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Open Letter: Dear Union of Students in Ireland, please stop belittling our profession

The USI’s proposal for the Irish Water logo shows how it values the design profession in Ireland – and represents a race to the bottom philosophy that undercuts true worth of creative work, write students Emma Grattan and Derek Doyle.

Emma Grattan and Derek Doyle

Last night, the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) said that Irish Water could have saved some of the €20,000 spent on its logo and related branding by using a “cost effective micro-job website to pay an online seller to create a logo” instead of employing professional graphic designers to do the job.

The USI contacted such a website, which created an ‘Irish Water’ logo at a cost $5. You can see that logo here. (Note: Irish Water’s €20,000 spend included complete branding for all sections of the semi-state company, not just the logo).

Here, two Visual Communication students question why the USI appears to be undervaluing the profession they are studying to enter.

TO THE PRESIDENT of the Union of Students in Ireland.

We are writing to you on behalf of the students from the B.A. Design (Visual Communication) degree course at the School of Art, Design and printing, DIT. We would like to comment on your proposal offering an alternative logo for Irish Water, that appeared on TheJournal.ie last night.

Unfortunately, we feel that your proposal shows a lack of clarity around the issue of who you are representing as the ‘Union of Students in Ireland’. Our colleagues have spent four to five years of full-time study to reach the professional standard required for best practice in visual communication today. We are educated in the process and value of branding and identity. Considering USI “is the sole national representative organisation for over 250,000 students”, can we ask why do you not represent us—instead choosing to undermine the profession for which we are now studying?

Your response to the current debate around the value and status of the design profession in Ireland represents the kind of cheap race to the bottom that undercuts the value and worth of good design. It not only demonstrates a lack of familiarity on your part as to what is involved in the process of design but, much more alarmingly, it exposes a lack of awareness as to the breadth of courses whose students you represent. Your proposal of last night threatens to belittle our degree and our profession, and has the very real and damaging effect of sabotaging our worth. This is absolutely unacceptable.

We would like to ask: what was the motive behind this proposal? From our point of view, it is an unintelligible attempt to exercise expertise in a professional field in which you are not educated. Furthermore, it appears to be nothing more than a weak attempt for you to gain popularity in social media.

We demand to know why you acted as you did, and to what end? More importantly, we would like to know why the Union of Students in Ireland does not value our degree?

We are taking further action in forwarding this message publicly, as we believe that this is a dangerous and damaging attitude from the people who are supposed to be representing our education.

Furthermore, we wish to put forward this question to the students of all other degrees which USI supposedly represents: Does USI really value your worth?

Sincerely,
Emma Grattan & Derek Doyle
Student class representatives
B.A Design (Visual Communication)

PLEASE NOTE: Following the publishing of this open letter, the USI met with Emma Grattan and Derek Doyle to discuss the issues raised. The union has released the following apology to Irish designers… (12/02/2014)

An Apology to Irish Design Students and Designers

We sent a release to TheJournal.ie two weeks ago seeking to highlight waste in public spending. Regretfully, we offended some of our members and others in the design industry who took from the release that we did not value design. This was never our intention, we fully admit that we messed up and did some of our members a disservice. We see now how our release served to devalue the Irish design industry, and for that we are truly sorry.

Last week we met with two design students Derek Doyle and Emma Grattan (the writers of Open Letter to USI on TheJournal.ie) along with several other design students in DIT, and discussed the matter with them openly and transparently. We apologise for undermining the hugely valuable design industry in Ireland. Our sole focus is on representing students and bettering the overall student experience, and in this instance, we didn’t do ourselves or our members justice.

We want to stress that USI knows how enormously valuable design is as a profession and a discipline. Irish industry and industry worldwide relies on brilliant Irish designers educated in our colleges, and we’re proud to have them as members.

We know from our own experience that Irish designers offer great value and their work brings enormous benefits to our work – grabbing people’s attention, making our campaigns more effective and helping us work for students of all disciplines. We also know that these benefits cannot be purchased speculatively from a website.

We’re really sorry we created the impression we don’t value design or designers – we do and will continue to do so.

Follow on Twitter: Emma @emma_grattan and Derek @derekdoyle90

Read: Irish students have some advice for Irish Water

Read: Irish designer selected to display work at David Bowie exhibition

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