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Pixish Tantamount to Spec Work?
February 12, 2008 5:30 PM   Subscribe

Prominent blogger Derek Powazek, who left his JPG project under prickly conditions, started a new project called Pixish. Pixish allows users to create open calls for submissions from designers, photographers and other artists who then offer up their work for comparison. Voting on the work reveals a winner, who then receives a prize outlined in the initial post. Following a post by Adam Howell that claims Pixish is nothing more than a 2.0 portal for spec work, a debate has emerged online as to whether Powazek's latest foray is a formula for ill-will amongst the design community.
posted by brittney (137 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
I can't possibly be the only one who doesn't understand what's so wrong about a "2.0 portal for spec work", right?
posted by Foci for Analysis at 5:39 PM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Derek Powazek, who left his JPG project under prickly conditions...

Previous MeFi thread: Heather and Derek are suddenly out of JPG Magazine.
posted by ericb at 5:40 PM on February 12, 2008






ThePinkSuperhero, thanks for the link. Atleast I now know what it's all about:
His definition of spec work is “where large companies take advantage of designers, getting work without paying.” Actually, spec work is defined as anyone asking designers to do work without paying for it. This includes startup web sites like Pixish. By trying to pawn it off on large companies, Derek seems to be trying to create a “them not us” illusion, and it’s painfully transparent. It almost seems like Derek doesn’t really know what spec work is.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 5:45 PM on February 12, 2008


lolz derek see u @ pesach
posted by Monstrous Moonshine at 5:50 PM on February 12, 2008


Will Work For Prizes. Derek comments on an article at PDN.com
posted by blaneyphoto at 5:56 PM on February 12, 2008


It's very hard to believe that a guy as sharp as Derek would only now realize that the linchpin of this whole project is flawed.
posted by Dave Faris at 6:07 PM on February 12, 2008


It's very hard to believe that a guy as sharp as Derek would only now realize that the linchpin of this whole project is flawed.

That's gotta be one hell of an "OH JESUS" moment.
posted by Jairus at 6:08 PM on February 12, 2008


Ugh, I'll pass. It's bad enough that he's fostering this kind of thing, but his response is such obvious weaselly spin, I may have to post a spec job to see who can illustrate the most mean spirited, accurate caricature of this douche.
posted by Scoo at 6:08 PM on February 12, 2008


The actual complaint appears to be, "Dammit, some photographers are willing to work for too little, and this only encourages them!"

Um, well, that's the market. If people are willing to do work that's good enough for less money, sucks to be you. It's not like the world owes you a living. If you can't convince people that your work is enough better to get paid the wage you want, well, time to find something else to do.

Bitching about a website that makes it easy for find people that are cheaper than you are, and painting it as 'bad for everyone', is disingenuous. It's bad for YOU, but for the paying customer, it's great, and it's apparently at least okay for the photographers, since they're willing to participate.
posted by Malor at 6:09 PM on February 12, 2008 [10 favorites]


A lot of sites say they're in beta without ever explaining what that means. Here's what it means to us: We're new. Some things will break. Some will just not be very clear. We're asking you to tell us what you think of it - the good and the bad - to help us make it better.

The web is always changing- this site is constantly tweaking and changing, so do plenty of sites. What does beta really mean in a medium such as this?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:10 PM on February 12, 2008 [3 favorites]


Malor: At the end of the day, designers (amateur or professional) either think spec work is evil, or it's fine. You think it's fine, that's fine.

However, most design professionals I know think that it's evil. More importantly, Derek seems to agree that it's evil.

At this point, I don't think he has much of a choice other than to scrap the site if he doesn't want to ruin a great (and well-deserved) reputation.
posted by Jairus at 6:15 PM on February 12, 2008


I signed up at Pixish, though yes, when I heard about it I thought "sounds like spec work". For me, the reason I went ahead and created an account was that I figured I could submit existing photos if they happened to match up with an assignment (with a suitable 'prize' other than "my endless thanks!!1!"). I certainly don't intend to actually go out and spend my time creating new work on spec, but if I have stuff lying around, great.
posted by statolith at 6:15 PM on February 12, 2008


What does beta really mean in a medium such as this?

It means that a piss poor web developer is covering his ass so customers won't get him fired.

"oh yeah...yeah...it's beta. Right. BETA. it's suppose to break " /continues playing Keep the Keep
posted by Stynxno at 6:19 PM on February 12, 2008


Derek's point #3 is:

3. Generally, when people talk about spec work, they're talking about design. Pixish is not really for completed designs. It's mainly for design elements: photos and illustrations that will be incorporated into a larger design project.

Wha?
So he's excusing this by saying, in essence, that time spent laboring over photos and illustrations is less valuable than equivalent time spent working on graphic design? As a graphic designer in my previous life I say Phttt.
posted by stagewhisper at 6:30 PM on February 12, 2008


MetaFilter: Well put blather.
posted by The Bellman at 6:33 PM on February 12, 2008


However, most design professionals I know think that it's evil.

Yes, guilds always dislike things that interfere with their ability to set prices as they like. This has been true since the days of furriners and blacksmiths, and I expect it will continue into the foreseeable future.

If good design work is really worth that much, an open market like Pixish should prove the point, since the buyers shouldn't get good work unless they're willing to pay enough.

If, on the other hand, good design work is largely hooey, and designers are misrepresenting what they're actually worth, then Pixish would be very destructive to them.

It'll be interesting to see how it works out.
posted by Malor at 6:40 PM on February 12, 2008 [5 favorites]


Ah, spec work. I hate it, but it isn't going to go away. Generally I've found that the types of clients who want spec work aren't the people who are going to pay real money anyways. As long as professional designers keep far away from it, I think it'll remain the domain of amateur and early career design students.

I've taken a look at the assignments and the submissions (what few there are) and I don't see a threat. A couple of tattoos, some photo assignments. The submissions that I saw are generally shit, too. There are far more, and worse, spec work requests on Craigslist and freelance boards.

Students and would-be designers are always looking for ways to fill their books and think that spec work assignments will do the job. That is just a big myth. A portfolio that turns you into a pro designer comes with full case studies to support your visual communication method and these spec work assignments don't allow that to happen.

Brand new site, same old shit, is what I'm saying, I guess.
posted by Salmonberry at 6:42 PM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Um, well, that's the market.

Sure. And if designers are able to establish certain standard practices that they find advantageous through collective agreement as a group to work only in adherance to those practices, well, that's the market too.
posted by enn at 6:43 PM on February 12, 2008 [6 favorites]


I may have to post a spec job to see who can illustrate the most mean spirited, accurate caricature of this douche.

I'm thinking about posting a job on Pixish to see who can illustrate a tempest in a teapot.
posted by eustacescrubb at 6:45 PM on February 12, 2008


AIGA, like any other professional organisation, seeks to protect the interests of the designers who fund and control it. Under the usual guise of 'professional ethics', 'maintaining standards' and 'protecting the consumer', they restrict entry to the design market to protect experienced designers, at the cost of increased prices for the consumer and unemployment for younger designers. Inexperienced designers should realise that professional organisations exist to keep them out of the market, so if AIGA tell you to avoid spec work in the interests of 'professional ethics' or some other bullshit, you should cheerfully tell them to go fuck themselves and continue on your merry way.
posted by Burger-Eating Invasion Monkey at 6:47 PM on February 12, 2008 [5 favorites]


I may have to post a spec job to see who can illustrate the most mean spirited, accurate caricature of this douche.

One thing Derek isn't is a douche. I've known him since he was a young designer working at HotWired, and he has always been one of the most thoughtful, prolifically industrious, and uncannily-tuned-in guys I've ever met. If he needs to learn a big lesson with Pixish, he will. I'm still thinking about it, myself. That's one of the cool things about Derek: he builds resources that make people ask important questions, usually of themselves first.
posted by digaman at 6:48 PM on February 12, 2008 [3 favorites]


Sure. And if designers are able to establish certain standard practices that they find advantageous through collective agreement as a group to work only in adherance to those practices, well, that's the market too.

Of course it's advantageous to designers to charge above the market rate, and I don't begrudge them it. But when they disingenuously enlist inexperienced designers to fight against something that's actually in their best interests, we should feel free to criticise them.
posted by Burger-Eating Invasion Monkey at 6:50 PM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


I actually thought it was a cool idea when I first saw it, but it was reading Jonathan Coulton's assignment that really soured me on the idea. I really like Derek's work and I love Jonathan Coulton's music, but this really rubbed me the wrong way:
Just to be clear, any design that gets submitted to this contest may end up getting printed on shirts that I then sell and then give you zero dollars. But there are fabulous prizes. And of course I will be very grateful.
I mean, I know it's in a tee-hee tone but the actual legal truth of the message really sucks.

