Blogless: Blog of Design Less Better.

Posts tagged Business.

Should you work for free?

DLB favorite Jessica Hische presents a flowchart to help you respond to spec work requests.

Jessica Hische: Should you work for free?
An excerpt from the chart.

TLDR: Should you work for free? No, unless it is for your Mom.

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NickJan 19, 2011
 

The Brown M&M Clause

A legendary case of rock and roll eccentricity turns out to be a clever management tactic.

Van Halen's Brown M&M's

You’ve probably heard some variation of the story before (erroneously attributed to Ozzy Osbourne in Wayne’s World 2):

…Van Halen’s standard concert contract called for them to be provided with a bowl of M&Ms backstage, but with provision that all the brown candies must be removed. The presence of even a single brown M&M in that bowl, rumor had it, was sufficient legal cause for Van Halen to peremptorily cancel a scheduled appearance without advance notice (and usually an excuse for them to go on a destructive rampage as well).

According to Snopes this is true, but not for why you might expect.

Quoting David Lee Roth:

Van Halen was the first band to take huge productions into tertiary, third-level markets. We’d pull up with nine eighteen-wheeler trucks, full of gear, where the standard was three trucks, max. And there were many, many technical errors — whether it was the girders couldn’t support the weight, or the flooring would sink in, or the doors weren’t big enough to move the gear through.

The contract rider read like a version of the Chinese Yellow Pages because there was so much equipment, and so many human beings to make it function. So just as a little test, in the technical aspect of the rider, it would say “Article 148: There will be fifteen amperage voltage sockets at twenty-foot spaces, evenly, providing nineteen amperes . . .” This kind of thing. And article number 126, in the middle of nowhere, was: “There will be no brown M&M’s in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation.”

So, when I would walk backstage, if I saw a brown M&M in that bowl . . . well, line-check the entire production. Guaranteed you’re going to arrive at a technical error. They didn’t read the contract. Guaranteed you’d run into a problem. Sometimes it would threaten to just destroy the whole show. Something like, literally, life-threatening.

The lesson: read your contracts. And don't underestimate Van Halen.

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NickOct 7, 2010
 
Tagged with: Business, Contracts, M&Ms, Myths

Four Design Links:
July 8, 2010

Four Design Links is a review of the design- and ethics-related stories we've been reading online this week. This week: the power of the pause, unhealthy 3D, stupid designers and their clients, and Dell's unethical behavior.

1. The Power of the Pause

One for the Less is Better file, Bobulate asks us to consider the effect of pauses within design:

Walter Benjamin reminds us “architecture is experienced habitually in the state of distraction.” So when a structure that’s always been present on your daily walk suddenly becomes an empty lot, your definition of space and flow changes — there is a pause. And the surrounding environment takes a new form.

Read More.

2. More Evidence that 3D May be Harmful

Revisiting an old story, Slashdot has a few links that suggest 3D television might have adverse affects on people, particularly children.

Sega uncovered serious health risks involved with children consuming 3D and quickly buried the reports, and the project. Unfortunately, the same dangers exist in today's 3D, and the electronics, movie, and gaming industries seem to be ignoring the issue.

Read more

3. Stupid Is As Stupid Does

Another client post, this time from Andy Rutledge. I tend to agree with his take; designers should own up to more responsibility for a good or bad client experience:

There’s an easy test for evaluating design professionalism. The quality of your client experiences is directly proportional to the quality of your professionalism. If you have “stupid clients” it’s because you’re behaving stupidly to begin with, for we attract what we project. If you’ll stop being stupid, your clients’ IQs will increase dramatically.

Read More.

4. Dude, You're Getting a (Broken) Dell

Some bad ethics-related press for Dell. It seems they tried to cover up a hardware problem with some shady behavior and got written up in the NYT:

Documents recently unsealed in a three-year-old lawsuit against Dell show that the company’s employees were actually aware that the computers were likely to break. Still, the employees tried to play down the problem to customers and allowed customers to rely on trouble-prone machines, putting their businesses at risk. Even the firm defending Dell in the lawsuit was affected when Dell balked at fixing 1,000 suspect computers, according to e-mail messages revealed in the dispute.

The broken components had an estimated 97% failure rate, and they're not even going to fix their own lawyers computers? I'll say this: they stayed committed to their own story. To fix the computers would be to admit there was something wrong with them.

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NickJul 8, 2010
 

Four Design Links:
June 24, 2010

Four Design Links is a review of the design- and ethics-related stories we've been reading online this week. This week: consulting advice, the Google Charts API, Comic Sans reconsidered, and tricks developers use to make a browser appear faster

1. So you want to be a (freelance designer)?

In one of the best articles I read this week, Steve Friedl shares his experience as a technology consultant. But I think there is much to learn here for anyone who runs a very small business dealing directly with clients (i.e. freelance designers like ourselves).

I'll share one maxim of Friedl's -- of the ethical variety, in keeping with our theme:

Never, ever lie or fudge on an invoice

If you are ever caught — or even suspected — of funny business on the financial front, you will not be trusted anywhere else. It is impossible to give a customer The Warm Fuzzy Feeling™ if they are wondering about the legitimacy of your invoices, and this is fatal to a customer relationship and to ever getting a good reference.

This is not to say that mistakes on an invoice won't happen, but how you deal with them will tell a customer a lot about how you do business. Your goal should be to overwhelm them with integrity.

