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The Cost of 'Free' in Freelance Industrial Design Work: The Case of Turkey

Kaygan, Pınar
Demir, Ozumcan
Recent studies have paid considerable attention to the precarious conditions of creative work following the expansion of creative and cultural industries. These studies have investigated the notions of freedom, autonomy and self-management in relation to contractual form of employment, and demonstrated how aspirations to and expectations of such notions within these industries lead to disappointment and dissatisfaction, for young professionals in particular. Although these notions are also shared within the industrial design profession due to its relationship with creativity, we do not know much about how industrial designers' experiences are shaped by a work ideal based on freedom, autonomy and self-management. This is an important question especially in the context of recently-graduated industrial designers who prefer to work as freelancers over getting in-house positions in manufacturing companies, which provide better job security, higher income and promotion opportunities. This paper explores this question drawing on the narratives of 24 industrial designers with work experience in Turkey, where industrial design has gained prominence in the last 15 years. It concludes that the freelance design work in the pursuit of autonomy by young designers seems to normalize low-paid, uncertain and insecure jobs through creating the illusion of being 'free' to accept these conditions.