Jeremiah Owyang’s Anti Spec Contest

I really like Jeremiah Owyang.  If you don’t read his blog, you are missing out on a great voice on social media and web strategy.

I call him a friend, and want to be clear, this post is an exercise in why I think my views on spec are correct.

How will designers respond to spec?  Jeremiah asked this a few months ago, nobody really had a good answer.  Here is something someone can start in an hour that I would see put a major damper on the process. I don’t like this solution one bit, but I also don’t like the cause for the problem.

Jeremiah, as an experiment for his panel at SXSWi, is doing a contest on a spec work company.  I’m sure the project was promoted by the host company, hedging on a positive review by the Forrester analyst.  It will be fun to learn what his reactions are to it.

More and more, companies are using their google search term as their homepage.  Perhaps the companies are not, but the customers are, they search for your name (even if they have already been to your site), and the top few results mean quite a bit.

If spec work actually is an evil as I’ve called it, would some culture jamming put a major halt to the ‘quick fix’ of the problem?  Could designers hold ‘anti spec’ competitions, building high SEO pages on a company who engages in spec?  A google bomb for questionable ethics in a way. Part satire, part raising questions.  Similar to a Consumerist for design.  It could be built in about an hour with a wordpress blog, auto adding posts with rss feeds, and comments with an image upload plugin.

So again, nothing, not an ounce, against Jeremiah, but in the spirit of an experiment, I would like to hold an anti spec contest.  Send me a 500px x 200px image with your thoughts of how Jeremiah’s experiment makes you feel.   If you want a link back to your blog, or stay anonymous, up to you.

Jeremiah Owyang

Jeremiah Owyang's anti spec contest.

Hopefully you have picked up on the complexity of this issue.

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  • Mister J.

    The contest you're referring to was heavily promoted internally at CS so the results aren't indicative of people “off the street”. Here's the e-mail sent out after the contest for Owyang's banner was launched –

    I wanted to send a personal note of thanks for all of your great work and the help from our entire community with the Forbes project – you made us look outstanding in that project, and we truly appreciate it!

    The publicity from the Forbes article has been amazing and has allowed us to bring in many more projects and provide great opportunities for all of you. At the moment, we have more than 200 open projects! And while they're all obviously great, we have four unique projects that will help us – and you – get significant exposure and continue to bring more clients to crowdSPRING. I would hugely appreciate it if you would consider taking a look – you'll quickly see why the projects have significant value (to us and to you) beyond the monetary award so I hope you'll consider participating.

    <snip of other 'high-profile' contests>

    Jeremiah Owyang from Forrester Research
    http://www.crowdspring.com/projects/website_des
    Jeremiah Owyang is a very visible and popular analyst for Forrester Research. Over twenty thousand people subscribe to Jeremiah's blog and he's blogging about this project (http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2009/02/24/f…). Let's give him a great look at the great talent in our community!

    Thanks again for all your great work. We are so excited by what's ahead of us in 2009!

    Best,

    Ross Kimbarovsky
    co-Founder

    ———————— >

    I'm somewhat taken aback at the idea of a spec company hitting up their 'community' of 'creatives' to submit more free work (none of which is likely to win and the chances of an individual winning is lowered as the numbers rise) in order to make the company look good. At least they pointed out that the project has “have significant value beyond the monetary award”.

  • I actually didn't know that email went out to the community. I asked Ross not to treat me any differently than anyone else, as I was experimenting with the tool. I did find quite a few weaknesses with spec work and crowdspring that I'll be bringing up at the panel. To start with: 1) This is no excuse for not having a design strategy. I knew what I want (and am a former UI designer) so i could get by just fine 2) Some of the submissions were sub standard, actually they were very hard to look at 3) This was time consuming for me, I spent a lot of time providing feedback to a majority of the submissions.

    Andrew, I laughed out loud when I saw the graphic, but what the heck does that have to do with the issue? It would make more sense if you started to do spec work my research.

    Listen, I don't mind being the digital punching bag for designers, but I'd rather focus on the reality of the situation then focus on solutions….and that's what I'm going to do. In the end, I'm going to recommend to the world's largest brands how they should approach spec work –if at all.

    Also, thanks for calling me a friend, I think the same of you too! Looking forward to coming back to Boulder to partake in chai with you again!

  • Typo, I meant to write the following:

    Listen, I don't mind being the digital punching bag for designers, but I'd rather focus on the reality of the situation AND focus on solutions.

  • Danno

    What crowdSPRING employees (er, “contest” “entrants”) have to bet on — and stop me if I’m wrong — is the off-chance that the kind of “client” who wants a last-second brand identity done in a week for $500 (sometimes based on a 200-word brief made up on the spot), STILL nevertheless has the skill, experience, time, awareness and understanding to recognize which random entry is not only the most superbly-crafted, not only entirely original and copyrightable, not only befitting the industry and right on target for the market & the business’s culture and personality — but ALSO the best-fitting for realizing the long-term needs, goals and plans that will best position that individual company to survive and thrive in the future.

    Oh, and they’d better be darn sure they’re not utilizing a ripped-off design concept already owned by another company, or are distributing something created illegally using stolen fonts and pirated software.

  • nerfherder

    I'd like to suggest that web design and logo design are entirely different animals. With web design, UI/usability comes first and foremost. Without that, no matter how cool the site looks, no one will be able to use it. A web design is never something that stands the test of time. Old web designs become obvious very quickly and require constant refreshing. Good logo designs should withstand many years of sustainability, of only to be slightly tweaked if at all.

    This is not to say web designs are better candidates for potential success with design sites. On the contrary. I've been working in webdev for 15+ years and have sat in so many planning session I cannot even count. COmmunication, once again, is mission critical.

    Create a header for a website? eh, i can see that as something needing less communication, as long as a requirement is to adhere to established branding conventions.

  • nerfherder

    I'd like to suggest that web design and logo design are entirely different animals. With web design, UI/usability comes first and foremost. Without that, no matter how cool the site looks, no one will be able to use it. A web design is never something that stands the test of time. Old web designs become obvious very quickly and require constant refreshing. Good logo designs should withstand many years of sustainability, of only to be slightly tweaked if at all.

    This is not to say web designs are better candidates for potential success with design sites. On the contrary. I've been working in webdev for 15+ years and have sat in so many planning session I cannot even count. COmmunication, once again, is mission critical.

    Create a header for a website? eh, i can see that as something needing less communication, as long as a requirement is to adhere to established branding conventions.

  • nerfherder

    I'd like to suggest that web design and logo design are entirely different animals. With web design, UI/usability comes first and foremost. Without that, no matter how cool the site looks, no one will be able to use it. A web design is never something that stands the test of time. Old web designs become obvious very quickly and require constant refreshing. Good logo designs should withstand many years of sustainability, of only to be slightly tweaked if at all.

    This is not to say web designs are better candidates for potential success with design sites. On the contrary. I've been working in webdev for 15+ years and have sat in so many planning session I cannot even count. COmmunication, once again, is mission critical.

    Create a header for a website? eh, i can see that as something needing less communication, as long as a requirement is to adhere to established branding conventions.

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