That when combined with the publicly viewable entries (for some reason if they were private, I think it might be better but I dunno), I realized that holy cow, JoCo is going to get an assload of free design work that is only going to cost him a single iPod, and on top of that, he might use anyone's submission without them winning anything.
posted by mathowie at 6:58 PM on February 12, 2008 [5 favorites]


Great fpp. It makes me very happy! Here's why: I have a project in need of an illustrator.

Happier still: It turns out I'm the fiftieth contestant on Pixish! YEA!

"Lastly, no spec work necessary, examples of work fine. What I am looking for is someone who gets the project, and with whom it is fun to work...THANKS!!"
posted by humannaire at 7:03 PM on February 12, 2008



If, on the other hand, good design work is largely hooey, and designers are misrepresenting what they're actually worth, then Pixish would be very destructive to them.

Ah. Yes. The infallible market. It solves so many things. Wait. Actually. No it doesn't.

People always say "let the market decide" until it's their industry effected.

And here we spend 75% of MeFi's electrons often discussing how tasteless and crappy things are. The worms? The Spice? Is there a relationship?

Look. Spec work is bullshit.

I'm not sure about this particular online venue. But in the broader context of doing design on spec 9 times out of 10 people who ask you to do spec work are frigg'n thieves and assholes.

I say this as a principle partner in a design firm with 18 years experience in design. When people ask me to do spec I tell them to fuck right off. And I usually then put the word out so nobody who is any good will work with a spec client.

But by all means keep hiring clueless spec designers. It keeps me in business. You know how many times I have been hired to fix the cheap-ass spec work? So then you tell a client how much things really cost. What the value of design really is? And they freak out.

So they go back out into the world of spec and shit work. And then six months later they are back. Eventually if they want to stay in businesses they come around.
posted by tkchrist at 7:09 PM on February 12, 2008 [4 favorites]


"[H]oly cow, JoCo is going to get an assload of free design work that is only going to cost him a single iPod, and on top of that, he might use anyone's submission without them winning anything."

No one's forcing anyone to do free design work for Jonathan Coulton, and you'd have to be an idiot to miss the 16-point text telling you the risk that you'll get nothing out of it. If a designer voluntarily enters the context, who are we to stop him? Coulton getting free design work is not a bad thing in and of itself, and since no-one's being forced into anything, it seems win-win.
posted by Burger-Eating Invasion Monkey at 7:09 PM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Exactly what I thought, mathowie.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 7:11 PM on February 12, 2008


mathowie points out why I think it absurd anyone would submit anything for this. Plus, fuck prizes, I'd want cash. I suppose I could sell the prizes on craigslist to earn money for food, but what are you going to report on your taxes? I'm sure they will be listing the prizes at their full retail value... This is seriously not something for anyone that expects to earn a living for their work, or has a real design/art/photography business.
posted by Eekacat at 7:11 PM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's no wonder things are sketchy. The first link seems to indicate that much of the business planning was conducted via Twitter.
posted by Dave Faris at 7:12 PM on February 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


On preview- what Salmonberry said.
posted by tkchrist at 7:12 PM on February 12, 2008


I say this as a principle partner in a design firm with 18 years experience in design.

Well, we can count on you for an unbiased opinion about competition in the design market, then.
posted by Burger-Eating Invasion Monkey at 7:12 PM on February 12, 2008


Also,

MetaFilter Projects: For some reason if they were private, I think it might be better but I dunno
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 7:14 PM on February 12, 2008


Well, we can count on you for an unbiased opinion about competition in the design market, then.

Of COURSE I'm biased. But I also know more have more expereince than YOU.
posted by tkchrist at 7:14 PM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


So they go back out into the world of spec and shit work. And then six months later they are back. Eventually if they want to stay in businesses they come around.

Did you just describe the market working?
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 7:17 PM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Spec work (aka Pixish) is not a let the market based approach. It is a "work for free and maybe you'll get money approach." And Derek Powazek's reply that it isn't is wrong, as I stated myself here.

If Pixish wanted to promote a market where clients could submit a project and then creatives can submit portfolios (rather than finished work) and rates, that would be a market approach. Actually, hey what a might that's the way it's normally done! How about that!

I think that Pixish could be fixed if they get rid of the insulting spec work voting idea, and just concentrate on connecting potential clients and creatives.
posted by catcubed at 7:21 PM on February 12, 2008


i actually think this could be a really nice resource for smaller, fledgling projects, nonprofits and the like, which might not have either the knowhow or the budget to hire experienced artists and designers. yes, framing a call for spec work as a "contest" is a bit disingenuous, but it's the only way a lot of groups have to get the material they need.

i've done work on spec (and, often, uncompensated) for student-organized academic conferences with total budgets of $1500, poorly-funded women's shelters, and small, local arts organizations--i have a hard time believing that my having done so is really having a negative impact on the design field.

beyond that, i know the site is new, but a quick look through the submissions gives, i think, a pretty good indication of the quality of work that's likely to be submitted in the future--that is, crap. organizations with the budget to hire pros are going to do so; giving fans and sunday-photoshoppers a venue to submit amateur work isn't going to put anyone out of a job.
posted by wreckingball at 7:21 PM on February 12, 2008


Burger-eater; what tk & I are saying is that generally spec work isn't competition for professional designers. I've always regarded that argument as a red herring. The reason the pros and design guilds go after it is to educate up-and-coming designers to the inherent problems of spec work. They'll keep shouting from the rooftops as long as kids keep sending doing free work that will do nothing for them or their portfolios.

You need to show you know how to employ a visual communication strategy when trying to get a toe-hold in a highly competitive market for professional design jobs. These assignments won't achieve that; I feel that sites like Pixish help perpetuate the myth of spec work leading to real work.

That having been said....there are loads of people out there who like to dabble in design and have no intention of making it their paycheque. If that's who you are, then you have nothing to lose by using sites like this. I just think it's really important that the word gets out there about the difference between spec work and real design work. It's a big gap.
posted by Salmonberry at 7:21 PM on February 12, 2008


Of course it's advantageous to designers to charge above the market rate, and I don't begrudge them it. But when they disingenuously enlist inexperienced designers to fight against something that's actually in their best interests, we should feel free to criticise them.

Sure. I have no dog in this fight, and no strong opinion on whether the benefits to experienced designers outweight the disadvantages to those starting out (keeping in mind, of course, that these tend to be the same people at different points in time). I mostly wanted to address the narrow argument that collective action on the part of consumers or labor (or companies, for that matter) is somehow an end run around the free market.

"Lastly, no spec work necessary, examples of work fine. What I am looking for is someone who gets the project, and with whom it is fun to work...THANKS!!"

Something aimed at this sort of interaction seems like it would be more useful all around. I wouldn't try to get illustration done on Pixish because I'd assume that any good illustrator is not going to do my work on spec, either out of a sense of professional ethics or simply because the good illustrators have enough paying work that they don't need to spend time on work for which they might get nothing. But it's also a lot of work, and kind of terrifying, to go out and find a good designer. I'll probably have to spend a lot of time googling, more time emailing and calling, and I'll find out that many of them are either out of my price range or not interested in the job (particularly if it's a small one). And then the designer I hire might be good but too slow, or doesn't return calls, or otherwise bad in ways that are hard to ascertain from a portfolio alone. Something like Pixish but based on portfolios and reputation would be perfect; a designer could upload or link to some portfolio images so I could quickly gauge his or her suitability. It wouldn't be a hassle to bid on even small projects because it would be a single click to do so. Designers could gauge the competition before bothering to bid, and either party could avoid the slow-to-pay or -deliver or unreasonable to work with or what-have-you, because there would be a reputation system for both designers/illustrators/photographers and clients. In other words, rentacoder for the graphic arts. Whether it would be any more popular with designers than rentacoder is with coders I've no idea, but it seems like it would stand a better chance than the site as it exists.
posted by enn at 7:27 PM on February 12, 2008


Great fpp. It makes me very happy! Here's why: I have a project in need of an illustrator.


...and then I changed my user name and it disappeared. How's that for a bug?
posted by humannaire at 7:29 PM on February 12, 2008


I'll be signing up at Pixish, too. But I'm an amateur. I'm still a student, and any opportunity to develop some skills sounds good to me. I don't get paid for my homework, or any volunteer work that I do for friends, for that matter. Money isn't a major motivator while you're still in school, which is why I'm guessing that students are the ideal creatives for Pixish.

