Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Design Team Thoughts

Design Team Thoughts

Isn’t it time someone spoke up? I think so. Those of you who sponsor design teams do you really consider your designers as valuable? I wonder.

A good designer will do their best work (not just CASE others). They will promote your company everywhere they go. Each card, altered item, layout, or what have you has taken hours if not days to imagine, work out details and complete with all to be in pristine condition. On top of that the designer is usually asked to photograph and edit their items, upload the scans on more than one venue, and be available to answer all questions about the technique and/or item. They will be required to name products used in the card and often include a tutorial. Then there are the “blog hops” which add more, yup you guessed it, time from the designer.

Often we are required to send the actual objects to the company which require proper packaging, more time spent, and shipping costs. We may be asked or required to send to stores and conventions as well. Did you note the shipping costs? Many expect us to pay them without recompense!

If the designer, like me, loves to think outside the box and find new ways to use the product, that takes more time along with the possible use of outside products.

Now for all of this what does the design team member get in return?

Lately, without naming names, I have seen companies that will give you perhaps $50.00 in product (I wonder is that retail or wholesale?) per month. Some may give a single sheet of rubber stamps. That’s it. Everything else comes out of our pocket. Does this really sound fair to you? They get away with it because some folks just want to be able to claim they are on a design team. Whatever happened to RESPECT? Appreciation?

I have had the pleasure to work with some wonderful companies as a designer. They treated me like a star. I was given plenty of product to work with. Most let me choose which products and projects I would prefer and not try to mold me into a certain style. They reimbursed me for my shipping costs and covered my travel fees if I chose to be a demo for them. If I chose to submit to magazines I was well compensated for those published as well. I cherish these companies. They usually sent me a LOT of product when I began as well so I had plenty to work with and choose from. Why? because they know that we designers may feel like doing something artsy today and cute tomorrow. But if we only have, one style of images to work with, it will limit our creativity. This is not good for the company or the artist.

Companies: Please give credit to your designers for the hard work they do. Compensate them fairly and if you can generously. In the long run you will be glad you did. The designer will never forget you and will continue to “advertise” for you long after her/his term is over if you do.

Designers: Do your very best at all times. Live up to your obligations. Give praise when due. Be quiet when you should.

We all make mistakes, I have made far too many in my life I know. We all are still learning how to better create, communicate, and even handle our own struggles. So let’s give some leeway when we can. It is more fun to lift up then to tear down.

I must give a huge shout out to some of the companies who were beyond the best to work with: Spellbinders, Hearts in Touch, Red Castle, Inc., Innovative Stamp Creations, Enchanted Ink, Terryfic Times, Marco’s Paper. THANK YOU! And to all of the other companies I have worked with, thank you as well. I have been blessed!


Cindy Cade


  1. well, as someone who as tried several times to be accepted onto design teams, the first one I got accepted to expected so much from me that I knew I didn't want to be on it after all. I politely thanked them and turned them down and decided then and there that being on a design team wasn't for me. Since then, my daughters have started Squigglefly and since they are not involved in the stamping world, I made myself their guide and appointed myself as their design team coordinator. I never want our design team to feel pressured or to feel like designing for them is a chore. I always want the fun to remain. Of course any venue they can show a squigglefly project is appreciated, but it's not required. Personally I think the design teams make the company and they deserve to be respected and appreciated.

  2. Very good points.
    I have limited myself to only working with one company. They have always treated me more than fairly. I am compensated for anything I do for them. I have my choice of products to work with and am never given any particular theme.
    My individual style and creativity are appreciated.

    More companies should treat their designers with respect.

    I hope your post opens some eyes. :)

  3. There are good and bad companies out there. Pick carefully who you want to design for. Ask questions up front. Sign contracts. But I also think that 2 designers can belong to the same DT and one can have a great experience and the other can have a horrible one, so it also has to do with how a designer interacts with the company. I've been very lucky and had both good and bad experiences - it has taught me to be careful and really consider what I want to do - who I want to design for, what product I want to use. And then balance that with a family/personal life, so be very aware of DT schedules and what they expect from you - can you meet that demand?
    Mostly, I've had the honor of being on a DT with you and being able to have you as my friend! :o)

  4. Very nice post :)
    What I have learned in the past that it is important only to apply to a DT if you REALLY love the company's stuff and are so enthusiastic about it that it will show in everything you do for them, that you are willing to gladly "work" for lets say 2 cents per hour compensation. Otherwise? oh heck just go and buy the stamps for yourself and have fun...

