1. Share Document is a collection of writings on design, edited by Clifton Burt and Nicole Lavelle, and published by Ampersand on the occasion of Design Week Portland 2013. The book is available for purchase here. With big thanks to the editors and contributors, we’re sharing the essays that were published last year here on the blog.
Ten Lessons Graphic Designers Learn That Every Artist Should Understand
By Jen Delos Reyes
I have spent the past five years co-directing an MFA program at Portland State University focused on art and social practice. The program is based on a foundation of access, community, collaboration and engagement. It values and acknowledges multiple forms of knowledge, and embraces an interdisciplinary approach to contemporary art. The mantra of the program could easily be that art and social practice starts and ends not in rarefied spaces, but out in the world. The program educates and activates students to develop and utilize their artistic skills to engage in society. It is the kind of learning that creates engaged citizens.
I believe that the fairly recent interest in and proliferation of art programs that focus on what is being referred to as either art and social practice, public practice, or community arts is in part because these programs propose not only alternate forms of sustainability for an art practice outside of market constraints, but promote the multitude of ways artists can function in the world. However the majority of these programs are at the graduate MFA level only, which is highly problematic.
I believe that an artist’s relationship to and placement in society should not be an area of specialization, or afterthought, but instead a core component of the education of all artists. Because I believe that all artists need to contemplate and consider context, publics, and relationships, I have recently been making the argument that art and social practice needs to be taught at a foundations level. As much as artists are pushed to develop craft and hone in on concepts, they should be thinking about context, publics, and social function. This should be the basis of all art education today.

Foundation classes in socially engaged art are not a requirement, or even an offering at most universities and art schools, however there is a place where these important creative lessons are being taught. Socially engaged artists (or any artists for that matter) can look to designers for an education that fully considers publics, context, use, and outcome. Designers are encouraged to think about collaboration, communication, and relationships in fundamental ways. The following are ten key things designers learn that I believe all artists should also understand.
1. Know your public
There is no such thing as the public or a general audience.
Get specific.
Get to know who you are trying to be in conversation with so you can best engage them.
2. Collaboration
Every aspect of what you do is a collaboration.
You are never alone in the process.
Remember that and work with it, not against it.
3. Communication
Communication is needed to make anything happen.
It is not only a tool, but the final product.
There will be a lot of communication in the process stages.
4. Context
Know your stuff.
Know the stuff around you.
Get to know the people around you.
Know the history around you.
Know everything you can about what you are working on.
5. Relationships
You need good relationships to make good work.
There are many relationships to consider.
Your relationship to the work.
Your relationship to your collaborators.
Your relationship to the world.
The relationship of the work to the lives of others.
6. Implications
All the work you do has an outcome.
It has a role.
It has a value.
It can be impacted by the actions of its users.
7. Your work belongs in the world
Period.
“I find the art world itself a ghetto and its distribution within the gallery system not very compelling.” —Stefan Sagmeister
8. Share often
Circulating ideas makes them better.
Sharing in the process is necessary.
Have a constant dialogue about the work you are doing.
9. Work hard
This all takes work.
Try many directions and possibilities.
Once you think the work is done, don’t be surprised if it is not.
Don’t be afraid to the work again.
And again.
10. Keep learning, keep making
This is a process.
This is iterative.
Put the things you learn into action.
Keep doing it.
Jen Delos Reyes is a creative laborer, educator, writer, and radical community arts organizer. Her practice is as much about working with institutions as it is about creating and supporting sustainable artist-led culture. Delos Reyes worked within Portland State University from 2008–2014 to create the first flexible residency Art and Social Practice MFA program in the United States and devised the curriculum that focused on place, engagement, and dialogue. The flexible residency program allows for artists embedded in their communities to remain on site throughout their course of study.
She has worked with the Portland Art Museum since 2009 to create a series of programs and integrated systems that allow for artists to rethink what can happen in a museum, and reinvigorate the idea of the museum as a public space. She is the director and founder of Open Engagement, an international annual conference on socially engaged art that has been active since 2007 and hosted six conferences in two countries at locations including the Queens Museum in New York. She is currently working on I’m Going to Live the Life I Sing About in My Song: How Artists Make and Live Lives of Meaning, a book exploring the artist impetus toward art and everyday life.

    Share Document is a collection of writings on design, edited by Clifton Burt and Nicole Lavelle, and published by Ampersand on the occasion of Design Week Portland 2013. The book is available for purchase here. With big thanks to the editors and contributors, we’re sharing the essays that were published last year here on the blog.