Of course, I realize that's all going to change once I get into the real world and I need real money. I'll turn into an elitist prick believing that spec work is below me. (well, honestly, if you're able to freelance for $50+/hr, you're probably justified in being an elitist prick that believes spec work is rubbish.) But for right now, Pixish seems like it has some potential. Not much to lose, IMO.
posted by bhayes82 at 7:29 PM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Or, what catcubed said.
posted by enn at 7:29 PM on February 12, 2008


The worst part about spec work is when they pick the shittiest design to win. "Oooh, a swoosh, that's awesome!"
posted by smackfu at 7:29 PM on February 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


Take that, elitist pricks!
posted by Dave Faris at 7:34 PM on February 12, 2008


Just to be clear, any design that gets submitted to this contest may end up getting printed on shirts that I then sell and then give you zero dollars. But there are fabulous prizes. And of course I will be very grateful.

Am I the only one that notes the irony of a musician gleefully admitting they will be using another artist's work for free?
posted by Eekacat at 7:35 PM on February 12, 2008


For enn & anyone else looking for design help.... I used Jobs last fall to find a designer. I stated exactly what I needed, the design parameters, deadline and budget. It worked out well, several designers sent me samples of their work and they were all great. The designer I worked with did a perfect job. So there are ways to avoid spec work and get work done at a low price, you just need to be really clear about what you want.
posted by Salmonberry at 7:37 PM on February 12, 2008


As a writer, indeed as someone who has barely made an honest dime as an adult except by writing, usually things I wouldn't have chosen to write if it had been left up to me, this whole argument makes me laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh.

Then it makes me stop laughing because I can't breathe. So it makes me gasp and gasp and gasp and gasp for a few moments. Then I try to settle down, but it just won't quit. And it makes me laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh until I've frightened the cat.

So then, desperate for some way out, I'll go to my writer's group meeting, and, still laughing and laughing, I'll say HEY, all you amateur whores! I'm a real writer with standards! And you're not ever going to amount to anything anyway, so why don't you just stop it! Why don't you just give it up and get a job delivering pizza or something, and that way I could get published more and I could make more money from my real talented professional writing.

And then we ALL laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh.

I find it's a burden that's easier to bear when you share it.
posted by Naberius at 7:38 PM on February 12, 2008 [3 favorites]


Random amateurs on the internet solicit the work of other random amateurs. THE HORROR.

If you are worried that this site devalues what you do, well...
posted by chunking express at 7:46 PM on February 12, 2008 [4 favorites]


I think that Pixish could be fixed if they get rid of the insulting spec work voting idea, and just concentrate on connecting potential clients and creatives.

Actually, I did like the voting part, but not before finalists are chosen. I think Pixish could be fixed if it followed an approach more like this:

1. You submit an assignment describing work you want done (say, a t-shirt design to be sold) and how much you'll pay to the person that wins the bid.

2. Users submit up to 3 of their best portfolio pieces that are along the lines (older designed logos if the assignment is a logo request, previous t-shirt designs for a t-shirt contest, etc) of the work described in an assignment

3. You pick the one with the best work, they design mockups for you

4. Mockups get displayed on the site, open to voting

5. You make the final decision on which mockup you like best, but the voting is there to help you out in case you're curious how people will like it.

6. You pay the designer, and write some feedback/testimonial for their profile which links to their work. They do the same for you.
posted by mathowie at 7:47 PM on February 12, 2008


Wasn't JPG mag basically a magazine that printed the contest entries of the online participants, and the only compensation the photographers got was the gratification of seeing their work in print? Isn't that basically what Flickr is, too? And all those Amazon reviews that are a keystone to their marketing? And isn't that basically what Ask Metafilter is? Or even, arguably, all of the Metafilter sites?

User generated content, off of which the aggregator makes a profit, either directly or indirectly?

It's really no wonder that Powazek didn't see this reaction coming.
posted by Dave Faris at 7:53 PM on February 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


O HAI. I'm Derek, and all this is my fault. How are you?

First, Pixish is three days old. And as someone thoughtfully quoted above, we're very beta, and that means we're experimenting in public, and that means we might fuck up, and that means there might be a MeFi thread. And here we are. Hi!

We started Pixish because we wanted to give everyone the ability to do what we did at JPG, or what they do at Threadless. When others asked me how they could do an open call for submissions / voting thing, the answer was, "write software." We wanted a better answer. That's Pixish.

But when we opened the site for people to make assignments, I didn't realize how many would be for designs - logos, blog templates, etc. The site was never supposed to be for that - it was supposed to be for individual photos or illustrations. But I figured, if people wanna do that, why not?

Oh, that's why not.

So tonight we deleted all the design assignments and put the kibosh on any more. Will it quiet the "no-spec" storm? Doubtful. But it brings the site much more in line with what we wanted it to be.

I understand why the pros got their panties are in a bunch. We did the same thing at JPG. Public voting on photography? Giving everyone a chance to submit? Gasp!

That's okay. The truth is, this is not for the pros. If you're making a living from your photography or illustration now, mazel tov. This is for the people that do other things from 9-5, but still have talent they want to express. At JPG, we put amateur photographers and in a magazine and on gallery walls for the first time. Pixish could do that time a hundred.

That's the goal, anyway. I've been accused of being an optimist before.

So thanks for giving it a look. I hope you'll actually give the site a spin for yourselves and make up your own mind.

(Oh, and if we do change business models based on this discussion, I promise to not pay you a dime, Matt.)
posted by fraying at 7:59 PM on February 12, 2008 [21 favorites]


What Mathowie said, that's kind of how I see it anyhow. It's a fun site, open to amateur vigor and professional savvy.

BTW, I re-posted: Seeking illustrator for kids how-to-be-an-astronaut book. For pay.
posted by humannaire at 8:02 PM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wow. This post is getting good. I think I'm going to go get some crunchy corn snack to much on while I wait for my dream illustrator to submit work to me at Pixish.
posted by humannaire at 8:05 PM on February 12, 2008


There's nothing wrong with spec work per se. It's only when the spec work you create has no possible utility or value beyond the beauty contest that it becomes a problem.

(eg as a screenwriter I work on spec all the time, but only on self-generated projects or projects where the spec work in question has a value which will survive the specific context in which it was generated).
posted by unSane at 8:07 PM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Holy sh-t. Did anyone see fraying's user number?

In the presence of titans etc.

posted by humannaire at 8:09 PM on February 12, 2008


tkchrist says: Ah. Yes. The infallible market. It solves so many things. Wait. Actually. No it doesn't.

(gigantic snip)

So they go back out into the world of spec and shit work. And then six months later they are back. Eventually if they want to stay in businesses they come around.


Um, that looks like the market working to me. You're demonstrating to them that you're worth what you charge. If spec work is _really_ shit, and it's really worth it to them to use your services, they'll show up. And you're saying that they do.

That looks like things are working fine.

If the whole world works that way, Pixish is GOOD for you, because it's going to increase your market, as people try to fix bad work. They'll commission the logo/art/whatever because it's cheap, and then use guys like you to make it actually work... when if they'd known up front what it would cost, they wouldn't have done it at all.

Again: if you're really worth what you charge, Pixish is no threat to you. If you're not, if you've been selling bullshit, then it's going to mess you up.

The louder a designer yells about Pixish, the more convinced I'll be that he or she isn't really all that good, and is depending on their guild to maintain a racket, rather than providing a high quality product at a fair price.
posted by Malor at 8:35 PM on February 12, 2008


I think that it's great that #44 came in here and expressed the changes, but I still think it's the suck that losing submissions can still be used without compensation. Am I seeing this correctly? To me that's the biggest thing that keeps me from participating. Well, other than that I suck. But, hey, even a blind squirrel gets an acorn once in awhile. As long as he doesn't get eaten that is. But then when you know you suck you just pretend that you're awesome, and your dogs agree with you, and you go to sleep knowing that you have an audience.... of dogs.
posted by Eekacat at 8:53 PM on February 12, 2008


Derek is a douche, and designers ruined the internet.
posted by Horken Bazooka at 8:57 PM on February 12, 2008


Ahem.
No one owns your work but you, period. You are giving up no rights by uploading your work to Pixish, and you can remove it at any time. If you submit your work to an assignment, you're entering into the terms set by the publisher. We're working on tools to make those terms more explicit, but don't worry, publishers have no rights to your work if you don't win.
See you in Pixish, Eek.
posted by fraying at 8:57 PM on February 12, 2008


I'm just gonna say this, and then I'm going to bed.

