NO SPEC WORK PLEASE / by Arthur Cherry


Spec work is becoming more prevalent in the design industry and besides being cheap for the client is a pretty rotten deal for both client and designer. If you are considering the spec work route whether you are a client or designer please read this first.

From AIGA | the professional association for design
AIGA believes that professional designers should be compensated fairly for their work and should negotiate the ownership or use rights of their intellectual and creative property through an engagement with clients. To that end, AIGA strongly encourages designers to enter into client projects with full engagement to show the value of their creative endeavor, and to be aware of all potential risks before entering into speculative work.

WHAT IS SPEC WORK?
AIGA acknowledges that speculative work—work done prior to engagement with a client in anticipation of being paid—occurs among clients and designers.Yet not all unpaid design work is considered “spec work.” In fact, unpaid work may take a number of forms:

Speculative or “spec” work: work done for free, in hopes of getting paid for it

Competitions: work done in the hopes of winning a prize—in whatever form that might take

Volunteer work: work done as a favor or for the experience, without the expectation of being paid

Internships: a form of volunteer work that involves educational gain

Pro bono work: volunteer work done “for the public good”


Not all of the above are considered speculative work, and in fact many designers choose to do unpaid work for a variety of reasons. Students and professionals may draw different lines on what constitute unacceptable practices. In each case, however, the designer and client make the decision and must accept the associated risks.

THE RISKS OF SPEC WORK
AIGA believes that designers and clients should be aware of all potential risks before entering into speculative work:

Clients risk compromised quality. Little time, energy and thought can go into speculative work, which precludes the most important element of most design projects—the research, thoughtful consideration of alternatives, and development and testing of prototype designs.

Designers risk being taken advantage of. Some clients may see this as a way to get free work; it also diminishes the true economic value of the contribution designers make toward client’s objectives.

There are legal risks for both parties should aspects of intellectual property, trademark and trade-dress infringements become a factor.


Still considering taking part in spec work? Ponder these 10 reasons not to and then get hired or hire a qualified designer.

Would you have 3 doctors perform surgery on you for free and then pay the one that you liked the best? No, you would have to pay all three. Same should be true when hiring a designer. Hire a good one and get the job done right.