A disturbing trend has been brought to my attention in recent weeks. Apparently there are established designers out there taking credit for the work their young and unpaid interns make, thereby stifling their ability to gain professional recognition and receive one of the main sources of value expected in return for their free labor.
Unpaid internships exist to expose students to the realities of their chosen careers, and in exchange for professional molding under the watchful eye of a mentor, work is done by the intern that increases the productivity of the company without expanding its payroll. The situation is often mutually beneficial, with both parties giving and receiving something worthwhile. Writer Steven Greenhouse for the New York Times published an article last month called "The Unpaid Intern, Legal or Not" which discusses what happens when these arrangements aren't as equitable as they seem on the outside.
The sketch before the jump is a design made by an intern at a furniture company. She was supposed to receive a credit for her work, but her boss took the design through production and refused to add her name to the promotional materials. You may even have seen the chair in question at the past week's BKLYN Designs and ICFF events, where it received a fair amount of attention for its unique shape and creative detailing.
If ideas have been taken from you or someone you know, please tell us about it. We want to create a set of guidelines for young or inexperienced designers to follow when working in a creative field in order to be treated with the respect they deserve and to be making, at the very least, a name for themselves when making money isn't an option.
Know that we aren't here to slander anyone, so please be careful with your comments. Let's make this a positive and informative discussion about how to protect your intellectual property as designers. Rule number one: Always sign a contract!