Spec Work or Celebrating Your Audience?

Coming Soon - Slave Labor BearsDon’t get me wrong.  I’ve signed the petition; I believe that people should be paid for their work – carrot dangling is never acceptable.

But, when I read about Space150’s logo design competition, it sounded to me a lot more like “we want to celebrate our audience’s work” rather than spec work.  Taking another example, is Mountain Dew’s can design campaign spec work or are they celebrating their community?

Where and how do you draw the line?

A big problem designers face is that clients -must- understand that they’re paying for art and art seldom comes with a refund policy.

Art is subjective.  The logo may not look 100% like what you expected, but that art didn’t just appear.  It took years of training, experience, and finally, a few more recent hours to put together.

It’s the adage of Picasso walking through the park and being approached by a fan who begs for a self-portrait.  Picasso begrudgingly obliges and then asks for $20,000.  The fan protests, “But that just took you 5 minutes…” and Picasso replies, “No ma’am, this took me my entire life.”

From another perspective, you can pay $7 for a steak at iHop… or you can pay $20 for one at Brooks.  Cooking a steak can be artful – but if you (as the chef) completely mess up a steak, the client gets a new steak at most places.  Others, you get a refund.  I think the problem is that the client doesn’t trust (or doesn’t know about) your redo/refund policy.

Art is subjective; but taste is also subjective.  Designers have a responsibility for acknowledging both sides of the coin, just as clients have a responsibility to pay fairly for completed work.