This week, a ruckus erupted on AIGA’s Voice blog when Steve Zelle, a Canadian brand consultant, warned of the dangers that lurk in the practice of sharing design works-in-progress with peers.
Zelle was writing about Dribbble, a website that allows users to post fragments of ongoing projects and solicit reactions from a close community of design professionals — so close, in fact, that designers can participate only by invitation.
Citing AIGA guidelines, Zelle considered potential ethical pitfalls of such practices. Designers might be tempted to share information that is rightfully owned by the client. Or they might leave themselves vulnerable to creative theft. He mused that discouraging responses might be solicited from people who were not well versed in the design problem and whose judgments were based only on partial glimpses of the approach to a solution. “Once you have opened the door to feedback, you have to do something with it,” he wrote.
“Dribbble is not the problem” Zelle concluded. “The problem is how designers are beginning to use it….Professionalism should always outweigh the desire for feedback and sharing.”
After that, the deluge. Several commentators pointed out that Dribbble was unfairly called to task, insisting that the site mostly features personal, rather than commissioned, work, and feedback tends to be positive. (The name Dribbble has since been removed from the post's headline.) Most irksome to the chorus was Zelle’s presumption that designers lack the ethical fiber in any circumstance to protect a relationship of trust with their clients. Given that this article appeared on AIGA’s website and quoted from its guidelines, some respondents were also offended by what they took to be nanny-like finger-wagging on the association’s part rather than one of many viewpoints expressed on its blog.
What have we learned from this outcry? Judging from the rush to defend Dribbble, it may be that design organizations are not providing all of the services their members crave — including feedback from (carefully vetted) semi-strangers stepping into the process at a point, mid-stream, when designers have traditionally labored alone.
But neither should AIGA Voice be slapped for hosting a contrary point of view, or in this case simply issuing a warning of potential abuse. Both websites, however streamlined their adherents, offer room for a rich range of responses.