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#Milanuncut: an end to paltry fees?

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[THIS WEEK] Very occasionally, new platforms facilitate new discussions, writes James Pallister

One of the topics trending last week on the microblogging platform Twitter was #milanuncut, a neologism that borrowed protest group UK Uncut’s snippy suffix to campaign not against corporate tax avoidance, but for awareness of the paltry fees product designers receive from manufacturers for their work.

The first rumblings started in the week leading up to the Milan Furniture Fair (12-17 April), when London-based journalists including Kieran Long, London Design Guide author Max Fraser and Dezeen founder Marcus Fairs, riffing off each other, started to throw out some awkward questions about designers and pay.

How does the disconnect between large advertising budgets, champagne launches and the pittance royalty payments designers receive work? Shouldn’t designers be in a better position to broker more equitable contractual arrangements with manufacturers than ones which allow no fees for product development?

The discussion continued apace: design agency ZeroFee quickly conjured up an iPhone app that channelled all #milanuncut tweets, Dezeen heavily promoted the campaign and Art Review provided coverage.

Even before the fair had started, what looked like becoming its major talking point wasn’t a volcanic ash cloud like last year, or a new chair from Konstantin Grcic, but the degree to which product designers were or weren’t exploited by product manufacturers.

Fraser reported that PRs were ‘happy to rig up interviews with major design players in Milan’ - until he mentioned the #milanuncut campaign.

One of the interesting things about this discussion is that it’s one which, because of considerations to advertisers, would be unlikely to originate in an earlier technology - print. The design pundits’ impudent demands have been nailed to the door. Let’s see how the industry reacts to them.


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