There's something naggingly elitist about this conversation. If these people are amateurs who are participating out of their own free will, and some of them are making money and winning stuff, and the buyers are happy, and the sellers are happy, who are you to say it shouldn't happen?

And don't give me the "devaluing the industry" line. That's just silly. If the "industry" can be set akimbo by a 3-day-old website, it deserves to be.

I'm really asking here: Are you pissed at the New Yorker for having caption contests? Or at AIGA for having design competitions? If you're really a pro, would you be worried about a bunch of amateurs competing for an iPod or my $100 tattoo?
posted by fraying at 9:11 PM on February 12, 2008 [7 favorites]


A freelancer who wants to eat is ever vigilant against being ripped off. Spec work is a favorite M.O. of rip-off artists. Hence the vitriol from those of us who have been around the block a few times. The potential for abuse on this site is huge, and the founder being caught so flat-footed doesn't inspire confidence in his panicky, hastily devised safeguards.
posted by Scoo at 9:30 PM on February 12, 2008


Hi, poor grad student computer nerd web designer amateur photographer here! Thank you for Pixish, Derek!

I'm sorry to all the master web designers out there that make their living doing web design, or photographers who make their living doing photography. From the first minute I read about Pixish, I liked it. It's not for you. It's for me.

$120,000 of grad school debt, and yes, it's nice to have a little extra spending money to eat a nice restaurant once in awhile, or wherever my money seems to go. (Or hey, it'd be nice to get an iPod or gift or whatever.)

Yup, I do spec work. I work with small time, mom-and-pop companies who want a really basic web presence, and can't afford a primo web designer, or someone who does it for a living. I make a nice, basic site for them, host it, and they pay me a student rate for it. They're happy, I'm happy. (I'm not an idiot, I don't just freely turn over design to clients, and only work with ones I trust--one reason I don't get much business.)

I'd love to do the same for my photographs as well--I photograph 'cause I enjoy it--and if I can get a little something extra from it, then why the hell not?

Sure. And if designers are able to establish certain standard practices that they find advantageous through collective agreement as a group to work only in adherance to those practices, well, that's the market too.

I don't have to be a member of AIGA to be a designer. Anyone nowadays with Photoshop and some spare time on their hands can become a (web) designer. Now professional designers are a different story. But don't expect me to live by some designer code when most of you professional folks wouldn't waste your time working with the clients I serve.
posted by gramcracker at 9:54 PM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm really asking here: Are you pissed at the New Yorker for having caption contests? Or at AIGA for having design competitions? If you're really a pro, would you be worried about a bunch of amateurs competing for an iPod or my $100 tattoo?

They're worried about people promoting the persistent belief that handing out their work to those sorts of buyers will help their design careers. You see all kinds of ads for spec work promoting the idea that the designer will get a great piece to put in their portfolio. Well, all the ipod-winning tshirt designs in the world won't get you a job as an art director. Anyone who wants to be a designer needs to spend their energies elsewhere; pro bono work that help them build case studies and networking.

(AIGA's design competition doesn't require new artwork, it's for designers to submit work already done for actual clients. Not quite the same thing.)

People aren't yelling from the rooftops to be elitist, they're yelling because they've all been through the ringer trying to get good portfolios. The web has made it much easier for the idea of spec work to be floated as a great way to get started in the industry and it really, really isn't.

Pixish is great for a certain use, but like anything else it'll be open to abuse. I think the message needs to get out to designer hopefuls that this isn't the path to a job. Since the people that run the sites offering spec work jobs won't say it, the pros will. That's what you're hearing; people who know better trying to make sure people submit knowing the reality of what they're doing. It's about informed decision making.

(...and what Scoo said, uninformed designers are constantly getting hit up to do spec work, it's important for freelancers to keep the word out there.)
posted by Salmonberry at 9:56 PM on February 12, 2008


gramcracker, doing work for cheap isn't spec. Doing work for free with the promise that you *might* get paid is spec work. Student rate != spec. Loads of design students work for cheap. That's common.
posted by Salmonberry at 9:58 PM on February 12, 2008


Again: Pixish is Not! For! Designers!

Pixish IS for people with work sitting around that someone might want. Photographers with harddrives full of awesome stuff that might be right for some publishing project if only someone would ask. Nowhere does it say that work uploaded to Pixish has to be created brand new for that assignment.

This is the problem with tis discussion - I think the issues we're talking about have very little to do with our site anymore, and has become a quasi-religious thing about Spec work.

And I'm agnostic.
posted by fraying at 10:04 PM on February 12, 2008


Working on spec has always sucked. But when it's a contest? On something that you really want to work? It's fun.

I designed the entire line of t-shirts for Church of Sub-Genius as licensed by SF's Crux Productions in '97. And I did it on spec, putting the whole deal together myself.

What I wound up getting out of it was the satisfaction of a line of Sub-Genius t-shirts being on the market when none were to be had before. About 2000 got printed and distributed.

The point is my work in its various forms and incarnations gets out there. I get hired by people who need the rockstar quotient of their goods or brand amplified. So even now, with my cred established in graffiti, pop culture, action sports culture, hip-hop, and technology, and lots of work I enjoy doing coming in, I still do spec. When I want and for who I want.

What I NEVER do "get hired" on spec. That's doo-doo. That's doing work for maybe pay. And that's different that Pixish. Pixish is, "Hey, I'm doing something cool, and if you think it's cool, maybe you want to do what you do with what I do." It's an invitation to make Reese's Peanut Butter cups with my chocolate, your peanut butter etc.

Threadless is cool. If I have something I know is a winner. I'll put in there if that's where I want it to go. Otherwise, I'll do it for myself or someone else. It's all about opportunities for reaching out and connecting, and more importantly, doing what you want with who you want.

You don't like Pixish? Fine. No big deal. But it's not taking money out of your pocket by making the opportunity available for someone else to give it a shot. And if someone steal some new kids work, well, that's how I learned.
posted by humannaire at 10:12 PM on February 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


It's funny, reading this thread, because designers' abhorrence for spec work reminds me of my abhorrence for the "free consultation" in my field, law.
posted by jayder at 10:20 PM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is the problem with tis discussion - I think the issues we're talking about have very little to do with our site anymore, and has become a quasi-religious thing about Spec work.

Metafilter: I think the issues we're talking about have very little to do with our site anymore.

And that's from number 44 so it must be — like — real gospel!
posted by humannaire at 10:22 PM on February 12, 2008


Pixish IS for people with work sitting around that someone might want.

I definitely see that as a better approach and the SXSW challenge on the site speaks perfectly to existing work (I want to dig through iPhoto and submit as well). It was probably the t-shirt assignments that filled the site up at first that definitely felt like new original work being asked for.

If the assignments were tweaked towards existing stuff instead of new work, I think the spec work complaints could disappear, but I don't know offhand how best to focus it on that.
posted by mathowie at 10:25 PM on February 12, 2008


I'd just like to point out that we all contribute our writing here for substantially less than the established professional rate.
posted by srboisvert at 12:09 AM on February 13, 2008 [6 favorites]


Seriously, I have not seen one cent of the dice.com or Obama money. I just learned that my most recent post triggered 3052 unique hits on one of the several links. I think I'll start extrapolating that and maybe trying to figure out a cost per mille type thing.

Or, I could note that I knew exactly what I was getting into when I signed up, just like everyone does at this other site (though, say, the Coulton thing isn't a deal I'd participate in, but to each his own) and we've got a bunch of butthurt self-important "design" types on our hands.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 12:44 AM on February 13, 2008


Fraying stated: Pixish IS for people with work sitting around that someone might want. Photographers with harddrives full of awesome stuff that might be right for some publishing project if only someone would ask. Nowhere does it say that work uploaded to Pixish has to be created brand new for that assignment.

You're basically describing a stock photo/illustration site. That is obviously not what Pixish currently reads itself as. So if this is what you envision you need to seriously change how you're presenting it.

Also, like a stock photo/illustation site, you need to specify that all rights remain the artist's unless a particular piece is chosen (in which case the rights are determined depending on the project). I state this because you wrote earlier that the rights are subject to the client's specifications on submission to the "contest."
posted by catcubed at 12:57 AM on February 13, 2008


gramcracker: I make a nice, basic site for them, host it, and they pay me a student rate for it. They're happy, I'm happy.

