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The Spec Work Design Debate at SXSW: Is Spec Work Evil?

The Spec Work Design Debate at SXSW: Is Spec Work Evil?

Pro Spec Work
Jeremiah Owyang of Forrester research argues, “Spec work is here to stay and is definitely going to increase during a recession as buyers have less money…” as well as due to increased unemployment and and increase concern with personal branding.
• Jeff Howe, the author of Crowd sourcing points out the conflict as being between Journeyman vs. Young Designer. How says, “its the classic Catch 22” for the young designer to get a job.
• The CEO of Crowdspring points out that his site, 99 designs, and similar designer website.
• “On the buy side we see a range of buyers we see everything from Mom and pop to people needing designs for their personal blogs.”

Against Spec Work
AIGA is against spec design work because “Spec is design in a vacuum.” Designer needs to provide a solution that understands and integrates the clients unique “Needs, goals, and challenges.” With spec work there is no “give and take” Money from a client, “shows a commitment to that relationship.”
• “Difference between…decoration and design.”

My Take on the Spec Debate
I find myself in the gray area, like the esteemed panelist from Threadless, but decisively on the pro side as long as protections are taken to ensure exploitation in the spec work process isn’t allowed to take place. In a world of globalization and weird economies of scale, this can be difficult.

I think spec work could turn into the equivalent of digital share cropping if prices go to low. Thankfully crowd spring has minimums–I hope other follow this model to help ensure some protection for digital artists. Companies like elance and odesk have no such lower limits to ensure designers are protected.

For more about crowd sourcing, companies in the crowd sourcing space, and resources about crowdsourcing check out the post at Compassion in Politics.

You can find Jeremiah Owyang’s coverage of the spec design debate here. You can also see Andrew Hyde’s speculative work is evil.