The Cause Does Not Justify The Means

Posted inThe Daily Heller

Under the rubric No Good Deed Goes Unpunished a recent request should have pressed some warning buttons.

I received this from a very respected old acquaintance (Some of the names in this parable have been omitted for personal reasons):

I am in contact with a local version [not New York] of Occupy Wall Street. . . One of the leaders came up with [an idea for a logo]. He knows that this is not satisfactory and asked me if I could get professional help. It is a very worthy cause. Obviously, no money. Decisions are made by consensus so it might make sense to offer several variations. Can you suggest one or more designers who are good at logos and who would see the social dimension of it whom I can try to get involved?

Although I already expressed my feelings in this blog about NOT jumping in too early to brand the Occupy Wall Street “movement,” I nonetheless recommended one – and only one – designer who I believed would do an excellent job – Felix Sockwell.

I was not told, however, that the leadership already had a preconceived “idea” for a mark that included a landmark building. The desire to show the building was not unreasonable. But was it an ingredient for effective design?

This was the marching order that Sockwell received. In addition to the building . . .

My contact, “A point person,” wants a nude figure, a symbol representing anarchists, etc. You’ll see his drawing.

Sockwell responded:

I don’t have any desire to render the committee’s decision . . . though I see where the usefulness of having it comes into play. For me, the first rule of order is that it has to be useful and makes uses of some of the stencil language already in play.

To his credit, my acquaintance has an eye and brain; he understands that designers have something to bring to the table. He responded:

Your solutions are much much better! Thank you very much. I will return later in the day to present them to the media committee.

The committee’s response came that same day:

I presented your designs. They did not buy them. . . . So, I will find someone locally who can do that.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished! While in a commercial client/designer relationship the designer is bound to be as creative as possible within the client’s proscription, in a pro-bono or volunteer relationship those rules do not apply. Sockwell, to his credit, gracefully accepted the rejection. He told me “committees don’t make decisions, people do.” He added half sarcastically, “anyhow I enjoy doing free work. I made this bed a long long time ago. No complaints (today).”

Nonetheless, it troubles me. The committee had a fixed idea that was impervious to Sockwell’s logic. Indeed, good or bad, that is their right. But clearly, because the designer offered his services for FREE, no value was attached and no value was returned. Sockwell’s mark was dismissed as though it were a doodle. For any movement to be worthy of a designer’s energy and effort, there must be respect.

The “cause” does not always justify the “means.”

[See tonight’s Nightly Daily Heller for Robert Grossman’s “Occupy This.”]

[And see all Nightly, Weekend and Daily Heller posts in the Archive here.]

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