Spec works sucks. What is does is take a job traditionally performed by an employee and outsource it to an undefined, large group of people in the form of an open call. Spec sites sites such as DesignCrowd, 99Designs, and CrowdSpring offer design services at a fairly lower price than that of a professional designer, with various people who are ready to work for you in a heartbeat. Here’s why you shouldn’t get sucked in…
In lieu of the financial savings, your business will be tasked with managing and filtering hundreds (or thousands) of workers with a significant cost of time and energy – with no guarantee that the resulting end product will be of sufficient quality or effectiveness.
When the crowd gets involved, much of their input will have little or no value or relevance with Sturgeon’s Law at its finest (Sturgeon’s Law essentially indicates that 90% of everything is crap).
Some young designers and students feel that spec work is an opportunity to break into the field of design, however participating in these lottery-esque contests with hundreds of others and working for possibly no recognition or pay might not be the best use of their talents. Many of the other design participants are from lower wage countries such as India, where $20 USD pays for a months rent for a family of four. As a United States based designer I cannot compete with this. $20 doesn’t cover even half the monthly fee I pay in order to use design programs. IMO, neither taking advantage of young designers nor deindustrializing ourselves by outsourcing jobs overseas are happy solutions.
Detrimental to your business is the fact that the spec designer would own the copyrights to their work absent a written agreement changing the relationship – they would not be your employee under copyright. Therefore a small business that crowdsourced its company’s logo design but did not receive the copyright to the design from the creator would not have the right to reproduce, distribute, or publicly display copies of that logo. Do you own a restaurant? If so, unless you particularly enjoy being the defendant in the court of law, you had better think twice on using that logo on your menu, advertisements, awning, or anywhere beyond where your designer gives you additional specific allowance to do so.
Why would one even want to risk their business? From the client-side, a relationship like this will never benefit you or your brand. Design benefits from expert advice and consultation between the designer and a client, drawing on skills, expertise, knowledge and creative talent. Purchasing deliverables for the lowest price from a crowd of 5,000+ amateurs is not the same as retaining professional design services. The latter of which should be a consultative relationship. Clients, designers, and our economy all greatly lose out due to spec work.