling with too little money is the norm in emerging markets. Marketing and advertising approaches that have been proven to work in emerging markets can apply to our own country in hard economic times. For example, the Wall Street Journal cites focusing on current customers instead of trying to win new ones and focusing on consumers' core values have proven to be good marketing strategies in financial hard times. Overall, the article stresses, we can strive to be optimistic.

I'd also argue that we can learn from emerging economies financially, as I said earlier, by gaining some perspective. Our financial world is so utterly different than most of the world. If we honestly want to make a difference, we can; we just can't ignore the big picture.

Sources:

Room to read: world change starts with educated children. (2009). < http://www.roomtoread.org/>

Roth, Martin. (2009, March 23). Surviving the downturn: lessons from emerging markets. The Wall Street Journal.

Thackara, John. "We are all emerging economies now." Observatory: Design observer. 06052008. Web. 21 Oct 2010.

Convenience - Financial Agenda - Manon Ibes

In my previous blog post I wrote about how convenience relates to the social sphere and how designers should always be aware of what level of convenience they are affording their intended users. In looking through the financial lens, I found financial justification for providing that convenience to users (enhancing your client's financial agenda) and tips on how to provide convenience to clients (enhancing your financial agenda).

LG has proven that providing convenience to a product, over what your competitors offer, can lead to better sales and adaptation of that product. Kimchi is a Korean fermented-cabbage dish with a strong taste and smell that quickly taints other food in a regular refrigerator. In the 1990s, LG released a refrigerator with a special kimchi compartment in it to isolate the odor and to provide proper maturation of the kimchi. By 2005, kimchi refrigerators became a fixture in 65% of Koren homes, and despite growing competition, LG remained the top-selling manufacturer (Esfahani, 2005). LG's Middle East marketing director, Hamad Malik says "Gone are the days where you could just roll out one product for the global market, we speak to consumer individually" (Daft & Marcic, 2008).

What LG has found is that by providing consumers with products that are convenient to their needs and life-styles, rather than a mass-produced product makes the customers happy and provides them with increased sales and success in the market.
LG has applied this technique in several markets over the past years. In India, LG has produced a variety of different appliances, including refrigerators with larger vegetable compartments offered in bright colors that reflect local preferences, dark-colored microwaves to hide masala stains , and a television with extra loud sound to play music on. Household appliances have always stood for increased convenience in the household, but by playing on specific needs in the area, LG is able to gain a substantial advantage above competitors. In 2005, LG's share of the Indian market was 29.4 percent in refrigerators, 26.5 percent in color TVs, 35.8 percent in washing machines, and a crushing 38.0 percent in microwave ovens (Kim, 2005). This performance encouraged LG to set a revenue target of $10 billion by 2010 (five times their revenues in the country in 2005).

Product design is not the only place that added convenience can provide a financial advantage to an organization. How many times have you been turned off from online shopping on a site that has a poorly designed and inconvenient catalogue? Amazon has proven to be an incredibly powerful shopping resource because of the convenience it offers shoppers in both the ease of shopping and the market data they offer to consumers, like items that you might be interested based on a purchase or items that others with similar purchases have looked at. They were ranked 5th out of 50 of Fortune Magazine's Most Admired companies in 2010, and much of their success is due to the innovation and level of convenience they brought to the online shopper, which has enable them to expand outside of book sales.

After that lengthy discussion of how convenience can help you create enhance the financial agenda for your client, it is also important to think about how to enhance your own financial position.

Obviously two key ways to do this are to provide customer service to your clients and to meet your client's goals for the design application. Unfortunately, in the business world, the design world is often perceived as flighty and not necessarily driven by economic/financial measures of success (enough so that one of my marketing/advertising books had a whole chapter dedicated to how to work with the "creatives" at a firm). If you can demonstrate to a client that you value their time (even if they don't necessarily value yours) and offer convenience to them in your general communications and presentations, they are much more likely to keep coming back to you and possibly to recommend you to other colleagues. Chris at Freelance Review wrote The Three Rules of Convenience, which are: reply in a timely manner, give sufficient notice for absences, and deliver on-time, every time. These are valuable tips to keep at the back of your mind, so that you are always considering not only how to create the best design for a client, but also how to treat that client so they will want to continue working with you and enhancing your financial agenda.


