Monday, September 21, 2009

Guest-post on 'no spec" art: Beware of those contests!!

Below is a guest-post by my friend Tess Grabler. She is a savvy, young artist who has been very helpful over the years with input on my personal site. What she has written here is great advice for all creative people. Companies like Threadless and Spencers are all about taking advantage of indie artists, and here's how they do it.

No Spec! If you're working in the design industry as a graphic artist, illustrator, photographer, writer, fashion designer etc, then you really need to be aware of what “No Spec” is all about.
What is “spec?” Spec is any type of work done on a speculative basis, this means any requested work that does not have a fair or reasonable fee agreed upon, no contract between the requestor and designer, and no guarantee of payment.

There are many websites out there that are all about spec work where businesses will put in a request for certain type of design work; and artists then have to submit their work with no guarantee of payment hoping to “win the bid”.

Why is this bad? It takes time to create the best suitable design for a business, the artist needs to understand the client, their background, their products/services, who their competitors are.

Below is taken from the website:
"Right now, there exists a trend in the business world whereby companies get it in their heads that it would be a good idea to run a contest for their design work. What they will do is announce that they need, say, a new logo. The intent is for designers to individually spend the time to develop designs and then submit them. The company then goes over the entries and selects a “winner.” Only the winner receives any compensation for the work. On the surface, and without applying any deeper thought to it, this might seem like a great idea. Rather than trust one designer to come up with a solution, a company can solicit the creative talent of dozens, or even hundreds of talented creatives."

Spec work cheapens our industry and allows businesses and large companies to think that it’s ok to have numerous designers work on ideas, logos, illustration, photogaphy and so forth and then not pay them. Meanwhile, there is a strong chance they take your ideas and then end up paying someone else even cheaper to replicate it, is this fair? No.
Value your industry, don’t cheapen it.

For more information check out


  1. Boo, that ain't right! How sucky. Thanks for posting this, had no idea it was getting that bad...

  2. I agree, if you look at sites like you will see some artists calling themselves designers go and rip other people stuff off or try and sneak in stock crap. So wrong.

  3. Kate,

    Thanks for the info on I'm always on the lookout for sites that take advantage of fellow designers.