AIGA Upstate New York Responds to Design Contest

AIGA Upstate New York is committed to supporting the interests of professional designers and strives to play an authoritative role in promoting and communicating standards for ethical conduct and professional practice in the design industry.

Recently, AIGA Upstate New York has been made aware of a local design contest that include a solicitation of design concepts to be produced on a speculative basis.

The contest for the Friends of the Public Market (FOPM) Logo Contest hypocritically shows a disregard for the value of arts and design by asking creative people to submit—for free—finished logo options that will be used to identify the Public Market in print, media and selected merchandise, recognizing Rochester’s cultural and creative heritage. The winning logo would be rewarded with a cash prize of $200 and $100 in market credit.

The contest utilize speculative (or “spec”) work, a process that undermines the quality of each organization’s stated outcomes. Through competitions, both organizations risk compromised quality as little time, energy, and thought can go into speculative work, which precludes the most important element of most design projects—the research, thoughtful consideration of alternatives, and development and testing of prototype designs.

On behalf of its members, AIGA Upstate New York president responded on February 15th with an email and subsequently met on February 20th with the organizers of this contest in an attempt to explain AIGA’s position on spec work. Below, find an excerpt from that letter, which is based on language initially drafted by AIGA executive director Ric Grefé.

Excerpt from letters to Friends of the Public Market:

[…] AIGA, the nation’s largest and oldest professional association for design, strongly discourages the practice of requesting that design work be produced and submitted on a speculative basis in order to be considered for acceptance on a project.

There are several reasons for this position.

First, to assure the client receives the most appropriate and responsive work. Successful design work results from a collaborative process between a client and the designer, developing a clear sense of the client’s objectives, competitive situation, and needs. Speculative design competitions or processes result in a superficial assessment of the problem and can only result in a design that is judged on a superficial basis. Design creates value for clients as a result of the approach designers take in addressing the problems or needs of the client and only at the end of that process is a “design” created. Speculative or open competitions for work based on a perfunctory problem statement will not result in the kind of work a client deserves.

Second, capable and professional designers do not work for free. While there will always be some designers who are willing to create designs in response to an open call for work, without any assurance of compensation, the buyer immediately relegates his or her choices among those designers who are least likely to be experienced, knowledgeable designers who are in demand among clients and who work according to the professional standards of the profession. Only too often, it results in a client eventually having to bring a more experienced designer onto a project in order to execute it.

Finally, requesting work for free reflects a lack of understanding and respect for the value of effective design as well as the time of the professionals who are asked to provide it. This approach reflects on your practices and standards.

If you would like us to work with you in developing a process that will benefit you most and maintain the professional standards we would expect of an organization such as yours, please do not hesitate to give me a call.

Christopher Goldan
AIGA Upstate New York

Click here
 for further information regarding AIGA’s position on spec work.

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Posted by upstatenewyork | March 7, 2012

Published March 7, 2012
AIGA encourages thoughtful, responsible discourse. Please add comments judiciously, and refrain from maligning any individual, institution or body of work. Read our policy on commenting.

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