Graphic Artists Guild

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The Graphic Artists Guild
Full name Graphic Artists Guild, Inc.
Native name Graphic Artists Guild
Founded November, 1967
Members under 2,000 [1]
Affiliation Icograda
Key people Haydn S. Adams, President
Office location New York, NY, New York, United States
Country United States

The Graphic Artists Guild is a guild of graphic designers, illustrators, and photographers and is organized into seven chapters around the United States. It is a member of the international organization Icograda.[2]


In the mid-1960s most automobile advertising contained illustrations, not photographs. Many of the illustrators who worked for the advertising agencies servicing the automobile industry were unhappy with their pay and working conditions. Many were members of the Society of Illustrators, but they were told that the Society did not do advocacy work. So those artists banded together to form the Guild as a union of artists. On November 2, 1967, the Graphic Artists Guild charter, based on the Screen Actors Guild constitution, was signed in Detroit, Michigan, by 113 artists. After the Detroit chapter, and the first national office (eventually located in New York City), were founded, artists organized chapters in Chicago, Illinois; Cleveland, Ohio; and San Francisco, California.[3][4][5]

In 1970, the Detroit chapter called a strike against Campbell-Ewald, the advertising agency that serviced Chevrolet. Guild members struck for better wages and the right of Campbell-Ewald's freelance graphic artists to accept work from other clients. The strike failed when Campbell-Ewald hired scabs to break the strike. With the failure of the strike the Detroit chapter declined and the Guild's headquarters was moved to New York.[3][5]

Over the years, the Guild has merged with several other artists groups, including the Illustrators Guild in 1976, the Graphic Artists for Self-Preservation and the Creative Designers Guild in 1978, the Textile Designers Guild in 1979, the Cartoonist Guild in 1984, the Coalition of Designers in 1987, and the Society of Professional Graphic Artists in Seattle became the Guild’s Seattle chapter in 1993.[3][6]

In December 2008, the Guild sued the Illustrators Partnership of America and five individuals for libel regarding what the Guild considered defamatory public comments in connection with the IPA's effort to form a separate illustrators rights-collecting society with 13 organizations, the American Society of Illustrators Partnership.[7] In 2011, Judge Debra James of the Supreme Court, Civil Branch, New York County, dismissed this US$1 million-dollar tortious interference and defamation lawsuit. The Guild filed a motion to appeal.

UAW Affiliation

For most of its history, the Graphic Artists Guild has been an independent union, negotiating its first collective bargaining contract for artists at the Children’s Television Workshop in 1986. In 1993 the Guild became the collective bargaining agent for the graphic artists employed at Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) primary member station, WNET. After years of negotiations with the American Federation of Teachers, Communications Workers of America, and the United Auto Workers (UAW), the Guild in 1999 voted to affiliate with the UAW, becoming Local 3030. Affecting the Guild's decision were the experiences of the National Writers Union, which had seen 50% membership growth under UAW auspices.[3][8]

As Guild membership declined from 2,083 in 1999 to 1,832 in 2003, the Guild's affiliation with UAW became economically unfeasible. In 2004, a majority of the Guild members voted to disaffiliate at the end of the five-year agreement.[1]


In the 1970s, Guild lobbying helped sway the Copyright Royalty Tribunal to raise fees and improve reporting procedures regarding use of previously published art for PBS and its affiliate stations.[3]

In 1979, the Guild began a long-term campaign to stop work-for-hire contracts, where the art buyer assumes control over a freelance artist's work. A 1989 Supreme Court decision, Community for Creative Non-Violence v. Reid, followed the Guild's position to rule that a company obtaining the services of a freelancer cannot compel a work-for-hire situation, or assume one is in place, unless both parties sign a written contract agreeing to such an arrangement.[3][9]

In 1980, the Guild represented a group of textile designers, terminated by Print-a-Pattern for trying to form a union, in an unfair labor practices action before the National Labor Relations Board.[3]

In the early 1980s, artists' fair-practices law based on the Guild's model law were passed in California, New York, and Oregon. In response to Guild opposition, the IRS withdrew a proposed rule that would have disallowed a home studio deduction where the artist had a primary source of income at another location and from another type of work.[3]

