Save the Freelancers: Evil Employers and Open Source for Designers

By Design.

By Design is a fortnightly letter reaching ~170,000 people following the Prototypr Medium publication. Written by Sophie Clifton-Tucker, we unearth unheard voices, and break down the barriers in design and development.

Issue #3

I hate workplace inequality even more than I hate toast that isn’t buttered all the way to the edge. And I really hate badly buttered toast.

But on a serious note, it’s been a hell of a year for workplace turmoil, with many companies finally revealing their true colours. Companies making cuts because of the economy, job offers being rescinded due to COVID-19, and putting systematic racism in the hot seat has been the flavour of 2020 so far.

How’s your company doing?

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Hot off the Press

  • Ok Google, Really?Taking a leap of faith and starting a new job is scary. Taking that leap into thin air is even scarier. But that’s exactly what happened to more than 2000 hopeful temporary/contract workers, whose job offers were rescinded in a cost-cutting move by the tech giants. Temporary, contract, or vendor workers (TVCs) make up 50% of Google’s workforce meaning, although they work on behalf of the company, they don’t legally work for the company. All the work, none o’ the perks! It’s a huge point of contention, as former ‘employee’ Kiprovski outlined in an article last year. Amidst all this chaos, UX internships for designers were yanked back out of their hands, and with it, access to valuable work experience and future job opportunities. Way to go, Google. (For a more comprehensive look at layoffs triggered by the pandemic, take a look at what Visual Capitalist have put together.)
  • Dear Steve: Reddit has also been under fire by former CEO Ellen Pao for ‘amplifying’ racism and hate. In a note to Reddit employees, current CEO Steve Huffman wrote of how Reddit “does not tolerate hate, racism, and violence”, but it seems it went down as well as a pair of paper swim shorts as employees called him out, sparking an open letter to Huffmanwith actionable steps signed by almost 1000 moderators. “You don’t get to say BLM when reddit nurtures and monetizes white supremacy and hate all day long.” stated Pao, who experienced her fair share of user-led racism at the company.
  • Fund Your Passions: If your workplace is killing your vibe, maybe it’s time to fly the coop and finally start that side hustle; that’s exactly what 17-year-old Avi Schiffmann did, whose COVID tracker ncov2019.livenow has over 1.5 billion unique visitors. In late December/early January of this year, Avi began working on his ‘little project’. By March, the site was experiencing a surge in traffic, and in May Avi won the Webby Person of the Year award. Avi turned down an eye-watering $8 million in advertising so as to avoid compromising the UI, but does he regret it? Avi instead opted for a Ko-fi badge on his site, which earned him over $10,000 in donations in a single day. So no, I don’t suppose he does.
  • Diversity in Tech: Future Startup Now Founders is a 5-week virtual mentorship programme, forming part of the Mayor of London’s ‘Digital Talent Programme’. Virtual training and a number of grants were made available to those who are often underrepresented in the tech/digital sectors. Once the lucky few have completed their training, they’ll pitch their business ideas to be in the running for a £5000 grant. A bit like a futuristic Dragons’ Den. More of this, please! In a similar vein, Adobe recently announced the 10 winners of the Adobe Design Circle Scholarships, one of which was UI/UX writer Jaymie Gill.
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Weekly Roundup

Open Source for Designers: Oleg Romanyuk, Head of Inbound Marketing at KeenEthics, believes “open source developers are driven by altruism and the desire to help others”. It’s a great opportunity for programmers to collaborate on projects that mean something to them. But great OSS doesn’t necessarily mean a usable one — just ask Chetan Kaushik. Many designers don’t know where to find these sorts of open source projects, or that they even exist. But how to get a shoe in the door of the developer-centred world of OSS? It could be as simple as logos and T-shirts. So, why open source? Because it’s the right thing to do! A huge share of the internet itself was designed as open source projects — and now look at us, enjoying the fruits of their labour to read this fancy newsletter. As Oleg says, “If we enjoy the benefits of open source, giving back to the community is the right thing to do.

