No more spec shooting!

If you plan on being in Las Vegas this Sunday, Ben Chen is scheduled to speak at the SPAA Convention.

SPAA: stands for Sports Photographers Association of America.

No More Spec Shooting!
Sunday, February 20, 2011, 1:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

“After more than 10 years of speculative shooting of several youth sports, Ben Chen was tired of spending 100 percent of his resources on 10 percent of the buying customers. So he began to shoot only when parents had prepaid for their kids. Chen has helped his already successful youth sports business become even more profitable. Come and learn how this is done so you can also say, “No more spec shooting!”
Speaker: Ben Chen, Action Snapshots Inc.”

Good luck Ben, and please get back to us when the conference is over.

Relaunching NO!SPEC with 28 talking points

Welcome to the relaunch of the NO!SPEC site. And who do we have to thank for this revamp? My good friends David Airey (designer) and Jay Wickham (programmer).

From day one, Jay and David have been tireless contributors. Behind the scenes, and no matter what insane hour of the day or night, Jay is on hand to fix code and add what is needed. More in the public eye, David is a vocal advocate of an ethical design profession.

There is also a fourth teammate involved: Steve Douglas.

So when all hades breaks loose in the spec arena, it’s usually David (in Ireland), Steve (in Canada), and me (in Thailand) throwing emails at each other about our next move. And sometimes Jay (in Australia) listens to us all.

When needed, the original NO!SPEC committee come out fighting as well. Thanks all!

In order to celebrate new beginnings, I decided to share the main points of a fabulous post on spec penned by Steve Douglas, 28 talking points. To me, it’s one of those ‘I wish I’d written this’. And since I didn’t, here you go.

The 28 talking points (on working spec)

  1. It’s all about freedom of choice
  2. Designers know what they’re getting into
  3. We’re all adults here
  4. You’ll get lots of exposure
  5. Participation is voluntary so design contests aren’t exploitative
  6. Spec sites represent an ‘opportunity’ for designers
  7. Crowdsourcing sites are a way to make a living
  8. Contest sites are a way to pick up some ‘pocket change’
  9. The best designer, or design, always wins
  10. Client feedback helps you develop your skills
  11. Contest holders appreciate your efforts
  12. Stock logos and free vector art is forbidden
  13. Designers copying each other are ‘isolated incidents’
  14. Private and ‘blind’ contests protect designers’ work
  15. Win a contest. Pick up your prize
  16. Guaranteed contests also pay a designer
  17. We guarantee that a designer will get picked. And paid
  18. Spec sites ‘respect’ creatives
  19. Critics of spec work are Luddites. Or snooty.
  20. Design orgs and critical designers are like the RIAA
  21. Crowdsourcing puts you in charge of your career
  22. The democratization of design?
  23. You’ll get lots of practice
  24. You’ll build a great portfolio
  25. Crowdsourcing is ‘innovation at its best’
  26. Crowdsourcing is simply The Free Markets at work
  27. Crowdsourcing levels the playing field
  28. Participants are from all over the world

Conclusion? Curious?

It’s quite an eye-twitcher to scan down those talking points. Yes? To get the full story, stop by Steve’s 28 talking points.

And don’t forget to drop by David’s post on the NO!SPEC redesign to tell him how fabulous it is. Dave and Jay did a bang up job, for sure.

The campaign to educate the public about spec work will be a long one. I’m grateful to have good friends like Jay, David, Steve and the rest of the gang along with me.


iStock + Logos = ?

Worms, lawyers and style-whores

iStock opens can of nasty worms | Logo Design Love: I’ve learned a lot during my years as a designer. One of those things is that a logo in isolation is like lipstick on a pig. It needs to be treated as part of an overall brand identity strategy, not picked off a shelf. This is no different from the ‘make your own logo’ websites out there, or the logo contest spec work sites that harbour an equal amount of ‘design’ nastiness.

