September 29, 2011

Why Spec Work is Bad For Your Business

Branding, Clients, Graphic Design, Logo Design

In recent weeks we have had a few organizations ask us to provide spec work for them, here’s why we don’t work under such terms…


What Is Spec Work?

Spec work is a short term for work done on a speculative basis. In other words, the client asks for design work to be done without agreeing to a fair and reasonable fee.

Let’s look at an example. You work for a company who needs a new logo designed, and you come up with the idea of a “logo competition”. Basically you contact a few designers and ask them each to submit a draft of the logo. You can then compare the logos side by side and choose the best logo for you, and only he gets paid.


What’s Wrong with Spec Work?

Successful design work results from building a strong relationship with the client, and understanding their objectives, competitive situation and needs. A good designer values your business and provides a design based not only on aesthetics. It involves looking into your company mission, background, business plan, ethics, way of dealing with people and many other aspects.

The result of all this work is a timeless piece of design built around your business rather then something that may look good, but doesn’t fit the business and soon dates. Your designer should create something tailored to your business, rather then expect your business to fit the design work.

Can a designer really do this if they are entering a contest against other designers? How much research do they conduct into your business? What questions do they ask? Were brainstorming, mind mapping and sketching carried out? Do the designers show they value and understand your business? When it comes to spec work, all these questions are always answered negatively. Speculative design relies on poorly planned work based on a superficial assessment of the client’s business dynamics, if any.


Spec Work is Unsafe for the Client and Designer Alike

The AIGA (a large association of designers) report countless stories of companies who use spec work only to find out six months later that the designer copied another logo, website or brochure.


A Lack of Respect for the Design Process

We spend hours researching and planning your design project before we even start on the initial draft. Is it really fair to request such work to be done for free? If you were looking for a solicitor, how would they respond if you asked several of them to write a brief for you, from which you choose one and pay only them?


Is There an Alternative?

Spec work is dangerous for your business and the designer alike, but there are more ethical approaches to choosing a designer. For example, we suggest you spend time looking through past examples of their work (you can find ours at the bottom of our home page). A good designer will always offer to sit down with you, and discuss the project. You can ask for a statement of how they will approach the project (we supply proposal documents on request).


Further Reading

Most good designers and design agencies actively oppose spec work. Possibly the biggest design association in the world, AIGA have some interesting reading on their site, linked to below, along with a few other good links and resources.

The AIGA position on spec work

The No Spec Campaign Website

Zeldman Design News

David Airey

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