II Do you feel threaten by other designers?


To be continued… As many movie continuations out there, I decided to carry on my small social study I`ve started a few months. My only intention was to find out, what other fellow professionals would do if they were in my shoes. I was in front of  a business adviser, muted for a few minutes, by the assumption that working with other designers might become a doomed path, since they could feel threaten by my company various capabilities. So the question was more than obvious: Do you feel threaten by other designers?  Thanks to other professionals, which were active members of the LinkedIn Design+ group, quite a few interesting answers were given; some of them were published in my first article on this topic and others will follow bellow.

By this moment my discussion received around 46 comments, for which I`m very grateful. The answers made me realize that real life might be different from theory.

Larry Healey • Like most of the designers I have met we tend to inspire each other, there may always be the odd niggle (only being honest) when one sees a truly creative piece of work – oh why didn’t i think of that?! – but it quickly dissipates into a ‘nice one’… for the particular designer in question. I have found however that it’s not fellow designers you have to watch out for, but certain suppliers and employers ( on a freelance basis) who may tend to muddy the waters by comparing one designer to the other – printers (sorry guys but you can be bitches LOL). The bottom line is we are all originals and it’s what we think about ourselves and our professional approach too our work that keeps us on the ball.

Melinda Ziegler • One of the wonderful aspects of the design field is, I think, that camaraderie among fellow designers, printers, typesetters…creative others. It is a brother/sisterhood of like creative minds which spin off of one another to a synergy not otherwise achieved. Sure – collaborate with that designer – we all have so much to learn from one another. The only reason not to work together is jealousy or fear – both very bad traits.

Josten Dooley • I used to feel real insecure about designers who I perceived were better then me. So instead of being afraid that they will be better then you I’d work and collaborate with them on as much work as possible. Plus it will help both of you to learn somethings from each other design wise.

Jitendra Shah • If you have faith in your skills knowledge and experience and have a great portfolio then I don`t see why you should feel threatened. I`m not saying I’m perfect at what I do because I’m always learning but I do know I give each and every project my best, my services are down to a personal and friendly level and also deliver exactly what was promised + a little more which always impresses the client and makes me appreciate me and my services that much more.

Michell Tiburcio • I am 100% agree with all the comments before, and also everyone of us will be able to grow when you can compete with others in the professional way and work as a team at the same time, every day we learn from one to another co-workers and designers.

Christopher Pardell • I never have felt threatened by other designers, artists or sculptors.
They be my people. I rely on them to get professional feedback on my own work, and they often seek the same from me. We sometimes compete for the same projects… And that certainly entails some rivalry… But how your peers handle it when you beat them out tells you a lot about their level of professionalism and insecurity… And how you handle it when they beat you out demonstrates to them the generous spirit of a person secure in their talents, and their person.
When I have more work than I can handle, or a new client comes to me looking for service that I don’t have time to provide… I take pains to ensure some other deserving design profession gets that work or that client.
It’s not about the money today… It’s about your reputation and your place within a community of design professionals, both competitors, and clients. When I recommend to a potential client the artist that I feel will best serve them…and they are well served… That builds a feeling of generosity, reciprocity and confidence among the people who have dealt with you that will come back to you in ways you can not even foresee. If not monetarily, then in the friendship and camaraderie of your fellow designers and artists.
The petty and the mean spirited make their character known. As do those whose outlook is more positive. Business is not just about the job, the project, the billable.
It’s about relationships.
One of my apprentices went off on his own, and called me, a few years later to tell me he had found a vendor for a service we both had need of, who was 15% cheaper than the vendor I had used for ten years. I told him I would rather pay the extra 15%. He said he thought that was bad business… So I tried to explain… It’s not just that this vendor is a friend and needs my business… It’s not just that he does better quality work than the cheaper guy… It’s also that this vendor has recommended me, directly or indirectly, to 5 of the biggest and steadiest clients I have… Not to mention $20k/ yr or more of work he hands me directly. What’s 15% in the face of that kind of relationship?
Even your competitors are part of your network. Do right by them, and they will do right by you.

