Design Firm sinking....no products on market...

I have been working for a design firm for slightly less than 2 years. First year client stream was steady down time of 1-2 weeks between projects. Second year owner started taking sales classes that taught that “price is never the issue” and our prices sky rocketed, with many clients saying that our propossals were overkill for what they had asked for. Which they ofcourse were as we were making up fancy names for bullshit deliverables. Managed to get two 3 month projects this year…over 30 proposals rejected.

I am looking for new job, however out TC gives clients sole marketing rights to all concepts and drawings created during the project. And my Non-Compete is the standard 3 yr 300 mile agreement (can work corporate since these are by law not considered copeating interests) that all design and development firms (corporate included, I have asked other IDers I come in contact with) in this state use. It is even up-holdable for 3 yrs if the company closes it’s doors, uncle is an atterney so I had him look it over.

What can I show to a potential employer, and how do I explain my lack of product dispite being in the workforce for 2 yrs. Please help I am desperate as I have a morgage, student loans, and two car payments. In addition the private school that my wife teaches at is closeing down the end of December as the local Archdiosy (sp?) is closing all “non-essencial” schools…all schools that are comprised of lower income student on the states right to education grants.

No product I have worked on has gone into production as of yet, most projects were canceled after Owner tried to jack up the prices mid way through the design. I am so frustrated, and all other designers have left, two went back to retail, one paid the 150k court seatlement and started her own firm, but can not hire any past or present employees of this firm for 5 yrs. Also situation has me so frustrated and depresed I can not focus on independent projects with any quality results.

Help…what do I do…

Gotta push that frustration and depression out and get to your own projects. Lots of us are in that “can’t show the good relevant stuff” situation. Only way around it is your own side work to show the skills in the portf. Realize that frustration and depression are states of mind that you can control. Try this:

-Take one week off as vacation, clear your mind, do something fun, get it out of your system. This is your break because in a week you start “work”.
-The next monday is your first day at your new “job”. It’s your dream job, only 10 min walk away from your house (get out and take a nice walk in the morning), no long commute or traffic. Office is business casual and you get to control the music.
-You are going to have a steady stream of intensive projects. Start to finish, 2 weeks maximum for each one. This is your time to pick the type of pj’s you want. Do your process same as your old job, research, brainstorm, concepts, final concept proposals, all week one.
-Week 2, choose your concept to do refinement, photoshop rendering and/or 3-d model. Final concept pres is due the next monday.

Continue this for 2 months, you should have some good projects to help fill your portf by then that show your current skill level. If you can bang out pj’s faster, 1 week turnaround, even better. After that your book should be a pretty decent representation of your basic skills.

You’ll keep busy instead of sulking, it’ll be better for you. You may actually come up with some stuff you could try to sell or license. Don’t let the depression and bad situation control your mind, keep positive and keep busy and you won’t have time to worry about the bs. Plus it’ll then put you in a better postion to go for something new.
Good places you interview with understand about the nda’s and how it affects your portf with only 2-3 yrs exp. But you still want to have something to show so only way around it is to do your own thing, or breach contract and potentially get in trouble.

Good luck to you.

dude…get your head out of your ass. thats what working in a firm is all about…ups and downs. can’t handle it? become a freelancer…go corporate…start a goddamn band.

More importantly, stop worrying about ‘getting a product out there’ your job is to solve problems and/or make peoples lives better…not to pump out another product for the sake of your portfolio. youll get it eventually- if you dont, well youll end up with all the other id burn outs.

DR Frank…

Firm is 300k+ in the red, found out the lease on the building has not been paid in 9 months, and yestarday the engineer, office assistant, and project manager were let go. Yet the owner is taking a two week vacation starting tomorrow. At least this will give me time to work on my sh**.

It is far worse than the normal up and down. No work since the end of May, and no prospect meetings since mid June, no prospect calls since july 4, thats when the owner told me to stop calling becuase he was the only one “trained to do sales properly”.

Skinny thanks for the encuragement, however it is easier said than done. But I know it is what I need to do.

Oh, and I can not freelance for three years; non-compete. This is not a “right to work state”.

That sort of non-compete contract would be exceptionally hard to hold up in court. Non-compete contracts are meant to protect the firm’s interests, not to keep you from making a living. If the owner did try to take you to court, his horrible business record would certainly be a large blow against him. Obviously I’m a designer-- not a lwayer-- but I think it would be worth your time to consult with one, if that’s what’s keeping you from leaving.

FBC, it is totally upholdable in this state. I have seen 4 lawyers who all say the same thing. The laws are written to protect the corporation at the expense of the workers. And he has been able to have it stick in court, for a 150K worth of damages even though the designer never contacted an existing or known potential client. She mearly left to start her own firm specializing in lighting and ceiling fans.