Actually, gramcracker, Pixish isn't doing you any favors either. What you are describing is discount work -- not spec work.

If Pixish was just a service to hook small budget clients with novice designers/artists who don't charge much that would be great. Unfortunately, in it's current iteration, Pixish is not this. It's a site encouraging that all novice designers/artists do spec work.
posted by catcubed at 1:16 AM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Generally I've found that the types of clients who want spec work aren't the people who are going to pay real money anyways

then what do you care? enjoy your "real money" and big clients and let other people do whatever the hell they want.

if "professional" designers spent more time trying not to lamely rip each other off and less time trying to unionize their field and bully people who don't -- or don't want to, for whatever reason -- belong to their club, we'd possibly see some better, less derivative designs.

and to attack this Powazek guy (whom I don't know in the least) for having the gall to interfere with the snake oil salesmanship of (a lot of the) professional designers is really very weak.
posted by matteo at 2:05 AM on February 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


Have a chip on your shoulder, matteo? We're people trying to protect our livelihood, and I'd doubt you'd appreciate someone coming along and drinking your milkshake.

I think most of us (designers who are barely scraping by) are upset about is the basic devaluing of the graphic design field, though sites like Logoworks, Elance and now Pixish. Sure, sending in art entries to a little contest for a grassroots site or business can be fun for a hobby or some extra scratch for students, but for those of us who actually find what we do meaningful and wish that more businesses respected it, novelty sites like this make promoting our work tougher.

When the context is removed from the people who are offering gigs to the folks in the neighborhood and and turned into a giant consortium that operates "contests" with "prizes" on some kind of MyLowballGigSpace, it leaves those of us professionals (or aspiring professionals) feeling like jerks who now have to try even harder to justify why we charge what we do. In other words, Pixish shrinkwraps what would be humble requests by individuals for art commissions and turns it into a giant trough of pandering. Every day I start to wonder why I didn't go into a business that has real worth, like mining the arctic for oil reserves.

For more perspective: How do you feel about the WGA strike? Should there be a Pixish for screenplays? Because there are a lot of hungry fan-fiction writers out there...
posted by Down10 at 3:03 AM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


This bears repeating: If the "industry" can be set akimbo by a 3-day-old website, it deserves to be.
posted by eustacescrubb at 4:40 AM on February 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


The web was way more useful and a lot less like TV when it was black Times New Roman on white background and used header tags.
posted by Horken Bazooka at 4:43 AM on February 13, 2008


I'm sure the "industry" is doing just fine.

The culprit here is the open nature of the internet community. When McDonalds, or Target, or CocaCola make a corporate decision or choose to launch a new product line, you don't even have the opportunity to gripe about it, or rather, you can gripe about it, but you're certainly not going to find Jim Skinner, Daniel Bouton, or John Brock coming and defending the decisions they make. In the real world, CEOs only answer to their shareholders, not a bunch of cranky bloggers.
posted by Dave Faris at 4:49 AM on February 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


We're people trying to protect our livelihood

ie, you're trying to keep prices artificially high. it won't work. the Internet has changed so many business models (think record companies), it'll change design too. Salmonberry is fighting the future because the future can eventually cost him money. it's lame to praise Radiohead for their business model and then shit on this poor guy for building a website -- people here are treating Powazek as if he's breaking into people's home to steal their work and sell it to their competitors. this is not the case.


Every day I start to wonder why I didn't go into a business that has real worth,


if you really like what you do, it shouldn't really matter. take photojournalists: can you in good faith tell a kid who wants to be one that buying a US$ 5,000 camera a couple lenses a laptop and a lot of plane tickets to go shoot something in dangerous places and then try to sell his or her images makes economic sense? the right answer is no, get a loan, go to law school. but passion goes a long way, getting rich shouldn't part of the equation.
posted by matteo at 6:08 AM on February 13, 2008


I'm a pretty disappointed Pixish has decided to limit their focus. No contests for blog headers? You need a serious-ass designer to do that sort of work? Seriously? I sincerely hope Pixish back peddle on this and let people do whatever sort of assignments they want.

As I said upstream, if this sort of site devalues what you do, you have more to worry about than Pixish. If you as a designer can't compete with some fellow who is willing to participate on some random website on the Internet, than really, that's your problem and no one else's.

I'm reminded of discussions on Slashdot about offshore workers.
posted by chunking express at 6:27 AM on February 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


This site really is a good tool for people who are trying to develop a portfolio and get their work out there. If you are already an established designer than you probably don't need this sort of site. If you aren't, then it is a new way to get known and have clients see your work.
posted by chunking express at 6:31 AM on February 13, 2008


Well, I signed right up since I am, in fact, an inexperienced, uninformed, amateur, early career, clueless, cheap-ass, novice*.

I tend to fall more on the "let the market bear the weight" side of things. If you are going to be put out of business by Pixish, then you wear no clothes, Emperor, and you deserve it. I suspect that the actual market that Pixish will cater to won't affect more established designers much at all. Was the person looking for an illustration for their t-shirt going to go hire some high-end, 18 years of experience design firm if they didn't have Pixish? Nope. For a CHANCE at an iPod is someone who needs a job to put food on their table going to spend a lot of time on it? Nope.

*all words used upthread to those who would be so silly as to work with Pixish.
posted by dirtdirt at 6:38 AM on February 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm more annoyed at the goof ball Ajax stroller at the bottom of the page. What the hell is the deal with people wanting to reinvent simple browser functionality in DHTML? It's just like a regular web page interface, but much slower!
posted by delmoi at 6:52 AM on February 13, 2008


I think most of us (designers who are barely scraping by) are upset about is the basic devaluing of the graphic design field, though sites like Logoworks, Elance and now Pixish. Sure, sending in art entries to a little contest for a grassroots site or business can be fun for a hobby or some extra scratch for students, but for those of us who actually find what we do meaningful and wish that more businesses respected it, novelty sites like this make promoting our work tougher.

So what you're saying is, you would prefer people not be able to have a fun hobby if through that effort you lose money?

That doesn't really seem very fair.
posted by delmoi at 6:56 AM on February 13, 2008


ie, you're trying to keep prices artificially high.

Meh. Creative types with my level of expertise with Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects and Cinema 4D are pretty scarce, I get paid a fair market price for what I do. I think the pool of people who actually have any talent for doing creative work is and will remain pretty small. Elitist? I guess so, but the fact remains that most people simply can't do this sort of thing at a professional level. The people I do work for understand this, and, despite my rates, always feel like they're getting the bargain of the century when they see the results.
posted by Scoo at 7:01 AM on February 13, 2008


matteo: "then what do you care? enjoy your 'real money' and big clients and let other people do whatever the hell they want."

This is too black and white to accurately describe the "No Spec" movement. The point of it is to increase awareness on behalf of both the designer and the consumer.

matteo: "if 'professional' designers spent more time trying not to lamely rip each other off and less time trying to unionize their field and bully people who don't -- or don't want to, for whatever reason -- belong to their club, we'd possibly see some better, less derivative designs."

What does this mean? Are you suggesting that the "No Spec" campaign is actually reducing the amount of unique creative in the world? And that professionals just rip each other off because of it? I don't understand.
posted by pineapple at 7:23 AM on February 13, 2008


I'm more annoyed at the goof ball Ajax stroller at the bottom of the page... It's just like a regular web page interface, but much slower!

That guy has no business on Pixish, he's obviously already a seasoned professional web designer.
posted by Horken Bazooka at 7:25 AM on February 13, 2008


ie, you're trying to keep prices artificially high. it won't work. the Internet has changed so many business models (think record companies), it'll change design too. Salmonberry is fighting the future because the future can eventually cost him money.

Actually, it has changed, but in the opposite direction. When I first got into web design more then a decade ago, most projects were done through spec work. Generally speaking, a firm had about a one in five chance of winning a pitch.
Once a firm did win a pitch, the whole design process had to start all over again because the pitches usually only showed what the company could do, but not necessarily meet the needs of the client. This was only possible once the client only had to deal with one design firm instead of five.
So in general, five out five spec competitions are being done at a loss. The whole process results in a huge productivity loss for a firm. With a lot of time and energy being wasted for spec work, a firm has two options. Either it will eventually go bankrupt, or it has to find a way to make the companies it did win pay more. (For example by overcharging consecutive projects with the same client.)
As a client, the firm chooses for the first option, you’re lucky and you will be paying an artificially low price. If the firm you picked chose the second strategy, you will be paying a lot more then you first thought or getting less then you asked for. In the end, it rarely is a win/win situation.

