speculative design

Why you should not request a speculative design for your business

Read Time:6 Minute, 32 Second

Speculative design– There is a very common trend in the business world where it is thought that. It is a good idea to hold a contest for creative or design work.

Instead of relying on a professional design person with the aim of devising a solution to business objectives. It is decided to request the creative talent of several designers. This model is also very recurrent in public administration.

These companies ask creatives to dedicate their time to do whole or part of them. Without receiving anything in return, only the hope of obtaining the project in the future.

But does a company or client win speculative work? Contrary to what may seem, no one wins. There are disadvantages on both sides, for the designer and the client.

In a previous post I explained why speculative design is not a good idea for a designer or designer. I pointed out 12 reasons to get away from the speculative design. And explained why it has a negative impact on the work. On the relationship between designer and client and on the final quality of the project.

In this post I want to delve into the disadvantages and risks of speculative design. And make it clear why it is not a good idea for your business.

Some (apparent) advantages for the client

request a speculative design

Apparently it’s a good idea when the client:

  • He does not want to take any risk , or so he thinks, when hiring the services of a company.
  • Think that if you can not decide if you like a design before paying for it , how will you know you are going to get a good one?
  • It offers an opportunity for designers to test their experience and good work and benefit from it.

Even understanding these initial reasons. It happens that companies benefit from the hard work of designers without having to pay for their ideas. Their time and effort. It is a form of exploitation and not rarely use this work acquired free of charge as they see fit, without fear of legal repercussions.

Risks and disadvantages of speculative design

speculative design for your business


The speculative design is also negative for the client

It lends itself to plagiarism and theft of ideas

  • The fact that you receive lots of free designs does not mean they are good. Moreover, they could be shameless plagiarism.
  • Speculative work lends itself to stealing ideas and copyrights which ends up having a negative impact on the quality of the design.

The subjective criterion “I like it, I do not like it” is applied

  • This criterion based only on aesthetic issues , affects the quality of the final work.
  • “Winning” projects are usually obtained after superficial evaluations. That are not based on the specific needs. Or strategies of the client. And as such, they do not usually produce the most effective result for the client, who makes the selection based on “the most beautiful design”.
  • In this way, the client’s commitment to the success of their own project does not seem to be based on a solid foundation.
  • The most effective design solutions are the result of a preliminary analysis, a briefing of specifications. And the result of a relationship and meetings with the client. With speculative work the quality of the project obtained is negatively affected.

You will obtain speculative designs made “blind”

  • A contest does not offer designers the time or compensation necessary to carry out the precise investigation. Behind each effective design there is a previous study. And analysis.
  • As the work done in this way often means that there is no provision or opportunity for a meeting with the client. They designer’s skills are not used to act as a true professional at the service of your business strategy. This may end up undermining the work done even more.

You will put at risk the quality of the final product

  • The design creates value to your project and business. The strategic approach that designers take into account to address the identified needs of the client is of great importance. Speculative contests based on a surface problem statement will not result in the most effective design solution.
  • Little time, energy and thought can enter speculative work, which excludes the most important element of most design projects: research, careful consideration of alternatives and the careful development of prototypes.
  •  And I am sure that the quality will be much lower than a job contracted with clear specifications.
  • A professional creative design will create customized solutions instead of solutions based probably on templates or low cost designs.

Loss of control

  • You must understand that the speculative or contest model is also a lottery for you. Without meeting with the participants of the contest, knowing your previous work or your personality.
  • When conducting a contest, the potential client renounces being able to choose a designer based on talent, skill, personality. And all the other factors that make it possible to do business with someone. This model is no more solid than playing the lottery in the hope of making a profit.

It is not the most effective selection mode

  • A more effective and ethical approach would involve asking the designers for a portfolio with examples of work. So that you can evaluate the quality, style, focus and previous experience, without them having to give their time and effort.
  • Thus you offer designers a greater opportunity to prove their experience and good work.

Does not establish a good working relationship between the designer and the client

  • Working with a designer is not just a business relationship for obtaining a final product. There are many more factors at play. Without the opportunity to meet face-to-face or talk on the phone with the client. And obtain a deeper vision of the project, the designers work focused on “guessing” the aesthetic tastes of the client and please him only in this aspect .
  • The best design tends to emerge from a healthy relationship with a designer, who understands your needs and desires.
  • The final work is as important as building a “strategic relationship”, in which both parties understand. And benefit from this good relationship. This type of relationship is almost never possible in a contest.

Speculative work attracts inexperienced designers who are under pressure

  • It is expected that good experienced designers usually. Do not have time to use in contests and speculative designs. And this is why they tend to fall on more inexperienced designers .
  • There is a huge risk of receiving misinterpreted and executed designs that inadequately represent your business. You could end up paying a high long-term price in terms of losses for your business.
  • An experienced professional who is hired and paid will conveniently work to develop effective. Tailor-made design solutions that reflect their years of training and experience.

Cost overruns in companies that choose to present themselves to speculative jobs

  • It happens that the existence of speculative work implies generalized price increases by suppliers, which can directly affect their customers. Any company that works in this way, will charge the prices as compensation.
  • In other words, if this client does not pay, the following ones will have to do it.

Actually with speculative work what you are saying as a client is the following:

My project is not important enough to hire a professional who will take the time to understand my situation and objectives. And invest the necessary time to create an adequate solution.

Educate and inform clients

discover speculative design

Trying to educate potential customers about the best way to commission the design of any business, is the mission of associations and initiatives such as:

  • NO! SPEC
  • AIGA proposes a letter model as a resource to be used. With clients to explain why speculative proposals compromise. The profession and the resulting work
  • You can also find this letter of non-adherence to speculative work useful.

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