Spec work and design students

We regularly receive letters from design students and those new to the design industry. In their correspondence the students often explain how they were not educated about spec, and/or were sent to contest sites by their instructors.

Earlier this year we discussed the subject with a design student, Thomas. One thing led to another and he agreed to share his experiences with you.

——

I am a university student in my final year for Graphic Design/Illustration. I actually started out in a medical degree but I took a chance that my hobby of drawing would provide a career. I was always told growing-up it would amount to nothing. Sadly, so far in the world of freelancing I am proving my parents right as there are starving artists, and my university professors have very limited guidance to the contrary.

My university has taught me the more published work I have the better my chances of finding work; therefore, online freelancing seemed to be the best choice. So I searched for every opportunity online I could find, and I asked my professors for guidance.

My professors seemed to know nearly nothing of online freelancing other than it does exist. They told me that a few of the students finishing the degree did freelancing online. Talking to the students wasn’t much better. They said I was competition and I was on my own.

Next I asked my professors about spec work and the contest sites online anyway. The best answer I got was the work was likely unpaid; however, with more questions and classroom instruction in the following weeks lead me to believe it was a necessary evil for all starting designers to prove themselves. It seemed that spec work was a way for designers to get started.

With no work in sight I started to sign-up to the sites. After searching for more information about 99designs, I came across the NO!SPEC website. Thankfully I found out what spec work truly was and what it does to designers and businesses alike. I can say I have not done any spec work, and have informed my fellow students of spec work and online freelancing.

In all honestly I learned a lot from my university time about software and design, but any training on real world (especially freelance) jobs was nothing. I got the feeling spec work was just the way things were done, and getting paid for any freelancing was the best to hope for. I feel a bit mislead and betrayed after all it seems most projects from my university have been nothing but spec work.

Many of our class projects seem to have been contest style spec work. We received a grade for the project; however, the projects were often for real world business use. All the students would work on the projects in the given details and create designs. Then a business would judge the projects and choose a design to use.

I hope my college training regarding freelancing and spec work is not typical, but sadly I imagine it is.

Thomas Cosby Jr

——

Thank you, Thomas (and apologies for this coming out so late).

If you are a design student, perhaps consider doing the same as Thomas did by educating students at your school. And it wouldn’t hurt if more instructors were equally knowledgeable about spec work.

On our site you’ll find a general section for students. All of the sections are chock-full of information so please don’t stop there. For instance, if you are looking to pad your portfolio, learning your way around pro bono work is a must.

By the way, if you’re a design student and would like to share your spec experiences, drop us a line.

Design Students Create NO!SPEC Video

As the recipient of a multitude of emails on the subject of spec, I never know what’ll be arriving next. Some emails offer suggestions, others request information, and others still are peppered with not so clever rants about how evil we are for insisting that designers get paid for their work.

Just recently, student Yasmin Kercher sent over a NO!SPEC video created in a design workshop.

From Yasmin: The suffering people in the video are all visual communication design students of Augsburg Universtiy of Applied Sciences.

I got at least 40+ people discussing spec work this week and the numbers are rising :-)

Great job that you’re doing btw!

Nice one Yasmin!

If you too have a video or article you’d like featured on NO!SPEC, go ahead and contact me.

Catherine

NO!SPEC Posters: Posters by Matt Clarke

Check out the fun NO!SPEC posters from Matt Clarke of Design Intellect.
Thanks Matt :-)

Do you SPECulate

Bankers SPECulate

Matt’s posters can be downloaded here.

As before, check out posters by Jeremy Yamaguchi, Dagmar Jeffrey, Jerett Patterson, George Gruel, Chad Behnke, Jeff Andrews, Rob Gough and Von Glitschka.

The NO!SPEC posters are 300 dpi, CMYK and/or spot color, PDF printable on A4 and Letter.

If you are interested in contributing a poster design for usage in promoting NO!SPEC just contact us for the logo files. Note: It might take us a little while to get them up, but get them up we will.

The Logo Factor: Why you should crowdsource your logo

If you’ve been keeping up with the comments on David Airey’s post, Forbes calls designers snooty, you couldn’t possibly have missed the excellent points made by Steve Douglas from The Logo Factory.

Steve has long been on top of the spec issue with significant posts such as Logo Design Contest Copycats, Why logo contests don’t work and Logo Design Contests. Fun and all.