Luckily, spec jobs are mostly a thing of the past now. Most clients now do their research based on previous work done by design firms. It’s ok for a client to ask the design firm for an estimate of how much a particular project will cost. So firms are still forced to compete on price preventing artificially high prices. As a matter of fact, a client will probably get a lot fairer price now days then they did when spec jobs were the norm. And because both parties don’t start out trying to take advantage of each other, the client/firm relationship usually works a lot more smoother. Or at least that is my experience.

Short term, spec work may have its advantages, but long term, it is actually very expensive, time consuming and a completely inefficient way of doing business.
posted by Timeless at 7:31 AM on February 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'm confused here, because it sounds like something I do is EEVL to designers.

I write for a city blog (you can probably figure out which one pretty quickly). We have a Flickr group local amateur photographers can drop photos into. We use them on our site and give credit to the photographer.

That's the entire compensation. Your picture and your name. No money changes hands.

I know that doing this has helped at least one amateur get his own gallery show, and I know it's helped at least one other gain some business. But they're only getting ego compensation here. And according to the anti-spec people, that's just WRONG WRONG WRONG because WE ARE UNDERVALUING THE CREATIVE CONTENT. Which is kinda funny considering that I'm not paid to write for the city blog.
posted by dw at 7:43 AM on February 13, 2008


"Short term, spec work may have its advantages, but long term, it is actually very expensive, time consuming and a completely inefficient way of doing business."

Personal experience tells me that this is pretty spot-on.
posted by zerolives at 7:43 AM on February 13, 2008


On the personal side, I have a little project I've needed done for a while -- getting a logo to slap on my freelance work (website, business cards, that sort of stuff). I suck at graphic design. Also, I'm dirt poor right now. It seems like Pixish is perfect for me. I can state the needs and offer up the $100 I can afford for a nice, scalable .AI file.

But, yet, I'm cutting the legs out from under the market with my EEVL EEVL lowballing.

Not all of the people who need graphic design are organizations who can spot a few thousand up front. Some of us have limited budgets and are willing to trade that for quality work, with the understanding that there are limits to what you can get for the little bit of money we do have.
posted by dw at 7:46 AM on February 13, 2008


I'm not afraid of spec work. I never used to do it, but I never minded that much when it was around me. Bunch of shysters and greedy bastards, those clients, usually. You want professional design, you pay a professional price, no job too big, no fee too big, either.

Pixish as it stands right now is a venus fly trap for greedy bastards to lure ambitious upstarts and the occasional experienced pro who has some old work on a HD. I'm glad to see a new idea being tried out and look forward to revisiting it in a couple of iterations when it has a better sense of itself.

I wonder if its current fault is the classic weakness of thinking too much of the good of people. All well and good, till you get to that nasty money part.

The constant struggle that any creative (designer, illustrator, copy, photog, filmmaker, etc) fights is the struggle for the worth of their ideas. The valuation of what they've studied/practiced for against the marketplace. Spec Work is kind of a flash pan for that sort of struggle because on the surface it's an army of freeloaders who are going to take the idiot client and its potential money away from you. Now, I'm on vacation from that sort of work 'cause I got tired of the hustle and wanted a cheeky 9to5er, but back in the day what held true and what probably still holds true is the clients scouring for free work aren't really in the mood to pay for it anyhow, so the perceived loss is more a mirage then a reality.
posted by cavalier at 7:47 AM on February 13, 2008


dw: "I'm confused here, because it sounds like something I do is EEVL to designers.

...We have a Flickr group local amateur photographers can drop photos into. We use them on our site and give credit to the photographer. ...That's the entire compensation. Your picture and your name. No money changes hands.

And according to the anti-spec people, that's just WRONG WRONG WRONG because WE ARE UNDERVALUING THE CREATIVE CONTENT.
"

Not to me. I support no-spec, and I don't see this as the same. If a local amateur photographer who is already posting his work on Flickr decides to give you the right to publish something, it's not spec. Spec would be if the blog published a statement, "We might hire you, but you have to produce something specifically for us, for free, in order for us to decide"... and then a bunch of photographers shot custom work for you, after which the blog selected images from all that free material and lowballed a price on it.

What your blog is doing, dw, sounds more like what Pixish was aiming for: if you already have designs and work sitting around in your inventory and would like to put it out there and maybe find a buyer, here's the place for it. There's nothing wrong with that.

But when prospective clients can say, "I don't want that stock stuff -- I am looking for a specific design for a specific project, and I'm going to enter a contest in order to get that custom work for a reduced price, or free," that's different.
posted by pineapple at 7:53 AM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


On preview, what pineapple said.
posted by cavalier at 7:55 AM on February 13, 2008


dw:
Clients have a perfectly good right to send out spec work. The warning against spec work is for designers. Namely if they want to create a sustainable business, they shouldn't do it.

What you describe in your city blog is actually something else. People are sending in their work as a way of marketing their stuff. It's cheaper then buying an ad. In this case, it is the city blog itself that is forgoing revenue but they may have found another way of earning it back. For example by not paying you for your work. :)
As you are not making a living of it, that isn't bad. If you are trying to make a living off of it, then you are not really taking care of your best interests.

As for your logo project, feel free to go to a site like Pixish, but just be careful of the process you follow. The best way is to simply ask designers to submit some of the logo's they've created in the past that best represents their styles. E-mail them to see if you also connect on a personal level and then make your pick with which designer you want to continue working with as logo design usually takes a few iterations to get right.
posted by Timeless at 8:11 AM on February 13, 2008


don't expect me to live by some designer code when most of you professional folks wouldn't waste your time working with the clients I serve

You're absolutely right, I wouldn't work with those people; in fact I actively discourage other designers from working with those people. Little mom-and-pop shops are a total waste of time to work with, because their expectations are completely out of whack: they think anyone can be a designer, it's just pushing colors around, so it shouldn't cost very much, big-and-glitzy is always better, and they should be able to change the design around at random after it's done. So what's wrong with them working with equally amateur designers, who won't charge much, if anything, and who love doing big-and-glitzy, and who won't put up a fuss if the design gets changed?

[Sidebar about the whole changing-of-the-design thing, because i know it sounds elitist: In a solid, professional design, "make the logo bigger" or "can't we just add some text into that whitespace?" or whatever is a big deal, because every element of the design was thought out: that whitespace is there for a reason; changing it will detract from the design -- in ways that can be difficult to explain to a client who doesn't understand the principles of design. Good designers learn how to articulate those reasons and to discuss them with the clients, and figure out how to change designs in ways that suit the client's needs and the design -- but it's a lot of work to do so, especially when the requests are more or less arbitrary or random, which is more likely to be the case with an "amateur" client because they don't know what they're asking for.

For an amateur designer, none of this really matters that much, because that whitespace isn't necessarily there for a solidly-thought-out reason: beginners tend to spend their attention on a few key elements, then fit the rest of the design around that... so as long as the change requests aren't about those key elements it's no big deal because they're changing something that was only an afterthought anyway. End of sidebar.]


So let the pros work with the pros, at pro prices; let the amateurs work with the amateurs, for free if they want to; no big deal.

Except. Actually it is.

The thing about those "amateur" clients is, they tend to grow up and become "professional" clients. Or, rather, their companies grow and so do their design needs -- so what happens when an amateur client, used to working with designers on spec, starts talking to "real" designers? Their expectations are completely out of whack. They've been educated into a model of design work that is basically broken. These are the true nightmare clients: their budgets are bigger, and they want quality design -- but the way they're used to working with designers actively interferes with good design. They end up spending more than they need to, because they make more arbitrary changes, and get less as a result, because once the word gets out about them most good designers won't work with them anyway. It's a pain in the ass for the designer, who has to coach the client into an understanding of what design actually is and why it's worthwhile; and it's a pain in the ass for the client, who feels like he's being ripped off and doesn't understand why everything's suddenly so expensive.


When professional designers argue against spec work, we really aren't greedily trying to prop up unreasonably high prices. (Most designers I know are actually the opposite, they're perpetually insecure about their rates, and undervalue their own work.) What we're trying to protect is a functional business model -- functional from the point of view of the designer and the client -- and spec work is actively in conflict with that model, even if you try to segment the industry into separate Pro/Am categories, and even if you try to draw an arbitrary line between "design elements" and "full designs" as fraying is trying to do here.
posted by ook at 8:22 AM on February 13, 2008 [5 favorites]


ThePinkSuperhero: A lot of sites say they're in beta without ever explaining what that means. Here's what it means to us: We're new. Some things will break. Some will just not be very clear. We're asking you to tell us what you think of it - the good and the bad - to help us make it better.

