What is Spec Work?
Spec work is short for speculative work and it refers to work done by individuals that may not necessarily result in payment. In a sense it’s like a big competition. Only one individual will win. So what’s the debate here? Many criticize that spec work is unfair to the designers and simply devalues the designs being produced. They argue that no designer should be asked to deliver work without receiving payment. The other side of the conversation points out that those who participate in designer contests dedicate their time towards their interest at his or her own discretion. Spec work gives designers an opportunity to gain valuable experience for bigger opportunities in the future, connecting them with clients they wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach.
The Olympics and Spec WorkIf the organizers of London 2012 had decided to open up their design process to the public, they wouldn’t have been the first. Sergey Bubka, Chairman of the Coordination Commission for Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games (YOG), stated that “by launching the first ever medal design competition online, [his team] hope[d] to tap into the creativity and imagination of young people across the world.”  The competition was such a success that the Austrian Winter YOG used a similar medal design competition to help involve as much of their community as possible, but also to make sure they got a great result.
Baron Pierre de Coubertin
Having design competitions play a part of every Olympic event makes sense on many levels.
- The sense of achievement is the same across art and sport as both require years of training and hard work for the artist or athlete to master his or her craft.
- All of this training goes in with the competitors knowing that there is no guarantee of reward, just an understanding that this work sets you up for the best chance of success.
- Every athlete moves uniquely, and every artist paints differently allowing the individual to inspire a vast audience to realize the ultimate focus of the Olympics: to showcase what can be achieved when the world’s best motivate each other to reach deeper and push harder.
The search for symbolic design in the Olympics is really just another event and it serves to extend the ability of the Olympics to instigate global innovation and bring people of all ages, ethnics and backgrounds together as one. Maybe if the 2012 Olympics had opened up their branding search, they would have found something to symbolize all these powerful ideas that the Olympics stand for.
How can you get involved?
While these international design competitions are becoming more popular, they are still relatively rare. Keep an eye on the upcoming YOGs in Nanjing 2014 and Lillehammer 2016 for their own medal design competitions. If you simply can’t wait for those to open up, feel free to check out this medal design contest and of course, our own brand of design contest fun here at HiretheWorld.
What do you guys think about Spec work being used for big events like the Olympics?