I have been told (by two lawyers) that if he fires me, or if I quit, or if he goes bankrupt the contract is valid. However if he fails to meet payrol and my check bounces of he holds it for mare than the allowed 2 weeks, then he is in a breach of contract voiding the entire agreement. But I know that he will fire me long before that happends.

non compete contracts are mostly a threat, courts often rule the other way but I have never heard of a designer going to court after switching firms. Remember it is your constitutional right to be able to earn a free living not being bound to any individual/organization, as long as you leave your employer with valid reason (yes, bad work environment qualifies such as harassment, extreme stress due to work hours) any court will rule in your favor. Non-compete are contracts but does not mean that they are legal. Most are only threats, I’ve never ran into a problem. But you do have to be honorable in your intentions.

(also if he is financially troubled, he won’t pursue a costly lawsuit over an unhappy employee)

Be sure not to contact previous clients or offer previous designs developed while employed with your previous firm. Thats fair, you provide exclusive rights to your work in exchange for a paycheck and benefits.

As far as portfolio’s go, what they don’t know won’t hurt them…and if you do get caught (highly unlikely, unless you put in on a website) play stupid, all they can do legally is request that you remove the images.

My suggestion, get your portfolio ready if it eases your mind but enjoy collecting a paycheck; enter into a design competition while you have free-time. Take this opportunity to grow, cause a lot of us designers don’t get that free-time to persue our own personal design interests.

I agree with what AMP said. In order to enforce a non-compete clause, it basically comes down to time and money…both of which the owner of this firm probably has very little of.

I personally don’t think there’s a great harm in showing a couple projects that haven’t been released yet. Granted, if these projects are, for example, toy related, I wouldn’t go showing them to a toy company or another firm that does alot of toys. The design field is small, and could come back to bite you. Like AMP said, what they don’t know won’t hurt them!

Are you getting paid now? It seems like the non compete agreement does not work if you are let go. So while you get paid to sit around and contribute to this board you sould be working on the work you need to show. Also, perhaps it might be wise to sell your cars you are making payments on. Also if you have only been there for two years, can’t you show the work you showed to get this job?

I guess this is a lesson to all of us not to sign a not compete agreement so quickly. If you are forced to sign it I think the agreement is not valid.

Forgive me for stating what might be obvious, but non-comps are usually market specific, and firms usually have a specialty, like Small Home /office or sporting goods.

You are a trained, proffessional problem-solver. Drop you in any problem and you have tools and models to systematically destroy all opposition! (yea!)

Have you considered other firms with different focuses/specialties? House wares or electronics? Then IF he takes you to court you are not compeating.

Also geographic markets can differentiate you.

For portfolio, take a page from the people always busting copyrights, I’ve seen concept artists from film industry show spin-offs, like if they worked on starwars, maybe none of the ships in the film could be shown, but take some of the undeveloped ides, or roads not taken and develop them the rest of they way, now half your work is done for you, and what you show portfolio wise is sufficiently different from your “Work Projects” The competition and d.i.y. licensing stuff is great too!

I’ve been where you are, and doubted my self worth quite a bit. Bejamin frankin wrote that every now and then, he liked to put on a coat, turn off the heat, sleep on the floor and eat stale bread to reassure himself that he would rather suffer for a while and lose his earthy possesions than to sell out his principles. A lot of other great and successful men have fallen out on their @$$es, taken something lower in a feild completely new to them, and learned from it all over again. The thing these guys all seem to have in common is the ability to see a total upset in their circumstances as an opportunity to learn, get trained and move up.

We had just bought a condo in a realy pricy market on both our income when my wife got cancer. We cut back well before it got bad, and are still making our housepayments. I will see it comming if it ever gets to the point where we can’t afford the house payment and sell for a nice profit and go into a cheap studio apt or even back in at home before I “loose the house” Don’t let the b@$tards get you down.

I have considered other firms, only thing is this firm has no specialty. We are the utmost representation of generalist. Completed everything from toys, medical, surgical, home decore, office products, lighting, fans, automotive accessories, even two still classified military projects over the past 5 years of buisness. The Non-Compete ia specific in that it is worded than any “consultancy or corporate deign and/or development staff or contract participation” is considered to be competiive employment.

I would love to work on my own products while at work…but Owner is watching over like a hawk, and would rather see me typing e-mails, or surfing the net than even working on proprietary portfolio(firms) building material or brushing up on hand and computer design skills.

