CON TENTS. INTRO...................................................2-4 STRUCTURE........................................5-10 BENEFITS & DRAWBACKS...............11-14 NUMBERS.........................................15-18 OUTRO..............................................19-22 BIBLIOGRAPHY.....................................23
fter graduating, many students feel lost and disorientated. After working so long under the command of tutors they arenâ€™t sure what their next move should be, to work freelance is never as successful or consistent. On top of loneliness and struggling to promote yourself you also have to deal with all of your own financial duties. This view is shared by many artists, that being a solo artist is an uphill struggle. As stated by Vinny from WAFA (2010) the need for a support structure and exposure to other artists is essential for progression. This is where Collectives enter;
Most collectives are created through the shared passion of a subject between friends, some who may have worked together at University, or simply branching out and finding inspiration from new people. They appeal to clients, offering more variety and more trust in an established group of artists rather than a solo creative. Many now famous collectives were started as mentioned, such as peepshow “Peepshow was founded in the autumn of 2000 by Graham Carter, Miles Donovan, Chris Joscelyne, Chrissie Macdonald, Andrew Rae, Lucy Vigrass and Spencer Wilson, who all graduated from the University of Brighton BA Illustration course in 1998.” (Miles Donovan, interview 2010) A collective can be described as a number of things. Through research I’ve found there is a variety of collective types.
“WE DO WORK FOR OURSELVES, TO GET BACK TO EXPERIMENTATION AND PLAY IN OUR WORK. WE ARE VERY PROTECTIVE OF THIS WORK ENVIRONMENT.” Some purely for a way to collaborate, experience and share a passion with like-minded individuals. As stated by Vinny from WAFA collective (2010) “Although some of us take on commercial clients on the side to make money, we do not let this enter the collective. We do work for ourselves, to get back to experimentation and play in our work. We are very protective of this work environment.” However,most collectives are strictly business, a way of curating a name for themselves and getting the first step into the industry, or sustaining a creative workflow and client rate.
tructures of collectives vary largely; In size, loyalty, location and communication. Generally collectives tend to be close knit, consisting of groups of friends since graduation as mentioned my Miles Donovan of Peepshow (2010) â€œPeepshow was founded in 2000, by six graduates of The University Of Brighton, where we studied together between 1995-1998â€?. The average count of members is around the 10 mark, this seems to be deemed as the most controllable size, with still enough brain power.
“HONESTLY, I DON’T WANT A LARGE TEAM.” I feel that 10 would be a very controllable number, any more than 10 would be in my opinion wildly unmanageable unless the collective had a high inflow of work and careful organization. Any less than 5 would be underpowered, and ego’s could possibly arise whereas with up to 10 you automatically adapt to a large amount of neutral opinions, rather than a handful of biased ones. To further my point WAFA are also an 11 strong collective (interview 2010) “WAFA is comprised of 11 artists from all over the world”.
Some collectives have what they call an ‘outer collective’. Where they have an initial number of designers/illustrators, but when the work loads becomes to much they employ a regular outsider, somewhat sub-member to pick up some slack. ‘The Collective’ are a prime example of this method: “We have a team of 3 at the moment, with the aim of being back up to 4 by the end of year. Honestly, I don’t want a large team. We also have the additional ‘outer’ collective of 6 or 7 other people. That is enough people / projects to manage. The good thing about our business set up though, is if more work comes in, then the more people we can bolt onto the collective. “ (interview, 2009). | feel this method is very adaptable and versatile, it doesn’t only cover hiring secondary people to pick up the slack.
It is in my opinion that most collectives and agencies use this method, hiring specialists such as photographers, designers, illustrators , etc. I do not believe this system has a significant drawback, possibly only loosening the thread of a so called close-knit collective. But in its own right this is a collaboration; the curation of an outcome by the means of multiple contribution, if more than one person has contributed to a piece this in my opinion becomes a collaboration. My view is shared by Vinny from WAFA (2010) â€œAll the work we create is collaborative, meaning that each project is touched by at least 2 artists working together...â€?. A strong believer in the concept of collaboration.
Location and communication also play an interesting role in collectives. While most collectives previously know their inner circle closely and choose to base their system around trust, there are others who’ve adopted a more unique approach. The ‘WAFA’ collective is an inspiring group of mixed media artists, photographers, illustrators, designers and nomads, they call themselves a ‘non profit organization’ as tagged by Vinny (2010). Based individually around the globe they collaborate by sending items through post, and communicate via internet-choosing to use the internet as the fundamental tool for communication. Rinzen also give credit to a sparsely structured collective too: ‘Rinzen’s five members are based in Berlin, Brisbane, Melbourne and New York. It’s a set-up that can promote a better work-life balance, allowing each member to work from a favourable location. Additionally, the collective has a more global presence. “No matter where we are, Rinzen can give us the opportunity to work together and individually,” says Alexander of Rinzen. (computer arts, Collaborate!)
“It’s a set-up that can promote a better work-life balance, allowing each member to work from a favourable location.”
This point proves that different collectives function in different ways, that systems and work ethics are down to personal preference rather than what does and doesn’t work. Where WAFA work superbly and smoothly despite being thousands of miles apart, Eliza Williams’ Article on collectives (Graduate Guide: Strength in numbers, july 2009, Creative Review) describes how distance can cause serious friction; ‘Inevitably there are downsides to working as a collective, with geographical distance, time constraints and creative differences all being problems that can easily arise and create arguments.’ She explains.
