SxSWi09: Is Spec Work Evil?

For a 10am event at SxSW, this was a crowded and heated discussion. Imagine what it would have been like later in the day with more caffeine! I listened to this panel from the perspective of a person soliciting creative work for small businesses where big agency talent is not an option.



  • Micah and Rebecca outlined the debate brilliantly.
  • Spec work, while tactical, is here to stay.
  • Buyers: Spec work is inexpensive, but requires a lot of time to filter through submissions.
  • Buyers: Never outsource design strategy. Have solid strategy in place before soliciting work.
  • Designers: Get involved in business design strategy. Add value.
  • AIGA wants to know the depth of client/designer interaction during project. Submit pro/con comments on their site.

The gist of the long and drawn out discussion was designers should work in an agency environment and be involved in strategy and client relationship versus spec work environment where there is no existent or consistent relationship or work ethic. (Keep in mind…this is my translation of argument and not my words.)

The majority of Q&A time was dedicated to slamming David Carson (obviously not a fan of spec work or "bottom dwelling, would-be" designers using forums to submit work) rather than staying on target of discussion. So finally, when we get a valid question that strikes at the heart of the discussion, there is no time to answer: How do you find talent?

The designers on the panel were advocating seeking them out and they would work out a deal for small business that can't afford agency work versus soliciting creative on a site like crowdSPRING. OK…so how I do I find these talented designers to strike a too-good-to-be-true deal? Network? In a dark and smoky after-hours club away from agency environment? OK…where? Maybe the forums on crowdSPRING? ;)

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