Christopher Pardell • I should qualify that as independent designers… We are not really corporations answerable to some board of bored and not involved investors. We tend to live in a realm of fellow individuals… Small business owners and others who conspire to make our working world a more intimate and personal space than that inhabited by corporate titans who are far more brutal as regards their competition…
And yet, even when we deal with major corporations, cites, or other governmental entities… Those people who hire or fire us are still people. If they have someone to answer to, our efforts and abilities and professionalism reflect on how they are perceived for choosing us.
And when we serve them well, behave honorably, and understand that our real job us to solve THEIR problem in the best possible way…( even if that means recommending another artist who we know will better fit their needs ) they remember and value us… They recommend us… And when they rise, or move to different companies, cities or industries, they carry our reputations with them.
Over time we find that we need spend less and less time drumming up work… It seems to find us, because our clients and peers have sown the seeds of our competence and professionalism farther than we know.
As artists, we get to live in a more personal and mutually supportive world, if we have the courage and the foresight to make it so.
Working is the creation of community. Our lives are blessed in this regard.

BRÏTSMA™Design Group Ltd. • Actually in our firm we have a policy that store fixture manufacturers caught advertising themselves as designers in addition to “cabinet makers”, not alone we automatically block them from bidding at any of our future projects, we recommend our extensive network design firms to do the same! Simply put it, a cabinet maker company that directly competes on jobs against designers, are intentionally “cutting-off” the hand that feeds them and they DO NOT DESERVE any designer’s consideration and business.

Our firm established this policy in the late 80’s and after we received reports by a substrate who worked on some of our jobs in the past that at one of their job sites they were working with drawings that bear design and design details identical to one of our own projects they worked on in the past, except the designer of this project was an Oklahoma based store fixture manufacturer who, as we found out later, their in-house “designers” (the stupid idiots did not even bother to execute the details themselves and copied and paste our own details, handwriting, specs style & all to the letter in their own design drawings) used our design group’s store design and design details of a jewelry store they worked on for our firm in the recent years to design one of their new “clients” store. As a result, our firm filed a copyright infringement against them and won a compensation and a restriction upon them using thereafter on any of our details. By the late 90’s, this 250 employee company went out of business.

We as professional designers are limited to make our living on restricted design fees and we do not have the luxury of the large profit margins of store fixture manufacturers and cabinet makers; so we ought it to ourselves and to our livelihoods to be preempted and careful to whom we give work to and blocking any and all such contractors who are out there with the intention of taking away business from us and put us out of business! It is pure and simple, pure common sense and no brainier.

Our network within our professional industry is strong and we suggest to you all to strengthen your network and protect your work which is your living and block and do not give any work to such characters and companies. These store fixture companies, the cabinet makers, that claim themselves as designers too, regardless whether they have own qualified designers on staff, they are there for take away the business and livelihood of you and us designers and THEY DO NOT DESERVE to make a not even a single penny from our jobs! Simply put it, if they are designers manufacturers, they should be treated as your worst enemy!

David Bergsonchild AIA, ASID
Managing Design Director
BRITSMA™ Design Group Ltd.
Designers since 1980

At one point, as in any kind of discussions, things got hot. But in the end it all settle down, since it was the same situation as ever: misscommunication issues. My answer to David`s comment:

Camelia Ioana Man • Well, hello there to you too David! Your comment was one of a kind. Not sure how to take it, since my company can easily fall under your “torrents” of anger. I can sympathize with you for your bad experience, but I will disagree on certain aspects. First of all if you are working on restricted fees is because you provide a service; you want to make more? Then extend you capabilities. It is shameful that other people copied your designs, but at least they got what they`ve deserved. Second, cabinet makers do not make such a large profit margin; this is a typical judgement exhibited in all areas of work,by someone who never manufactured anything so far. Since you represent a company I suggest to take it easier with judging you collaborators; unless you can do their job at least as well as they do it, you are not in a spot to judge them. If you think you and your company is capable of taking care of all the work in the world, I challenge you to see how you`ll be handling that task! I see a lot of bitterness in your tone and some inconsistencies in your comments, such as: why do you consider “designer manufacturers as you worse enemy” and not your “fellow designers as well”? After all the answers I received above I refuse to believe that a successfully company is based on such a consideration.

