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Graphic Design Contest: Do You Win or Do You Lose?


Should you do design work on spec, that is work often done for no pay?

It starts off quite simple- you land on a website that hosts all sorts of design contests, and the payoff are cash prizes and fame. As a design student or non-profession, what would your initial reaction be? 

Many with few experience in the design world would think that this is an brilliant concept and might ask “What do I have to lose?”- most would give it a try. Some may believe that this is the perfect place to show off their work or add a few good pieces to their portfolio- that is if their work was selected as a result. And that initial attitude of “if mine didn’t get picked, at least I have gained experience” inevitably carries on. 

At this point, you need to recognize what you are getting into. “Speculative design” is nothing but a gimmick and any affiliation with it is bad. For example, clients may, at times, request for a logo and they provide only the slightest amount of details for you to follow, but you really wanted to give it a shot simply because the description intrigued you.

However, any amount of time you might end up spending to come up with preliminaries, and concepts may go to waste because you are basically competing with the world– anyone who comes across the same contest also has access to the information provided by the client. And because the activity is not established on a direct, client-to-designer based hire, not only does the client have the final say, all the work you do is never binding.

If you are a graphic designer and is actively involved with spec design, I would urge you to stop because your continued contribution will have a negative impact on the professional client-based design-by-request market, which may also have a direct impact on your career as well. 

AIGA believes that “doing speculative work seriously compromises the quality of work that clients are entitled to and also violates a tacit, long-standing ethical standard in the communication design profession worldwide. AIGA strongly discourages the practice of requesting that design work be produced and submitted on a speculative basis in order to be considered for acceptance on a project.”

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