Thanks for the support everyone. Maybe I will look into moving to Cali no NC’s there. To bad this state is so infavor for the buisnesses. I used to think that it would not be up-holdable as I came from Chi-town were it was signed but never enforced. Come here and I see it enforced on designers both ID and Graphic, as well as Achies and engineers on an almost daily basis. Always going in favor of the company, even an engineering firm who closed up shop after Lockheed pulled a big contract. One designer with 10 yrs experiance…is now a delivery driver for Pepsi, as his NC listed both design and sales. Started his own firm which lasted for 18 months before an article in the paper detailed him as the sole proprietor of a firm that assisted a local inventor in developing and marketing a medical device that would eliminate the need for a traciectomy(sp?) regardless of how damaged the esophogus or larinx was. Lost his firm, and 1.5 million becuse it was ruled that the inventor had a 50% probability of using his previous employer for the work.

It just sikens me to see how the buissness of product development is conducted. Came into this profession thinking that through design the lives of the consumer could be improved. Instead all I see is the greed, and eragance of large companies and their utter disregard for their clients preffernces or true needs.

I am done ranting now, but I actually feel better, guess I gust needed to vent. Sorry y’all had to listen to it…


But he leaves at 4 for vacation.

Can you tell us what state you’re in that has nc’s that harsh?

one of the “RED” states, next to a “Blue State”.

skinny asked for a state. you cant say? dont understand the problem. why not tell us about you? NC doesnt stop you showing school portfolio. people with jobs post their portfolios on Core. so what? its smart. so why not register? then you could PM someone with answer in case your worried about boss finding out.

your making this hard. make it easy. maybe someone on Core will have a job lead. in your state!

MO near KC, but also has sourcing branch (BS) office in STL (mostly just so that the NCA covers Metaphase, Tyco Healthcare, True Tredmills, and that company who does the timberland bags forget the name Centric or something like that).

Owner is ruthless, relentless, connected, and greedy. All traites I wish I would have seen 3 yrs ago. Especially since his way of dealing with clients is to make his designers look like liers, and morrons, making him self look like the golden savior. Untill he has to demand the money because you refuse to demand double what was agreed to becuase he went out and bought a new convertable jag and has to cover the check he wrote for the down payment.

advice to all new commers, learn about the bosses personality, and buisness tactics.

I’m sorry for the comments earlier in this thread. It isn’t always easy.

This might help you feel better.


http://gunks.com/index.php?pageid=215&pagenum=1&smGroup=1&smID=1

my advice is do personal project or two at home. add that to school portfolio. show what you can of pro work. then look for another job. if another design firm, they know the issues with noncompetes. let them worry about that. if corporate, its a non issue.

move on. nothing stopping you.

That is some serious threading. I too am frustrated.
I’ve been in your position. I still am. I happen to have done ALL the suggestions as well. I too worked for a small firm for 2 years until I got “let go”, “laid off” whatever you want to say. I had the opportunity to produce some great work for this group but I wiped my butt with the NC and just went out and did what I wanted. I patented a project from college and persued a license and after 2 years of trying to get connected, having samples made, lawyers, contracts, etc. I’ve finally got my first order of 1000 units which retail over $100 each. I get 2/3 of royalties and a 1/3 of manufacturing profits. I also trademarked the name of the product, and the logo. At the same time I was trying to market this patent, I met a guy at a trade show who owned a parts company and got to talking about design, etc. A week later, he ended up feeding me a years worth of small design projects which kept me out of debt. True, I got totally lucky. At the time, I was looking for a job (bloody impossible for some reason) and trying to market my patent at the same time. I wasn’t prepared to take on freelance work but nobody knew I was working out of my bedroom. I only provided concept and CAD work. There’s a lot more to tell but I think the bottom line is that it takes money to make money and investing in yourself is the only way to make it in this field. I still haven’t made a nickel from this project yet, but I’m a few months away of hitting the market and can taste the fruit of my commitment and hard work. My problem is that I’d rather be poor with the chance to get rich than to settle for salary and just the dreams of “some day”. That’s not to say that I might not have to take a job at some point but hopefully I won’t need the money when/if I see the right opportunity.
The hardest part for me is getting clients as a freelancer. Always a humbling experience and no guarantees. There just aren’t alot of repeat customers to design firms these days. No loyalty. Its brutal. I had a client take my sketches and cad work to Asia. Ultimately, I didn’t care, he paid me. However, I never got to see the final product, never even got to test the SLA samples and the product still isn’t out on the market but it felt good to have someone believe in my skills and expertise.

On a similar note I’m suggesting a new scale in pricing for designers:
“FREE CAD WHEN YOU BUY CONCEPT SKETCHES” :laughing:

good post, steve.