Designers across all media are devaluing their skills with hourly charging – and something has to change.

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When I was growing up, cultivating passable facial fluff wasn’t my only dream in life. Design and creativity, along with an unhealthy appetite for technology, meant I’d spend my days dreaming of a world populated by clothes made from LCDs, animated tattoos, 3D movies, and the ability to have the daily newspaper beamed onto a sliver of plastic each morning. 
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Perhaps I should have gotten out more, but while the facial hair duly arrived, much of the future hasn’t.
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Coupled with the avalanche of information gizmos and gonks, I always pictured the creative industry as achieving some kind of elite status. Designers and artists would evolve into a ruling class; wise beyond their years, they’d dazzle a loyal populous with their wizard-like creative skill. 
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To the unwashed, it’d seem like magic. Creative folk would, each evening, retire to their golden towers to indulge in the fruits and chemical substances of their labour, and life would be great. For a young dreamer, the future was looking great. Only, that hasn’t arrived, either.
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Instead, design in the UK – while admittedly finding its feet after a really bad couple of years – is sometimes more meat factory than dream factory.
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The problem is that client money sloshing around in the creative sector has taken a tumble over the past few years, and more people are flooding in to work in an industry that no-one is going to get rich from. 
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Add the fact that creative companies have been chopped up into smaller concessions, and it’s no surprise that design teams have fallen from hundreds, to tens, to a handful – each working in tiny studios and competing in an increasingly crowded landscape.
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You needn’t be an economist to guess where the industry could be heading. More people chasing less money and less business. It means that studios are – out of sheer necessity – having to cut the throats of their neighbours over prices, offer more to clients, who themselves want to pay less.
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Designers, for example, are today increasingly pricing their services by the hour, rather than giving an overall price – a massive about face from a few years back. Nothing wrong with that, you might think.
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But pricing design by the hour belittles the designer, and devalues their skills. It makes it easier for clients to grasp, sure, but what is the true cost?
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People who flip burgers are paid by the hour, as are those who scrap aborted chewing gum off our pavements. Lawyers charge by the hour, for goodness sake. Clients who pay by the hour understand only that they are buying chunks of time. It transforms design into nothing more than mere commodity; art as little other than tins of beans or packages of minutes. 
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It’s a worrying trend, because it places no value on the actual essence of design. The thought, talent, and sheer synaptic creativity that resonates through your work deserves more than an hourly wage. A premium should be placed on your creativity, else you may as well offer fries with the finished article.
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