“Spec Is So Not Special” Follow Up

I mentioned before that my friend Drew Davies, owner of Oxide Design in Omaha was a judge for CA’s Design Annual this year and what a major distinction that is, especially for an Omahan. I then drew attention to a remark from Davies concerning spec work. Below please find his commentary on the issue, further refined for your reading pleasure.
Thank you, Mr. Burn for your supportive comments. I was very pleased that Patrick Coyne decided to use that thought I’d shared with Communication Arts for a pull-quote. It’s something I believe in very strongly, and take very seriously. I suspect all markets are like ours here in Omaha: we compete not so much against other design firms, but against the perception that design is without value, and budgeting dollars for design is just below “pretty artwork for the corporate restrooms” on the list of priorities. I truly believe the solution is simple, if a bit optimistic: if all designers stopped engaging in spec work, the problem would be reduced to insignificance. What we do has huge value. It’s time for us to start believing that, and making the companies of the world believe that.
And let me be clear that I am referring to spec work here, not pro bono or donated or bartered work. The practice I am talking about is, most specifically, producing work for a client who will then decide if it is “good enough” to pay you for it. Particularly despicable is when companies ask several firms all to submit creative, and then the company decides who “wins” and gets paid. You don’t see any other professionals (e.g. lawyers, accountants, etc.) engaging in this kind of devaluing behavior.
As a side note, I should make a clarification to your post: the streamlined Iowa Hawkeye logo was designed by Bill Bollman, Bill Basler and myself. It is the product of a team collaboration, not one designer.
Drew Davies
Oxide Design



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.