Unpaid Design Internships.


Have you been reading the design headlines in the NYTimes this week? If so, you know Charlie Rose from PBS settled a suit with unpaid interns for their work in the smash hit ‘Black Swan’. The settlement was in the ballpark of about $60,000 to the previously uncompensated workers, and about $50,000 for their legal fees. Now, there is a much-needed nationwide discussion on the ethics of unpaid design internships.

My stance is quite simple: if someone is producing on behalf of a company, the company should compensate the worker.

Now, I do realize, certain internship roles are purely for educational purposes, a true extension of the classroom. When these internships are constructed well, they’re an opportunity for both student and employer. The internship system is engineered to advance the ‘best of the best’ with enough stepping stones for these individuals to climb out of the trenches of an entry-level internship and start walking the path of long-term employment within the company.

In working with in-house creative departments of large corporations (or agencies), I rarely see unpaid internships setup so effectively. And I continually ask, why not pay these individuals for their work in addition to giving them educational credit?

Can unpaid internships be seen as “crowd-sourcing”, just another opportunity for creative professionals to be asked to give away their talents for free?

This article was written by Adam Fry-Pierce.


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