During the Forbes conversation, Steve came out with Design is a “snooty” business: Forbes.

And now he’s gone one further with Why you should crowdsource your logo.

First-rate Steve. As usual.

NO!SPEC Posters: Poster by Jeremy Yamaguchi

Finally, I give you Spectors Beware! by Jeremy Yamaguchi from Zero Designs. Thanks Jeremy! (and apologies for my tardiness…)

Spectors Beware!

Jeremy’s poster can be downloaded here.

As before, check out posters by Dagmar Jeffrey, Jerett Patterson, George Gruel, Chad Behnke, Jeff Andrews, Rob Gough and Von Glitschka.

The NO!SPEC posters are 300 dpi, CMYK and/or spot color, PDF printable on A4 and Letter.

If you are interested in contributing a poster design for usage in promoting NO!SPEC just contact us for the logo files. Note: It might take us a little while to get them up, but get them up we will.

When Saying No Politely Gets You In the Door

Dear NO!SPEC,

Just wanted to share a recent email exchange I had with a prospective employer who asked candidates to do a test design on a new project. I liberally stole and altered sections from an article posted on your site: “Why Speculation Hurts,” by Robert Wurth. I’ve taken out the name of the company and person I corresponded with.

Dear ###,

I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to complete the design test. This week has been incredibly busy for me and I would have had to turn away paying jobs in order to work on it. In thinking about it, I’ve found that I feel this kind of test is not a good way to choose a designer. In my case, not only would it require me to pay for the privilege of being tested, because I would loose paying work, it also wouldn’t give you the information you’re looking for to make a hiring decision.

Without any briefs, discussions or research with ***, the design would lack the benefit of strategic thinking and would rely on speculative style. Even if you liked the way it looked, and it appeared to be on target, it wouldn’t show a design with the best solution.

When more information about the plan of action and goals of the project can be absorbed, design guesses are replaced with pragmatic insight. That way the designs develop with a context more relevant to ***’s business needs, and that makes for better working design solutions.

A single design doesn’t tell what a long-term relationship with the designer might offer. Also, the idea of working hard on a project unpaid, and one that I give up any rights to ownership of my work, on top of the possibility of being passed over would feel unfair and humiliating.

With that said, I’m sad to walk away from the possibility of working for ***. I really think it’s a brilliant approach to publishing and I would love to be a part of it. I truly wish *** all the best. This note is not meant as a rebuke, but rather an offering of a perspective you may not be aware of.

Sincerely,
Gregg

Hi Gregg,

Thank you so much for the email. I really appreciate your honesty and insight and I think you have some really valid points. I think you have a great resume and portfolio and would still love to bring you in to meet the team. I hope this is not a deal breaker and you would still be interested in coming in in person.

If so, would it be possible for you to come in early next week, either Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday? I can work with your schedule to find time to meet with our VP of Marketing and some other team members.

I am off to the airport but will have access to email over the next few days so please let me know your thoughts. Again thank your for the email.

Regards,
###

NO!SPEC Posters: Poster by Jerett Patterson

Jerett Patterson of Five6teen has generously contributed the fantastic poster below for our collection – Spec: Don’t Make Me Get The Soap! Thanks Jerett!

Spec: Don't Make Me Get The Soap!

Jerett’s poster can be downloaded here.

As before, check out posters by George Gruel, Chad Behnke, Jeff Andrews, Rob Gough and Von Glitschka.

The NO!SPEC posters are 300 dpi, CMYK and/or spot color, PDF printable on A4 and Letter.

If you are interested in contributing a poster design for usage in promoting NO!SPEC just contact us for the logo files. Note: It might take us a little while to get them up, but get them up we will.

Pixish = Spec-ish?

Whoooh, busy time here at no-spec.com, what with the emails and hits rolling in on the subject of Derek Powazek’s new site, Pixish.

Like other posters, I hold Derek in high regard so his waffly stance – professing to be against spec yet promoting spec – was a confusing surprise.

Note: For those interested in the whole back and forth, the growing conversation can be found at pixish – Google Blog Search. And a rolling conversation in the comments can be found at MetaFilter – Pixish Tantamount to Spec Work?

But let’s start out with CatCubed – Pixish, web2.0 spec work.

What is Pixish you might ask? Well according to the site Pixish works as follows.

1. Create an Assignment. Ask for what you want.
2. Get Submissions. People create and submit their work.
3. Peer Review. Community voting helps find the best.
4. Pick Winners. Select your favorites and download.
5. Rewards! Winners get published and paid.