Debbie Milman | Twitter: What iStock is doing to designers is deplorable. Truly heinous. $5 for a logo? Why?

istock photo to sell logos | The Logo Factor Design Blog: I predict there will be massive copyright problems as would-be designers, eager for quickly produced logos, scour the internet for material to, ahm, be ‘inspired’ by. And in a little bit of karmic schadenfreude, logo design contests and crowdsourcing sites will be ground zero for a lot of ‘inspiration’ for stock logos to upload. It’s an unfortunate, but predictable, aspect of a design business model where the emphasis (and only profitability for the designer) is to create a large number of logos, in the shortest amount of time possible.

Copying issues notwithstanding, and without the benefit of an accurate crystal ball, I don’t really know what impact this iStock logo deal will have on the industry at large. But I do have a feeling it will make a few copyright and trademark lawyers a lot of dough.

iStockphoto to begin selling stock logos | The Donut Project: When it comes to crowdsourcing, the responsibility falls solely on designers to stand up and say NO. As long as there are thousands of designers submitting to these sites, they will continue to thrive. I personally vow to no longer associate myself with designers who undervalue our industry by allowing themselves to be taken advantage of as style-whores – and I encourage/challenge you to stand up, have a backbone, and do the same.

It’s simple. Crowdsourcing can’t thrive if there’s no crowd to source.

Wait! There’s more…

iStock: Logos come to iStock

HOW Design Forum: iStock now selling logos!

AIGA: What is AIGA’s position on spec work?


Interviewing Debbie Millman: President of the National AIGA

Dear Debbie Millman,

For years, you’ve been an inspiring advocate of the design industry. I know you’ve certainly inspired me. Your opinions on ethics in the design industry jumped out at me when I first came across Speak Up. And I believe it was right about that time when I started listening to your Design Matters broadcasts on Voice of America.

And when you backed the NO!SPEC Campaign, I couldn’t have been prouder: Debbie Millman on NO!SPEC and Debbie Millman: Commentary: Spec This.

Your two books ‘How To Think Like A Great Graphic Designer’ and ‘Essential Principles of Graphic Design’ made me prouder still. And I see that you now have yet another book waiting to go on my bookshelf, ‘Look Both Ways, Illustrated Essays on the Intersection of Life and Design’. Nice.

Then, when you became a board member of the National AIGA, I knew in my heart that the AIGA was serious about tackling the issue of spec.

And recently, when the Forbes Snooty business hit the Internet and the AIGA asked you to chair a task force on the issue, there you were again, fighting for designers.

And now, as you take over the office of the president of the National AIGA, even more congratulations are in order.

For me personally, I know of no other person I would rather see steering the AIGA.

So Deb, now that you have assumed the presidency of the AIGA, what are your dreams and aspirations?

There are three goals I have already outlined to the membership and I have just added a forth, and this is the first time I am stating it!

The three original initiatives are Connectivity, Inclusivity and supporting AIGA’s Centennial Mandate. Let me tell you about them all!

First, Connectivity:
Clearly, the way in which we humans connect with each other has changed forever. Just in this country alone, we went from three television channels to over 500 hundred channels, from no web pages to billions. It took 35 years for 150 million people to own televisions. It took only 7 years for 150 million people to own cell phones. And it will likely take only take 3 years for 150 million people to sign up for Twitter. The average teenager sends over 2500 text messages! The structural frameworks of the way we live, communicate and organize ourselves has fundamentally changed and I am committed to charting a new connective structure for AIGA that is authentic, transparent and meaningful. I believe that some of the most exciting things happening within AIGA are in the local chapters. The entire membership should be aware of this great activity and benefit from it. So I am working on instilling new practices in the way the entire 20,000 plus membership is communicating and connecting.

Second, Inclusivity:
Cat, you know more than most people that my initiation and acceptance in AIGA was challenging. Ten years ago, I didn’t feel that AIGA was particularly respectful of brand design, though that has changed now. But in subsequent conversations with members and non-members around the country, I have come to the realize that, for many different reasons, mostly non-intentional, designers of a variety of disciplines haven’t always felt that AIGA is sufficiently committed to their individual interests! As a result: I am bound and determined to foster a spirit of inclusivity within AIGA and beyond. All design disciplines, whether online, offline, in print, on paper, on screen or the Internets, in code or in ink are encouraged, welcomed and needed to join our efforts! I am fiercely determined to knock down the barriers separating our specialties and work together to design the change the world needs.

