Speculative work—work done without compensation in the hope of being compensated, for the client’s speculation—has long been opposed by AIGA because of the inherent risks. They outline these risks as follows:
• Clients risk compromised quality as little time, energy and thought can go into speculative work, which precludes the most important element of most design projects—the research, thoughtful consideration of alternatives, and development and testing of prototype designs.
• Designers risk being taken advantage of as some clients may see this as a way to get free work; it also diminishes the true economic value of the contribution designers make toward client’s objectives.
• There are legal risks for both parties should aspects of intellectual property, trademark and trade-dress infringements become a factor.
All perfectly logical. It also makes logical sense that they’re now updating their stance.
The internet has radically changed the means of soliciting and offering design, democratizing participation in creative endeavors paid and free, commissioned and speculative. This warrants a change in the approach AIGA takes toward spec work, even while holding firm to the core belief that spec work embodies inherent risks. As an institution that is a reflection of its membership, AIGA encourages designers to exercise their individual decision-making rights to engage in design as they see fit.
In the words of Mindy Nies, ex-AIGA Colorado President, “Basically they are saying that spec work happens. They’d prefer for it not to happen, but if you choose to produce spec work, at least know what you’re getting yourself into.”