Yes, spec work is exploitative - but why are these videos and messages always directed at designers?

Getting back in contact with an old friend in Eastern Europe has made me realise some of the things that designers in the UK/US/ANZ and much of Asia take for granted.

To many designers in these areas, yeah, sure, the video above makes perfect sense.

All fine and good until you're already working 2-3 jobs, and you're doing spec work on the side because winning it is like winning a mini lottery for you and the people you love.

I'm not arguing that spec work isn't exploitative - it is. But if you consider an economic situation like the one above... it's much harder to turn around and wave that admonishing finger at designers, saying they shouldn't do spec work. Bad. BAD! And the further tarring of all designers who do spec-work as hacks doesn't help.

Why not, instead, create videos that emphasize that companies should not do this, and that they should always pay a fair rate? Or is that just a dream?

Or to frame it another way, is the answer: Men are men, if you dress provocatively, it's your own fault! ;)

3 responses
Heh. From personal experience, there are two things I disagree with in
this video..

First of all, there is a place and need for cheap design. Just like
fast food, just like cheap cars, clothes, any other good or service.
In the end, you get what you pay for, but if all you need is a shiny
image to stick on your blog, you should be able not to pay trough your
nose for Brand Development. And these will provide.

Second, you're quite unlikely to end up with a derivative or a
ripoff... the competition is usually very stiff, and all of the people
are doing the same research and Google image searches, and will just
love the chance to point out this or that submission is a copy.

And yes, there are a lot of very talented people doing spec work.
Unfortunately. >.>
Yar. Agree with cheap. However! I also (stupidly and idealistically) think that people should pay a fair price. And sometimes, the fair price can be cheap. That's not a bad thing.

What I object to is that in this video, and many others, the entire onus is on the designer - not the ones creating the spec work opportunities. That, and the tarring of spec folks which you've refuted above.

It's not a general viewpoint - I've been reading on the topic quite a lot, ( has a nice collection) and the mostly reviled party is the Evil Contest Site Owners. Altho, in my mind, they just saw a niche and decided to fill it. And apparently it's a lucrative one.

Fair price... is a difficult problem. Who gets to decide what the fair price is? The customers, who pay about half what they would pay a local designer, or the designer themselves, to whom the money won represents a tiny lottery, as you said? The intermediaries decided upon a price, and it seems to work *shrug*.

There is another business model, where contest holders post a project and the designers bid on it.. see There you'll see the depths of despair =) People offer logo design for 20-30 US$... of course there are established proven members who ask for, and often get, more - but in order to gain a foothold you need to be very lucky, and ready to work for peanuts. Eastern European peanuts, that is.

I see these as a good chance (of course I do) to gain experience, develop a bunch of Previous Work Includes, and a *really* thick skin. And hey, new shoes would be nice, too =) But it's not a viable long-term employment model.