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scrottie (4167)


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Journal of scrottie (4167)

Sunday May 03, 2009
01:47 AM

Essay on programmers, graphic designers, motivation, money

[ #38916 ]

(Originally posted as a comment at where a graphic designer expresses moral outrage at being asked by Google to contribute design work to Chrome in exchange for thanks, not money :)

Google Chrome is open source. Programmers contribute code to open source all of the time. The fact that Google (who I normally despise) pays some programmers to work on it doesn't change the fact that it's basically a non-commercial product.

For non-commercial projects, finding art is always a challenge. More specifically, I often do creative collaborations with other programmers (yes, programming is a creative endeavor, or at least it is when you're not doing something banal). Those numerous times I've suggested to a graphic designer that we collaborate, I get this confounded response that reminds me of working for a small company company and trying to get a sales person from Sun to talk to me. Simply put, the "you can't afford that, why are you even asking about it?" response. And graphic designers never ask me to code something for them even when I wish they would.

I don't know what's right or wrong. I know I code primarily for love, not money. I also know that given free time, I'd rather code on my own stuff than someone else's garbage. But I also know that working with other creative minds is good for me and stretches my own capabilities. And I learn. Then there's the entrepreneur spirit. Programmers want to take an idea, realize it, and see where it leads, possibly trying to make the idea self sustaining and pay for itself. Graphic designers overwhelmingly want someone else to figure out where the money comes from.

I guess a site without backend code is more complete than a site without art so programmers are more likely to want to collaborate. But then again, if designers don't even want to come out and play, programmers will just rely on stock site designs from places like, most of which looks like garbage to me.

I think more fundamentally, programmers have all too repeatedly been taught the hard lesson that having skills is not enough. A portfolio of past work impresses no one in the programming field -- unless you invented major things that people use every day. The only worth while thing in a programmer's portfolio is to have created a recognizable application, game, or online service. So programmers aspire to that -- to get things off the ground, worrying about all aspects of the business, starting from nothing. Whereas a designer need only have some pretty pictures that didn't necessarily even get used by anyone. I'm sorry, I don't mean that in any nasty way to say that programmers are somehow better... only that the impossibly high bar for notoriety in programming pushes programmers to do things that self respecting graphic designers wouldn't consider.


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  • It's really hard to be an artist at the best of times.

    I don't think the open source ethos really applies to art or illustration in the way it does to code.

    Code does (mostly) useful work, and on an ongoing basis. Many of us contribute not because of ahy particular ideals, but because it has value for us directly and continues to have value for us over time.

    Even if a company is running the project, it's a direct win-win for both the company and the contributor.

    It's very hard to say the same thing of art. If t

    • I agree with most of your points here. Code and Art are similar enough that when I read the original blog post I initially thought "get with the program, this is what open source is about". But now that I think about it I'm not sure it's a fair comparison. We (my $work) have contributed are to open source projects, but we've always paid the designers who were doing the work.

      It's really a shame too. So many OSS projects lack good design and good art.