I can understand the investor attraction to spec work websites. After all, the sites profit through nothing more than the sale of contest-listings. So as long as the listing database is intact, and the turnstiles are kept moving, the concept appears hugely scalable.

I can also understand the initial client attraction. The cost of a service plays an important role in the purchase decision, and with spec work, the client spends as little as she wants. Often nothing.

underwater icebergIceberg photo composite by Ralph Clevenger.

But work produced 'on spec' isn't just a cheaper form of design, on the whole it's also vastly inferior, because once the volunteers producing the artwork figure-out how to win, the design process has long since disappeared. What designer puts 100% into a project when there's a minuscule chance of getting paid? And those who do give 100% are even likelier to end-up with nothing but a sense of dejection.

Ultimately, contest holders are left to compensate for the emaciated design process by attempting to fill-in the gaps, "Change this. Add that. Combine these. Try it in blue." They're paying to be designer-for-a-day, when the reality is they either don't need a designer (imagine hiring a plumber then telling him what to do), or they haven't realised the time-sapping downsides.

One more reason to set yourself apart, to tell your story.

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Related:
Logo warehouses, crowdsourcing, and a lack of understanding, on idApostle
Responding to spec work requests, on davidairey.com