Resources:
Daft, R.L, & Marcic, D. (2008). Understanding management. New York: South-Western.
Esfahani, E. (2005, December 1). Thinking locally, succeeding globally. Business 2.0, Retrieved on October 16, 2010, from http://money.cnn.com/magazines/business2/business2_archive/2005/12/01/8364622/index.htm
Freelance Review. The three rules of convenience. Retrieved on October 3, 2010, from http://www.freelancereview.net/the-3-rules-of-convenience.
Kim, K. (2005, September). Premium marketing to the masses: an interview with lg electronics india's managing director. McKinsley Quarterly, Retrieved October 16, 2010, from http://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/Premium_marketing_to_the_masses_An_interview_with_LG_Electronics_Indias_managing_director_1666

Fun and the Financial Agenda | Jonathan Glatfelter

| 3 Comments


The fun factor and design. The fun factor and finances. Like our parents did when we were children, a design firm or a client can always put a stop to any fun that you may be having. Being able to design under no restrictions or supervision, so to speak, is a designer's ultimate dream! We sign on to a client's project and we are expected to produce a development that comes from their head through our craft. While some of this work may be 'fun' for some, it may not be fun at all for others. It's something as a designer that we must face: giving up fun for an income.

It is said that a designer or artist's best work comes when there is an economical crisis (or at least from what this website told me). I came across an article on designboom.com that gives a variety of examples of art and design projects that deal directly with the dollar bill. One artist has even scribed the word "FUN" onto the back of a dollar bill. How ironic! I think that these forms of art are actually quite relevant to the relationship between money and fun. What is the line between having fun and having TOO much fun? These artists have gone against what the government has laid out for us as a currency and they have created what they want of the dollar bill in their own way, and for what? Well, I would think for fun! When do we decide that a project is worth our time and energy? Is it only worth it if we consider it fun?

mon5.jpg
'My money, my currency' by Hanna Von Goeler

In addition to this, I looked up some statistics dealing with graphic designers and finances from graphicdesignschools.com. What I found really came to no surprise, but it's interesting to look at some of the numbers and to relate it to "fun." Graphic designers earn an average of $46,750. Only the top 10% of these people make over $74,660. Most new designers start at $35,000. Now, I am not one to assume anything, but it's interesting to really take these salaries and then to think about a couple of things in regards to "fun." Would a person who is making $45,000 a year be working on projects that are more fun than someone making $96,000 a year? Is the individual that is making more money having more fun in his/her personal life? Again, I'm not one to assume, but they're questions that we can guess upon.

Obviously every person is different from another. We all have interests, desires, aspirations, etc. One individual may find the currency design and history as fun and enjoyable where another may not. What's the fiscal value of a project when we are presented with it? It is crucial that we understand that we may not be the moneymakers of the world and that we may have to sacrifice good fiscal opportunities to enjoy work and vise versa.

References:
Money Design and History. Retrieved October 6, 2010, from http://www.designboom.com/weblog/cat/8/view/5440/money-design-and-history.html.

Graphic Design Career Statistics. Retrieved October 7, 2010, from http://www.graphicdesignschools.com/guidance/graphic-design-career-statistics.html.

Don't fall at first sight! - Quang Dao

| 3 Comments
Appeal -- Financial

To admit it or not, we are living in a society that is generally based on appearance. Most of the time, we view and decide if we like something from the first look. It 's true that products that are nicely packaged and well designed always get the attention from potential buyers. We tend to purchase things that scream right at our face. That's the main reasons companies started to revise and carefully develop their design, packaging and marketing strategies for their target group of consumers. Hence, appeal is one of the indispensable components to the success of a product, as well as any design. To sustain in our constantly changing world, having an appealing look will help boost the chance of succeeding for a product. Most people will be intrigued in buying something that has a clean and interesting design. First impression is very important in this case. The consumption of a product depends on how people notice it from the first sight. An effective design must also have reasonable costs of distribution and production, as well as viable marketing plan.

