“People Don’t Like To Pay For Ideas”: Creative Director of Emerystudio

“People Don’t Like To Pay For Ideas”: Creative Director of Emerystudio

International designer and humble Aussie legend Garry Emery, the founder and creative director of emerystudio, doesn’t think Adland values ideas and design in the esteemed ways it should, and that it’s time this culture changed.

Hannah Edensor
Posted by Hannah Edensor

Speaking to B&T, Emery said, “People don’t value what we do. They don’t like to pay for ideas”.

Emery recalled a time when he, a designer who has worked on projects like Parliament House and the Burj Khalifa in the United Arab Emirates, was asked to work unpaid on a pitch.

“The successful enterprise proposes to invite a selected few designers to participate in an unpaid competition to design marketing communications materials to serve a commercial purpose,” he explained.

“The invited designers would propose ideas for review by the chairman of the board, who would choose their preferred option. The successful contender would then develop and realise the selected ideas and donate their professional services.”

Without naming the company, Emery detailed how he called his business partner, outraged by the idea.

“They are asking us to give away our ideas and be rewarded with more work, for free! I am wondering who’s dumb here? Them or us?” Emery said. “As designers should we be expected to give away our ideas? Aren’t they worth something?

“It is true there’s no copyright on ideas. But intellectual property is not just ideas floating in the ether, ready to be plucked by anyone.

“Someone has to develop ideas in the first place. That takes time, intelligence, lateral thinking and expertise. But if no one is prepared to pay for this work, where do we go from here?

“The world has changed, today we live in a world where digital media has decreased attention spans and the ways we perceive and consume information. Content is imagined, created and tailored towards the interests of individuals.

But Emery thinks the Australian landscape doesn’t have the same respect for ideas or integrity it used to.

“It’s a problem, it’s a cultural issue,” he explained. “I’m sure it happens all over the world, but design isn’t really part of our culture, Australia’s is a sporting culture.

“It’s a bit undignified working for no money. There has to be respect on both sides,” Emery added.

“If people don’t respect you, you can’t work for them. There’s no exchange. If they don’t value what you do there’s no basis for having any kind of arrangement.

“Some people do value ideas, it’s not true of everybody, but the people we’re talking about here are not unsophisticated people.

“I don’t even think it’s right for young people either, it’s disrespectful. An idea is a vehicle to communicate something to someone and it has to add value to someone or something.”

And you can snag more insights from Garry Emery in B&T‘s latest mag issue on your desk or office coffee table now, along with other legends like Reg Bryson and Ita Buttrose.