Artist Mark Rothko once said that a picture lives by companionship. If this is true, so do its creators. The Graphic Arts Guild (GAG), the national union of
illustrators, designers, Web creators, production artists and surface designers, is dedicated to standardizing and improving practices within the design industry. GAG's mission honors both art and economics.
"We're an activist organization," says Jonathan Combs, national president, GAG. "We're involved in copyright issues. In the 1980s, we were pretty successful in eliminating work-for-hire provisions, putting clients and artists on equal footing." Combs reports that GAG recently teamed with the United Auto Worker's Union in attempt to ground its 32-year-honed proactive interests more succinctly with independent contracting. Combs says GAG's focus also upholds creative integrity and rights ownership. Combs admits digitization has changed the way artists work for the better—and the worse.
Let's get digital
"The digital [movement] has made it easier to get work done faster," he explains. "But design has suffered creatively; there isn't time to do the work that came before the digital revolution."
He says that it's unheard of to do a job in three or four days when you can accomplish it in three or four hours. Combs notes that e-commerce and stock art companies have dissolved the once-palpable relationship illustrators and fine artists had with publishers. "The usage of stock art and clip art is usually easier and cheaper than commissioning an artist to do original work," explains Combs. "The speed at which work is done has affected the work illustrators do."
A guiding light
To manage these concerns, as well as copyright law and price-setting standards, GAG released the tenth edition of Graphic Artists Guild's Handbook of Pricing & Ethical Guidelines. Combs notes, "The book is targeted to clients—the art buyer—and illustrators and designers. The U.S. laws prohibit setting price standards, so these are only guidelines."