HOW and Spec Work

It came to our attention today that a paper company’s new design contest, which involves speculative creative work, offers a HOW Design Conference registration as a prize. HOW does not endorse spec work; our editorial policy precludes us from promoting contests or projects involving spec. However, we were not informed about the nature of the contest or about the conference registration being offered as a prize. We are reaching out to the company today to explain our stand on  spec work and express our passion about the issue. We apologize for any impression that HOW endorses or is involved in this contest.

(edit 2/24: incorrect information deleted)

0 thoughts on “HOW and Spec Work

  1. Chris K.

    Good work, and good on you guys for addressing this issue. Spec work and logo “contests” are one of the biggest insults to our industry today, and the whole issue seems to be getting more rampant by the day. As a HOW reader, I’m proud to know you are taking a stand on this.

  2. Tanner Christensen

    It’s great to see a group like HOW not only talk the talk, but walk the walk. How many other companies would reach out in such a situation and stand firm on issues like spec work?

    Though I have the same question as Justin, what if they refuse to change the prize?

  3. Linda

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

    I just posted a DON’T LIKE response on the Facebook page of an art organization here in NJ and gave them a piece of my mind. They were advertising a “logo contest” for a historical organization. The compensation would be the “privilege” of having the winning logo all over their website and related materials.

  4. Anna Belluz

    When I asked that partner pub PRINT remove a blog post crowd sourcing a logo for $100. It was removed. Thanks for that (again).
    I feel that we all need to be more diligent, love ourselves and our work more, and put these sorts of calls / contests/ crowd sourced projects to bed once and for all.
    I posted on Kiwi Creative’s blog about the need for some sort of ‘Fair Trade’ recognition in the design and creative world. Just don’t know if this is reasonable or would even be effective.
    But further awareness needs to be raised somehow. Simply refusing spec work is one way, is there another?
    Food for thought, and possibly an extended conversation over at HOW?


  5. Hook

    I’ve never quite understood why designers, even in or fresh-out-of school, would lower their profession by participating in speculative work. In the end, it rarely ever gives them what they think it will, its not a two way street, the designer’s career will never be positively impacted by it in a meaningful way. But they still submit things to these insulting competitions, ignorantly scratching at the barrier between .005 seconds of fame and the devaluation of their future worth. Its not just them that pays the price, the idea that our profession has value takes a little beating every time.

    Wake up Dotmar, there are no free lunches – why don’t you ask your employees to do their jobs in the hopes that they will be selected to get a paycheck. See how that goes over, its essentially asking designers to do the same thing. What you should have done, was get on the phone and find a designer that would be willing to trade services for a registration, to barter. Bartering is fine if both parties come to an agreement, speculative work around these competitions is leading the horse with carrot level thuggery.

    How mag, thanks for your strong position on this, and for reacting to this in the manner that you did, transparency and responsibility is so valuable.

    Many thanks,


  6. Jody Shyllberg

    Thank you for doing that! I like the suggestion that the discussion of crowdsourcing and spec work be part of the conferences. With the GAP and now JCPenney (among others) jumping on the branding crowdsourcing bandwagon, ways to raise awareness are needed.

  7. Hook

    Dotmar, thanks for apologizing, and for being timely with that response. I’m confident that you’re hard and work crafting your new position announcement against spec-work, so I won’t take up too much of your time so you can get that done. But I will say that until you come out with such a formal position, I will never again select your stock in any of our printed materials. The math is easy, and social goes everywhere.

    Thanks for your future compliance of this and future support of the creative community.


  8. Andres

    It seems to me Dotmar only canceled the contest because HOW magazine ask them to. Thanks HOW Mag! I’m extending my subscription for another year. And for Dotmar, I’m sure I will never buy or recommend your products!

    – Andres

  9. Nicholas Nawroth

    Thanks to HOW for taking a stand on this issue and looking out for us designers! Domtar, you should have been aware of how designers feel about spec work since you are a part of the industry. But thanks for owning up and canceling the contest once you learned of our objections.

  10. Kristin Maija Peterson

    Hallelujah for HOW Magazine! Spec work offered and accepted only erodes the design profession bit by bit. As a “senior” designer (I’ve been at it for close to 20 years) I find myself mentoring young designers on the dangers of taking on spec work. Good thoughtful design that communicates comes with a price tag and designers need to be vigilant in communicating their worth. Note to corporations who masquerade spec work as a contest or with some other tempting morsel ~ shame on you! This can come back to haunt you ~ people are pretty savvy and can spot a crowdsourced design a mile away.

  11. Tiny Stool

    Gee. Now I can sleep so much better, as this solves so many problems. Maybe now and someHOW the design world can focus on the real problems that confront designers in their day-to-day business, trying to survive in this current failing economic climate, in the frustrating cut-throat design world that seems to have evolved. This is bullshit triviality. Designers will always be doing spec work. That will never end. So swallow the pill already. Of course it’s not fair, but it’s the designer’s choice and ethics whether or not to do so. It’s a freakin’ contest for crying out loud. It’s not the GAP logo. : (