How to find free or cheap iOS design assistance?
February 19, 2016 7:24 AM   Subscribe

I'm a midcareer technical professional who is learning Swift and building an iOS app that I plan to release for free. I'm not much of a designer and I don't really want to be one; I'm used to working with staff designers and implementing their designs. What are some places where I can try to enlist free or cheap design help?

I'm looking for some free or cheap iOS design assistance. The app that I'm building is a learning project for me that I plan to release for free, but I'd still like it to look its best. I posted the project in Metafilter Jobs so there are some more details there. I plan to reach out to my friends on social media, and reach out to the graphic design program at the local community college and at the University of Washington (I'm in Seattle).

Where are some other places that I might get the word out about this opportunity? And if you have suggestions about how to frame it to appeal better to the correct audience, that would be welcome. Thanks!
posted by Kwine to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
While I understand the position that you are in and appreciate what you are trying to accomplish, I feel that I would be remiss if I did not provide you with these links which express — one in a serious manner and the other more tongue-in-cheek — the position of the professional design community at large on requests such as this:
- American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) Position on Spec Work
- Say No To Spec (video)
I truly wish you the best of luck in realizing your project. But I hope you'll reconsider asking design professionals — or even design students who endeavor to be professionals — to do their job for free.
posted by D.Billy at 11:05 AM on February 19, 2016 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for your feedback. I hadn't realized that even aspiring designers expect to be paid, even for projects that have no economic aim. That wouldn't be the case in my field. Many of the most interesting and worthwhile pieces of software have been developed for free and with no expectation of economic return, by established professional software developers.

How would you suggest that I proceed?
posted by Kwine at 1:31 PM on February 19, 2016

The basic difference there is that those of us with software development skills generally don't have a hard time finding actual paying work. Designers are constantly being asked to do work for free. It's easy for developers to "give work away" because doing so hasn't seriously impaired the market for paid work.

Also, it's worth noting that many open source projects are those that developers themselves benefit from; we build stuff and it makes us all better off. Designers, on the other hand, are generally asked to do free work that benefits a non-paying client and isn't really helping anybody else.

All of which comes down to this: The work you're asking a designer to do, for free, is not equivalent to the free work you associate with open-source software development, and you should proceed by offering fair payment for professional skills.
posted by Tomorrowful at 2:04 PM on February 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks. That seems reasonable. I guess this is why people charge money for things :)

I'm not at all interested in figuring out how to make this app some kind of financially viable business proposition (outside of my own time naturally) so if y'all are correct I'll have to do without quasi-professional assistance.
posted by Kwine at 3:04 PM on February 19, 2016

Response by poster: Is it any better if I flip things around and make me seem like the one who did the work for free? Let's say I come to designers in a few months with a working app that doesn't look its best. Then I say:

"I built this, it's pretty cool but as you can see it doesn't look nearly as good as it could. Would you like to help me make it look its best? In return you can have the rights to it, try to sell it or whatever, as long as you name me as the developer"

That's sort of the reverse of what I was offering, with the advantage of a tangible working prototype. Any better? or still "no one cares, fuck you pay me?"

OR actually I guess there's no reason why it couldn't pay *something*:

"Here's this functional app that doesn't look as good as it could. Pretty cool, right? I'll put this in the app store for a buck or whatever. Hell if I know if anyone will buy it, but if they do, you can have half if you help me make it look good. Or more than half? Whatever, I didn't do this to get paid but I do want it to look better than I can make it look."

Anyone going to care about that proposition?

Either way it seems like my position is going to be stronger with an app in hand, so I'd better get back to work on it. :)
posted by Kwine at 3:43 PM on February 19, 2016

I don't know if this is helpful, but FWIW. I definitely understand this struggle, as someone who develops apps for fun and isn't an awesome designer. There are two ways I've handled this in the past, neither of which may be attractive to you, but they're the best options I've found.
  1. I just do the design work myself. It's not as good as if a professional designer had done it, but I find that if I sit down with Sketch and actually spend time thinking through the design, I can usually improve it substantially from what I slapped together when I was coding.
  2. I bite the bullet and pay a designer out of pocket for a small amount of help. I have a bunch of friends and co-workers who are great designers, and usually it's possible to find someone who will let me pay for a few hours of their time to get some advice and guidance. Usually I still do the actual execution of the design myself, but the input from a knowledgeable designer is helpful. On rare occasion I have hired someone to do more in-depth design work for one of my projects, but it's hard to fund that out of pocket for an app that will never make any money.
Good luck!
posted by primethyme at 9:03 AM on February 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

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