But David, this is your vision and it must have worked so far. So good luck with that in the future too!

Greg Garrett • I sympathize with David and his company’s experience, and agree with him in a few ways, although not to the full extent.

Design is not to be taken lightly, and not to be taken advantage of. When I design a one off environment for a group or company, they pay me for that design——–but they have the use of it in the future, I can’t control that. they can then do what they want with the design, which means nothing if that is their decision. They paid for it. if it is a design done in competition with others, and my design doesn’t win, then so be it. I can use it, they shouldn’t use it without my consent. if they use my design ultimately, but pass it off as someone else’s design and it goes unpaid, then I do have a problem with it——and I will contact them for payment.

David’s example was exactly that, and BRITSMA has a right to that design and it’s copyright. Designers and groups lose revenue all the time and never find out about it when others take their designs and capitalize on it without paying. I find it abusive of capitalism, and unethical. In this specific case, BRITSMA’s ownership was pasted all over it. Using the design without consent is wrong on many levels and shouldn’t go unpunished if a contract reads to protect the designer.

I don’t, however, have problem with a company that builds for me, designing products and selling design services if those they are professing to be their designs are obviously their own designs. You CAN be both design and build, but unless you have the right to use a design from an outside source for your own company’s furthering, that design stays within your company’s files until the designers want to use it again.

On the issue of feeling threatened, I believe you have to see the positive in what others bring to the table, and see your strengths are different than someone else’s. in other words, you aren’t really competing with anyone else but your own capabilities, creativity and the ability to make that creative output work effectively is the art. If you have what they want and its different than what someone else has to offer, then you have nothing to feel threatened about. No?

BRÏTSMA™Design Group Ltd. • To Camelia Ioana Man & Greg Garrett;

Thanks for your comments. Although, it seems that, for whichever reason(s) only you can explain and I won’t go into a discussion for them, you are taking it and presenting it as my comments were against fabricators, cabinet companies and millwork manufacturers, which definitely is not the case.

For over 30 years our project managers in all our offices have been and are working with a variety of these trades, small and large, not alone across the country but across the world and working closely with these trades helping not alone execute their contracted work with the least of their inconvenience, time loss, etc, but to making sure that their profit margins are maintained for a well done work.

Unfortunately, in your industry as it is in all other industries, you have this small insignificant group of the bad and ugly individuals or companies that spoil everyone elses day! And in most cases just about everyone in our industry know who they are and are treating them accordingly.

The point I would like to conclude on this subject is that there needs to be trust, respect and cooperation among trades and the Architects and Designers in a market, simply for everyone to practice their craft, make their money and, most importantly, their Clients get their money’s worth and end up with an end design that best suits their operation and the targeted market they serve! Simple as that.

But when, especially our NY office, we get calls from retailers asking us to visit their recently completed stores so we can troubleshoot them and tell them what is wrong with them as they do not work out as they expected it to, that’s very sad. and it shows where the bottom line of these designer imitators cabinet shops is, their own pocket book and nothing else, that;s disgraceful, unethical, unprofessional and not right! If you still disagree, then I rest my case. Cheers, David B

Christopher Pardell • As I said, the petty and unprofessional will reveal themselves.

Whenever I have a client who tells me they can get the work done for a lot less, I simply tell them simply that, if they can’t afford me, that they should go wherever they choose.

I may lose a job or two to under-cutters and copycats… But in my experience these clients almost always come back to me after finding out, the hard way, that poachers do not really offer the competence and professional experience they really need.
And, quite frankly, any client whose only concern is the cheapest price they can get, rather than the quality of design work, and correspondingly better market result, is not a client I even want.

The bottom line is that you can do nothing about the poachers and thieves. As you discover them, you shun them and count on the fact that others will do the same.

