Positive Space: 99Designs Stoops to a New Low

Tony of Positive Space has a decent conversation going in his post: 99Designs Stoops to a New Low and Attempts Propaganda.

If you have been following Positive Space for a while, then you undoubtedly know that I have a problem with both spec work and 99designs (previously sitepoint contests). However most recently the minds behind sitepoint have stooped to a new low. I say this because the article Design Contests Made Me A Better Designer that was recently published is nothing more than a piece of propaganda literature.

It’s an interesting read so check it out when you have the time.

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?

Speak Up and New York’s High Priority

A personal opinion

Fueled by passion for the design industry, a group of designers started the NO!SPEC campaign.

Been there, done that, it was our aim to educate young designers about the dangers of working on spec.

We wanted to help designers avoid getting ripped off in spec situations. We wanted to educate about working with contracts. We wanted to help them avoid spec jobs where they submitted work without a contract, only to discover later on that someone else rebuilt their designs at a lower cost.

We wanted to point out that creating new work for a design contest, where they signed away all rights to their work, was not exactly a smart business move.

We also wanted to educate clients on the damages of spec. We wanted to explain the differences between working closely with a designer and a detailed design brief, compared to picking one of the many pretty pictures they’d get from a design contest.

Straightforward, yes? I wish.

It’s a given that designers come from a wide range of educational backgrounds, financial needs, work and life philosophies, with opinions attached to the same. Taking that into account, among all the ‘here’, ‘there’ and ‘everywhere’, I’m seeing two strong camps emerging.

One I’ll call the ‘for the good of the industry’ types. They are designers who feel working on spec is harmful to the industry. For the good of the industry, they’ve decided to avoid contests where new work is a condition of the entry. Some call them ‘open contests’, I call them ‘grey’ because they are not always cut and dried (as in black and white, good vrs bad, etc). In theory, design orgs are mostly (but not always) in the ‘for the good of the industry’ category.

The other type I’ll dub ‘for the good of the individual’. They are also designers who are against working on spec. Unlike the ‘for the good of the industry’ types, they don’t see where open/grey competitions harm the design industry. You could say that throwing the baby out with the bathwater makes no sense to them.

Both camps above are seasoned designers, both have a deep love for the industry.

In and around there are those who feel their time is too valuable to waste on working on the speculation of getting a return, compared to those who see the time spent on open contests / grey competitions as a way to market their skills. Then there are those who use the competitions for design practice, and others who see it as all in good fun. Further in there are those who don’t know the difference between a spec contest or a design industry contest, a spec job offer or a real job offer, or even free pitching, open source, or working pro bono.

Then we have the buyers of design and contest organisers who often see contests as a solution to free design, as well as free publicity. They look at it as a win win.

All in all, it’s a no brainer that working on spec, or not, is a personal decision. The same goes with joining in on design competitions, open, grey, whatever.

Knowing this doesn’t mean I don’t jump up and down in frustration when a dark grey issue comes up, but that’s just me. I have strong opinions about the harm some so called ‘contests’ are doing to the industry. Just take a look around the internet and you’ll see design contests everywhere. Need a logo for your company? Have a contest. What about a free website design? Contest. Want free publicity for your company? Need to drive traffic to your site/blog? Have a contest, any contest. Sometimes a controversial contest is a ‘winner’.

I just have to ask, can’t people come up with anything more original than “Oh, let’s have a contest”? But truthfully, if I didn’t have strong opinions on the subject, I most likely wouldn’t feel driven to devote large chunks of unpaid time to the issues. Yeah, I’m working on the ‘speculation’ that it makes a difference.

To me, what’s equally important is the designer knowing what they are getting into. Many designers feel they’ve been burned by spec, usually caused by the lack of knowing what spec is and isn’t, and the lack of putting contracts in place. The client’s lack of education also comes into it. Like I said, that’s the reason we created the NO!SPEC campaign, to give designers a place where they could learn about spec, and where they can make their own decisions. The NO!SPEC site was also created to give seasoned designers a place where they could contribute ideas and opinions, argue about the finer points (grey/open), and in turn share the same with others.