I.E., Pixish’s business model is to use Web2.0 to encourage spec work. You and a bunch of other artists do a bunch of work and maybe the client likes it and you get paid. Actually it’s worse than spec work as on Pixish, all you get is a fragging prize.

Then we’ll have BeckleyWorks with I Beg to Differ. Pixish is Work On Spec.

Derek has put up a response to what he calls one concern heard loud and clear, that Pixish promotes spec. His response simply doesn’t wash.

His definition of spec work is “where large companies take advantage of designers, getting work without paying.” Actually, spec work is defined as anyone asking designers to do work without paying for it. This includes startup web sites like Pixish. By trying to pawn it off on large companies, Derek seems to be trying to create a ‘them not us’ illusion, and it’s painfully transparent. It almost seems like Derek doesn’t really know what spec work is.

Then there’s Adam Howell dot org with The Pixish logo belongs next to’spec work’ on dictionary.com

…Derek and the folks at Pixish know this. They even added a response to it on their About page. Saying, basically, “if you don’t like the idea don’t participate and, pros like you are lucky, we’re giving talented amateurs a chance to make a name for themselves”. Oh, for crying in a bucket, here we go.

Oh! And this lovely one from Alex Jones – Spec Work, Pixish, Design Contests and Unicorns.

Some believe that this is a great opportunity for budding designers to build a portfolio, but as Adam notes, “We’ve got, you know, the web. Blogs. Youtube. digg/reddit/lots of other lowercase social sites. There are no longer just three ways to showcase your talent – there are three bajillion. And if you aren’t getting noticed, sorry, you either aren’t trying hard enough or you suck.”

Timmmmyboy comes into it with Pixish | Bringing down the value of creative design.

Pixish is a new site that recently launched by Derek Powazek that promotes the ability to bring artists and publishers together. The idea is that there are tons of budding creative artists on the web and why not bring them together and have them compete over your ideas for the ‘prize’ of having their work chosen in a bid.

This is straight up spec work and it’s something I (and many designers) have a big problem with, and it’s a problem that doesn’t seem to be going away.

No Commercial Potential chimes in with My Totally Reactionary, Ill-Thought-Out First Take on Pixish.

My original question when I first read about it was: “was letsallworkonspec.com already taken?”

Prizes? Designers and photographers who are worth the trouble do not want prizes. They want to get paid. I would maybe be very interested in submitting something for JoCo’s t-shirt, but you know what? I already have three iPods. And I already bought all his music. Even if I had a design the internet hordes loved, I would mostly win redundancy.

Adam Howell dot org follows up with A follow-up on Pixish.

Stock photo sites are one thing. Pixish is something completely different. And sorry but until I, and I’m sure several others, see otherwise, I won’t be convinced of anything else.

Update: Shortly after this post was published Derek announced he was taking down all the logo, header design and template assignments, many of which I had mentioned in this post, and would only be accepting pictures and illustrations on Pixish from now on.

So, what does that make Pixish now? A spec site for Photographers and Illustrators?

What do YOU think?

NO!SPEC Posters: Chad Behnke Poster Contribution

Before the holidays, Chad Behnke of Style Type Design requested NO!SPEC logo files for his school project. On receiving his design, I was quite pleased to add it to our poster downloads section. Thanks Chad!

If you have time, check out Chad’s portfolio at his quirky, smile inducing site.

No Respect poster download

Chad’s poster can be downloaded here.

While you are at it, check out posters by Jeff Andrews, Rob Gough and Von Glitschka.

The NO!SPEC posters are 300 dpi, CMYK and/or spot color, PDF printable on A4 and Letter.

If you are interested in contributing a poster design for usage in promoting NO!SPEC just contact us for the logo files.

Have a Happy SPEC!FREE Xmas

Wondering what to get that favourite designer in your life?

Better yet, is that favourite designer YOU?

Yes?

Then how about trying these on for size?

Von's SPEC HURTS

From the SPEC HURTS Collection

Von's SPEC U

From the SPEC U Collection

Teddy Bear

And for those needing something a little bit tamer, there’s always our NO!SPEC Teddy Bear.

Aww … sweet.

Note: A special thanks goes to Von Glitschka of Glitschka Studios, who generously gave permission to use his poster designs in our store at cafepress. Thanks Von!