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On Spec Work

March 31, 2009

While I was at SXSW one of the best panels that I went to was about whether or not spec work was evil. The members of the panel included Mike Samson of, David Carson of davidcarsondesign, Lydia Mann of AIGA, Jeff Howe of Wired Magazine, Jeffrey Kalmikoff of skinnyCorp/Threadless, and Jeremiah Owyang of Forrester. This panel got me thinking about how democratizing the internet is.

David Carson was definitely not in a friendly room. Jeremiah Owyang and Mike Samson played the part of the David to Carson’s and Kalmikoff’s Goliath. The interesting takeaway from this panel was that everyone seemed to be missing the point.

Carson is afraid that allowing multiple amateur designers to submit work for a single contract with no promise of pay is demeaning to the graphic design industry as a whole. I think he took a very strong position. I think this is a situation where there is a need and it is being met. The people who use are going to be small business owners who may not have to budget to use a major design house or ad agency to help them brand their company.

Even that last paragraph I think is useless. This is not a discussion that even needs to be had. Because there is a website successfully acting as a medium between content creators and content consumers that says that there was a need that was previously not being met. The argument posed by Carson about art of quality doesn’t matter. For art will always be judged by the consumer. The critic can do a great thing in describing what is going on, but at the end of the day just because a critics training gives him greater insight in his evaluation that does not make his opinion more valuable. In some cases it should be given more weight, but just because one person can only say they like something and can’t tell you why and a critic can given you ten pages why at the end of the day what matters is that the art was enjoyed. It served its purpose.

If there is graphic design work that is being done and the customers are happy with it then I see no problem. Some consumers will not want to go through the trouble of culling through submissions and will pay for a professional to provide quality quickly. When a professional is sought out the point of the purchase is that you are paying for not spending some of your own time on the matter.

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