Designing on speculation or speculative design is asking a designer to supply sample designs of real work without any commitment of hiring him. In most cases the client provides several graphic designers with a brief and then asks for sample designs. The client then decides on who to hire based on samples sent and price charged. The other graphic designers who do not qualify are neither compensated for time spent interpreting the brief or work done.
Speculative design arises because of failure by the designer to communicate terms of engagement to clients and would be clients. Another reason is that many designers are ignorant of the worth of their intellectual property. They tend to view design as only software manipulation.
When I started out on my own after quitting employment, I met this client who asked me to design a logo for an NGO he was establishing. He had been referred to me by a client I was servicing and whom we were having a cordial relationship. Based on this, I innocently trusted him and started designing the logo. This I did even after he told me that he did not have the money but was sourcing it from some donors. I assumed even after knowing that assumption is the lowest form of knowledge that he would pay me once the funding started flowing. Anyway, I emailed the ideas I had come up with and he replied by mentioning that the work was a good beginning and I should consult with his colleague to finalize on the logo. That was the last time I heard from him. After a year or two of silence I decided to visit his website and see what logo he was using since we had not finalized on what I had come up with. To my amazement, he had picked one of the samples I had emailed him and used it in all their material. Seeing this, I tried to use all possible means at my disposal to seek compensation but was not successful. I could only blame myself and had to learn the lesson the hard way. My ignorance had finally rewarded me handsomely.
Dear designer, beware, do not involve yourself in speculative work no matter how promising the offer is.
To you dear client, please judge the ability of a designer based on his portfolio. Asking for speculative work is unprofessional and disrespectful of a designer’s time and intelligence. It is forcing a designer to work for free whether he is aware of it or not.
No professional agrees to offer their services without guarantee of payment. Whether it is a lawyer, doctor, architect or even carpenter. The least they require from a client is a deposit, which acts as proof of commitment and in several cases signing of a contract. Advertising agencies are perhaps the only exceptions which can offer samples since they can pitch a concept before they have the work, but once they get the work they buy all the client’s media. This in return earns them millions in commissions.
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Hope this helped,