The Pros And Cons Of Spec Work

Whether you are a seasoned designer with many years of experience or just starting out and trying to find your feet in the industry, there is no doubt that you have heard of the term “spec work”, also known as speculative work.

What Is Spec Work?

Speculative work may come in many forms, however, companies often offer designers a platform for industry exposure or a job through a competition. Many people submit their entries and the winner gets the job or has their artwork used and paid for by the company advertising. It looks like a win-win situation, doesn’t it?

Spec Work for Graphic Design

The Pros

Advertisements for speculative work create the impression that the process by design benefits all participants as contestants are often informed of the following benefits:

  • Industry exposure – The opportunity for an introduction to industry influencers
  • Equal platform – Everyone, regardless of experience is judged based on the same criteria or deliverable.
  • Work experience – Participation means more work experience
  • A grand prize – If you win, you are guaranteed the prize.

The benefits for the company that issues the coveted prize, include:

  • Cheaper costs – The company doesn’t pay for entrants’ submitted work, it only pays for the one winner.
  • More options – Due to the different styles, tastes and talents of entrants, the company is guaranteed to receive a wider set of options and ideas than when dealing with one individual.

Spec Work in graphic design

The Cons

Spec work has become a contentious industry talking point. Many designers across the industry have raised a few concerns that involve:

  • Time wasted – Due to the big number of entrants companies usually receive, the chance of winning is slim. The  time spent is not rewarded or compensated.
  • Financial loss- The time spent on unpaid work could be used on work that has a far higher probability of paying. Alternatively, the time could be used on other ways of marketing one’s skills.

We come across spec work opportunities so often, fueling questions as to why companies still make these proposals. Here are the disadvantages for companies to consider.

  1. Chance of plagiarism
  2. Unoriginal or inferior quality work ideas or design
  3. No research or development
  4. No revisions
  5. Little or no communication in the design process
  6. No relationship is built between the brand/company and the designer.

Here is an interesting video illustrating a few important points on spec work.

What are your thoughts on spec work?

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