When I decided that I wanted to focus my career on logo and brand identity I thought a majority of my time would be spent sipping coffee, researching creative design options for clients, and designing the day away in my sketchbook and on my computer. While this does take up a good majority of my time I have to say I am surprised at how much time is spent educating others (and myself) about the various aspects of the design industry. I would like to use this post to educate people about some of the more popular topics being debated in the design industry today.
Crowd-Sourcing: It seems every business is trying to tap into the idea of crowd-sourcing the ideas of the masses. Simply put, crowd sourcing is the act of taking what were tasks traditionally performed by an employee within a business and outsourcing them to a large undefined group of people.
In the design community many websites have popped up in which clients will ask for a design and have not one but many designers vie against one another in order to have their design chosen. The only person to receive payment in this process is the “winning” designer. While this is beneficial to the client, it promotes the idea that as a designer you may or may not be paid for the time and effort put into your work. Imagine if the same was done for other professions? Tom Stephan writes a great analogy of how this would work.
Contests: It is hard to browse graphic design websites or skim a design magazine without seeing ads for a design contest. Many of these contests entice designers with the promise of cash and prizes. This, in many ways, works the same as crowd-sourcing. A prize is the form of payment and all but one will usually be given any sort of compensation for their work. Worse yet, it seems more and more stories are coming out about work that is being stolen or plagiarized and used in other design contests. Contest seem to be more about getting hits on a certain website rather than creating effective designs.
Speculative (Spec) Work: Speculative work, or “spec work” as it has become known, is work that a designer does for a client in which no fee has been agreed upon, preferably in writing. Some would argue that the clients should get to see work done before money exchanges hands. This may work with other products like test driving a car or trying on a suit, but logo design work, especially logo design work done right, is a process that is tailor made to fit a clients needs.
Instead of asking for work to be done without any payment a client should ask to see a designer portfolio and find out exactly what the designer’s design process entails. If a designer simply says they fire up their computer and can get a finished logo back to you in a day or two then there probably wasn’t much time spent exploring the competition, putting together a design brief, or becoming familiar with the clients industry.
To offer full disclosure I have entered some of my own work to crowd-sourcing websites in the past before fully researching the topic. I have since pulled my work from these websites and fully support the no spec initiative. While I know this will go against what some designers believe, I feel that our integrity as designers is at stake. Crowd-sourcing, contests, and spec work simply undermines the design industry and wrongly informs the public that the work we do is of little or no value.