Illustrator calls out department store for trying to exploit her

Holly Exley is one of the UK's best young food illustrators, but that doesn't mean she's safe from 'clients' trying to take advantage of her.

Discover tips for creating brilliant food illustrations by Holly, May van Millingen, Greg Stevens and more.

Recently Holly was approached by a major department store – she doesn't want to name it, but does say that it's in London, a tourist destination and has a "very famous food hall", so there are a only a couple of possibilities.

The store emailed Holly offering what they described as 'an exciting collaboration' and 'an exciting opportunity' - but when she asked about the budget, she was told that due to 'production costs' there wasn't any budget for her. However, she would get lots of 'exposure'.

Yeah, that old bullshit line.

The experience left Holly, as she puts it "slightly infuriated", and led her to post the above video to YouTube. In it, she calls out the client, draws attention to what they're doing so that others aren't taken in by it, and explains why working for free is bad for us and the industry as a whole.

So I hope that by publishing it here, we can do the same.

Holly worries that there's someone out there working on the brief who has been suckered into it. And so do I. Working for free devalues what you do, which can be financially ruinous – and, by its pervasiveness, it devalues what all illustrators and designers do. Which could destroy the industry.

Illustration, design and all of the other creative industries that we cover here on Digital Arts aren't hobbies for those who've made them their professions – they're careers requiring a huge amount of time and effort devoted to creating work and developing skills – which should be properly compensated.

As Holly notes in her video, there's an easy way to decide whether you should work for free. Just follow Jessica Hische's Should I Work For Free? flowchart - from which you'll realise the answer is almost always no.

(My colleague Ashleigh will be interviewing Jessica Hische at the Adobe Max conference this week, so follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or sign-up to our newsletter so you don't miss this).

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