Here’s the sales pitch on 99designs, one of the main spec work websites:
“We connect 56,816 passionate designers from around the globe with small businesses who need design projects completed. And, we do it in a timely fashion without the usual risk or cost associated with professional design.”
Disregarding the fallacy of the numbers game — recently examined here by Steve Douglas — let’s focus on how such companies minimise client cost.
If you consider “working on spec” a form of free work (i.e., the designer carries out a request in the hope of getting paid, with no guarantee), and if you consider that people under the age of 18 are covered by child labour laws, then is 99designs keeping costs down through the use of unpaid child designers?
Member profiles show designers as young as 11 years old.
Following screenshots from 99designs (click for full size).
Spec work websites pitch the work of 11-year-olds as a viable alternative to hiring professionals.
More info elsewhere:
Children designers on design contest & crowdsourcing sites?
Update: 22 January 2010
I don’t see spec websites as my competition, so I don’t voice my opinion out of spite. It’s the shady practices going on that concern me. I’m all for kids wanting to experiment with design, and yes, good on those who are proactive. Absolutely. But have you seen the comment threads on many contests? Accusations are rife, some real foul-mouthed snarks — no place for a youngster to learn how great the design profession actually is. In fact, it’s a quick way to turn-off the future generation of designers rather than encourage them.