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The (Blurry) Boundaries of Creative Ownership

Creative output, in the age of Internet searches for event resources, has become perhaps the highest event currency these days.

It’s fantastic when we as an industry get compensated for our creative talents.

This won’t be an article about stealing ideas, the concept of original ideas or how to protect content. That is for another day.

Today I am writing about money vs. creative output.

I remember sitting at a sushi counter in L.A. when my coworker asked for soy sauce.

He was flatly refused by the waitress. He asked the chef and the chef said no.

The manager also said no, to his incredulity. “I am paying for this meal, why won’t you give me soy sauce,” he thought.

According to the restaurant, the integrity of the meal would have been compromised and so they said no.

It was the best sushi meal we ever had. In the end, we felt they were right to say no.

But what if it wasn’t the best sushi ever? Do we as paying customers get to say, “No, I want it like this?”

Recently my company was hired to design the web marketing for a conference we were producing.

Web design can go a lot of ways. The client was very controlling and stuck on very bad design they had historically controlled.

We tried to shift it and lost that battle.

We then had the internal discussion: Do we put our name on something we built but did not design or should we simply state we won’t build this and thank you?

It’s a very difficult question.

Can we as designers (of whichever element of the event you are a part of) say no to creative direction that is not our own once we are engaged for a job?

When it’s a direct exchange with a client, the answer seems slightly easier to answer.

If you want to back out, simply back out. I guess the question is the, “What constitutes a reasonable request by a client?”

Now apply this scenario to a situation where the client has hired multiple vendors/designers/event partners if you will, and they are charged with collaboration.

Here is another blurry “creativity for hire” scenario that also recently happened to us.

“Give your creative design and direction to our hired video team so they can create the visual content in the show you are producing.” Ugh!

When we design full immersive experiences, we like to ensure the process is kept in house so every element remains uniform and equally produced to the vision.

We want oversight and input through until the final product.

We understand someone else is involved.

We also understand the need to be part of a team.

We just didn’t feel right designing for another creative firm and we are pretty sure they wouldn’t be comfortable with us stepping into their world giving them the vision they are used to creating.

I recall a similar situation years before where the client of the company I was working at said, “If you want to be involved in the design of the event, give the design for the guest tables to our in-house florist and they will execute it.”

We had bid. We won based on design.

And yet we lost by having to relinquish control as well as allow another firm to take credit for our company’s work.

Murky indeed.

All of these scenarios beg the question: what is the protocol for hired creativity?

I remember the days of photographers battling over ownership of prints and originals pre-digital and trying to keep their revenue stream intact.

But this is more than revenue stream. This cuts to the heart of integrity of design as well as credit for work done.

We are an industry full of unclear boundaries.

And it is perhaps naive to think that we will lose the days of patchwork teams or forced collaboration.

Knowing this, it would behoove us greatly to come to consensus on the protocols of “creativity bought” so that we may make the most out of our greatest future asset – creative thought.

Source : http://specialevents.com

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