If the title of this post didn’t strike a nerve, you’re likely not a designer in Vancouver’s bustling creative community. But regardless of whether you own an agency, are a student completing a program, or a businessman looking to hire some talent, keep reading. Today the power now lies in the hands of the client.
Recently on the Buzz we published an article talking about a logo design contest for Hardbite chips. Although we made the mistake giving the impression the contest was for professional talent, the article created an upset that evolved in to a schoolyard fight. But read in between the lines and you will see the terrible shortcomings of the freelance community and how the market has taken advantage of it.
Speculative (“spec”) work is generally considered unfair to designers because it requires a potential client to receive nearly-finalized work from multiple bidders. In the end only one bidder will ever be paid for the work leaving tens of others to walk away with no reward. Logo contests resemble spec work because many hours are put into a contest submission and only one will be the winner.
Spec Work Makes Money.
Many will want to sympathize and blame designers who participate in design contests, but the truth is that spec work is a problem natural to freelancing and has only gotten worse because designers have not made any effort to protect their industry. The hard reality is that speculation pays big for the broker, saves the client money, is a process that many smaller clients prefer, and the designers that want to continue freelancing will need to somehow adapt.
Take a look at HireTheWorld.com. This company started by a Vancouver entrepreneur pulls designers from around the world to bid in contests for work. HireTheWorld is still a young company and today their industry generates up to $74 million. Hardbite probably doesn’t take home that much money, and the uproar against this great Vancouver company was absolutely unfair. Hardbite was not behind the original idea, and smearing the contest will have no effect on an industry that has larger issues. Until freelancers can protect their work, it’s pointless to get caught up in the sensation around Hardbite.
The Problem Is Not Universally Applicable.
In general, most spec work taking place these days is familiar to those freelancers just entering the community. Large and professional agencies have established clients and their bidding process all comes down to bottom line. However, the less-experienced designers have smaller portfolios and the best way to “get your name out” is to participate in every opportunity. It’s also unfair to judge any designers who desire to participate in logo contests – it’s a great way to gain experience in a competitive environment. Besides spec work doesn’t always yield the best product, either, so leave it to the client to learn that lesson.
Learn From History.
Those who cried dearly against Hardbite have the opportunity to learn a lesson from history. Around the year 1400 AD, European labour faced a similar problem and many craftsmen could not protect their work. The “guilds” were associations of these craftsmen who bonded around their trade to gain knowledge, skill, and protect the market. They prevented inexperienced craftsmen from learning trade secrets and it protected the quality of work. Likewise they fell in the 19th century because they hindered innovation, so don’t make the same mistake.
Looking at the energy put into the uproar against the Hardbite contest, there’s plenty to turn into positive and protective action. Why not instead join an association for designers?