Selling Out in the 21st Century

Why not embrace cascading experiences in design and quit sweating how your brother and sister earn their daily crust?

The Office of Design-Speak Critique gathered this week to contemplate a condition referred to as Selling Out. There is a lot of loud discussion in the halls of the former Greyhound bus garage about Selling Out.

So we asked a design colleague, not in our cranky cabal, what all this Selling Out talk was about, why are students interviewing alumni and other faculty about Selling Out and what they think about it. We were told:

“Student debt is so high now that the choice to open your own design studio and do the work you want to do is no longer an option. Students can no longer have the sort of small practice I have — and many of my generation have.”

We chewed on this. And then we got our full crank on.

  1. Selling Out. What professions are under attack via this comment? Actors? Yes. Hip-hip stars? Yup? Writers? Sure thing! Doctors, lawyers, and politicos can earn this badge too. Is it meant to be an insult? You bet it is. It stands for grabbing filthy lucre and fame at some cost. The cost being one of integrity or of an ethical or wasted-talent nature. The cost being not worth the lucre earned in the sale. (See Greek mythology for higher-stakes sell outs, also the Old Testament of the Bible if you want to go deep.)
  2. Buying In. Is this the opposite of Selling Out or is the opposite of Selling Out something a little more creepy? Something about a special knowingness, about lofty standards we all better adhere to or else earn the Sell Out Badge of Honor?
  3. The Deep Pockets Club. We think those who call-out Selling Out may be Members in Good Standing of the Deep Pockets club. It’s a privilege to have the economic space to ponder Selling Out. Or not. We hope all those who are engaged in talking about Selling Out have taken a long look at their own financial situation. Is there a Deep Pockets Club Member as part of the past or present? A grandmother with a will, father with cash on hand, or current wife who has a job where she makes enough for the two of you and is happy to support your Design Practice?
  4. Modern Life Is About Cascading Experiences. Are you a designer or a dictator? Chill with the Capital J judgement. What’s good for one can’t be good for all. Who has one career anymore? Selling Out is some fossil language from the mid-1960s. Leave it back there with the patchouli oil.
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