Something disturbing has been afoot in the industry for a while now: the increasingly common call for spec work from designers. From No!Spec, a group of designers committed to educating the public about the downfalls of spec work, here's a quick definition for those who may be new to the term: “Spec” has become the short form for any work done on a speculative basis. In other words, any requested work for which a fair and reasonable fee has not been agreed upon, preferably in writing.
At Capsule, we are seeing more of this in the form of design contests ("crowdsourcing", anyone?), but also, more disturbingly, as part of the proposal process. As in, "show us how you'd design this, and we'll think about awarding the project to you - maybe."
This exhibits a disturbing lack of respect for the creativity, skills and professionalism of designers. Capsule has refused to participate in spec work projects in the past, even if it looked as though our participation would likely lead to our financial gain, and we will continue to do so.
The AIGA has composed an excellent letter here that can be used to explain to potential clients why spec work is not only unethical, but also not in their best interest.
We hope to soon see the end of this, but in these economic times it's a buyers' market.