The ‘UP’ Film Series

up SeriesI first discovered this documentary series in 1985 when 28 Up was released in the US. I had never heard of the film but a friend who was working in the industry suggested we see it.

The Up Series is a series of documentary films produced by Granada Television and originally broadcast on the BBC that have followed the lives of fourteen British children since 1964, when they were seven years old. So far the documentary has had nine episodes spanning 56 years (one episode every seven years). The series topped the list of The 50 Greatest Documentaries. The children were selected to represent the range of socio-economic backgrounds in Britain at that time, with the explicit assumption that each child’s social class predetermines their future. Starting in 1964 with Seven Up, The UP Series has explored the Jesuit maxim, “Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man.” The original concept was to interview 14 children from diverse backgrounds from all over England, asking them about their lives and their dreams for the future. Every seven years, renowned director Michael Apted, a researcher for Seven Up, has been back to talk to them, examining the progression of their lives.man

JackieSueLynnIt is surprising that only two people have dropped out of the project and one person has died. One gets the impression that the remaining group’s participation is motivated by a mixture of sanguine acceptance, pride and a sense of duty to the project. The group was not meant to represent an entire cross-section of society; Mr. Apted hastily and arbitrarily chose the children from among schools he contacted at the time. There was no intention to continue the project as a series. In retrospect, Mr. Apted regrets the shortsightedness of his decisions, especially the gender imbalance of having only four women. composite

An astonishing, unforgettable look at the structure of life in the 20th century, The UP Series is, according to critic Roger Ebert, “an inspired, almost noble use of the film medium. Apted penetrates to the central mystery of life.” The latest installment, 63 Up, premieres in theaters this week and previous episodes are available on DVD. Rush to see it and binge watch the previous films.

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Do you work for FREE? Stop doing that!

My dentist doesn’t work for free. Neither does my accountant. In fact, if they did I wouldn’t use them. But why? I’d save a lot of money! It’s because I figure if they don’t value what they do enough to charge me for their work, then it isn’t worth it.

To all you young designers out there: when you work for free you reinforce the idea that your work has no value, that your talent deserves little respect. Granted, when you first start out you can’t charge the “big bucks” but you must be compensated fairly for what you do. It has value; if it were so easy then everyone would design their own logos and websites. Oh wait, they sometimes do that…but with dreadful results. Now I’m not talking about pro bono work you may do for your church, your mom or your best friend. Even trading services with other professionals has its place. I’m talking about work you do for clients who need to hire a professional like you and who have the ability to pay fairly for those services.

It’s not an honor to have your name mentioned on a website you spent 60 hours designing for free. The exposure will not generate future work, especially when the next client finds out you did it for free. The “real-world experience” you gain by designing someone’s brochures for free (or for peanuts) benefits no one. It doesn’t benefit you because it robs you of the experience of negotiating a fee for service and the responsibility of delivering a quality product on time for that fee. And, surprisingly, it doesn’t benefit the client either because it teaches them that graphic design services are low-value commodities, thus degrading all design professions. This something-for-nothing attitude is also the reason why I do not believe in design competitions where no one is paid for their work and the winner has the “honor” of having their work chosen and used for free. This too devalues all design professions. And Facebook “likes” don’t pay your rent.

The life of a graphic designer may appear fun and glamorous — sitting around all day drawing pretty pictures and choosing color swatches — but it is a skilled profession requiring a college education, skills using advanced computer programs, an understanding of photography, typography and marketing principles, and a knowledge of the printing process and internet and website functionality. And as a fellow designer, you should see your profession this way, too.

Value what you do and the talent you possess. Don’t work for free.

For a writer’s perspective on working for free, read this excellent article by Hollywood screenwriter Mark Sanderson.

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Why Hire a Professional Graphic Designer?

The conversation goes something like this:

“I’m starting my own business and need a website. Do you know anyone who can do it?”

“My yoga instructor’s nephew “does” websites, he can do it.”

“I need a logo too, and some brochures.”

“Oh, I’m sure he can do that, too.”

What’s missing from the conversation is the question: Is he a professional designer?

Free design software has given people access to the tools that were once the express purview of the professional graphic designer. Nowadays, anyone with a clunky copy of Microsoft Publisher can design their own brochures, or an ad like this, and fill them with cheesy clipart and hideous fonts and have them printed on bright pink paper at the local quick print, so why hire a professional to do the job? These tools give the false impression that anyone can be a designer. Forgive my snobbishness but knowing how to type doesn’t make you a writer.

I don’t cut my own hair, fix my own car, do my own taxes or drill my own root canals; I hire professionals to do these things for me. Re: taxes, it’s not that I couldn’t do my own taxes per se, it’s that the time involved in doing them myself far outweighs the expense of having them done by my CPA. Time is money, and my time is more valuable being spent doing other things.

In an effort to save money, budget-minded small business owners and individuals needing professional design services are often tempted to do it themselves or get a friend’s friend to do it. What they may not realize is that:

1. Their time is always better spent building their business, not sitting in front of a computer for hours trying to figure out how to design their own website or direct-mail postcard.

2. The materials they are producing are actually undermining their business image by portraying them as unprofessional or amateurish.

The objection I often hear to hiring a professional designer is I can’t afford it; I don’t have the budget for it. I would say candidly that you simply don’t want to spend the money, maybe because your copy of Microsoft Office is whispering, “Just use me!” or your nephew can do it cheaper, or you don’t recognize the intangible value of a good logo, web design or marketing materials, but successful businesses are successful in part because they recognize the value a professional graphic image conveys to their customers. Ford, Apple and Nike hire and use the absolute best advertising, marketing and graphics professionals available because they know the value image contributes to their bottom line. Small business owners should be no less aggressive in their pursuit of the best graphics professionals they can afford.

The next time you need graphic design services, don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish. Ignore the earnest pleas of your free graphics software and hire a professional.

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