My last blog post , where I shared the arrival of an upcoming logo design contest site got in negative and positive response. The comment section of the post showcases number of comments blaming me for supporting a contest site being a graphic designer Well, I thought I should get the chance to clarify myself and share the reasons with my designer friends to support such contests.
1: Concept of Spec-Work
Firstly, for the ones who are not well-aware with the theory behind speculative work, let me brief:
Spec work is “work done prior to engagement with a client in anticipation of being paid”. It is a design job for which the client expects to see examples or a finished product before agreeing to pay a fee.
In short, it refers to all the design contest sites, where clients drop in their design requirements and graphic designers participate to drop in their creations. After a fixed period, the client picks up the design which fits in his requirements and that particular designer is paid.
AIGA, a design association, defines it as” Work done without compensation, for the client’s speculation—seriously compromise”.
2: Reasons why Spec-work is claimed as an “Evil”
It is firmly believed that spec-work is dragging graphic design industry into a deep hole and badly damaging its worth, for the following reasons:
- This type of work is widely considered immoral by the Graphic Design industry as multiple designers put in their time and resources, but in the end only one gets paid.
- Designers entering these contests do not spend quality time on the logo process; one which can take months to complete. On many design sites, there is no guarantee if a designer will be picked in the end. some examples of unpaid designs
- Due to the limited time offer, designers come up with logos including clip-art, which can easily spoil the corporate identity of any company
- Clients pick up their favorite logos without realizing the copyright issues as designers on such platforms don’t provide such design details to their client.
3: Reasons to support “Spec-Work” – It’s here to stay!!
- Clients who ask for lots of options and seek quick redesigns, spec work can be helpful in short time. But you need to be careful here as this strategy works only if you have a definite design requirement and really know the direction you want to head.
- Recession is giving hard times and business owners are cash strapped during this down-turn. Small business owners would love to build their personal brands using lower-priced goods and services.
- Many talented graphic designers, with exclusive portfolios are still unemployed and need a decent job to earn their living; after all they also have families to feed.
- Many designers, due to scarce chances of survival in the design industry, have accepted jobs in other fields, such as waitering. However, to keep their skills fresh or with the desire of making in some extra money, design contests give a helpful hand.
- Big designers even get stuck with their projects and want to see some variety of designs to get started once again. Design Contest sites can work as a source of generating more creative ideas showcasing so many designs packed at one place.
- Freelance graphic designers who are not based in developed countries need a platform to expose their talent to the world. They should be getting their fair share…don’t you think so?? Just look at it this way…winning a single contest a month provides enough resources to a freelance designer to support his family.
- My concluding favoring point is a stingy bitter truth but it appears to me the biggest reason for established designers not to support design contest sites. Crowd sourcing is evil because it devalues their work by driving down prices, allowing amateurs into the game and forcing people to work "on spec" This is the reason, big designers like David Airey say: " Spec-work is bad for business" and Spec-Watch reveals the naked truth about Design Contests.
4: Top names of Graphic Design industry share their views
Until now, there are two prominent design contest sites, 99designs and crowdspring, which offer brands and designers a place to do spec work business. Here is a new platform, MycroBurst.com which I consider to be another great addition. Announcing this new site, really offended some of my good designer friends and they clearly told that they won’t support me on this verdict.
Calvin from Mayhem Studios, a famous Graphic Designer, left a reply for me on twitter, saying:
Sorry, I can’t support Spec, is bad for creatives. If a designer do free work and don’t value their work by doing free contest. Why would others. I didn’t and I’m doing OK.
@ Calvin…Although we both disagree on the verdict but I respect your opinion. I hope my reasons to support Spec must have convinced you a bit…maybe
Joost, left the comment on my last post, saying:
It depends on where you are in your career & if you want to attract that type of client. There is a market for sweatshop design – like it or not – and those designers and consumers in those relationships are serving each other’s needs.
That said, I would never do it because I want to be paid fairly for my effort.
However, I received supporting comments from famous names of Graphic Design world as well…thanks for understanding my perspective friends:
Audee from Graphic Identity:
I’d still think that design contest is one of many ways to express your design, regardless of how it is considered as unethical action. However I know there are pro and cons regarding to this issue.
Dainis Graveris from 1stWebDesigner:
I have totally positive attitude about such contests, though I guess you have only time for them while you are still learning unless prices are very good..:)
Now before you jump to any final judgment, either way, I would like you all to check this:
5:Famous examples of Spec-Work
- Twitter has crowdsourced the ‘bird’ logo for $6 or less. Simon Oxley, the Japan-based Brit who licensed the bird graphic to Twitter for the price of a sandwich, is also not completely against spec.(http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2009/03/twitter-designe/)
- Mashable, the 8th most popular blog (says Technorati) has a spec work design contest for it’s upcoming website redesign and has over 1000 entries.
- When you look closely, the much celebrated Threadless, a design contest for popular tshirts, is a form of speculative work.
- Related are eLance and Odesk, who offer outsourcing for a variety of services to workers around the globe.