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February 28th, 2006

Kids Aren’t Designers!

Every year, the city of Chicago holds a contest for kids to design the city’s vehicle sticker. And every year the public gets to vote on the designs. Here’s one thing that all the designs have in common: they stink. They do. They’re by kids, so I’m not expecting greatness – I’m expecting them to look like kids’ drawings.

But I, for one, am tired of cities around the country leaning on its kids to take the role that designers take. I’ve had enough of it. The first time they did it, it was cute. The second time, it was kind of cute. But now it’s the 185th time, and it’s no longer cute – it smells like a cost-cutting measure.

On a similar note, the Chicago Transit Authority is rerouting one of its train routes in the city. Given that every route has a color (Red Line, Brown Line, etc.) and all of ROY G. BIV are accounted for (save Indigo), they’re – guess! – asking kids to pick the color. Kids have to write a 200-word essay on the new color. The prize for the right color is a $1,000 savings bond.

I have a feeling deep down that it’s going to be the Pink Line. But that’s beside the point. The point is, the CTA has a staff of designers. The change to the line color is going to be a quick one, and all of the station signage needs to be changed. Wouldn’t it just make more sense and be cheaper to pick a damn color and get the stuff going? Heck, if you want, pick three and let the residents of affected neighborhoods vote. Or two! Just two.

Instead, no. Kids again are given the power of designers. Cute the first time. I’d think it was great if I had a kid, and she won. But it’s tiring, overall, and is just a feel-good process that has no real benefit. Pick a color for the line. Hire a designer for the city stickers. Let the kids doodle and have those doodles hung on their parents’ refrigerators.

Posted in Pop Culture

FROM: Steve A.
DATE: Tuesday February 28, 2006 -- 7:30:52 am
While I agree that kid designs are pretty lame at best of times, it isn't often they are asked their opinion about anything except what kind of soda they want at McDs. Let them have their moment of glory.

Ciao,



FROM: Joseph
DATE: Tuesday February 28, 2006 -- 9:37:55 am
Because the truth is, using kids to come up with designs or hiring a graphic artist to come up with a design is equally risky.



FROM: Greg
DATE: Tuesday February 28, 2006 -- 10:26:57 am
I'm with Paul. Kids suck and can't design squat. Why is this contest just for kids anyway? I'm sure there's hundreds of no-so-well-off artists that would love to submit something. If they win, they can make next month's rent.

This whole thing sounds like age discrimination to me. If my town had a contest to design anything, I feel I have an equal right to win $1000 as any lame ass kid. It's my damn tax money that I would be winning back anyway.



FROM: Paul
DATE: Tuesday February 28, 2006 -- 10:41:57 am
I'd like to add that I'm not anti-kid. I believe the children are our future.

Because the truth is, using kids to come up with designs or hiring a graphic artist to come up with a design is equally risky.

Cute.



FROM: Lisa E.
DATE: Tuesday February 28, 2006 -- 12:15:53 pm
Im totally with you here.

I am a Graphic Designer (or at least I try to be when I am not being undercut by 5 year-olds and their Crayolas...). Things like this are beyond frustrating to put it lightly. Designers are constantly facing inane situations like this one and it happens far more frequently than it should. I would imagine that the Designers on the CTA would certainly appreciate the opportunity and the money themselves. Its not really a vote of confidence when your employer gives such a high profile job that any Designer would kill to have in their portfolio and the final word on the project to kids...

That ranks up there with the proclaimed elementary school Picassos setting the art world on fire and selling their derivatives for a few grand a pop...



FROM: COD
DATE: Tuesday February 28, 2006 -- 2:44:56 pm
Obviously, adult designers need better marketing. You guys are getting out marketed by children.

I mean, what's better for the mayors re-election chances? A picture of him handing $1000 savings bond to a cute kid, or a picture of him handing a check to Paul?



FROM: Monica
DATE: Tuesday February 28, 2006 -- 3:14:15 pm
I agree with you Paul ... but imagine the boost winning would give to a kid! Not that it would definitely have a significant impact on the winner later in life, but it could. (I mean an impact on confidence and stuff.)

I bet they do this because kids are cheap labor. They don't charge for mock-ups or materials or insurance.



FROM: Joseph
DATE: Tuesday February 28, 2006 -- 6:34:37 pm
I wasn't trying to be cute. I've seen it in action. The city government spends thousands for an idea and the finished product is like, "this is what we spent our taxpayers money on?"

Plus, it's publicity. It drums up interest. Think of it, would you even know or care about any graphic artist who would have done the "Chicago: A City of Neighborhoods" campaign alternatively to the kids? Probably not. But since they give it the kids, it makes small headlines.

It's generous, too. You don't really need a "Chicago: A City of Neighborhoods" poster campaign do you? I mean, this thing looks like it was meant for kids in the first place.

I actually think that the posters you linked are fine looking.

