Tuesday, March 14, 2006


A new site launched yesterday which I feel compelled to write about and support. The site is called NO!SPEC, it's the collaboration of 20 enthusiastic designers. The site is an educational tool for designer's and their clients, urging them to take a stand against spec work and spec-based design contests. What is spec work you might ask? From the website:

What is ‘working on speculation?’

By Elisabetta Bruno of ThinkCreation
What is “spec?”

“Spec” has become the short form for any work done on a speculative basis. In other words, any requested work for which a fair and reasonable fee has not been agreed upon, preferably in writing.
What’s so wrong with that?

In a nutshell, spec requires the designer to invest time and resources with no guarantee of payment.
Isn’t it wise for a client to “try before they buy?”

On the surface it may seem so. But, digging a bit deeper, one realizes that professional graphic design is about creating custom solutions, not cookie-cutter concepts.
But, with today’s computers and software, how long could it take?

This is a common point-of-view for many who confuse the professional with his or her tools. The “process” is more than simply tapping at a keyboard or clicking a mouse. It’s about understanding the nature of a communication challenge and then using one’s brain to find the appropriate solution.

At the end of the day, there is a certain irony in spec work. A prospect requesting it is ultimately saying, “My project isn’t important enough to hire a professional who will take the time to understand my situation and goals and invest the time needed to create a suitable solution.”


Just say NO! to Spec Work (Why Spec is Bad and other stories…)

By Tamar Wallace of TAMAR Graphics

Spec work is defined as producing a piece for a potential client with no guarantee that your work will be chosen and/or paid for.

When put that way, spec work just doesn’t make sense. I mean, doing the work in the hopes of maybe getting paid for it? Who does that? No one outside of the creative community, that’s for sure. Yet this is becoming a common practice throughout the design industry, and companies are just preying upon the young and inexperienced.

Here’s an example:

Once upon a time, way back when I was just starting my business, and frankly didn’t know any better, I bid on several jobs online. I was young and naive, and thought this would be the easiest way to pick up clients.

One person responded, saying they wanted a logo for their online business. He sent me some examples of logos that he liked, and then asked me to email him my logo ideas for his company, saying that he’d pay me for the chosen design. I was SO excited, and thought this meant I was hired, even though there was no contract (I didn’t know any better.)

So I went to work. I spent days working on logo ideas for him, absolutely thrilled at the idea of having a client and making some money. I submitted 6 logo concepts to him, believing if they weren’t quite right, he’d let me know and we could go from there. However, after sending my ideas to him, I never heard from him again…and of course, was never paid.

Around that same time, I received another response, this time from a jeweler wanting a series of direct mail pieces designed. He asked me to design some postcards showcasing wedding bands, and assured me that he would pay me, even for the designs he didn’t like.

So again, I began working on these postcards - and again without a contract - and sent a few ideas to the client to make sure I was on the right track. He said that I was, gave me a few suggestions, and back to work I went. In the end, I sent over 10 fully thought out and designed direct mail postcards, and an invoice - only to never hear from him again, either.

To have this happen twice in such a short period of time was so discouraging. There I was, a relative newbie to the design world, trying to make a living, only to realize that I’d spent the last month or so essentially working for free. And because I didn’t know anything about contracts, I didn’t have one, and had no way to protect myself or my work. In truth, those two jokers could still be using my ideas and designs, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

“So now what?” you ask. Well now, you can join me in letting designers - and people who use creative services - know that this practice is unacceptable. No more will you work on spec, under the possibility of getting paid for your time and effort. That no job will begin without a contract and a deposit. That you are a professional and demand to be treated as such.

You wouldn’t go to a restaurant, eat the food, and expect to pay only if you’re happy. And you’d never go to a mechanic, have them work on your car, letting them know you’ll only pay them if you think they did good work. So should the design industry be any different?

Great question. I'd encourage everyone to visit the site and read the articles there, download the posters provided by my buddy Von Glitschka.

Get involved!


iosilverjewellery said...

any chanse on getting them posters as PDF's ?

Jeff said...

You can download PDF's of the posters from the NO!SPEC website.