If you’ve ever been asked to create something for free in exchange for “exposure,” you’re not alone. One 2016 survey found that freelancers spent 31 days over the course of two years doing unpaid work.
In response, Singapore-based art director, designer, and typographer Jay Liu has developed a project called “Exposure Currency,” which aims to critique the way artists are offered exposure instead of pay. (As we all know, getting tagged on a post doesn’t pay the bills). This series of paper notes exists as a playful imitation of real dollar bills, and employs a striking visual language in the form of neon lettering and in-your-face art direction to bring attention to how often designers and creatives are robbed by companies that think exposure takes the place of cold hard cash.
“A creative loses up to $6,620 every year through creating actual work for no pay. But what sort and amount of exposure did the creative earn? The returns are often unclear,” Liu writes. The designer collaborated with copywriter Boston Ho to generate the currency text; bold phrases like “The Note No One Asked For” and “We Don’t Trust” adorn the virtually worthless dollar bills, which, of course, is the point.
Exposure Currency is equal parts cautionary tale (for artists) and an attempt to hold businesses accountable. The back of each note reminds everyone of the virtue of proper compensation. “Its visuals are aptly art directed as a heist—on an entire industry,” explains Liu.
This project, a rightfully direct critique of unethical labor practices, is a creative approach to starting a conversation on how exposure is simply a form of counterfeit currency—and should be eliminated from circulation immediately.