A failure to acknowledge work as work

NoSpec logo

I just read an article that isn’t related specifically to logos, but it’s one of the better collections of words in favour of saying no when for-profit companies ask for free work.

“This isn’t just about unpaid labor. One reason people, especially young people with creative aspirations, work for free is to form valuable relationships that will push their careers forward. But you can’t form a valuable relationship with a rich person who can afford to but won’t pay you a reasonable wage, because your entire relationship with that rich person is based on their failure to acknowledge the value of the work you’re doing for them.”

Exactly.

Don’t work for free — or even cheap — for rich people.

A good read, via Steve Douglas.

7 responses

  1. I hope one day design will be treated like any other professional service.

    Unfortunately my experience working for 6 years at a communications agency has taught me that working for free in pitch situations or doing one project for free (or for a reduced “foot in the door” price) is so common in our industry that to ever get a handle on it is such an uphill battle that I am pessimistic it can happen.

    We need to first get a consensus among agencies and designers not to work for free even in pitch situations before anything will change. The work we do needs to be respected and working for free is not the way to get that respect.

    Just try to take your car to an auto mechanic and tell him to repair your car this time for free because the next time you promise to pay a fair price. As soon as you put this situation into another non-creative field most people can see the ridiculousness of it.

  2. I am passionately anti-spec. What I’ve heard more of happening lately is employers asking potential in-house design hires to perform spec projects (1-3) for free as part of the ‘interview’ process. That is not only classic spec work but it’s also predatory against a vulnerable unemployed designer.

    Half the spec predators say “it’s for your portfolio” (and thus free is ok) and the others are essentially saying the opposite “we see your portfolio but can’t say for sure your skills apply to this company/project” (and thus free is ok) … seems like more business people (and designers should be business people) need to figure out what a portfolio is and stop misinterpreting it to their advantage/degradation.

    Professionals get paid.

  3. Its pretty annoying when you are interviewing for a position and then they have you design a project. When clearly they have more than enough money to hire you as a designer and they have proof you can do it based on your portfolio.

  4. Any design firm doing spec work should be punished or put onto a black list. Time for design associations and governments to put more effort into this matter. What the industry needs is a moral code that stands above business. All this spec work kills good work, scares away real talent (who gets into other jobs) and further damages the future of design. None of this is the clients’ faults, but it is purely our industry’s problem of getting a short-term advantage. And the web has been becoming the largest catalyst in pushing free work ahead and above paid work.

    In contrast, there is nothing wrong about checking a mediocre applicant’s real skills (talent vs time) with a test task. Nowadays, so many young designers (incl. graduates) learn to visually (and textually) polish their turds in a quality that it looks and sounds almost like a 10-manpower team effort. Mostly, a lot of their showcases are just surface styling work (often unoriginal… pinterest, behance copies) and that is what a test project is for: Discovering designers who have talent to truly design something, and not just do some styling.

  5. I know for a fact that a few big companies in the digital industry ask for spec work. Thirty years ago when I started out, no one knew or ever imagined this would happen. All thanks to the internet and social media.

  6. It’s amazing how many people think that all we’ve got time for is to sit around coming up with logo ideas, at no cost, in the off chance that they may select one of our creations. Unfortunately, there appears to be a high number of designers that are prepared to do this, which makes it much more difficult for us to compete on a level playing field.

  7. The plumber, accountant, mechanic, dentist, taxi driver, etc…. would laugh if you suggested to hire their services for nothing…
    All young designers note: you’ve worked hard, spent money and time to learn your craft. If you cannot get paid ask yourself is it worth it?

    Yes, it may be time to name and shame companies who show no respect and don’t want pay anything for design work.

    No.Re.Spect = no pride in your profession.

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