I attended the Port80 Events Spring Localhost tonight. Carey Hiles stood up and talked about speculative work, and the lengths that we should be willing to go in order to gain that all important signature on a contract. Spec work has always been a controversial subject in the design industry, and as if on cue, at the end of the talk there were some heated words between Carey and Victoria Jones from Design Wales.
Design Wales have been running campaigns for some time now to try and eliminate speculative work from our industry. They're doing some admirable work in this regard, and have even gained some public sector support. However, Victoria made the comment, quite adamantly, that she disagreed with everything that Carey had said during his talk, which I could see from observation Carey took quite hard. I found this to be incredibly harsh, especially as, from the comments she made, I think she missed the most important sentence in Carey's talk, that is, the title of this blog post.
Don't give away the gold
I've spoken about spec work before, particularly the crowdsourcing industry. If we as designers and developers were to create a fully polished piece of work on the offchance of some payment at the end of it we'd never be able to pay the bills, so I can understand Design Wales' wish to eliminate this practice. However, in this instance I fully support Carey's stance on the subject. That's because he wasn't really talking about speculative work at all, merely the sharing of ideas, critique of a current product to be redesigned, a basic outline of a recommended path, and simply researching the client.
These are all things that every designer should be doing, for every project. At this stage no work has been done, no time or money lost, it's merely demonstrating to the client that you are the right person for the job. How can we possibly be expected to provide a quote for our work without taking the time to think about what we are actually quoting for?
In Design Wales' perfect world, every client has an expert knowledge of design and can simply pick any designer to put together the website or product that best suits their business. The problem is, in reality clients rarely know what that is, and even if they did, the insight and difference of perspective that we as designers provide is the reason that they hire us in the first place.
I'd love to see speculative work eliminated from the design industry, but if Design Wales are pursuing a world where there is no communication between client and designer before project initiation, they are going to do more harm than good to our industry, as it will simply lead to the wrong person being picked for the wrong job every time.
Carey, I would have liked to have talked to you in person after the event, to say that I really hope that you haven't been put off by the reaction you received. It took a lot of courage to talk about such a controversial subject, you did an fantastic job, and I hope to see you speak again at some point. Keep up the good work.