Instead… You focus on cultivating a reputation for excellence, fairness, professionalism and quality… Because, as an independent designer, the only clientele worth having is the folks who value that, and who recognize the value of relationship over the long haul.

Chris Hughbanks MFA • I have found that feeling threatened does not help you , nor anyone else. I myself would bring up the point of him doing design and maybe work out a sort of non compete agreement . Once that is settled, enjoy having another designer around to possibly bounce ideas or techniques off. Another perspective always helps.

Collin Jones • Competition is what drives us to be better in this field. Regardless of what type of design you do the other people who are doing the same thing give you something to work for and someone to try and be better then. I love and welcome all competition from other designer however I also really like working on projects with other designers too haha

BRÏTSMA™Design Group Ltd. • To Camelia;
Well said everyone and respectfully accept your comments on the subject sensitive area my comments seemed to may have touched. Camelia, no bitterness towards anyone intended and that’s how my comments sounded like, then perhaps my points may have not been cleared enough.

The design profession, like all other professions in our society is expected to have “challenges” of all kinds and definitely competition among professional members; and that’s the healthy part of the “game” for all of us practicing and living our passion and our craft for design.

Having lived and practiced “my craft” for over 30 years so far in my “young” life, in London, NY and Toronto, I experienced different kind of competition “challenges” respectful among most professionals and, unfortunately not so among few (the group I was referring to in my initial posting) who put greed ahead of honesty & healthy living in practicing their “craft”!

To Chris and Collin;
You both live a happy professional life like I do! That’s what practicing our craft is all about. Although we, all design professionals, have gone through a similar schooling & training, every each one of us has develop our own unique design direction and style often influenced by our own personality and by the different quirks we picked up along the way in our professional lives. Life is short and we ought it to ourselves to enjoy it the best possible way and it is fine to “loose” few prospective projects along the way. There is work out there for everyone. Bottom line, like Collin said, competition is what drives the creativity among us all getting us to learn more and improve further our “craft”.

To all;
We, the Designers, are creators, innovators and, above all, we are excellent dreamers, who, with the help of our education, work experience, special design quirks we developed along the way and the character style we developed over the duration of practicing our “craft”, we bring our dreams to life for the best benefit of our Clients who entrust us with their own ideas and dreams, along with their financial investment. In all, Designers provide their services for a fee and profit. Trade manufacturers and contractors are the executors of the Designers designs for a price that includes their profit. And, indeed Camelia as you rightly put it, Clients as the “investors” in all of the above rightly so are in control of who will execute their their project(s) and help them get a healthy return on their investment and no-one can tell them that they are wrong or right in how they go about it, except the end result! We as Designers, the only thing we can do is to enlighten Clients on our design services and the potentials working with us, something that AIA and ASID are doing a very good job in their promotions. But why is there a problem within our industry then? There is a problem because of a short-sight and often greed by some, perhaps uncleared messages to the consumer on the benefits of using a professional Designer, perhaps Designers that are not making their positions cleared and not warning manufacturers and contractors who present themselves as designers that, when they do so, the Designers won’t support them any longer and perhaps extend that warning to the extend of blacklisting them (something we already done in our firm and such companies are not invited in our tenders) as well. The latter is a bid harsh, but hey, if it comes down to honesty, sincerity between professionals and industry common sense and your livelihood, how else would you approach it? I all ears. 🙂

Hap Parker • I love collaboration, both with other designers, but also with many other professions/skill-sets. I usually find new & useful information, techniques, and connections, both interpersonal and cognitive. I prefer having access to points of view beyond my own. In the end, the designs usually perform better under conditions like these, but I still have responsibility to stand up for and protect my designs.

Starting this discussion was one of the best decision I ever made. It gave me insights about other fellow professionals thoughts that I coudn`t get otherwise. And it made me calmer and more positive that the idea of working with other designers is indeed a good one and not a business killer!

RECOMMENDED:  Why Designers?

Our discussion is still open on the group: feel free to get involved by posting comments there or here. They will be highly appreciated!

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Writer, visual artist and at home chef. Writing is a way to represent the world at its best!

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