Book Review | Graphic Artist Guild Handbook

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I’m one of those people that have two wish list Pinterest boards on books, one for business and career and another for any book that catches my interest, that can compete with the other boards regarding the amount of pins inside. Somehow every time I manage to get one off the list, three more end up there and I like to think that “I don’t have many books, I have too little shelving”.

Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines by Graphic Artists Guild, has been on my wish list for almost 2 years and recently I managed to get a good deal on it through my favorite and go to online shop for books.
When I received it in the mail I was really surprised because I wasn’t expecting it to be so big and heavy (it’s almost the size of an A4 paper with an approx 3,5 cm in thickness) which doesn’t make it very travel friendly. Two bowls of blueberries and a whole weekend was all it took me to go through it. I was a little overwhelmed with all the resources and information so I wanted to go through it a second a time and organize its content in a way I could easily find any topic whenever I needed. I have now 23 little markers on the book marking the topics and themes I know that will be helpful on a daily basis.

“While technology has created the constant need for graphic artists to stay informed and upgrade their skills, it also has made possible a multitude of convenient, professional development and sharing opportunities – many of them free – via online courses, tutorials, blogs, webinars, podcasts, and professionals groups and social networking sites. At no time in history have creative professionals been more connected.” (page 78)

The book is organized in 15 chapters followed by an Appendix with contracts and forms, a Glossary and membership documents to join the Graphic Artists Guild. Each chapter focus on a different theme, although you’ll be able to find different information about certain topics scattered in different chapters. For example, regarding the Greeting Card industry, I have pages marked on both the Graphic Design (page 177) and Illustration (page 241) chapters.

The first five chapters focus on the legal side of a business: copyright and legal rights, trademarks, agents (page 5-8), design proposals, tips and strategies on how to negotiate with a client (page 83-90).

Chapter 6 (page 118-131) talks about the importance of contracts while explaining the different types that are used nowadays, with more tips on negotiation. If you’re alone in your business and you don’t feel comfortable reviewing your work contracts, this chapter can help you understand the different sections that usually come in a standard contract and even gives advice on what it should be included, from copyright issues to payment and legal issue.
In the beginning terms like these were really scary and intimidating because I didn’t really understand what I was giving away with those but little by little I’m starting to feel more confident and I have to say this chapter helped me a lot.

Chapter 7 covers employment conditions and salaries for artists who work on staff. If you’re applying for a job in a company and they ask you a job description or a salary range, this chapter is a good resource if you don’t know where to begin. The numbers on this chapter represent the responses of 8.000 design professionals and to be honest, I was really mesmerized with some values.
Some job descriptions included in this chapter: creative director, design manager, junior designer, senior designer, production artist, studio artist, web developer, game designer, illustrator and others.

Senior Designer, primarily print is a designer for whom a majority of his/her work is with the print medium. A Senior Designer is responsible for conceptualization and design of solutions to their completion. (…) Areas may include: branding, graphics, communications, research/strategic, environmental design primarily for print and media. $52,000 to $75,000. (page 137)

From chapter 8 to 13 a specific area is covered and on each of them specific content and information is given. The chapters are:

Chapter 8 – Graphic Design
Chapter 9 – Web Interactive Design
Chapter 10 – Illustration
Chapter 11 – Cartooning
Chapter 12 – Animation
Chapter 13 – Surface Design

Of course that not every chapter will be useful to some people, for me, I found chapter 8, 10 and 13 the ones that I focused more on but I still found interesting going though the others to have a perspective on how things work on those areas. Each chapter has detailed information and descriptions of different kinds of projects, as well as, pricing charts based on levels of complexity, geographic use, market and type of client.

For those of you who are entering the world of surface design I highly recommend chapter 13. To me it was a basically a full course on the subject and although most of the things I already had a basic knowledge about, I know it will come in hand in future projects. Hourly rates, flat fees, licensing and royalties and trade practices are some of the topics covered here.

Chapter 14 contains resources and references on books, trade shows, organizations and useful sites and blogs.

At the very end of the book you can find a very useful Glossary and samples of standard contracts and forms for doing business that can be a starting point to customize our own contracts.

Overall, I think it’s not an exaggeration when this book is called the bible of the industry. I found it to be very resourceful and helpful and is now a must have on my work desk on a daily basis.


Do you have this book on your shelf?
Did you find it useful? Feel free to share your insights on the book in the comments below.

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