Getting to the lovely debate on Speak Up and New York’s High Priority

– Winning illustration published in New York.

– Winner will be paid New York’s usual fee of $500.

– All other entries will be displayed on Speak Up, and New York will include a mention of the contest gallery in the magazine.

– All entrants retain property of their work. Winning entry will grant New York reproduction rights on the magazine as well as other promotional materials per New York’s usual agreements.

Yeah, it’s one of those situations where the ‘for the good of the industry’ types depart in opinion from the ‘for the good of the individual’ types.

Looking at it from the ‘for the good of the industry’ angle: One has to wonder what message this contest is sending to clients and designers. It’s difficult enough as it is to educate clients about spec without a leading design blog backing a contest calling for newly created work. New designers will be equally confused.

Looking at it from the ‘for the good of the individual’ angle: Forget the laughable US$500. It’s not about the money. It’s about the possibility of getting published in New York. Not only that, but as all entries will be displayed on Speak Up, they are not the dreaded ‘throw away designs’ usually generated for open/grey contests. Another plus, the designers keep the rights to their work.

Like I said, it’s a no brainer that each decision comes down to personal opinion, so I’ll give mine. Would I enter this competition? No. Even though I don’t see this as a totally awful competition (there’s that ‘C’ word again), I lean towards the ‘for the good of the industry’ stance. Also, bathwater or no, it comes down to the fact that my time is better spent on projects with a higher return (make of that what you will). But then, that’s just me. You have to make up your own mind.

Quoting from Darrel’s comment:

We’re graphic designers.
We’re corporate whores.
We all hate spec work.
Except when the whore is really really good looking.

So true, so true …

Catherine (cat) Wentworth
Project Manager:
Creative Latitude
NO!SPEC

Update:If you are interested in seeing the entries for the High Priority Contest, head on over to Speak Up as they’ve just been posted.

SPEC!FREE Design competitions: bLog-oMotives

bLog-oMotives: Calls for entries: Upcoming design competition deadlines

When it comes to design competitions, it’s pretty difficult to find a spec free resource. The one I depend on has been carefully researched and compiled by Jeff Fisher, Engineer of Creative Identity, Jeff Fisher LogoMotives.

Add bLog-oMotives to your feed if you want the lastest spec free competitions around.

If you are confused about what a spec free competition entails, check out Jeff’s classic, When a “contest” is not a contest (at Creative Latitude).

Thanks Jeff!

Writers Ask Minister to Rein in TVNZ

Writers Ask Minister to Rein in TVNZ
Media Release from the New Zealand Writers Guild
12 May 2006

The New Zealand Writers Guild have asked Minister of Broadcasting Steve Maharey to amend the terms of an in-house competition being run by TVNZ.

The Life’s a Pitch contest invites TVNZ staff to pitch programme ideas to the content department. TVNZ takes the copyright to all entries it chooses to use but provides no payment to the creators. In the real world, when TVNZ commissions a show any creator could potentially expect to receive thousands of dollars.

Said Guild Executive Director Dominic Sheehan “We requested that the Minister require that TVNZ allow all entrants to retain the copyright to their entries. TVNZ will be free to contract for the rights, but at least then any creator will be able to negotiate for fair rates and conditions for their work.”

TVNZ’s own Charter requires them to “support and promote the talents and creative resources of New Zealanders and of the independent New Zealand film industry”. Sheehan points out “How is not paying people for their work supportive? TVNZ are wilfully breaching their own Charter. It is the government’s job to ensure that the terms of this Charter are adhered to which is why we’ve asked the Minister to intervene.”

TVNZ keep calling this contest “a bit of fun” but in fact their actions amount to a rights grab. It’s akin to copyright theft and that’s no fun at all.

For further comment contact: Dominic Sheehan 021 707 344.