13 November 2006
Erik Spiekermann, Form
Erik Spiekermann, Form

I keep reading "(...) won the project (...) after a pitch." Won? A pitch is the presentation of design ideas to a client by competing agencies or studios. The Americans pitch a baseball, while the English noun denotes a black, sticky substance that is difficult to get off your hands.

That stuff is called "Pech" in German, and we use the same word for bad luck. (I love etymology!) Bad luck indeed for those who don't "win" a pitch. Clients love to invite designers to a pitch when they think they need help with an unsolved communication problem, and the fee usually doesn't even cover the cost of the color prints. That would be like visiting several restaurants in a row, trying the food in each one, and then refusing to pay the bill because none of the dishes were really to your liking.

Taking part in a pitch where concepts are sold for a fraction of what they are worth - in other words: given away - makes you a loser three times over. First you lose any respect for our business, because if it can be given away, it can't be worth much. Then you lose money by not being paid for your most valuable asset: ideas and their visual manifestation. And finally, you lose any chance to show the client that it takes a dialog to solve design problems.

A pitch is like a blind date with many partners at the same time. A client who invites designers to a pitch without first talking to them properly, at length and in depth, might as well draw lots among the members of a professional association. And if a client does engage a few designers in a dialog about the issue, he won't need a pitch any more. He'll know who to trust.

Why then do more and more clients think that pitching is the way to go, and why do so many designers take part? It seems that Stupidity, Laziness, Vanity and Cowardice - the four Riders of the Design Apocalypse - drove Reason - one of the patron saints of design - to a blackout; a pitch black one, so to speak.

About Form
form is one of the leading design magazines in Europe and is issued in both German and English. Renowned specialist writers report six times a year on the latest trends in industrial design, graphic and interaction design. Since 1957, form has been been an authoritative source of information and inspiration to designers, entrepreneurs, lecturers and students alike. The internationally oriented magazine founds its reputation on thoroughly researched articles, lavish photo sequences, noteworthy interviews, a vivid layout and high print quality. form is distributed worldwide. The annual subscription price is 100,90 EUR (including shipment, plus VAT).

About Erik Spiekermann
Erik Spiekermann is an information architect, type designer (FF Meta, FF Unit, ITC Officina, FF Info et al) and author of books and articles on type and typography. He was founder (1979) of MetaDesign, Germany's largest design firm. In 1988 he started FontShop. He holds a professorship at the Academy of Arts in Bremen, president of the International Institute of Information Design and a board member of ATypI and the German Design council. In July 2000, Erik withdrew from the management of MetaDesign Berlin. In 2001 he redesigned The Economist magazine in London. Erik now lives and works in Berlin, London and San Francisco running the United Designers Network.