    Ten Lessons Graphic Designers Learn That Every Artist Should Understand

    By Jen Delos Reyes

    I have spent the past five years co-directing an MFA program at Portland State University focused on art and social practice. The program is based on a foundation of access, community, collaboration and engagement. It values and acknowledges multiple forms of knowledge, and embraces an interdisciplinary approach to contemporary art. The mantra of the program could easily be that art and social practice starts and ends not in rarefied spaces, but out in the world. The program educates and activates students to develop and utilize their artistic skills to engage in society. It is the kind of learning that creates engaged citizens.

    I believe that the fairly recent interest in and proliferation of art programs that focus on what is being referred to as either art and social practice, public practice, or community arts is in part because these programs propose not only alternate forms of sustainability for an art practice outside of market constraints, but promote the multitude of ways artists can function in the world. However the majority of these programs are at the graduate MFA level only, which is highly problematic.

    I believe that an artist’s relationship to and placement in society should not be an area of specialization, or afterthought, but instead a core component of the education of all artists. Because I believe that all artists need to contemplate and consider context, publics, and relationships, I have recently been making the argument that art and social practice needs to be taught at a foundations level. As much as artists are pushed to develop craft and hone in on concepts, they should be thinking about context, publics, and social function. This should be the basis of all art education today.

    Read More

  2. Bryan Wasetis from Aspect Law Group works primarily with artists, designers and makers on issues we face, like licensing and protecting intellectual property.
He’s here to answer all of your burning legal questions. This week:
Negotiating Contract Terms: Kill Fees
Question: What is the recommended kill fee for independent contractors to put in their client contracts?
Response: This is an interesting question because it highlights an important aspect of contracts: they aren’t all the same! From the outside, a contract seems like a rigid document that must be kept as is, but in reality contracts are very flexible and can be written to address any number of scenarios.
As a result, there really isn’t a specific, recommended kill fee, but I’ll address that in a moment.
[[MORE]]
Importance of a Written Contract
A lot of people I talk to think of written contracts as just a business formality, but they actually serve many important purposes. Contracts help start a conversation with the other party about the terms of the agreement, and they also serve as something to look back on in case a dispute arises.
Having a conversation about certain issues, like when a party can terminate the agreement, is important because you want to have agreed on the consequences before you encounter the situation. Also, you help establish a good working relationship with your client by talking about the contract in advance, which comes in handy in the event that something doesn’t go the way it was planned.
Secondly, you want to be able to point to your contract if a dispute arises, especially because negotiating an amendment to a contract that’s on the rocks is messy business. So make sure you at least know the following in detail before you enter into an agreement:

1. Who the parties to the agreement are2. The scope of work and how to complete it3. How payment works4. How to get out of the agreement

Lastly, read your contract! Just because you talked about it doesn’t mean it made it into the document. Make sure the contract accurately states the agreement.
Contract Terms: What is a Kill Fee?
A “kill fee” is a type of contract clause that requires the client to pay some amount of money in the event that the client cancels or postpones (kills) the project. That money is referred to as “liquidated damages”. The point of a kill fee is to ensure that you are fully compensated for your time and work, and to balance the risk of long-term clients.
Oftentimes a client’s project is large enough that you need to commit most or all of your time to it for an extended period, which doesn’t allow you to pick up new clients. Kill fees can balance that risk and protect you by compensating for both the amount you have already completed and also for your lost future earnings if the project is cancelled and leaves you without work.
There is no “standard” kill fee — kill fees should be tailored to address the risk involved with the project. Generally, a kill fee needs to accurately reflect an attempt to compensate for losses due to cancellation of the project. Common kill fee provisions include forfeiture of a deposit, some percentage of the purchase price, or a percentage of the purchase price plus additional expenses.
As said before, the kill fee needs to be a reasonable attempt to determine fair damages. This is important because courts won’t enforce contract clauses that serve as penalties. Most states have laws that address liquidated damages, so check your state’s laws for more guidance on kill fee requirements.
Alternative Options
While a kill fee is definitely something you should consider, there are other options that can also protect you and can be used in combination with or as an alternative to a kill fee. These include nonrefundable deposits, pay schedules, and ownership of intellectual property, among others.
Nonrefundable deposits are a great way to ensure that you get paid for work in advance, and a pay schedule can be used to make sure you receive a check every few weeks instead of waiting until the end of a project and possibly never getting paid. Also, who owns the intellectual property if you don’t get paid? You can retain ownership until full payment as a safeguard.
Negotiate the Terms
Don’t be afraid if your client wants to negotiate terms, or if you receive a contract that you want to change. Negotiations are normal and part of a healthy client relationship — you want to make sure that your client is happy with the final product while also securing the best deal for yourself.
One of the benefits of adding the options above is that you can use it to negotiate better terms for yourself elsewhere in the contract if your client doesn’t like it. This actually applies to all contract terms.
For example, if you have a kill fee and the client wants it removed, you can leverage for a nonrefundable deposit if you don’t have one already. You can essentially bargain for better terms anywhere in your contract in exchange for removing the kill fee or whatever term the client doesn’t like.
The Takeaway:
Contracts are flexible documents that should be used to your benefit. You can add or remove anything, including kill fees, to better your position in the agreement.
I hope that helps and thanks for the question!
Have a legal question for Bryan? You can submit one here.
Notice: This column is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice based on a review of individual circumstances. Please contact an attorney regarding your particular legal issues. :)