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NickJun 24, 2010
 

Four Design Links:
June 17, 2010

Four Design Links is a review of the design- and ethics-related stories we've been reading online this week. This week: Recovering from presentation problems, a new Tumblr theme, Getting clients to pay your invoices, and a nifty URL service.

1. How Steve Jobs beats presentation panic

Penny Arcade - An Inside Job
Image from Penny Arcade
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NickJun 17, 2010
 

Four Design Links:
June 3, 2010

Four Design Links is a review of the design- and ethics-related stories we've been reading online this week.

1. The Revelation

We've been thinking recently about our business practices here at Design Less Better, so this recent speech by John Thackara really hit home for me.

It meanders a bit, but excluding the environmental stuff early on, I can appreciate at least three points he made about the business of being a thinker:

  1. There is a need for deep thinking Folks will pay for strategy, futurism, ethical frameworks, etc. because most of them don't have time to come up with it themselves. It's a simple assertion, but creative types might take it for granted. We tend to think other people are like us.
  2. A lot of well-known designers and thinkers don't have it as great as it might look. Like you, most of them have boring work they have to do to keep the lights on, but it's not the kind of thing that makes for a good lecture.
  3. The monetary rewards of those "good" jobs you see in the lecture are also less than one might expect. Thackara claims that he only gets paid for about 25% of the hours he works. The other 75% of his time is writing, thinking, and hustling so he can land those paid hours.

This is not at all the point of Thackara's speech, but it's something I appreciate nonetheless as an insight into the process of how such a person works and an indicator of how important passion is in being successful at it.

2. Meet Mr. W

Love this wonderful German (yet English-speaking?) ad. Clever!

3. Dropbox – The Power of a “Value Based” Startup

Dropbox Logo

We're huge fans of Dropbox, so this writeup on the company's strategy was of interest.

Essentially, it boils down to design less better.

Rather than follow the mantra of "release early, release often", the Dropbox team focused on a set of limited, but useful features that worked beautifully out of the gate. This high level of polish for a free product helped retain and gratify users who then went on to market the software to their friends.

Speaking as a user, that's exactly what happened to me. Dropbox is limited compared to the many other file-sharing sites out there, but this also makes it simple to use. And Dropbox does it so well that I can't help but recommend it.

4. This is not content

A recent post from 37 signals had this nugget, which is not an original observation, but bears repeating nonetheless:

[People don't want "content"] What people want is opinions, analysis, techniques, experiences, and insights. The best of all these come as a by-product from actually doing stuff.

One might rephrase this as: make things, not content.

Time to follow that advice...

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NickJun 3, 2010
 

Four Design Links:
May 13, 2010

Four Design Links is a review of the design- and ethics-related stories we've been reading online this week.

1. Ethical behavior is good for the economy

This paper by David Rea of Victoria University examines the large-scale implications of an idea that we've been kicking around for quite a while.

2. Imagine A Pie Chart Stomping On An Infographic Forever

Why Does a Salad Cost More than a Big Mac?
Source: Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Good Medicine Magazine

Careless designers all too readily sacrifice truth for the sake of aesthetics.

Smashing Magazine calls out designers' statistical illiteracy with a Showcase Of Bad Infographics.

3. 7 Ways to Use Psychological Influence With Social Media Content

Edgar Dale’s Cone of Learning

This article from Social Media Examiner describes 7 psychological principles that can help your content get people's attention.

4. “Daddy, What’s a Brand?”

Last, this Fast Company article has a number of interesting perspectives on the postmodern practice of branding.

Next to the economics of peer-to-peer recommendation, the old paid-media model looks like a scam. You have to ask yourself how an industry employing so many creative thinkers at such high salaries has, on the whole, gotten away with so much crap for so long. Imagine if all that creative problem-solving power was re-channeled?

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NickMay 13, 2010
 

Four Ethics Links: April 29, 2010

Four ethics links is a review of recent stories related to ethics.

1. Hotel Fakeout Photos

Oyster.com -- Hotel Fakeout Photos
Photos from Oyster.com -- Hotel pics on the left; real pics on the right

FatWallet ran a story last week about some "creative" photography resorts use in their advertising. Hotel review site Oyster.com, which encourages users to send their own photos of hotels, has a gallery full of examples.

Of course, it's the photographer's job to make things look as good as possible, but it's a slippery slope.

2. 'The story BCG offered me $16,000 not to tell'

Consulting parody poster

MIT newspaper, The Tech, ran an interesting opinion piece this month about a student's ethical dilemma in Dubai. But it's probably not what you think.

The story is not about Dubai or the culture there, but rather the troubling practices of a consulting company the author worked for after leaving MIT:

...[C]lients usually didn’t know why they had hired us. They sent us vague requests for proposal, we returned vague case proposals, and by the time we were hired, no one was the wiser as to why exactly we were there. I got the feeling that our clients were simply trying to mimic successful businesses, and that as consultants, our earnings came from having the luck of being included in an elaborate cargo-cult ritual.

3. The Ethics of Flying Gaming Press to Hawaii

Airplane in Hawaii

Ars Technica asks: Is it ethical for journalists to accept an free trip to Hawaii, in order to view presentations from a game company?

I would add: what about the CO2 from all those trips? Hawaii is a long ways from just about anywhere.

4. Is it OK for vegans to eat oysters?

Plate of Oysters

Okay, so this one is not related to design or business ethics, but as a story about ethical complexities, it made me stop and think. Apparently, oysters are okay for vegans to eat.

I thought vegans didn't eat any animals or animal products. It seems I didn't understand vegans or oysters.

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NickApr 29, 2010
 
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