As graphic designers, animators, web designers, and other multi-media artists, we are increasingly forced to content ourselves with 19th century working hours (necessitating no overtime pay), deteriorating benefits, and perpetual financial and job insecurity. By their glaring omission from print and online journals, these concerns register as nonissues. We are therefore left with the impression that informal work environments and the intellectual gratification permitted by creative design render these grievances irrelevant.

We have for too long maintained an irrational faith in the divine spirits of Good Design, whose healing powers, once summoned, are believed to secure a place of steady employment for all pious devotees. But talent, hard work, and compliance with professional standards can in no way offset the fundamental commitment by business to profitability, the driving force behind market-economics, which invariably places ever-more downward pressure on us to work faster, to work harder, and to work longer. The so-called "right" of our bosses to terminate our employment "at will," on the one hand, and the overflowing ranks of well-trained and well-motivated surplus designers, on the other, solidifies into a very real threat that, insofar as we might object to these conditions, our positions will be recouped by more "dedicated" and more "appreciative" designers.

Albeit not necessarily by those with full-time status. The cost-saving protocols of "lean" production have prompted a steady rise in contingency workers, i.e., freelancers, who are periodically brought on and disposed of just as quickly without burdening employers with the inconveniences of paying for health insurance or a steady wage. Voluntary or not, freelancing represents a larger theme whereby workers — skilled and unskilled, mental and manual alike — must instead incur these costs themselves.

However much we may take these circumstances for granted — as Just The Way It Is — this semblance of normality constitutes a giant step back for workers. The eight-hour day has effectively become a radical demand. But this illusion is only maintained by the relative newness of the industry, and by the rapid submission of older traditions to newer technology, whose combined effect has left a new generation unorganized and unprepared to challenge the increased weight placed upon us by studio-heads and clients.

These conditions are not eternal truths. They can be contested. A broad-based labor union, one with strong rank-and-file participation, would provide us with the collective power necessary in tipping the scales in our direction. But a more immediate and achievable aim should be the creation of independent channels where these concerns can take root and flourish; where cut-throat competition, a weed nourished by profit demands, can begin to be uprooted and replanted with the seeds of active solidarity.

If this sounds of interest, please drop a line to:
 visualdesignunion@gmail.com

Perhaps as a starting-point to these ends, a mailing list (or better yet, a website) can be created to bring together otherwise atomized voices.

The only way this can take off is if we get the word out. Copy-and-paste this message to appropriate forums or forward it to co-workers, fellow designers, and anyone that might be interested. Thanks!