Change Your WorkplaceMay 25th is a date that will rightfully stand out in history as a pivotal moment for the BLM movement. But how can brands and businesses actively make a difference beyond performative posts and tokenistic talk? Maanushi Rana offers 7 ways in which your workplace can advocate for diversity and inclusion.

Malaysians Who Make: COVID-19 pulled the proverbial rug from under a lot of designers this year, but instead of moping on the sofa with a box of Chips Ahoy (guilty), Rachel made moves and launched a directory for Malaysian artists, designers, data scientists, photographers, speakers, writers & more. Taking a leaf out of our last newsletter, Rachel talks us through her timeline from ideation to launch, offering some useful tips for amateur coders. Malaysians Who Make is not only an inclusive space for makers to connect, but also a great way for recruiters/organisers to nab their latest candidate.

The Mid-Career Crisis for Designers: You may have heard of discipline mapping, but what about purpose mapping? After being laid off, Sigit reflected on his UX career: “Do I want to keep being opportunistic, or try to drive myself towards something that’s more aligned towards what I want to be in life, and most importantly, not only for me, but for the greater good?” This led to mapping out his missions and what this meant for his job (from moving to a smaller company to relocating) and considering the concrete problems he wanted to solve, such as advancing entrepreneurship in smaller economies and helping the underprivileged through technology. Sigit for president!

Your Ticket to the Design Party: As Vivek so eloquently states, “we’re living in some weird ass times”. Trying to attain financial security in 2020 can feel a bit like being out at sea. During a storm. In a rubber dinghy. With a hole in it. But coming in on a rescue boat is Vivek with his safety kit of practical tips on entering the fields of Product/User Experience Design. Are you coming from a non-design background? Own it! Need a mentor? Reach out to people on forums such as Slack/LinkedIn! Nervous? Good! The Design market is fiercely competitive — shove those nerves in the furnace and use them as fuel.

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Available for Hire

Is your employer evil? Is your mentor driving you mental? Keep one toe in the design job pool by signing up to our People page, and clicking ‘available for hire’. You might even see yourself featured right here in our bi-weekly newsletter, you lucky sausage you.

Top Tip: Upload your recent projects, so that like-minded creators and prospective employers can see the awesome work you do!

Atharva Patil • Product Designer

LinkedIn | Website | Prototypr

  • Atharva came up with the topical tool Dont Touch Your Face, an app that uses your camera to notify you when you’re touching your face, to help minimise the spread of COVID-19.
  • Similarly, he came up with Sit Straight! — a posture classifier that blurs out Youtube videos if users don’t sit straight.
  • Whilst working at Olacabs, India’s largest cab company, Atharva explored designing for a non-conventional app while tackling challenges of designing for emerging markets, coming up with an intelligent ‘Go To’ feature.

Olalani Oluwaseun • Product Designer

LinkedIn | Website | Prototypr

  • Olalani is a self-taught Front-end Web Developer and aspiring Full Stack Web Developer who came from a background in banking. He is an active member of Google Cloud Developer Community, Lagos; Google Business Group Ikeja, Lagos; Tester of Facebook Local Insight Lagos and Dev Community online.
  • Olalani is also the co-founder of Soft Web Creator, where he creates responsive websites as a freelancer for both individuals and organisations. Peruse some of his past projects here.

Cindy Natassia • Product Designer

LinkedIn | Website | Prototypr

  • Cindy Natassia is an Indonesian product designer who believes “a good product is not only a product that is beautifully designed but also adds value”. Right on, Cindy! Take a look at some of her work over on Dribbble.
  • One of the cool projects Cindy was involved in, from testing to launch, was the complete redesign of Printt — a free printing platform for students.
  • Cindy also gave the TfL Oyster App a facelift at university. Check it out!

To be silent is to be complicit. Black lives matter. Click to add this badge to your website. ✊🏽 Get it. ✊🏿 Be loud. ✊🏼 Fight against racism.

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Sophie Clifton-Tucker

Editor, UX writer, coding since GeoCities 👾