    All companies are different in how they handle and lead their DT. It often helps to talk to current DT members and ask them why they like being there, or not, before making your decision to apply.

    Of course there is an ongoing race or so it seems on "getting" on teams and accumulating as many as you can in your side bar... That is fine if you have all the time in the world to spend on DT work. Sometimes you get lost in your requirements and forget that this is supposed to be fun and maybe want to make something for yourself?

    The attitudes go and come both ways. If there seems something off, the reason is probably shared equally by the companies and the people who are on the teams :)

  5. I myself haven't had the privilege yet to work for a term on a DT, but have applied to several over the years. In January I was a Guest DT member for SoftPencil, thought if I start out small perhaps then I could "work" my way up. I have applied to several more teams, but to no avail haven't had luck. I find it is those who have been on several DT's that get asked. Not necessarily newbies! That is my beef with DT's, but I do have to agree with you though and where you are coming from. I have had several friends on tons of DT's who have had to pay out of their own pocked for all supplies (sometimes even the stamps).

    Inky Hugs,

  6. The companies take advantage of the designers because THEY CAN (and I know not all of them do). The whole design team concept has gotten HUGE and very confusing to the consumer (I speak from my own experience) and obviously for the designer as well.

    As is the case in any "employment" situation, it seems to me that when working as a designer there should be some sort of contract or written agreement. The challenge is, unfortunately, that there are soooo many people who want to work "for free" in exchange for product, they will sell their souls and there is very little leverage...nothing to negotiate with if you feel you have more to offer.

    As a consumer I also think it's a bit "manipulative" when I'm reading a blog or a post and I'm not aware, up front, that a person is designing for a specific company. Things have improved in terms of straightforwardness, and I'm definitely more aware of how the whole scene is working now, but at first it seemed a bit underhanded to me.

    Personally, I think the blogging community should go "on strike" and demand payment for their work when they're "employees" of a company. It IS a job, it's a time-consuming job (which is why I never got my blog going when I owned my company)and your services are worth much more than the RETAIL value of a few dollars worth of their product.

    PS: You can probably figure at most 1/2 of the retail price to determine your pay if you're exchanging your services for product.

    My opinion, for what it's worth.

  7. I've only been on one DT with Stamp A Mania and I was so lucky, he let me pick my stamps and what to do with them. I gave him a wish list and he sent them ALL. I have friends on other DT and I wouldn't do what they have to do. I'm a very limited stamper, I don't do cutesy much and "out of the box" stuff so I would hate having to do something I didn't like when I was done with it. I do not like blog hops that you have to hop thru more than 6 blogs to get the words or whatever to try for a prize. That is way too time consuming and half the time the links don't work or the blogger doesn't have theirs up early in the day.

  8. Interesting thread you've got going Cindy. I agree with what someone said; only do it if you really, really love the company's products. I only design for one and truly enjoy the projects I do for them because they are so flexible with what they let me do and they are just great people too. I look forward to reading more comments.

  9. I thought Etha made her point very well that it should be about really loveing a companys product so much that you rave about them to everyone that you meet.
    Having said that, I do feel strongly that companies are in the lucky position that many people would actually work for nothing at all either because they love the product or simply want the bragging rights to say that they are on a design team.
    Unfortunately, the flip side of this is that companies can then exploit designers and possibly treat them unfairly in the ways you describe in your blog and others.
    One of my favourite stamp designers will always show her stamps off by saying which of her very talented design team members has made any particular samples - others are blatantly not so honest and imply the samples are their own.
    One other thing I would say, going back to Ethas point, is that there is a company that I would love to be on the design team for, but cannot because it involves some payment and therefore precludes non- US residents.
    I would def' design for them for nothing and feel they should offer this as an option!

