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Student Design: Practice, Portfolio, or Practical?

Over the summer, my father came up to me and asked for me to modify some pictures for use on Ebay.  A simple enough project, but an interesting moral dilemma for me.  If it had been anyone other then my father, I would have immediately responded “How much are you gonna pay me?”  Why did I stop?  He would have been more then happy to.  While my family may make a habit of trading favors in their fields (ie, my Dad fixes all computers, my Aunt keeps us up-to-date on Broadway musicals, etc.) we never expect my other Aunt to just design a house free of charge, or my cousin to write my papers for me.  So why have I never asked for anything?  Is it only because it is my family?  If I start charging him, maybe they will stop using me for cheap design labor.  For example, my sister asked me to draw her and her friends. Rrright, I’ll get right on that.

In high school, my senior year consisted of several graphic design projects.  The problem was, at no point was I in a graphic design class.  My class consisted of 9 former Digital Imaging students who graduated to the 3D animation class.  It seems the administration didn’t care that we couldn’t get our actual schoolwork done because we had too many design projects to do.  And yet, at no point were we ever given money or even just benefits for these.  We were blantantly used as free design labor.  Why is compensation for design work such a hard concept for some people to understand?   Yes, I realize I am just a student and am not a professional, but even I don’t need that much practice.  That really is all it becomes if I am not paid.  I’m just practicing my skills.  It if turns out well, maybe it will make it to my portfolio.  When is the point that I can say, “hey, can i make some money this time?”


  1. dgreeng wrote:

    I go through the same problem as you do. But getting paid to do work isn’t really that big of a deal. One the one hand, its still more experience. And of course, it is somewhat of recognition of your work.

    Graphic design is also about the fun of the imagination and being able to go outside boundaries to think of something new and unqiue.

    Monday, September 29, 2008 at 6:00 pm | Permalink
  2. Liz wrote:

    My first response to that was actually “It is all about the money.” I don’t really believe that, but being a poor college student, soon to be a poor entry-level employee, I’m sure this will be my state of mind for a while.

    Monday, September 29, 2008 at 6:19 pm | Permalink