As in all industries, the path to entrepreneurship in art and design is full of peaks and valleys. Motivated by challenges in their freelance careers, 30 Savannah College of Art and Design students launched a collective for young designers in Hong Kong. They call themselves "22nd century designers," or XXIID, and aspire to address questions facing up-and-coming artists and designers who work in diverse creative capacities – from graphic design and marketing to illustration and photography. With SCAD professor of advertising and graphic design Gianluca Cinquepalmi advising, seven XXIID members recently convened in Causeway Bay to fine-tune the XXIID guidebook for freelancers, which covers topics like pricing structures, contracts, and client demands. We sat down with them for a preview of this sorely needed resource, which will soon go to print, and to learn about their goal to unite the next generation of creative talent in Hong Kong.
SCAD: Why did you form XXIID?
Melissa Trias: I was tired of being pushed around with freelance jobs. Associate Dean of Academics Derek Black pitched the idea of creating a junior designers’ league, and we had one meeting where everyone discussed the problems with freelance work. Then professor Gianluca Cinquepalmi got involved. He thought we needed to produce something tangible. So we started as a club and it turned into a publication and design collective.
Gianluca Cinquepalmi: The idea of XXIID was to create a platform where creatives can meet, discuss, and improve. Our job and vision is to give tangible and reliable tools based on our knowledge and industry standard. We cannot cover every single aspect of it, but at least we can give some guidelines. I can bring the perspective of a professional who has dealt with and worked in the industry while looking at the real needs of the students.
SCAD: What are some of the challenges that you face as young designers in Hong Kong?
Trias: There isn’t an association for designers that we could join while still being in school, but we wanted to connect with other creatives in Hong Kong. We felt like we were being misrepresented in terms of value because people would ask us to do work either for free or lower than what we deserved.
That was one of the driving forces of starting XXIID. We deserve to be compensated for the hard work we have devoted to cultivating our craft. - Melissa Trias (M.F.A., luxury and fashion management, 2015)
Shann Larsson: When I first started doing freelance design work I didn’t know about contracts and what rights I had as a designer. With this design collective, we’re outlining things that are applicable to Hong Kong in terms of payment and your responsibilities.
Adam Newbold: It’s difficult to find a single source of trusted information. We’re trying to pull this together into a more accessible space, specifically geared toward young designers in Hong Kong and Asia.
SCAD: Is this resource something that is lacking in Hong Kong?
Newbold: There is the Hong Kong Designers Association, but we feel that younger designers are not represented very well.
Trias: In the U.S., there is AIGA, the American Institute of Graphic Arts. Their standards and ethics have been so functional. We have very valuable skills that we’ve acquired learning from professors who are experts in their fields. There is no reason why we shouldn’t be pricing our work at the correct salary.
SCAD: What artistic and design disciplines are represented in XXIID?
Cinquepalmi: I love this project because I had the opportunity to involve almost all of the departments in SCAD Hong Kong’s school of communication: graphic design, illustration, luxury and fashion marketing, advertising, video, and motion media design. It’s not only for graphic designers.
Newbold: This is the most collaborative project I’ve ever been involved with at SCAD.
Cinquepalmi: We aimed to enroll 30 students as active members of the development phase, and aim to increase by tenfold when we have the publication and the website done. We hope that with the content we have generated, we’ll engage around 300 to 400 students and have them signed up for our mailing list, so that we can tell people about the association, what’s happening, and eventually promote upcoming events.
SCAD: How will XXIID make a better tomorrow for today’s artists and designers?
Cinquepalmi: What is important for us to achieve is making the industry understand that there are talented, prepared designers who act professionally and there are not-so-prepared designers who don't act so professionally.
We need to work towards making it easily understandable to the industry the real value and worth of a graduate, different from somebody who just stumbled upon Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. There is a difference in professional attitude, ethics, and knowledge that we can transfer. - Professor Gianluca Cinquepalmi
Trias: The purpose of the publication is to equip our graduating students so they can go out into the world and be successful freelancers.
Cinquepalmi: The idea of XXIID is amazing because the industry needs it. There is a nice video of Lee Clow from TBWA Worldwide, which states we are treated as if we are doing our clients' laundry. He is the creative director of a preeminent ad agency, working with clients like Nike and Apple. If TBWA complains, imagine what other designers have to do. [Laughs.]
SCAD: What other content will XXIID share on the website and in the publication?
Newbold: One of the tools lists locations for working throughout Hong Kong, not only co-working spaces, but also cafés—secret spots that don't mind if you stick around and have plug-ins and WiFi.
Trias: Professor Cinquepalmi proposed a pricing wheel. When he pitched this idea, he said this would be the “freebie” to get people interested in the publication.
Newbold: Pricing in the U.S., in my opinion, is much higher than in Hong Kong. We want to know the average going rate so we’re not incorrectly pricing our projects, while still getting fair pay. The current plan is for the pricing wheel to be a web-based app. It’s a formula that’s been developed based on information we’ve gathered from various organizations and freelancers around Hong Kong, and the pricing standards they’ve set for their projects. You can plug in the type of project you’re working on and the hours you expect to work. It helps figure out an average going rate, so you can better price your work.
Trias: There are tools and resources that exist in the real world, such as Team Gantt, Basecamp, Behance, and BlinkBid for photographers. Knowing about these resources helps because we can learn the theories, but we need to know the industry standard. In making this publication, we not only get to use these resources, but we also get to share with our readers that they exist.
Newbold: We’re also creating descriptions on how to prepare a creative brief. And we're doing the same thing with contracting, so that you know what needs to be included.
SCAD: Do you plan to team up with students from other Hong Kong universities?
Newbold: In the future, we would love to see this grow into incorporating designers from different local universities and elsewhere.
Cinquepalmi: We believe as designers and as content creators that great content and great ideas survive. If we can create something worth reading and sharing, we can attract other universities.