STATE OF THE INDUSTRY: DECEMBER 2000
First and foremost, the business is good. Despite many segment-specific issues (e.g., the battle of individual artists vs. stock houses addressed in the editorial foreword (of this issue of Visual Arts Trends)), creative firm revenues are climbing steadily; salaries are up; employment opportunities abound; and all forecasts issued by various industry organizations suggest that the situation is going to get even better. Perhaps parents will no longer have panic attacks when children announce their plans of going to art schools, as art - commercial art, that is - has become and will continue to be not only creatively rewarding, but also lucrative. That is, as long as one remembers that the business of visual arts is just that a business, and not a bohemian chase for self-expression.
the more interesting developments is the new spirit of cooperation that
is becoming more and more pronounced with every passing month. We are
used to industry membership bodies and advocacy groups devoted to
specific issues, but the new creative co-op model is an entirely
different ball game. In practically every industry, we are seeing the
formation of these new entities - groups of freelance professionals and
firms pulling their creative, marketing, and financial resources
together for the common good. Some of these groups are membership-based
and some are privately held; others function in a variety of different
ways, from revenue-share arrangements to completely informal club-like
scenarios. Such alliances are proving to be highly beneficial in saving
costs, providing access to new business, and enabling freelancers and
small shops to offer a wider array of services - a very sound business
strategy given today's clients' 'one-stop shopping' mentality. The
other wonderful things about co-ops are that they foster relationships,
stimulate creativity, and result in collaborative projects that cross
cultural and geographic boundaries. It seems as if the entire creative
community were about to break into its own rendition of "We are family"
(Sister Sledge, 1979).
Aesthetically speaking, we are not in as good a shape. Clearly, there are exceptions, but the overall quality of work leaves much to be desired. Various experts attribute this phenomenon to poor education (or lack thereof), detrimental influence of technology on the creative disciplines, large companies making life harder for the little guys, tighter deadlines, smaller budgets, what have you. Be that as it may, the fact remains: Everything has become an @ symbol, for all intents and purposes. And we are sick of it. But here is a prediction: This, too, shall pass. We'd like to think that the current lack of individuality, style, and professionalism is a transitional phase. We tend to agree with most of the aforementioned reasons, mainly the Internet having changed, oh, everything as we have known it. However, professionals are still producing high-caliber work - it just gets lost in the visual assault the average person is subjected to on a daily basis. But we have already seen the first signs of the Internet hype dissipating. What is bound to come next is some rather stiff competition, and only professional communicators are going to remain standing after the smoke clears. And make no mistake: This is going to happen sooner than you think. Then, we can revisit the issues of style and concept.
Copyright-related problems have plagued the creative industries since the very inception of the concept. However, it must be noted that awareness of intellectual property laws and related business practices has gone up considerably in recent months. For example, just a few years ago, creatives living and working in what the United Nations refers to as "developing" countries didn't pay much attention to the legal aspects of their professions. Today, the situation is completely different - in industrialized and developing countries alike. Once again, we can thank the Internet. While it certainly provides an easy opportunity for copyright infringement, the sheer amount of Net-related lawsuits has focused the attention of creatives, industry membership bodies, advocacy groups, and governments on the importance of the issue of intellectual property.
On a parting note, watch out for androids crossing the street. All jokes aside, we are seeing the early incarnations of artificial intelligence.* For now, these are confined to the Internet, with some models better developed than others, but this eagerly anticipated technology is finally crawling. It's also talking. Perhaps walking is the next step.
The bottom line? So far, so good.
*Note: See www.ananova.com, www.triumphpc.com/john-lennon, and www.umagic.com.
About this article
This article by the Visual Arts Trends editorial staff was originally published as the preface of Visual Arts Trends 3S, the latest international quarterly "state of the industry" report for the creative professional. It is reprinted with permission. 2001, Visual Arts Trends.
About Visual Art Trens
With offices in New York and London, Visual Arts Trends is an international quarterly "state of the industry" report for the creative professional. Focusing on graphic design, advertising art direction, photography and illustration, each report offers a brief, business-oriented, definitive and timely overview of industry developments that affect aesthetics, pricing, salaries, working conditions and client relations. Visual Arts Trends combines unique proprietary research with material gathered by monitoring hundreds of publications, companies, membership organizations, online sources, and other relevant sources of information. The reports review and analyzes professional trends by business category and by specialization. In addition, each report profiles