The web is always changing- this site is constantly tweaking and changing, so do plenty of sites. What does beta really mean in a medium such as this?


"Beta" is the new animated under-construction-worker guy with a shovel.

It means nothing. Gmail is still in beta and it's been around for what, almost three years now?
posted by loiseau at 8:25 AM on February 13, 2008


(which isn't to say, gramcracker, that I believe you're doing it wrong. What you're describing isn't spec work, it's simple work at low rates, which is perfectly fine in my opinion. There's nothing wrong with a world in which some designers work for $10/hr and others work for $100/hr; the problem only comes in when some designers work for the hope of maybe possibly getting paid if the client feels like it -- that's what sets the expectation in the client's mind that all design should be that way.
posted by ook at 8:27 AM on February 13, 2008


Look, I'm not saying Pixish needs to be shut down, or that I need to justify high rates (in fact, all of my clients are getting discounts on my work because I'm still inexperienced). I wanted to emphasize that sites like these might be fine for a small scale, but treating the nature of it as a "contest" to win a neat prize (or gasp — recognition) makes what we do look cheap.

I don't expect Pixish to be a gold mine for anyone — rather I expect it to be something more like a DeviantArt-level talent pool for clients that don't care to spend more for what they want. Nothing wrong with that, but Pixish shouldn't be sold as a resource for anything resembling quality, professional work. If that were the case, there should be a "Premium" section of the site that offers more proven talent who won't give out free work.
posted by Down10 at 11:27 AM on February 13, 2008


in fact I actively discourage other designers from working with those people. Little mom-and-pop shops are a total waste of time to work with

this is amazingly arrogant. what are the people who cannot or don't want to bow to your awesomeness and pay your price do, should they close down their business because they can't afford you?

as I said above, if you're so awesome and have nothing to fear, let sites such as this one do their own thing. let the unwashed masses work with their stinky, broke-ass clients: no damage for you, right?
posted by matteo at 11:35 AM on February 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


Another Design Thunderdome?
posted by jca at 11:40 AM on February 13, 2008


Let the unwashed masses work with their stinky, broke-ass clients

Hey, that's a great slogan for Pixish!
posted by Down10 at 11:47 AM on February 13, 2008


in fact I actively discourage other designers from working with those people. Little mom-and-pop shops are a total waste of time to work with

this is amazingly arrogant. what are the people who cannot or don't want to bow to your awesomeness and pay your price do, should they close down their business because they can't afford you?


No it's

because their expectations are completely out of whack: they think anyone can be a designer, it's just pushing colors around, so it shouldn't cost very much, big-and-glitzy is always better, and they should be able to change the design around at random after it's done.

Ook is absolutely correct. If it were left to most people, everything would look like MySpace.

What's your beef with creative pros, matteo? Did Paul Rand murder your whole family or something? I've certainly contributed my share of inflammatory rhetoric to the blue, but you're coming across a bit *twirls index finger near temple, whistles*
posted by Scoo at 11:55 AM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


What's your beef with creative pros(...)?
What's your beef with other people serving the clients that are beneath you?
posted by dirtdirt at 12:04 PM on February 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


Man. Some of you have serious reading comprehension problems.

I said right of the frigg'n bat that "I'm not sure about this particular online venue (meaning Pixish). But in the broader context of doing design on spec 9 times out of 10 people who ask you to do spec work are frigg'n thieves and assholes."

Which is true. Ask any experienced designer. Spec is big red flag for "scam." It is not a legitimate way of doing business.

Spec work doing work for free and then having the supposed "client" decide if they want to pay for it. And that, my friends is spec work. There is nothing wrong with a client reviewing portfolio material. But there is everything wrong with a RFP that specifies you do original design comps without being paid and have those comps compete with other design comps.I don't get what is so hard to understand about this. This is utterly unethical. And it is becoming more and more common especially with Tech companies. Companies that can afford to pay.

Anybody here an architect or contractor. Hey how about you all build me three houses each and I will pick witch one I will buy. The best one. No I wont pay you for materials or time. If your good let the market decide. Fuck the rest of you that suck so say I.

This is spec in the design world. It's not a preemptive portfolio review. It is doing work for free.

Spec isn't low balling. Low ball all you want. It won't effect me because I won't take your job. Mom and pop projects are not the issue. Everybody has a budget.

Look. I have plenty of pro-bono clients. If you're an arts organization or a non-profit I can work with your budget. If it's the type of thing I have an interest in or I feel has social merit - no problem. I do it all the time.

And Malor not the market DOESN'T work for everything. That is absurd. People being driven out of business is not a net social good. Spec work is not a market force it is an unethical method of circumventing responsible professionalism.

Some spec con artists have drove some mighty good designers, one I could name was probably the best designer in the town, out of business. This is not good. Nor is it good when clients go belly up. For Christ sake I WANT them to succeed. It's my job to help them succeed.

This race to the bottom is sickening and hear MeFites defend this kind of thievery shocks me. I dunno maybe some of you are confused as to what spec is...

Pixish seems to be only hovering around the concept in a fairly harmless way. But as Matt Howie pointed out there are some troubling ethical details in there that they should iron out.
posted by tkchrist at 12:08 PM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


this is amazingly arrogant.

You're right. I worded that very poorly, and I can absolutely see how you came to that conclusion. That's really not what I meant, though. Let me try again and hopefully express it more clearly:

Sometimes designers come to me for advice, on how to deal with a client, or on whether they should take on a particular job. Often, that advice boils down to: this client is costing you more time and effort than the rate you're charging is worth, because you're having to spend way too much unbillable time educating the client instead of designing. Those clients tend to be small mom-and-pops who have misconceptions about what design is, how it works, and why it's valuable. For any individual designer, it's much more worthwhile to work for a client who does know what they're doing, because they already understand what they're getting into.

That's all I meant by "actively discourage designers from working with those people:" not that those people don't deserve good design (they do), or that no designers should work with them; just that working with those clients can be a lot of extra work because they have unrealistic expectations for both the work itself and for the price -- so if you (as a designer) have a choice, your time is likely to be better spent working for experienced clients.

let the unwashed masses work with their stinky, broke-ass clients: no damage for you, right?

It kind of looks like you picked out one phrase from my comment to carp on, and disregarded the rest completely.

Setting aside the inflammatory terms you've couched it in, that's sort of the whole point of what I posted: Discount-rate hobby work does not do any damage to anyone, and I support it wholeheartedly. Everybody's got to start somewhere, clients and designers both.

Spec work, however, does cause damage -- to the industry as a whole, including the clients. Those problematic misconceptions about design that I keep complaining about, spec work does nothing but reinforce those misconceptions.


I'm a little ambivalent about Pixish, specifically. I have a lot of respect for Derek Powazek, I certainly do not think he had any bad intent here, and I can see where he's coming from in his discussion about the project here and elsewhere. But I think that despite that good intent, Pixish encourages a spec work model, and I see spec work as a damaging, bad idea. If it were more explicitly couched as a portfolio site (here's my work, see if you like my style, and hire me) or as a stock art site (here's stuff I've done that's gathering dust, maybe someone'll find it useful), those I would have no problem with. But the "Here's what I the client need, you designers do it for free and I'll pick one as the 'winner'" -- that I have a problem with.
posted by ook at 12:17 PM on February 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


That, and the subjective terms like "amazing" and "beautiful" need to be removed. I'm curious -- what happens when the client isn't happy with ANY of the entries? Is the prize revoked? Are the submissions compensated for their work? If too many contributors to Pixish get burned, the site will recieve an greater backlash than the gripes from professional artists and designers.

Crowd sourcing is not inherently a bad idea, but there needs to be some inherent protections from damages involved.
posted by Down10 at 12:19 PM on February 13, 2008


Crowd sourcing is not inherently a bad idea, but there needs to be some inherent protections from damages involved.

Oh. Don't you know? The market will do that! If only these meddling kids would just get of the way of the market we would be in a paradise of profit and win win!
posted by tkchrist at 12:29 PM on February 13, 2008


Pixish IS for people with work sitting around that someone might want. Photographers with harddrives full of awesome stuff that might be right for some publishing project if only someone would ask.

