Withdrawal from The Making Things App: A Timeline and Open Letter

In October last year, you might have seen me promoting a new online pattern platform, called the Making Things App, across my social media profiles. It has since become clear that Making Things is not the kind of company I want to be supporting, either personally or as a brand. What follows in this post is a timeline of my interactions with them, and a copy of my letter of withdrawal as a designer on the platform. I am making these public for the sake of transparency and accountability.

To anyone who joined MT specifically to support my work, I appreciate that gesture endlessly and I apologise for the part I personally played in convincing you this was a platform worth signing up to. I apologise if you signed up in the hope of gaining access to more of my patterns. My one pattern will remain accessible on MT for another 12 weeks before it is removed. Whether you wish to end your subscription right now or keep the pattern after that 12-week period is over, please email me to request your free PDF copy, no questions asked.

You also have a right to know what I do with the money I have earned from MT so far. At the end of every month that I actually get an income, I donate to a number of anti-racism educators and other content producers whose work I believe to be valuable.


2018

27 August: (In response to an invitation to join MT as a launch designer) Write to CEO to question the apparent lack of representation of anyone other than young white women in the few promotional images/footage available.

28 August: Receive personal assurances from CEO that "Inclusivity is at the heart of everything we do, and the driver for all the decisions we make".

October: Sign up to MT as launch designer, add one pattern, take part in launch campaign.

2 November: Write to CEO to express concern about the lack of guidance given to designers with regards to the MT launch and advertising standards, and lack of transparency.

6 November: Receive a general (i.e. addressed to all MT designers) apology for MT's lack of guidance around the launch.

2019

6 February: Write to Designer Community Manager and CEO to question transparency of an (upcoming) advertising campaign, and also to further question the statement "inclusivity is at... decisions we make" after seeing promotional footage featuring only female, young, thin and (to my knowledge) able-bodied, neuro-typical, cis-gendered and straight designers. Ask what the company is intending to do to ensure inclusivity really is at the heart of everything.

8 February: Receive a personal video reply from Designer Community Manager containing:

  • assurances that transparency in MT's advertising campaigns was a given

  • an explanation of the promotional video being the result of who responded to a reach-out by MT (which begs the question: but who did you reach out to and, if you reached out to a diverse audience, why did such a narrow subset feel able to respond to you)

  • assurances that MT were having internal conversations about how to best use that content, alongside a general awareness in the team that this was long-term "work that has to be done every single day"

  • request to allow MT to continue to "do the work" and create new content around its core values

At this point I stopped engaging with the company. I was invited to discuss the points in my 6 Feb email further in a video call, but due to us being in very different time zones we were unable to find a time where we were all actually awake and working. I didn't think it would be fruitful to carry on trying to get my point across in emails, having been told this was not the preferred method of communication. I spent the next month or so pondering how to go forward, but did not prioritise it over other work and personal commitments.

During the weekend of 16-17 March I learned that many other designers as well as customers had attempted to raise similar concerns with MT, and felt equally unsatisfied with the response. Further, BIPoC designers on the platform made it clear they had been made to feel unwelcome and unsafe.

Both as a result of my own dissatisfaction with the company and as a demonstration of my solidarity with former MT BIPoC designers, I have decided to withdraw from the MT platform. Detailed reasons can be found in my letter to the MT CEO below.


Dear Megan,

Below you will find my reasons as to why I chose the “remove” option on the registration form. As you say you welcome feedback, I felt it was important to make these clear.

1. Mismanagement, Inconsistency and Lack of Professionalism
You (I am addressing this to you, as CEO, and because I am no longer certain who actually forms part of the MT management team) have demonstrated a worrying inability to manage such a large and public platform.
From presenting unrealistic potential earnings to launch designers, a botched launch that saw many designers being attacked for joining MT, promising features to customers and designers alike but failing to deliver them, to insisting on a top-down management style in which you refuse to engage meaningfully with the very people you claim to be building a “community” for/with...
It all speaks of incompetence, inconsistency, and inexperience.
It reflects badly on you, but also on the many designers that put their name to MT.
So, to put it quite bluntly, as a designer I am no longer willing to put my own time and energy into supporting a company that is badly run, despite any financial reward I might gain from doing so.

2. Structural Racism
I have seen your statements dated 27 February and 18 March. It is a case of too little, too late. You were given ample opportunity to “do better” months ago.
I myself raised the lack of representation in your work in August 2018 and again in early February this year. In neither instance did I feel my concerns were adequately addressed.
In addition to this and more importantly, in the last 24 hours it’s become clear that many BIPoC designers were made to feel unwelcome and unsafe by MT, and that several members of staff who attempted to improve representation in the last two months have since been laid off.
You didn’t need to appoint an external BIPoC adviser with an impressive CV. You had all the advisers you needed right under your nose: the many BIPoC designers who have put their own time and effort into supporting the MT platform.
You’ve let those designers down, and you’ve shown yourself to be incapable of taking responsibility for the inherent, structural racism that comes with owning a company as a white person. You’ve failed to understand that creating a “safe space” for BIPoC goes beyond who you may or may not be as an individual, beyond using a few promotional images or PR statements with assurances that all are welcome. It goes to the very core of the company ethos.
As a designer and as an individual, your company does not possess an ethos I am willing to be associated with.

In the end, what it comes down to is trust. Had you proven yourself to be trustworthy by adopting the grass-roots style of management that this kind of community-built platform actually requires, I and other designers/customers may have felt more inclined to put down any concerns to inevitable teething problems. We might have agreed that, yes, making meaningful changes to the very structure of the company takes time, and goes beyond putting a few BIPoC faces on a website in the name of diversity. We might have actually given you that time. My opinion is that you squandered the opportunities you were given.

Eline Alcocer @ Emmy + LIEN