  10. Cindy, what a wonderful post. I completely agree with you. part of the dt issue is sometimes these companies feel they cannot afford to pay much if anything. I have only been a part of a couple of teams- one for Simon Says Stamp and it was FANTASTIC!!! LOVED it.

    Thanks for a great post, gives much to think about!!

  11. Good points, Cindy! It reminds me somewhat of how print magazines, who are dependent upon their artistic content, do so little for those who fill their pages.

  12. What an awesome post! I feel like every company with a DT should be required to read this!

  13. Cindy, excellent post. I agree 100% with. I think you have stated a lot of what many are afraid to say. I would like to add a company to the list of those who are excellent to work for...OnyxXpressions.

    Debi Wind

  14. Coral in Scotland
    Great post Cindy. Obviously there are companies out there making use of designers talents without properly recompensing them. It seems to me to be quite ridiculous to expect someone outwith a company to pay for materials, postage etc.etc. to produce artwork for them, when the company is (hopefully!) going to gain extra sales revenue from this. Even if the designer agrees not to be paid to do the work, expenses should be covered, after all, it comes under the heading of advertising and I'm sure they wouldn't expect that for free from other professionals.
    It might be different with a new start-up company who doesn't have a budget available.
    Though it is a two way process in that the designer gains kudos by becoming known, the biggest financial gain is surely by the company whose products are being used. Some of them sound like cheapskates!

  15. When I first started blogging, I thought that being on a design team would be the best thing ever! I was already making a card every day - it seemed that getting free stamps would be a bonus!

    Since then I've done a couple guest designer bits, and frankly, it's stressful. It isn't fun to produce on demand. I like making whatever I feel like making whenever I feel like making it, and I'm glad I figured this out before I made a longterm commitment to anyone.

  16. I agree, design team members should get free product, and should feel like they are needed. But, I do want to say something on behalf of the companies. I own a rubber stamp company, and we have sent out boxes of product in the past, just to have a few cards returned, with an apology that their lives have gotten too busy and they must quit. Unfortunately, this has happened several times to us. For a long time we didn't have a design team, because it just didn't work out in the past. Recently we've found a few wonderful people to be on our design team, and we try our best to make them feel like they get more than they give. I hope they all know how much we appreciate them!

    I guess my point is to try not to be too hard on the companies who require a lot of their design team members... they've probably been burned in the past.


  17. If I am to accomplish anything with this chatter here today I hope it is understanding.

    The best designer and or company will have good times and difficult times. We all have families to deal with, financial restraints, health concerns, etc. The key as you may guess is communication. This is something which I saw as lacking.

    I am one of those who deal with seasonal depression and it seems like the seasons keep getting longer. I have times when I my creativity is like a blizzard. There are other times when I feel that I am buried beneath an avalanche with no escape in sight. I have had to be honest and request changes in deadlines. Then I try to make up for those and offer extra when I am in a creative mode.

    Since learning more about myself and my emotional disruptions I have pretty much removed myself from design teams. Not that I won't do them again if my limitations are understood and workable. I do an ezine right now as I thrive on deadlines and it is often what pulls me out of a funk. Thankfully being forthright about my problem has made it possible for me to continue.

    This isn't about bashing companies or designers. I am thankful for both. I applaud all of you and enjoy the continued inspiration that we all reap as a result.

  18. You said what you said very well. I've never been on a design team - have often thought I'd love to get to a point that I could apply and be accepted. I strive to learn as much as I can with that goal in mind. Thanks for the insight.

  19. Having read the Cindy's original blog and all the comments and having been on a design team I see a ongoing thread here. If you and the company are a fit----it is a wonderful experience.

