Entries in spec (1)

Sunday
Jul252010

A Rant About Spec Work

If you are one of the 99% of clients that does NOT ask us to do spec work, thank you. This post is not for you.  If you are part of the 1% please read on, as we are making some changes that you may be interested in.

From time to time I will have clients that want a design done for their business on spec.  “Spec” is short for a design that is done on speculation. In other words if I do work  on spec there is no guarantee that I will be paid for the work.

  The clients proposal to us usually goes something like this: 

I need a new custom logo for my business, I would like you to do some designs for me to look at, and if I like one I will pay you for it.

or this

Can you send me a few designs for a wrap on my car? If I like one I   will have you do the wrap

Image Graphics does not do artwork on spec. Here is an analogy to help explain why:

Suppose you own a restaurant and I stop in for dinner. Rather than looking at the menu and making a choice I ask your chef to prepare me several different dishes. I will try a little of each one and pay for only the food I like.

That does not seem like a good way to run a restaurant does it? It is not a good way to run a design business either. Unfortunately, I have fallen more than once to the temptation to do spec work on the past. The results?

  • Clients that have taken the proofs, and used them without paying for the design. 
  • Hours spent on research and design that turned out to be fruitless.
  • Paying clients are forced to pay additional overhead time to cover those who do not pay spec work.
  • Many times we have received artwork that other designers did on spec, along with an offer to bid against them using their work.

During an interview Steve Jobs (CEO of Apple Computer) paraphrased Paul Rand (Logo Designer) when discussing this very subject. Steve said that Paul told him: 

"I will solve your problem for you. And you will pay me. And you don’t have to use the solution. If you want options, go talk to other people. But I’ll solve the problem for you the best way I know how. And you can use it or not – that’s up to you. You are the client. But you pay me."

Just like any other professional I expect to be paid. If I put my experience, talent, and design skills to work for you, I deserve to be paid for that service. Sometimes the feeling is that a designer just “makes it look nice” or that because the job is done on the computer that it is some kind of video game, or something that is done for fun.

I have spent over half my life sitting at a computer doing one form of design work or another. and while I love doing art, the operative part of the phrase artwork is work. There is a lot more to it than just art. There is research of the clients business, competitors, what makes them unique and a personalized design based on this along with the other parts of the design process.  

If you have made it this far, thanks for reading my diatribe. I am aware that this does not affect 99% of Image Graphics clients. I also recognize the most of the spec work that I have done in the past was not shopped around to other sign shops. It's just that when I see my work going down the road with someone else's name on it, I get a little cranky.

To find our more about why we don’t do spec work click HERE.