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,

Creativity Awards Closes Book on Cover “Contest”

Creativity Awards closes book on cover “contest” by Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

I’ve always been a huge fan of the design competitions conducted by David E. Carter, resulting in books such as the American Corporate Identity, The Big Book of Logos, and Creativity series.

Last Thursday, I was somewhat stunned when opening an email with the subject line “Design the Creativity Cover” to find that a “contest” was being conducted to select the cover of the upcoming Creativity 36 volume. The email had the headline “Be the first on your block to design Creativity’s cover.”

For me, the distinction between “design competition” and such “contests” is very simple. “Competitions” are conducted to evaluate and select graphic work already completed by a designer. Most so-called “contests” are requests for the creation of new work for possible review and selection – and that is “spec,” or speculative, work. No designer should be asked to work for free as a condition for the chance of being selected as the “winner” or possibly being hired for future work.

Today I was surprised to receive an email from Tim Moran, the Director of Marketing for the Creativity Annual Awards. The subject line read “Creativity Cancels Cover Contest.”

Visit Jeff’s blog for the rest of Creativity Awards closes book on cover “contest”

The Microhierax Chronicles on NO!SPEC

Understanding No!Spec

Why say No to Speculative Work?

1. No Guarantee
2. Unprofessional
3. Lack of Professional Research
4. Needs of the client not met
5. Myopic
6. Undermines consultive benefits
7. Undervalues the profession
8. Pitches and design don’t mix
9. Red Flags
10. The lack of contract does not a professional make

After visiting the website (, I realized that I have indeed taken spec work in the past and I was not getting paid for it. It was such a waste of talent and creativity. on NO!SPEC

What is Spec?
by Mary Beth & Paul Trautwein Guides to Graphic Design

Speculative work historically has been practiced in Advertising and Architecture. In those professions the winning firm would be offered a long-term contract resulting in years of revenue. Graphic design differs from those fields in that most work is issued on a project-by-project basis. The award for a free pitch is only for the project just completed. Compensation for the work going into the pitch usually exceeds the monetary award of the project. Free pitching is now a discouraged practice in advertising and copy writing. As stated in …

Thanks Mary and Paul!

suit 101 on NO!SPEC

Spec Work Hurts Graphic Designers

Clients want free work and ideas. As a creative professional you should just say NO!

About a year ago I was asked to bid on creating the design work for a magazine for a small liberal arts college. … We really like your work, they say, but we’d like to see a 4-page page mock up of what our magazine would look like if you redesigned it. At this point, my spidey sense is tingling and I politely agree to the request as long as they reimburse me for my time. We consider this an “audition”, I am told, and they will not pay for my services. This is spec work. Thanks, but no thanks, was my reply.

For the rest, go to Spec Work Hurts Graphic Designers

The Biggest Challenges Facing Independent Designers


It took me five years to realize that whenever a potential client said, “If you do this one cheap, there’s a lot more work down the line”, it was, in each and every case, a load of number two. It wasn’t around when I was a tender wee lad but No!Spec is a great resource for independent designers.

Please read the rest of this wonderful article: The Biggest Challenges Facing Independent Designers (I) at position : relative.

Snog Blog with Dear Designer

Dear Designer

I am looking for a good designer to revamp our website and to redo our logo. I have spoken to my bosses and they think it’s a good idea, but we don’t know how much we want to spend yet. The cheaper the better of course!

We’re not sure what we want our new look to be, but since you’re the professional, we’ll leave it to you to propose. Show us 3 mockups of what you think our new company website and logo should look like. We want to be professional yet friendly, serious yet creative. Something like what Apple has done.

If we like your mockups, we’ll choose one and hire you for the job. If we don’t, we’ll let you know also. And if we like your ideas but you’re too expensive, we may ask someone cheaper to do it, so please quote as low as possible.

But rest assured, we have plenty of design jobs in the future! I have to go now, I have a free lunch waiting for me at a restaurant.

Your sincerely,

The Copywriting Maven on NO!SPEC

The Copywriting Maven: Why I Don’t Work “On Spec”

Spec is short for speculation. In the copywriting and creative services world, that means a potential client says to us, “I’m not sure about hiring you, so let’s see what you do with this speculative assignment. We’ll pay you if we like it. And if we do, there will be a lot more work to come. But if we don’t, no $$.”

Even a newbie copywriter’s time has value. If a new client wants to see what you can do for them, show them samples (paid, pro-bono or generic samples you’ve written for yourself), give them client testimonials, and/or offer them a great deal to give you a shot.

For the rest of Roberta’s post, go to The Copywriting Maven: Why I Don’t Work “On Spec”

Michael Bierut on NO!SPEC

The Road to Hell: Now Paved with Innovation?

Designers don’t have many advocates as enthusiastic and highly-placed as Bruce Nussbaum. An assistant managing editor at Business Week, he’s spearheaded the magazine’s coverage of design and innovation for years, and has become an important online voice for how business can use design as a strategic tool. That influence will only grow this week with the debut of INside Innovation, his new magazine that promises “a deep, deep dive into the innovation/design/creativity space.”

I’m as intrigued as the next guy about what’s to be found in the dark recesses of the “innovation/design/creativity space.” But I suspect there’s one fact about the genesis of this new magazine that will disturb many of my fellow innovation enthusiasts: the actual design of INside Innovation was created largely through an unpaid competition.

Designers, welcome to the brave new world of spec work.

To read the rest of the article, go to Michael Bierut’s, The Road to Hell: Now Paved with Innovation?