Bianca Elzenbaumer from Brave New Alps collective writes in her dissertation (p.40): “Being passionate about one's work, jumping from one […] project to the next […] keeping several commissions going at the same time, accepting work even when underpaid, establishing bulimic work patterns […] doing without sick pay, paid vacations and unemployment compensation, having no or only minimal social protection […]: this is what working as a designer today involves for many between the ages of 25 to 45…”
This situation seems to be too familiar to many of us. Precarisation is a broad concept that refers to insecure, uncertain and difficult living or working conditions. In Slovakia it has not yet been fully adopted and is rarely associated with art and creative industry.
B. Elzenbaumer puts precarization also in the context of socially engaged design practice. She writes that: “it is widely accepted that designers, at some point, will necessarily need to make a choice between financial stability and meaningful work.” (p.38) Designers often consider this situation to be their personal problem, blaming themselves for insufficient assertiveness, or inability to work effectively. Toxic working habits and self-exploitation have become standard in our profession. The silent approval of this condition by claiming that we are committed to our work is a failed attempt to close our eyes to a serious systemic problem.
It is difficult to find a way out. The internationally operating Brave New Alps collective has therefore created the Precarity Pilot initiative. A lot of interesting information on the topic of precarity in design can be found there, including ideas on how to organize our design practice from a financial and career point of view, or sets of questions to help us manage our personal motivations and models. Many of this information is very stimulating and helpful, but not all of them can be applied to Slovak conditions. Suggested pricing proposals (from design associations in Germany and Italy) reveal that we face a radically different socio-economic context (the fixed price for the poster - € 3,000, the rate for a fresh design graduate - € 191/day).
The threats resulting from the precarious working conditions of designers is exacerbated by the fact that in Slovakia, in general, little is paid for design. However, it should be emphasized that low financial rewards are only one component of the problem. To improve this situation, it is important to start talking openly about this topic. Connecting and sharing could help, both at the professional level (the Union of Graphic Designers, SDC...) and in the community. Precarity Pilot could be a great example for such initiative.