Third, advocate the new AIGA Mandate:
Believe it or not, AIGA is nearing its centennial in 2014. The membership, leadership and staff have taken a deep dive into the organization’s activities, positioning and the design profession’s needs, and we have instilled a new course for meeting our mission: to advance designing as a professional craft, strategic tool and vital cultural force. At our June leadership retreat in Portland, Oregon, 250 board members from more than 60 AIGA chapters nationwide met to exchange ideas and success stories, and to review and discuss the results of six months’ worth of research to help chart AIGA’s future. The three-day event culminated with a unanimous endorsement of a new mandate for AIGA in effect, a roadmap for the organization’s progression over the next five years (and beyond) that will support the profession’s aspirations for relevance, leadership and opportunity. This includes the following initiatives:

  • To provide ample opportunities for members to engage in social networking, and for us to provide content and make connections –Shift the traditional conferences to more regional and local events, and to put more resources in the development and distribution of audio and video programming
  • Build a stronger core of programs for professional development
  • Offer DAILY online examples of design excellence and inspiration
  • Find better, easier ways for designers to assume a role in business, social and cultural environments

I just worked with AIGA Executive Director Ric Gref to help organize the efforts of our amazing and diverse board to help realize these goals.

And lastly, I believe that there is great opportunity for younger members to benefit from the access to more established members for mentorship, job opportunities and training, and I’d like to work on ways to facilitate that.

What are the AIGA’s plans for educating its members on the issues of working spec?

Cat, as you know, I am personally vigorously, passionately and fundamentally AGAINST designers being asked to do work on spec and neither I nor my firm will ever participate in speculative work. I have said it before and I will say it again: Speculative work denigrates both the agencies and the designers that participate. If we give away our work for free, if we give away our talent and our expertise, we give away more than the work. We give away our souls.

Way before I got involved with AIGA, they had a strong stance against speculative work, and that has not changed. Given all of the technological advancements impacting the design world, we believed that is was time to re-examine our position. I was part of this task force prior to becoming AIGA President. When we updated our position, we reiterated and recommitted to our original stance against designers participating in speculative work. This is the introduction to the renewed position:

AIGA, the professional association for design, believes that professional designers should be compensated fairly for the value of their work and should negotiate the ownership or use rights of their intellectual and creative property through an engagement with clients.

AIGA acknowledges that speculative work that is, work done prior to engagement with a client in anticipation of being paid occurs among clients and designers. Instead of working speculatively, AIGA strongly encourages designers to enter into projects with full engagement to continue to show the value of their creative endeavor. Designers and clients should be aware of all potential risks before entering into speculative work.

Cat, AIGA is 100% committed to informing designers, students, educators, clients and the general public on the risks of compromising the design process though information, materials and services that can help in forging a healthy working relationship between designers and their clients.

We then outline and answer all of the many, many questions we received from members prior to publishing our position. We have provided clear definitions of what we believe is and isn’t speculative work, as well as address competitions, volunteer work, internships and pro-bono work. We also outline the many risks involved in participating in speculative work (both for clients AND for designers), and provide a history of our restrictions and policy. It is extremely thorough and highly enlightening, IMHO. By the way, it also includes a sample letter for ANY designer to download in response to any spec work request, AIGA member or not.

Looking through a few of your accomplishments – managing partner and president (Sterling Brands), online personality (Voice of America), instructor (School of Visual Arts), board member and national president (AIGA), and author – I have to ask: Has your campaigning for the rights of designers affected your personal life in any way?

Design is my life. Anyone involved in my life in any substantial way knows this and (hopefully) loves me for it. Many people ask me “how do you do it all?” or “do you do anything but work?” and this is what I tell them: I am not married (anymore), I don’t have children and my life partner is a writer who needs a lot of time alone. I don’t work out or go to the gym. I work. But my work is fun! I love everything that I do and feel blessed to have such an incredibly full life. It took me 40+ years to get this kind of life, and I am so grateful for all I have been given!

