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Speculative Work – Our Opinion

Hidden Depth would like to work with clients to create web and graphic design materials for their organisation. We do not participate in soliciting design concepts to be produced on a speculative basis.

Speculative work compromises the quality of work you are entitled to and violates a tacit, long-standing ethical standard worldwide in the creative design profession.

Paid work ensures you receive the most appropriate and responsive work.

Successful design work results from a collaborative process between a client and the designer – intending to develop a clear sense of the client’s objectives, competitive situation and needs.

Speculative design competitions or processes result in a superficial project assessment not grounded in a client’s business dynamics.

The design creates value for clients due to the strategic approach designers take in addressing the problems or needs of the client, and only at the end of that process is a “design” created.

Speculative work based on a perfunctory problem statement will not result in the best design solution for the client.

Requesting work for free reflects on business practices and harms your reputation.

Requesting work for free reflects a lack of understanding and respect for the value of effective design, plus the time of the professionals who are asked to provide it. Therefore, this approach reflects on your business practices and standards and may harm the professional reputation of you and your business.

There are few professions where all possible candidates are expected to do the work first, allowing the buyer to choose which one to compensate for their efforts. Consider the response if you ask a dozen lawyers to write a brief for you, from which you would then choose which one to pay!

We realise that there are some creative professions with different sets of standards, such as advertising and architecture, for which billings are substantial and continuous after you select a firm of record. In those cases, you are not receiving the final outcome (the advertising campaign or the building) for free up front as you would be in receiving a design solution.

A more effective and ethical approach

Ask designers to submit examples of their work from previous assignments, plus a statement of how they would approach your project. Or request a smaller project before the primary commission.

You can then judge the quality of the designer’s previous work and their way of thinking about your business. Ask for referrals from their previous client projects. The designer you select can begin to work on your project by designing strategic solutions to your criteria while under contract, without having to work on speculation up front.

You may want the reassurance of how a design will look. For those cases, you should commission a smaller paid project, allowing you to judge multiple designers’ work and decide on the one that meets your expectations.

If you would like to work with our company in developing a process that will benefit you most and maintain the high business standards we expect of Hidden Depth, please do not hesitate to give us a call.

Many designers can provide solutions far exceeding your expectations for an appropriate budget and schedule. Ultimately, this approach ensures a more effective, professional and profitable process for everyone involved.

Dave Meier