Picking a designer to lead the aesthetic of a brand is a tricky business. With the scrutiny surrounding every collection and each catwalk look poured over on social media, the stakes are high. It is, however, something of an inexact science. The hiring process needs to analyse both the effect a designer has previously had on labels throughout their career, but more importantly the impact they potentially could have if they were hired.
Traditionally companies have set a designer a small project to get an inkling of how their natural handwriting marries to their brand DNA. Historically a label would expect a few inspiration tear-sheets and some sketches – a flavour of what a designer could bring to the table.
However over the past few years, the expectations around these projects have been increasingly inflated. This is partly due to there being fewer really desirable roles around and so candidates have ‘really gone for it’ when given the chance to impress. But likewise the actual briefs have got bigger and more specific with brands are expecting far more work in a shorter space of time.
This courageous article by former designer Jackie Mallon questions the ethics around this practice. We think this is going to become a big topic for discussion.
“Brands have come to believe this practice is a way for companies to receive work for free. Because too many of them (candidates) are left hanging after turning in an extensive body of work without so much as an emailed “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.“ Because many have seen their ideas mysteriously turn up in stores the following season, or on the runway, and there’s little they can do about it.”
What really comes across in this article is the desire for full and thorough feedback. If a brand is going to ask a designer to spend significant time and resource on a project, have the courtesy to really give some considered feedback on their efforts. A vague “it wasn’t what we were looking for” isn’t good enough. If a company can’t give the feedback, then pay them the going freelance rate.
And given that the designer likes a brand enough to want to work there, there is a good chance they could also be a current or potential customer. Currently too many leave such a process with a sour taste in their mouth.
Have a read of Jackie’s piece here