From the AIGA’s Position of Spec Work in the 1990s, the Federal Trade Commission declared that AIGA could not make a prohibition of work for free as part of its statement of ethics for it was a restraint of trade (or price fixing)

Due to the interference of the Federal Trade Commission, just how far can the AIGA legally go in its stance against spec?

We have to be really, really careful. Back in the 1990s, the Federal Trade Commission determined that AIGA could not forbid or prohibit designers to work for free as part of its statement of ethics. This is a restraint of trade or price fixing. In other words, this would appear to be the profession seeking to determine consistent prices including nothing for their work and eliminating freedom of competition. We can only educate and recommend best practices for our members; we are not allowed to enforce financial rules and encompassing regulations. This, however, does not take away from our broad understanding and respect of why spec work is wrong.

The latest AIGA press release focusing on spec work launched with this title: ‘AIGA maintains its position against speculative work while recognizing that the decision is up to individual designers’.

When that press release hit the Internet, all email hell broke loose over here at – not because anyone believes that the AIGA is condoning spec work, but because of the possible misuse of the title. At one end, some could take it as the AIGA’s endorsement of working on spec. On the other, it could be construed that the AIGA is taking a wishy-washy stance against spec work.

To clarify for everyone here: “is the AIGA in any way endorsing spec?”

We are against spec work. The reason for the line, “while recognizing that the decision is up to individual designers, was included was to try and acknowledge how cultural and technological dynamics have changed. We are finding that we are more effective communicating with younger designers when we do not preach. Instead, we are seeking to educate the next generation of designers by clearly outlining the inappropriateness of a spec work. Sadly, the largest group of designers participating in spec work is their peers! Telling them to “just say no”, isn’t going to work. We need to outline WHY and HOW it is detrimental to their practice.

Deb, if you could rewrite that title, what would it be?

Well, that headline already has been rewritten! The new headline is as follows: What is AIGA’s position on spec work? And how are ethical standards determined?

Cat, I am hopeful that the article makes it crystal clear that AIGA has reiterated its longtime position that spec work is not in the interest of either designers or clients and we are now redoubling our efforts to educate, inform and inspire clients and designers alike to work respectfully, intelligently and fairly.

Deb, I realise that you must be totally snowed these days, so a special thanks! goes to you for making the time for this interview.

Catherine (cat) Wentworth
NO!SPEC Campaign

AIGA & NO!SPEC: It’s all About Education

The spec watch is finally over

Back in February we had the Forbes Says Designers are Snooty fiasco.

During it all, we received this good news:

Debbie Millman has now been asked by AIGA to chair a task force in an effort to understand the various sentiments about this practice in both the design community and the broader creative community, and report back to the National Board our findings and potential recommendations at the National Board retreat in April, and to share these findings at the Leadership Retreat in June.

Since then, there were concerns about the outcome: Would AIGA soften their stance on working spec, or would they stand firm?

Knowing that I had concerns (it’s what I do), Debbie Millman emailed, ‘have you seen this?’

AIGA’s official position on spec work:

AIGA, the professional association for design, believes that professional designers should be compensated fairly for the value of their work and should negotiate the ownership or use rights of their intellectual and creative property through an engagement with clients.

AIGA acknowledges that speculative work occurs among clients and designers. Instead of working speculatively, AIGA strongly encourages designers to enter into projects with full engagement to continue to show the value of their creative endeavor. Designers and clients should be aware of all potential risks before entering into speculative work.

AIGA is committed to informing designers, students, educators, clients and the general public on the risks of compromising the design process though information, materials and services that can help in forging a healthy working relationship between designers and their clients.

When I asked Debbie where they aim to go next with the spec campaign, she replied, ‘As far as where we go next–we will be in Portland Oregon next week for the AIGA leadership retreat where we will roll it out to all of the local chapters and leaders.’