In 1985, the Boston chapter succeeded in passing the Arts Preservation Act in Massachusetts, which states, "No person, except an artist who owns or possesses a work of fine art which the artist has created, shall intentionally commit, or authorize the intentional commission of any physical defacement, mutilation, alteration, or destruction of a work of fine art."[3][10]

Under the Tax Reform Act of 1986, writers and artists were barred from deducting expenses except in the year in which they booked the income for those expenses. The Graphic Artists Guild and 44 other artists groups successfully lobbied to have that provision repealed in 1988.[11]

In 2002 the Northern California Chapter lobbied the state's Board of Equalization on behalf of illustrator Heather Preston. This effort resulted in a ruling that virtually exempts sales tax on all on the artwork of graphic artists.[12][13]

In April 2010, the Graphic Artists Guild filed suit against Google to halt further development of the Google Books Library Project. The issue in the lawsuit is Google’s digitization of millions of books for the benefit of Google Books. The books in dispute include protected visual works, such as photographs, illustrations, and charts. Google had previous negotiated a settlement with text authors and other rights holders whose work was unlawfully digitized, but that agreement did not address the rights of visual artists.[14][15][16][17]


The Graphic Artists Guild published the first edition of its Pricing & Ethical Guidelines in 1973. Pricing & Ethical Guidelines began as a 20-page pamphlet and has grown into a 400-page book.[3][18][19]

Up through the 1990s, the Guild also published the Directory of Illustration and a Corporate and Communication Design annual.[20]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Lloyd Dangle (2004-01-21). "Motion For A Resolution In Accordance With The Graphic Artists Guild , Inc.'s By-Laws To Disaffiliate From The UAW" (PDF). Graphic Artists Guild News. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Graphic Artists Guild. "Information Services". Retrieved July 15, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 3.9 Shaftel, Lisa (2007-03-04). "Proud To Be A Union Artist, Part One: Yes, the Graphic Artists Guild Is Really a Labor Union" (PDF). Graphic Artists Guild News. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "IGI Feature: Graphic Artists Guild". Illustrators Ireland. 2002-04-10.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 Chris Benner (2002). Work in the New Economy: Flexible Labor Markets in Silicon Valley. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 163–167. ISBN 0-631-23250-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "SPGA/Seattle Chapter". Retrieved 2010-05-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[dead link]
  7. "Graphic Artists Guild Sues Artists for Forming ASIP", Graphic Artists Guild press release, via the Association of Medical Illustrators, December 1, 2008. WebCitation archive.
  8. Brett Harvey (1999-01-02). "The Time Has Come for Affiliation" (PDF). Graphic Artists Guild News. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Works Made for Hire Under the 1976 Copyright Act" (PDF). Library of Congress. 2004-11-01. Retrieved 2010-05-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "The General Laws of Massachusetts; PART III. COURTS, JUDICIAL OFFICERS AND PROCEEDINGS IN CIVIL CASES; TITLE II. ACTIONS AND PROCEEDINGS THEREIN; CHAPTER 231. PLEADING AND PRACTICE; Chapter 231: Section 85S. Physical alteration or destruction of fine art". Retrieved 2010-05-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Irving Molotsky (1988-11-06). "Tax Bill Is Lifting Curbs On Julia Child's Oregano". New York Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Mike Friedrich (2002-02-07). "Sales Tax: A Long Battle Won". Archived from the original on 2003-08-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "What the Guild is". Retrieved 2010-05-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Miguel Helft (2010-04-06). "Visual Artists to Sue Google Over Vast Library Project". New York Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Patricia McKiernan (2010-04-09). "Graphic Artists Guild Sues Google". PR Newswire.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Alison Flood (2010-02-23). "Thousands of authors opt out of Google book settlement". The Guardian.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Glenn Peoples (2010-04-09). "Business Matters: SoundExchange, Google, Live Nation and more". Billboard.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines: Editorial Reviews". Retrieved 2010-05-10.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Graphic Artists Guild (2007). Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines, 12th Edition. New York City: Graphic Artists Guild. ISBN 0-932102-13-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Books by The Graphic Artists Guild. Retrieved 2010-05-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links