Spec Work Panel at SXSW

I’ve been thinking of the SXSW panel on spec work named after my post “Spec Work is Evil

The panel was fantastic, because, it was really a panel.  There were people on one side, people on the other.  Other panel organizers, this is how it is done.

Brutal 10am Sunday morning timeslot for the "Is Spec Evil" panel

Brutal 10am Sunday morning timeslot for the "Is Spec Evil" panel

The panel was organized by the folks at CrowdSpring, which, perhaps childishly, I have called evil and a ponzi scheme.  Going up to the panel I was under the impression that the panel would be moderated by them as well, and was worried it would be an informational.

First off:

Yes.

Spec is evil.

I don’t know what they planned on talking about for the rest of the panel, but that is the quick answer to the question.

Here are a few things that bothered me about what was discussed (if I had a mic, I would have said these things):

Crowdsourcing is Not Spec

It can be, but isn’t always.  Crowdsourcing: vote for our new slogan, we will use the one you all like the most!  Spec: we need a slogan, someone write one for us and we will pick the one we like.  The first one is a win win.  The later is a win (kinda) lose. 

Spec is not Disruptive

Something is disruptive if it is sustainable itself.  iStockPhoto creates such a community that is disrupted the stock work market then became sustainable.  The spec work middle man companies are not disruptive, they are leading to destruction.  Big difference. 

Sockpuppets are Funny

Some of the questions from the audience at the end of the panel were obvious plants.  One questioner even shared the same last name of a certain founder.  I asked, and was told there was no relation, but after checking on IP’s of comments on my posts, I can verify that there are many fake commenters supporting spec.

Designers ARE Arrogant

And I like that.  Much of the post panel discussion was based around how people felt about David Carson.  “oh, that guy has such a big head” was the gist of the conversation.  First off, good.  Second off, design is such a subjective practice, I find most designers just a big on the arrogant side.  This can be good, can be bad, and in general, just comes with the territory.  If we are talking about the top 1% of designers in the world, I would find them to be a) amazing b) know they are good and c) not immediatally relatable to general public.

Can we agree that if David has done a keynote at TED, for instance, that we can allow him to be a certain authority on an issue in which he makes his living?

Cool, here is the link to his TED talk.

Yes, David was a bit off the deep end.  He was asked to be that way.

Stop Giving the Sob Story Small Business

Much of the (fake) outrage revolved around the poor small business owner who needs a logo.  The sobbing begins when they think of spending *gasp* $5000 on a logo.  The truth is, if you are really a startup small business owner, you should be able to barter a logo for the $500 range.  You have things of value, develop a relationship.  Move some firewood if you have to.  Trade some services you have.  Find a portfolio you like, see if they will work with you.

If you think of your logo, or site design as a handshake to a new customer, the price of 3 office chairs should be a steal enough, and if you think that 100,000 people will see the design over a year, you are paying a nickel for every impression.

If you are starting out with a company, and you turn to spec, that is a red flag that you will make many more bad decisions over the next year.

The Model Needs to Change

After the end of the panel there were 30 or so that hung around (none of the sockpuppets, in case you were wondering).  What was obvious to me, was the model needs to change.  I will have another post about this, but I think I know just who is going to lead the charge.

AIGA Needs a Take Charge

No, designers don’t need a pushover of an orgainzation.  If AIGA folds on this issue, expect another to pop up with an actual backbone.

After the panel, I was approached by seven different companies pushing spec.  One for video.  One for fans of bands.  One for legal documents.  All were a little nervous.  They all didn’t want to be evil, but were seeing how the practice was certaintly painting them that way.  I don’t hate the people participating in spec.  I find it very interesting.  What I don’t like, is for companies creating WIN -> LOSE situations for companies, and profiting on the process.  If I am vocal about one thing, this is it.

Make it win win, and I will shut the hell up.

More on the fantastic SXSW later.

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