Hey AIGA: 1996 called. They want their online pub tool back.

Jared Spool

June 22nd, 2010

The AIGA recently published the online version of their 2009 Salary Survey.

AIGA 2009 Salary Survey Viewer

I was really disappointed with their 1996 approach to the salary survey. The AIGA is filled with talented designers, yet they opted for an impossible-to-use book reader to display their hard work.

Locking the survey up in a proprietary, unusable reader was a huge mistake. It’s hard to use, not lending itself to the richness of the data that’s available. It’s like looking at the entire ocean through a small porthole.

But it’s not just the reader that’s the problem. You can download the PDF (after registering), but that doesn’t make it it much more modern.

The big problem is that the book is all about the presentation of the data, but not about the knowledge within.

The salary data that AIGA has at this point is really rich. They’ve got thousands of respondents surveys, going back to 2000. It would be awesome to really dive into this data.

AIGA is all about graphic arts. But in 2010, graphic arts has a huge responsibility to communicate interactively. How cool would it be to have a Mint.com-style drill-down interface, that would let you compare variables, such as whether salaries in Austin for the last five years have grown/shrunk the same as salaries in Boston?

How about letting people doing cross-tab analysis. For example, how does years of experience play into the salary changes? Does it change for job type? Region? Are there some regions that pay off more than others? And has that changed over the years?

By presenting the data as a flat book (or worse with the silly antiquated issuu interface), AIGA is saying that the understanding of the information is secondary to how it looks when they present it.

I don’t think this is the message that AIGA wants to send about graphic artists. As the premier organization for representing the future of what graphic arts can be, it would be nice to escape flatland and get to the core of communications.

The other big missing piece from the AIGA Salary Survey is the ability to export the data. How cool would it be to pump it into IBM’s Many Eyes project, letting people come up with dynamic interpretations on their own? How cool would it be to put together a student competition that focused on new and novel visualization techniques? Such a competition would accentuate the profession while demonstrating what the new wave of talent can bring to the world.

I get the AIGA is a membership organization and, in such organizations, it’s the volunteers making things happen. But this was a funded survey. (And the AIGA has this weird position of people not doing work for free—despite the fact they regularly ask me to volunteer my time to speak for free at their events.) They should’ve funded the project (or bagged the no-spec-work policy) to get the presentation portion as part of the project.

Overall, I’m really disappointed that the AIGA is stuck in this 1996 view of graphic arts. If the goal of the survey salary is to help promote the profession and demonstrate how valuable the organization’s members are to their companies, the best way to do that would be to take advantage of state-of-the-art thinking in that presentation.

Hopefully the AIGA will see that there are huge possibilities they’ve completely ignored. I’d love to see a state-of-the-art salary survey from them soon.

3 Responses to “Hey AIGA: 1996 called. They want their online pub tool back.”

  1. Julie Says:

    Point of order: There’s a difference between spec work and working for free. And while I’m in that paragraph – do non-profit organizations typically pay you to speak?

  2. Jared Spool Says:

    Julie, I agree completely that there is a difference between spec work and working for free. I’m not sure, however, AIGA has done nearly as good a job of making that clear as they have with their working-without-pay-is-bad mantra.

    And yes, non-profit organizations regularly offer me a fee when I’m invited to speak for them. And sometimes I take it, especially when they are using my name, reputation, and fruits of my work to generate profitable revenues. (Just because an organization is non-profit doesn’t mean it’s unprofitable.)

  3. Zusch Login » Blog Archive » Stat 203 Says:

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