    Having been on the Stamnpers Quest DT, I can tell you that they are great, but the DT part was not for me. My paying job is seasonal and high pressure. There have been several other factors in my life that have been stress factors as well. Another deadline was just too much. Right now I am writing tips, tricks and techniques for Stampers Quest with no pressure. Ahhh!!!! thank you. I love it. I have about 40 ideas simmering. They will probably all be done about the same time. LOL

  20. I have to admit that I've often thought about applying for a DT position, but never have. I usually go look at what they're expecting and think there's just no way. I have times that I'm feeling crafty and times that I just want to settle with a good book. There are times that I want to stamp simply, or technique driven or artistically. I can struggle for days to make something look just right. I can't imagine that the constant deadlines leave much room for 'fun' stamping.
    I hate to think of anyone in the business of stamping as a cheapskate. And I can certainly name a few companies that seem to have gotten it right. But more and more often I see the same names, the same styles, the same colors on everything (including blogs, magazines, and large forums) to the point where I don't even look very often anymore. I have favorite bloggers that I visit regularly - but I usually find them by accident instead of through DTs.
    Anyway, I think what you said was well considered and appropriate. And I think I'll stick to stamping for *FUN*! :)

  21. I agree with everything you said. I think design team members (and artists in general) are taken advantage of because there are so many of us that when some of us refuse to work under unfair conditions, there are always others willing to take our place, because of the "vanity factor" -- being able to say "My work is carried in such-and-such shop," etc. I started with the idea that I would tolerate unfair conditions in terms of underpayment, etc., as a temporary apprenticeship ... but with time, I saw that, in general, it was assumed I would be content to undervalue my own time and efforts forever. I realized I had to respect myself before anyone else would -- even if it means going without some of the "vanity" perks. I've come to value my time and to consider myself a professional. Thank you for speaking out!

  22. Interesting topic! Sounds like there is much to be said from all sides.
    My sister has a small e-stamp store where she designs her own images. She's been doing this now for 3.5 years, and barely breaks even. She does it because she loves it; maybe one day she'll be able to take a salary from it, too.
    She has had a design team for 3 years now, and has always tried to be good to her team. She does only send them one set a month, but it is a set of their choosing, and they are not obligated to mail anything anywhere. Everything they make is theirs to keep, sell, or give away. She asks them to post once a week - so 4 times a month in total. She also gives them access to all of her digital designs for free, and lets them have a 30% discount off anything they might want from her store.
    She used to give a 50% discount during their birthday month, and then only 20% the other months, but there have been a number of DT over the course of 3 years who had to drop out for various life reasons (one even left mid-term to open her own stamp store). So, now the term has been reduced to only 6 months, thus the elimination of the birthday discount became necessary, and the increase from 20% to 30% to offset that loss.
    She does have her designers sign a contract that outlines their roles & responsibilities, as well as their compensation. They also are required to join her yahoo group (private, for DT only) where they share inspiration, and can get sneak previews of the new releases. Occasionally, they even get to have input on what goes on new plates (image suggestions or requests for favorite phrases, etc). She tries to create a close-knit feeling where each member is a valued part of the family.
    She also tries to choose DT members that represent all levels of creativity. There are always some members on her team who have never been on a DT team before. She makes sure to reserve 25-50% of the open positions for “newbies.” As a tip for potential designers, she has started the past year or so only choosing people who either have an active blog, or are active posters to a gallery/forum that gets some traffic. After all, the whole point of the DT is to showcase the stamps; that can’t be accomplished if the potential DT doesn’t belong or post anywhere.
    OK, well, this went on much longer than intended! Sorry! Good topic! :o)

  23. Great discussion. Thanks for starting this, Cindy!

    Overall, know your goals. My goal is to be a teacher, first. So that means that time HOME is precious and I don't do the design teams anymore. I will do guest designer spots because I can live with the commitment. I learned quickly how much time DTs can take. All of us bite off more than we can create at some point. Communicate.

    If you want exposure and product, then design teams can be really fun. Loving the company's product is essential. If it feels like a chore - it will show in your work. So yes - JOY is essential.

    Product is usually what they will send you for your work. If this is ok with you, look for opportunities to make money in other ways, such as publication compensation and show work compensation. If you do good work this shouldn't be a part of the base obligation - but an opportunity for those that will work harder.

    If they want things mailed to them, ask at a bare minimum for a UPS Call Tag to be setup or their Fedex Account Number. A good double-walled cardboard box, packing material, tape, etc - isn't cheap when you aren't simply mailing a card.

