Spec work outline

For educators

1. Introduce spec work

Speculative work is defined as work that is created and presented to a buyer of design before getting paid, given a deposit or signing a contract and is often associated with contests.

From the buyer’s perspective, spec work can be a way to quickly choose from multiple, finished, examples for free.

From the designer’s perspective, spec work can be a quick way to possibly have their speculative work chosen and to which they can then add live work to their portfolio.

When a buyer of design chooses spec work as an avenue to get as many submissions as possible the buyer skips over important steps in the development of strategic design. Strategic design can enhance market position and provide a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Without strategic design the message is lost and so is the competitive advantage.

When a designer chooses to do spec work for experience the designer skips over important steps in the development of strategic design. Instead the designer in a rush to make the deadline submits designs that fail to meet real-world business and organization’s challenges. This type of experience is often unpaid or with very little real compensation to the designer whose design was chosen and for those whose submissions that were rejected there is no compensation at all for their time and expense.

2. Alternatives for designers

Pro bono: Pro bono is defined as providing a service without compensation. You donate your services for free or in some cases at a reduced fee that just covers basic expenses. Pro bono opens the doors for students to get real world experience and add to their portfolio while supporting not-for-profit organizations, groups, schools and clubs.

Research in your area for not-for-profit organizations, groups, schools and clubs that students can contact. Or make the research a class assignment.

You will also need to know tax liabilities in your area for Pro bono.

Fair exchange: Fair exchange is bartering design services with businesses for equal services or goods. No money is exchanged. Fair exchange offers a wide range of possibilities for students in gaining experience and building up their portfolio.

You will also need to know tax liabilities in your area for Fair Exchange.

3. Phase 1

  • Discussion
  • Experience
  • Knowledge
  • Questions

4. Phase 2

  • Fieldwork
  • Discussion
  • Investigations
  • Visiting experts
  • Representation
  • Information resources

5. Conclusion

Spec work is a risk to both the buyer of design and the designer because it undervalues and ignores the strategic steps that effectively meet and successfully provide real-world solutions for businesses and organizations.

6. Your summative evaluation

If you have questions or suggestions, contact us.