If the design is really important, they always hire a graphic artist anyway. I remember when I was in high school, they opened up the entry to design a poster to the Budweiser Cleveland 500 to school kids. I made my poster in high school along with hundreds of other kids. One kid at my high school made an awesome poster--but he used an IMSA car instead of an Indy Car, so that was the end of that poster. Had he used an Indy Car, I still think to this day that he could have won.

But the when the design was picked, a well-known graphic artist's submission was chosen.

I admit that writing a 200 word essay picking a color sounds stupid. I totally agree. If I were a school kid, my opinion would have been the same. "A two hundred word essay on a stupid color?" Come on! Adults just think it's fun to waste our time.



FROM: Paul
DATE: Tuesday February 28, 2006 -- 8:34:19 pm
Joseph: I wasn't trying to be cute. I've seen it in action. The city government spends thousands for an idea and the finished product is like, "this is what we spent our taxpayers money on?"

So here's a little story for you. A while back, the city I currently live in decided to commission a well-known artist to develop a sculpture for a prominent position at a new commercial development. No idea how much money was spent, but it was a lot.

The sculpture was unveiled and deemed by city council members to be too "ugly". But the city had a contract with the guy to display it publicly so, instead of the prominent position near transit and shops and stuff, it's tucked away on a small corner lot near a 3-way intersection where pedestrians are rare.

Now, here's where you could say, "Look - just as risky as using kids." This is where I say, "Should the city have just 'hired' kids to design a sculpture instead?" The latter would be ridiculous, I think. So if they wouldn't hire kids to do public sculpture, why will they do it for graphic design? The graphic design arguably impacts more people as more people will see it every day. And with a vehicle sticker in Chicago, for instance, millions of people will see it every single day on their cars' windshields.

You don't really need a "Chicago: A City of Neighborhoods" poster campaign do you? I mean, this thing looks like it was meant for kids in the first place.

Not a campaign, really; just a vehicle sticker theme. Pinger Greg's city uses the "City of Homes" theme almost every year. Not sure why a theme is necessary (Chicago has neighborhoods? Wow!) But these themes go on, with or without kids.

COD: ...A picture of him handing $1000 savings bond to a cute kid, or a picture of him handing a check to Paul?

Are you saying I'm not cute?



FROM: Joseph
DATE: Wednesday March 1, 2006 -- 12:13:28 pm
City of Homes? Does Pinger Greg live in Springfield, MA? I lived there for the longest three years of my life. They should change the slogan to "City of Holes." What a dump.

[i]So if they wouldn't hire kids to do public sculpture, why will they do it for graphic design?[/i]

But that's not a contest. That's a commission. No one would commission a kid to do a sculpture--unless they were one of those freako five-year-olds who's parents can con the art world just as easily as adult con artists can.

But I think a sculpture contest for kids would have been a great publicity idea. All the city has to do is choose the winning design. They don't actually have to make the darned thing.

I loved art as a kid and I participated in stuff like this as much as I could. I never won a nickel or even a photo in the paper, but it created a buzz that I remember to this day. I still remember working very hard on my Budweiser Cleveland 500 poster and getting very excited about it and really enjoying myself. Did my poster suck? Well, it wasn't picked by the panel.

I'm not a graphic artist as an adult, but I was a successful architect, which is an allied art.

I'm not saying all graphic design projects should be the subject of a kids campaign, but this vehicle sticker thing--why not? If a graphic artist made the sticker, I guarantee you'd just peel it off the backing and stick it on your car without another thought.

I think the contest makes kids aware of the allied arts and that's always a good thing. Perhaps a kid who never thought about art school (which is often dissuaded by parents anyway) might actually get a boost in that direction. If the city uses it for everything, well then I concede overuse. But it's a stupid sticker--even if everybody has to have one.

Most cities, if they have a sticker, just pick a color, some nondescript block font and off you go. They don't hire a graphic designer to do that in any case. At least this way it makes the process fun.

If you really want to complain about amateurs getting into allied design, here's my rant:

"Home builders are not architects!" But since builders of the hated McMansions delve into the architect's trade, the architect gets squeezed out of his own hard-earned profession by these hack salesmen who often don't know the difference between a joist and a jack off.

This is why I left the field and now enjoy a nice paycheck and benefits for the first time in my life doing nothing related to architecture.



FROM: Merle [E-Mail]
DATE: Wednesday March 1, 2006 -- 2:10:33 pm
This is exactly what is happening to me at work, albeit not with kids.

The chairman of the board decided our app had to be "blue". So he told one of the QA people to design the color scheme and implement it.

Never mind that there are people with courses in user interface design under their belts. Nooo, he has QA boy design it. And his eyesight is bad so everything is a glaringly bright shade of blue.

I'm thinking of quitting before my eyesight goes out, too.



FROM: Paul
DATE: Thursday March 30, 2006 -- 1:13:38 pm
I called it in the Ping: the new CTA line is the Pink Line.



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