    A good DT coordinator can really make or break the relationship. I was on a team one year and everything they designed looked the same - same color scheme etc. The DT coordinator wasn't plugged into the company at all - so one CHA she asked me to take an older, unthemed line and make it look Winter. Well wouldn't you know the company came out with a Winter theme product line - so similar in color scheme to the one I was working with, with a base color trade from white to cream. They didn't display my piece because it pointed out this fact so blatantly!! This was a big altered piece too. So disappointing. That DT coordinator needs to know what the company is looking for. Shortly after that show the entire DT was dismantled and they stopped having one. My point is they never really had one.

    I remember when one company sent me a HUGE box of product, including partner company product (huge Purple Cows trimmer in there and everything). I took one look at that big box and knew that a few years ago I would have been dancing in the streets, but my goals had changed. So I sent the entire box back and asked them to support my teaching efforts instead.

    Be reasonable. But ask for what you want! I learned that lesson from one of the girls that has posted here and it has served me well. Good golly, I have seen the most unreasonable expectations on both sides of the fence. One designer expected the company to give her ONE of EACH NEW PRODUCT. This company releases at least 500 new skus every trade show. How could it possibly benefit them to do that?

    With a large company I suggested that the company give their designers a product credit and let them choose what products best suited their styles from the new release. That way the work would be better and they would truly get a lot of styles represented.

    To the manufacturers - I think design team tryouts can be such a hurtful thing too. I've known people that are good designers and don't make a team. They do take it personally -- I think that it is counter-productive. I think it is far better to look for somebody that is actively posting on your blog, and theirs with work that you like then to have large cattle calls. But that's just my two cents. Building a team consitently over time and letting other members go when it makes sense is a nice way to keep things fresh.

    Product design? Don't even get me started. That should be another post entirely. I think my keyboard might catch fire.

  24. I'm not sure that I have much different to say than what's already been said...I worked for two digi sucked and one was WAS about communication, too...not the product because you got free digis from both companies.

    I guess my experience is different because I haven't worked for a PHYSICAL product company yet...except for Stampin Up! But let's not go there in this post. The DT work I've most enjoyed is for the challenge blogs I'm on... but there's no compensation except recognition in those.

    I too would just echo Etha's statement that you have to only apply for those companies you LOVE...because being forced to work with images you don't love really bites.

  25. .... if only the companies would read your (and our) thoughts here expressed ...
    Are they ignorant, or maybe just think they're shrewd business people!?

  26. I personally think you are right on Cindy. What you feel and think are your thoughts and no one can or should take that away from you. I also believe that the vendors should do a lot for the designers, especially if they are "working" for them. I also feel that the designers should design their own creative designs, not copy something and put a twist on it and then call it "their" own design. Too much of that is happening, and I for one don't appreciate that. My 2 cents and I'm sticking to it...

  27. My comments here may sound a bit harsh...I don't intend them that way. I'm
    just generalizing and not commenting on any specific person or company.

    I think the "design team" is just a new twist on free advertising. Smart
    companies have learned they can appeal to crafters' vanity and get them to
    work and advertise for free...just so they get their fifteen minutes of
    fame...payment enough, apparently, since there are so many of these
    so-called "teams". Large companies pay professional designers to do their
    work and I sincerely doubt they will pay the amateur "design team" members
    anything more than they do now. There are plenty of people who would like
    their ego stroked by being asked to participate on a "team", so why would

    If team members are unhappy with the terms under which they work, either
    renegotiate or quit. Those whom the company found valuable enough will get a
    phone call and a new deal. Those who don't, well, there's always someone
    else willing to do it for free....

  28. I hope this post gets passed about to those companies who do not treat their DT members fairly and it makes them think!

  29. Well said dear.
    I design for 1 stamp company Sugar Nellie and I have to say that Karen is the most sweetest person, she goes above and beyond for her Design Team. She never asks much out of us at all, just do our best. We do not have to send her anything unless we just want to, but this company is the best and I am so proud to be a part of her wonderful team!!!

  30. Well, this is food for thought, but nobody is twisting our arm and it does make me more motivated to think outside the box. We can always say no.