BENEFITS & DRAWBACK
f course it seems that being a part of a collective can only be full of wonderful benefits, bigger promotion, more jobs than working freelance which all of course equates to more money. But this is not always the case, creating a collective is easy enough; grab some friends-decide you want to start a collective-name yourselves. But not every collective works out, there’s ego clashes, money troubles, organization difficulty and not to mention that you have to really jump in feet first for it work out. Putting all your eggs in the collective basket we could say. First I’ll look at the pro’s, as mentioned previously there’s a huge amount of benefits to be had providing you find a
Studies show that smaller collectives also get more clients than larger collectives/ agencies (creative review, Design industry insights 2010) ‘The consultancy strives to be intellectually challenging and forward-looking and a small business model is better able to facilitate this flexible cost and employment structures.’ Says founder of Pearson Lloyd, Tom Pearson. (creative review, Design industry insights 2010) It is my belief that companies can place more trust in a smaller collective, as fewer members means less organizing and more focus, and creates a more personal outcome. Another benefit is personal development, peepshow always describe themselves as ‘The strength of 10 brains, twenty eyes and one hundred fingers.’ (various interviews) Thus indicating how they use their minds as a whole, rather than individually. Vinny of WAFA also explains the power of working in a collective: ‘
“I think the creation of collaborative works has informed our individual art practices. It gives us new perspective on what we bring to the table. Where we come from.” I think the creation of collaborative works has informed our individual art practices. It gives us new perspective on what we bring to the table. Where we come from.’ (interview 2010) I think personal development is essential throughout your entire life as an artist, to learn and to grow both mentally and in physical (practical skills and techniques) This is why finding the right people for a collective is critical, you need people that you can trust and rely on — trust that their criticism is constructive and their opinion is selfless and in support of your growth.
This leads me to one of the con’s of collectives; clashing. Ego’s, greed and selfishness are all common factors of unsuccessful collectives, being so self absorbed that people fail to get over themselves, accepting criticisms and too stubborn to create a new direction of work. Roope of Antirom elaborates my view in Computer Art’s Collaborate! article “Democratic structures make it very difficult to reconcile 13 opinions into a useful direction. Even in flat structures you get dominant groups that lobby things through,” says Roope. “[With Antirom], resentment eroded the relationships and with it the collaboration. Everyone thought only they had the right answers, but without working together we had no answer at all. This is a typical collectives experience.” Individuals have a habit of believing they can learn no more, and that their way is the right way. But the truth is we’re all learning till the day we day we die and the sheer thought of learning through the sharing of knowledge and passion of Design is enough to get me excited for the next years to come!
lthough collectives are either make or break and nearly a dime a dozen, the figures are increasing as more and more designers/illustrators are joining forces to see the light at the end of the recession which has had such a huge effect on the advertising industry and economy as a whole. Studies have shown that because of the recession 69% of design businesses havenâ€™t recruited a single member in a year, and 7% even made redundancies (creative review industry insights 2010), this means that more and more artists are struggling to find a job, which therefore leaves them to try and work freelance.
“69% of design businesses haven’t recruited a single member in a year, and 7% even made redundancies.” As previously mentioned freelance doesn’t curate much business, so where does this leave the modern designer? Usually floating around from agency to agency applying for jobs to which nobody is looking to hire.
Many designers now are avoiding the entire process of job application, choosing to steer away from the official legalities of consultancies and inhouse teams by creating a collective with friends; no official agreements or legalities, just friends establishing themselves. The huge surge in the number of collectives is doubly effective for designers, not only does it exponentially multiply individuals’ talent, but now clients seek creativity over austerity and no longer find comfort in conversing with ‘suits’.
“Collectives aren’t just the right choice for new designers economically and for creativity but are quickly becoming the most effective.”
o why are so contemporary designers and illustrators forming collectives? Are they forming them as a cop-out, easy way into the industry or for genuine self and group progression? Do they really understand the benefits of working as a single unit? And do they even realize the drawbacks â€” that forming a collective can potentially damage and destroy friendships. I believe the next few years will see a huge change in the design world, leading on from Creative Reviewâ€™s Industry Insights the figures and statistics will change dramatically. How long will collectives be the easiest way to break into the industry, and will the media create a new program to aid this? If so what effect will this also have on the effectivity of collectives?
I feel thats at this present time collectives are nigh on essential for a budding designer/illustrator, to collaborate, grow, experience and learn with others. The media is looking for boundary-pushing art which a commercial agency cant deliver, and artists need a breaking way into the industry, for themselves and to get ahead of the masses of competition! Although itâ€™s not an easy thing to accomplish as mentioned throughout, the drawbacks are evident and very present. There will be many a broken collective on the horizon for many as artists will be eager to create one.
Something to take into account, possibly as a general rule is that a successful collective happens organically, a natural curation. Lydia of Peepshow nicely elaborates my view “There are many collectives starting out who don’t always have a clear idea of what they want to achieve and that’s a problem. Peepshow came together very naturally, to support each other, and we worked hard for years to establish our styles and be confident with our individual identities.
Those strong roots are important for a successful collective. People tend to forget about the business side of a collective. Peepshow is a company. It takes time to learn how to deal with clients and a brief – it can’t be rushed. So our advice is don’t try too hard, it has to evolve organically....” (Lydia Fulton for Varoom Magazine, 2008 ) So to end this optimistic read, I will use an inspiring quote made by one of my favorite collectives: ‘Community is a real thing. The Universe is tangible. Collaboration is the way forward’. (Vinny, wafa 2010)
BIBLIO GRAPHY. Computer Arts: Collaborate! Digital Article. Creative Review: Graduate Guide: Strength In Numbers, Eliza Williams June 2009 Design Council: Design Industry Insights 2010
This report features interviews from:
Vinny From the WAFA Collective 2010. ‘The Collective’ 2010. Lydia Fulton of ‘Peepshow’ 2008. Peepshow Interview with Lawrence Zeegen for Computer Arts Magazine, 2009.
Published on Feb 1, 2011