: )

Fabulous :-D

And btw Debbie. Congratulations on taking over as the The National President of AIGA on July 1. We all need you in that position, for sure.

The SDGQ Denounces Speculative Work

La SDGQ nonce le travail specculatif

The article is in French. Below is the babelfish translation into English.

The Company of the graphic designers of Quebec (SDGQ) officially gave an opinion against speculative work, not remunerated. According to it, the companies should not need to see creative proposals to choose a studio; or they should, if necessary, remunerate them for carried out work.

The SDGQ rather recommends to the customers to select a designer according to its portfolio and its experiment. It recalls that it is always possible to interview various candidates to check their comprehension of the project.

(a big thanks goes to nomad2224, who sounded the alert)

VANOC 2010 Mascot RFP: GO Canada GO!

I swear, when I die I want to come back as a Canadian …

Yesterday, Steven Luscher (Group Organizer for the Vancouver Graphic Design Meetup) contacted NO!SPEC about the VANOC 2010 Mascot RFP.

VANOC is the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee.

Steve’s post on the Vancouver Graphic Design Meetup message board:

Congratulations to everyone responsible for giving VANOC the guidance it needed to do the right thing, and congratulations to VANOC for working with and listening to Canadian Designers.

I could hardly restrain myself from jumping up and down over the news. Way to go Canada!

Shortly after, the VANOC 2010 Mascot RFP was posted at GDC’s blog:

This is a shining example of a large organization working closely with the Canadian design industry to create a respectful and appropriate call for candidates and an excellent example of real advocacy by the GDC on it’s members’ behalf.

Peggy Cady FGDC, GDC National Past President:

We are trying to teach businesses and organizations about our best practices, and how we want them to work with us. It is a great victory for the profession when organizations understand where we are coming from and are willing to adjust their proposals.

I’ve long known that Canadian designers and design orgs are way ahead of the game when it comes to the issue of working on spec, but now they’ve got the strong support of a professional organisation such as VANOC.

Kudos to VANOC. Kudos to GDC. Kudos to Canada!

Bitching About Pitching and Agency Compensation

Three Top Creatives Speak Their Mind at ANA Conference

Is this the beginning of the end?

In surprisingly strong comments before a gathering of the nation’s largest advertisers, three ad agency creative chiefs last week criticized the account pitching and compensation models that currently govern their business relationships with advertising clients.

Check out the whole article at: Advertising Age, Bitching About Pitching and Agency Compensation

Barenaked Exploitation by Robert Wurth

So, what do you do when you’re an internationally recognized, successful band with millions of dollars in CD and concert ticket sales? If you’re the Barenaked Ladies, you slap an industry in the face by running an unethical, exploitive contest, that’s what.

Over at the web site Deviant Art, a recent contest was posted for the development of a t-shirt design to promote a new Barenaked Ladies tour.

The details of this contest are glaring examples of the problems this trend creates within the design community. The fact that it comes from a representative of the music industry, an industry very vocal in the protection of artist’s rights, makes it all the more disturbing.

Thanks Robert!

NO!SPEC Campaign: Rundown and Roundup

March/April of this year saw the launch of the NO!SPEC campaign. Since then I’ve come across a range of confusing posts, some even using open source interchangeably with spec. To clarify the spirit of the campaign I’ve put together a short rundown on what working on spec is, and isn’t. What the NO!SPEC campaign is, and isn’t.

Spec is not:
Open Source
Industry Awards Contests

Spec is:
Working on the SPECulation of getting something of value in return.

The NO!SPEC campaign is not about:
Taking the fun away from what we do.

The NO!SPEC campaign is about:
Educating designers so they can make educated choices.

The NO!SPEC campaign is not about:
Coming up with a lot of tight rules to stifle the client / designer relationship.

The NO!SPEC campaign is about:
Educating the public on ethical business practices.

Still confused? Then please stroll through the roundup of the latest blog posts and articles I’ve compilied at NO!SPEC Campaign: Rundown and Roundup.

Thanks for listening,