It certainly is a plus if a product is nicely packaged and has well-thought design. However having an appealing look isn't all it takes. Quality is also the main concern that consumers have mind when they buy a product. If something only has a pretty look yet doesn't function as expected, it can lead to instability in sales and a short life of a product in the market, of which exists many competitions. However, having an appealing design and quality function, a company must go through a lot of research and development in order to find the best solution to mass produce their products at the most reasonable costs. Despite the fact that we're currently in recession, more companies come out new products in the markets than ever. There are thousands of new products being releases into the market each and ever year. They offer us, the consumers, many opportunities to try out products and see what fits us the best, in regards of functionality, appearance and cost. "Some products, though, will become the old familiar brands of the future. Even with the enormous risk and cost of new products, companies continue to put them out because they are a route to continued profitability." (Hall, 1992, NY Times) The higher the demand, the more competitions there are in the market. Companies constantly try to keep up with the latest technology to invent the most satisfactory products for their ever-changing consumers. In this case, appeal alone is only one of the factors that make up the fate of the products.

According to Hall (1992), consumers "seemed most eager to try products perceived as being cleaner or more environmentally positive, or those that seemed to offer something genuinely different..." (NY Times) With that statistic in mind, companies recently shifted their production to a new path, going green for their production line. Environment-friendly products are the one of the top concerned issues in the market nowadays. Consumers started to buy more products that are "green" to use and recycle. More post-consumer waste and biodegradable products are being produced, two reasons, they cost less to produce and more people start buying them.

Appeal can be found in name of the products too. Hamermesh from the NY Times wrote a column "What's in the name?" (2010), he said, "The determinants of one's demand for a product are covered in every introductory economics course. Independent of prices, my income and my general preferences, I also consider the cuteness of the product's name." I found this very true. Name of a product can say a lot about it. Clever name gives people a sense of reliability. Short and memorable name well make people instantly recognize their brand where they go. And of course, bad name just gives a feeling of doubt and insecurity.

Appeal can help a product boost up its sales. However, the fate of a product also lies on the quality of it. Products that have a combination of good design, quality function, cost cutting, profit making and sustainable marketing strategies will be likely to succeed, but what are the chances!

want.jpg

Simple, useful and pretty. INSTANT WANT!

Sources:

Hall, Trish. (1992). Telling the 'yeas' from the 'nays' in new products. NY Times. NY.

Hamermesh, Daniel. (2010). What's in a name? NY Times. NY.


'Status' in the Financial Agenda

| 2 Comments

As students of design, it's easy for all of us to get so wrapped up in our own work, in grades and teachers and deadlines and class and work that we forget design is first and foremost a vehicle for direct communication. It's not just homework; someday it might be real work. It's not making something look pretty or sell better; well it is, but there's more to it than that. A glance at a piece of design is a scratch on the surface of something altogether bigger, and whether or not the designer is skilled enough to properly execute that or the viewer is smart enough to understand that, there are lines of communication being drawn behind what the eye can readily see and/or what the mind can readily comprehend.

Status is driven by branding, something we've all come to realize is a lot more complicated than a photograph and some text. As stated by Marty Neumeier, '"Because it works" will no longer suffice as a design rationale.' Branding is a complex system, the result of a strategy to deliver the kind of message that is not only seen and read but also felt and remembered. Good status is good branding, good branding is smart strategy and successful execution, and good business is dependent all of these things. So what does status have to do with the financial agenda? In short, everything.

Here's a quick and current example. The Huffington Post is one of many news sources that have been covering a move to rename high fructose corn syrup 'corn sugar.' According to the article 'Goodbye High Fructose Corn Syrup, Hello Corn Sugar (Signed, Corn Industry),' corn syrup consumption has fallen to a 20 year low - mainly due to a largely unproven assumption in Americans that corn syrup is unhealthy and more likely to lead to obesity than sugar. Given their financial woes, a new strategy was developed by the corn industry to renew corn syrup's status in the public eye. Advertising campaigns have already begun as corn syrup begins its rebirth - in this case, it's less about gaining a positive status than it is about shedding a negative one. Regardless, the effect on business has been undeniable.

1. Fredrix, Emily. "Goodbye High Fructose Corn Syrup, Hello Corn Sugar (Signed, Corn Industry)." The Huffington Post. 09/14/10.

2. Neumeier, Marty. "Survival of the Fittingest." AIGA. 04/07/10.


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