The Medium is the Message

There’ve been a lot of mentions recently in the social media about the plight of the freelance designer. In fact only the other day I found even the mighty Panopticon, who rounded off my Sweet Shawlettes blog tour yesterday, bemoaning the fact that sexism is rife in the industry, having just experienced a dose of it himself.

From what I’m hearing it seems that many designers are wracked by insecurity and self-doubt, convinced they are being ignored, overlooked or dismissed. Yet rejection is common currency in a freelancer’s everyday life. You’re only as good as your last design and unfortunately there’s always another designer willing to work for a lower fee.

In my experience most knit designers are in the business because they love the craft rather than to line their pockets. Many will work for whatever they are told is the going rate, sometimes even just for the kudos of having their designs in print, which makes them vulnerable to unscrupulous companies who consistently undervalue their work. It’s virtually impossible to make a decent living out of pattern sales alone, unless of course you are lucky enough to be the newest darling of the knitterati.

Cover with original typo
which McLuhan asked his
publisher not to correct
Marshall McLuhan’s The Medium is the Message is proving to be an amazingly accurate prophecy. McLuhan's observation that societies have always been shaped more by the nature of the media by which men communicate than by the content of the communication is undoubtedly more relevant today than ever before. Many skills are demanded of today’s designers and it’s virtually impossible to do it all, have a life and not burn out.  We are in the business of innovation and creativity, but we’re expected to do the admin, promotion, marketing, web design, networking etc etc as well – it’s not possible to get help as the money just isn’t there to support it. Therefore it doesn’t matter how good a designer you are  - if you’re not media savvy you might just as well forget it.

I’ve always felt here’s something intrinsically wrong that design should come at the end of the line when the cash is being handed out.  In the 80s that’s why so much fantastic British talent went abroad, where there were companies that recognised good design and were willing to pay for it to set their products apart from the rest. 

It’s a tough old world and competition, rather than co-operation, is encouraged to get the best product for the cheapest price.  There’s no union, and one designer is played off against another, generating an inevitable climate of elbowing your way up the ladder.  Insult to injury is added by the fact that it all happens under the cosy umbrella of knitting, where everything is supposed to be in fine apple pie order.

Franklin and his many, many correspondents seemed to be surprised, indeed outraged at what happened to him.  Whilst I understand the outrage, in an ideal world of course sexism shouldn’t exist, but knitting is a craft not a creed. So I’m never surprised that there are sexist, racist and ageist bigots to be found knitting away with the rest of us. 

Like any other demographic, there’s bound to be a percentage of any ism you care to mention thrown into the mix. After all you wouldn’t expect every knitter to belong to the same political party, so why should they all have similar views on any other topic.  Wherever you are on the infinite human spectrum, you’re bound to be judged negatively by some and there’s always going to be those who will allow that prejudice to affect their judgement of your work.

I salute Franklin for bringing our attention to it, but feel that beating oneself up about it is a total waste of time and emotion.  As designers we need to toughen up, stick together and lead by example, in the hope that the majority of knitters will follow in our footsteps, so that the industry might eventually recognise the true value of creative design.

Tues 3 Jan  Wendy Knits Wendy Johnson  
 Wed 4 Jan  Knitgrrl Shannon Okey
Thurs 5 Jan  Yarnagogo Rachael Herron
 Fri 6 Jan  The Knitter Rosee Woodland
Sat 7 Jan  Rhythm of the Needles  Joanne Conklin
Sun 8 Jan  Knit Purl Gurl  Karrie Steinmetz
                Mon 9 Jan  Craft Sanity  Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood
Tues 10 Jan  Planet Purl Beth Moriarty
 Wed 11 Jan  Sunset Cat  Stephannie Tallent
Thurs 12 Jan  A Really Good Yarn  Julie Schilthuis
Fri 13 Jan  Knit 1 Chicago  Lynn Coe
Sat 14 Jan  Go Knit in your Hat Carol Sulcoski
Sun 15 Jan Redshirt Knitting  Erika Barcott
Mon 16 Jan   In The Loop  Cheryl & Ellen
Tues 17 Jan  WEBS  Kathy Elkins
Wed 18 Jan  Zeneedle Margene Smith
Thurs 19 Jan   Knitspot  Anne Hanson
Fri 20 Jan   Urban Yarns  Alexa Ludeman
Sat 21 Jan  A Friend to knit with  Leslie Friend
Mon 23 Jan  Tentenknits  Margaux Hufnagel
Tues 24 Jan  Fancy Tiger Crafts  Amber Corcoran
Wed 25 Jan  Chic Knits  Bonne Marie Burns
Thurs 26 Jan  The Panopticon  Franklin Habit


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