    Bryan Wasetis from Aspect Law Group works primarily with artists, designers and makers on issues we face, like licensing and protecting intellectual property.

    He’s here to answer all of your burning legal questions. This week:

    Negotiating Contract Terms: Kill Fees

    Question: What is the recommended kill fee for independent contractors to put in their client contracts?

    Response: This is an interesting question because it highlights an important aspect of contracts: they aren’t all the same! From the outside, a contract seems like a rigid document that must be kept as is, but in reality contracts are very flexible and can be written to address any number of scenarios.

    As a result, there really isn’t a specific, recommended kill fee, but I’ll address that in a moment.

    Read More

  3. Do you know about Switchboard?
It’s a local startup (!), and a place for trusted community classifieds. With Switchboard, you can ask for what you need and offer what you have within a small group of trustworthy people who want to help each other out and solve problems. There are already boards for local groups like the Portland Meat Collective and Women’s Cycling Network.
We just set up the Design Portland board, where you’ll find job offers, computers and equipment for sale, volunteer opportunities, requests to meet up with other designers, and more.
So if you have something to ask or offer — Switchboard it! Let’s grow this resource together. 

    Do you know about Switchboard?

    It’s a local startup (!), and a place for trusted community classifieds. With Switchboard, you can ask for what you need and offer what you have within a small group of trustworthy people who want to help each other out and solve problems. There are already boards for local groups like the Portland Meat Collective and Women’s Cycling Network.

    We just set up the Design Portland board, where you’ll find job offers, computers and equipment for sale, volunteer opportunities, requests to meet up with other designers, and more.

    So if you have something to ask or offer — Switchboard it! Let’s grow this resource together. 

  4. A journey from the heart—sketchXchange with Lisa Congdon

    wemakepdx:

    image

    Layered color, patterns, and abstract shapes are often combined with hand lettering creating a body of work that is diverse yet recognizable. This is the work of Lisa Congdon, a painter, an illustrator, a writer, a seamstress, a teacher and more. When I first met Lisa I knew one thing….

    Read more here.

  5. A few questions for Keegan Meegan & Co.
What do you do? How does Portland play into your story?
Design, illustration, letterpress printing, and dog whispering. Portland is our home. A beautiful setting, on the river with mountains in view, for a fantastically supportive creative community. Hard to beat that.
How do you want to shape design in Portland? (Do you?)
We like to think evolution happens when you let go and innovation happens spontaneously, be it constraints or lack there of.
How does our city help you grow? How does it limit you?
The city has been in the national spotlight for some time, which has given us national and global exposure. Yet it’s still a little city with a great small business community.
What are you looking forward to at DWP this year?
Random acts of awesome. 
Recommend one great thing to see or do or eat in Portland.
Rum Club, shotski.

    A few questions for Keegan Meegan & Co.

    What do you do? How does Portland play into your story?

    Design, illustration, letterpress printing, and dog whispering. Portland is our home. A beautiful setting, on the river with mountains in view, for a fantastically supportive creative community. Hard to beat that.

    How do you want to shape design in Portland? (Do you?)

    We like to think evolution happens when you let go and innovation happens spontaneously, be it constraints or lack there of.

    How does our city help you grow? How does it limit you?

    The city has been in the national spotlight for some time, which has given us national and global exposure. Yet it’s still a little city with a great small business community.

    What are you looking forward to at DWP this year?

    Random acts of awesome. 

    Recommend one great thing to see or do or eat in Portland.

    Rum Club, shotski.

  6. Put A Bird In It – Featured Maker, Kinoko Evans

    wemakepdx:

    Her characters might be adorably playful, but Kinoko is a serious illustration powerhouse. She does way more than just put pen to paper. Kinoko teaches comics at PNCA and instructs at the IPRC. A constant stream of her work flows through Grasshut, Floating World and comic shows around…

    Looking forward to all of WeMake’s super events during DWP. 

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