As others have pointed out, this explanation doesn't mesh with what is actually on Pixish. Just yesterday, Pixish was featuring an assignment to create t-shirts for some dude named Jonathan Coulton. Does Pixish really think that designers just happen to have some t-shirts on their hard drive that they just happened to design for Jonathan Coulton? If I've never heard of the guy, it seems unlikely that people are designing t-shirts for him just for fun.

I understand why designers are up in arms about this. As I mentioned above, the Pixish controversy reminds me of my dislike for prospective clients who ask for a "free consultation" in my law practice, because more often than not, the person wanting the free consultation is just wanting free advice; they have no intention of actually paying me a fair fee for legal services.

The desire for free consultations, for cheap design work, whatever, seems to reflect a "gimme" attitude among the consuming public, when it comes to professional services. They'll pay up when it's a tangible product --- nobody expects a free iPhone --- but since all a designer or lawyer is giving is their time, consumers balk at the fee. They figure it's not costing us anything. It drives me crazy. I've had people talk about all the money they spent at a casino the last weekend, while in the same conversation arguing with me about my hourly fee. It's ignorance, on the part of consumers, about how much a professional's education and training have cost, about the fee-generating opportunities we give up by working on their projects for free, about the overhead of running a decent business, and about a professional's need to have a decent standard of living.

The designers who are against Pixish are rightly standing up for professionalism, standing up for the right to be paid fairly for professional services, and taking a stand against designers who are succumbing to the "gimme" attitude of consumers.
posted by jayder at 12:39 PM on February 13, 2008 [4 favorites]


It baffles me that I can't go to three restaurants, ask them all to make me dinner, then only pay for and eat the meal I like the look of.

WON'T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE MARKET?
posted by bonaldi at 12:49 PM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


jayder: actually if anybody's an exception to the rule, it'd be Jonathan Coulton: he gives away most of his own work for free online, so if he wants to ask for people to design him t-shirts for free, I say more power to him, he's earned it. The rest of your comment is spot on, though, and very well put.
posted by ook at 12:50 PM on February 13, 2008


All discussion of spec work aside, this has gotta be one of the dumbest things I have ever seen posted on MeFi. And believe me friend, I have ready many, many dumb things on MeFi. Design is a big tent. We welcome the amateurs and the outsiders. They often help to infuse the profession with new ideas. This is good. But if you're going to play ball, ya gotta play by the rules. And there is nothing, repeat nothing, about spec work that adds to the profession in any way. May Pixish die an early death at the ass end of web 2.0. But if the newbies wanna get burned at the hands of so-called "clients" then it does me the favor of not having to deal with any of these douchebags.
posted by quadog at 1:20 PM on February 13, 2008


^ What's more upsetting is that Derek marked that as a favorite comment. I now really question the true motivations behind this site.

But remember, quadog: They aren't really "rules" but guidelines, created and refined over time for the goal of satisfying the needs and expectations of both the artist and the client. And they unfortunately don't seem to be built into Pixish's terms.
posted by Down10 at 1:43 PM on February 13, 2008


Well, I think we've pretty much covered this off and now it seems to be falling into neener neenerism.

I'm not calling for the tearing down of Pixish. Just ensuring that people wanting to work in design are educated to the dangers of spec work and the difference between doing work that will build a portfolio vs doing free work that won't get them anywhere in terms of a design career. Plenty of the people submitting aren't looking to make a living from it, I get that.

Like I said, as long as people submit fully aware of what they're doing...well, they're adults and they can make their own decisions. Sites like Pixish should expect creative communities will ensure they're voices get heard on these issues, pro and con. We're just covering off the con.

(Fighting the future? Spec work and design contests aren't the future matteo, they've been around for as long as I can remember.)
posted by Salmonberry at 1:50 PM on February 13, 2008


I've offered up several suggestions and questions towards Pixish on here and on the another site — such as creating a bankable Premium level area for qualified designers (like Threadless Select), or what the pitfalls might be if the clients opt out when users have submitted work, or how he plans to deal with art rippers (shady sites stealing the work off the site and selling counterfeits, a now common practice on Flickr and elsewhere) — but Derek hasn't addressed them.

He is valiantly defending his precious new baby site from us mean ol' skeptics, but I presume that he doesn't yet want to face the possibility that he's created a monster.
posted by Down10 at 4:36 PM on February 13, 2008


My gut sympathies lie here, more or less. But I'm certainly more ambivalent than the 'crush teh guild!1!' comments.

There's a market gap between professional designers who work on professional rules and want ten percent down before they uncap a pen or fire up Illustrator, and something closer to a design clearing house for 'stuff lying around'. Encouraging people to work for kudos and shiny things doesn't fill it.

There are parallels everywhere. Professional photographers who shoot for stock libraries feel like they're being squeezed by Flickr users. Flickr users have their work stolen or bought cheap, because the professionals have pulled up the drawbridge. At the low end, you have clients who either don't know the market rate, want sub-market rate, or would rather nab something 'off the internets' than pay.

From one site criticising Pixish:
Creatives should estimate a project, receive a deposit before they begin, and receive incremental payments along the way. If payments are not made, work stops, and nothing is delivered that wasn’t paid for.
Indeed. And I should have a pony.

The sad-but-obvious situation we now have? At the higher end, you have designers and clients who will work on market rates because both sides can afford lawyers, who also work on market rates. The low end is fucked. Pixish doesn't fuck it any harder than it's already fucked, but it doesn't yet unfuck it. The inevitable outsourced version that someone in Foreign launches soon enough? Oh, that will fuck it right the way up.

If AIGA wants to forestall that, it may want to consider that the debate on spec work is no longer limited to clients with a $5,000, $50,000 or $500,000 budget, but now extends to ones with a $50 budget. There are perceived barriers to entry, and the explanation that you're paying for education, training and overhead doesn't negate a cultivated image that's akin to designer boutiques where the assistants look you up and down, and blank you if your appearance doesn't match the price tags.

That's to say, people do think that Creatives simply won't demean themselves by working for the plebs. Other professions have institutions that address this perception: doctors work for free and subsidised clinics, lawyers do pro bono. A blanket 'no spec' response that fails to address that issue will simply end up biting higher-end designers on their black-trousered arses.
posted by holgate at 9:11 PM on February 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


I am a professional designer,and I think the pixish site is a god idea. I also think spec work is the devil's work.

What it comes down to is what alot of the "what are you designers crying about" brigade are saying. it doesn't affect me one bit. I've been working professionally for 15 years now. No, this site isn't going to destroy the industry. But it does have the potential to screw over a young inexperienced designer. And I think that's why those of us who have had some success, yell the loudest when talking about spec work, in hopes that the up and coming designers listen.

The first thing I was told when I started my first studio internship at the age of 15 was "If you want to be a professional, don't ever give your work away" Whenever any up and coming designer asks me for advice, that's the first thing I tell them. The second thing I tell them is whenever someone tells you that working for them for free will be good for your portfolio, they're lying. Paid client work is good for your portfolio.

Another thing to note in the spec work debate is that there is a such thing as a pitch. There's nothing wrong with doing sketches, mockups, outlines or proposals to get a job. Even with a site such as Pixish, I can't see any reason to create or turnover actual production files until a deal is made that both sides are happy with. Again, something that an experienced designer might take for granted, but someone new to the field learns the hard way. And It should be noted that the pitch is part of the final price, either directly or indirectly. When people are shocked at what I charge, I often have to remind them that the price also reflects the amount of time I'm devoting to them that could be otherwise spent getting paid by someone else. Believe it or not, most people find that fair.

Let the market decide? My experience in the design market has taught me one thing. People value what they pay for. The best rationale I have for charging an upfront fee to take on a project is that clients seem to be 90% more likely to ensure that a project finishes on schedule if the've already paid me something.

gramcracker: I also wanted to toss in an aside about working for small business and "mom and pop" operations. I've worked for some of the biggest companies out there, yet will still take work from small businesses. I just do it on different terms.

I did some work for a local guy recently who couldn't get anyone to take his work, and he was really upset about it. When I talked to him, his basic complaint was " I don't understand these fancy-pants designers. $1000 bucks is a thousand bucks"

Let me get this straight? You got a grand to spend? Cash?

His project took me two hours. Easiest money I've made in a long time. The Mom and Pop operations usually have pretty simple needs, and like to feel like their money is getting them something tangible. It's just a matter of making the little projects valuable to you as well.
posted by billyfleetwood at 9:11 PM on February 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


Just yesterday, Pixish was featuring an assignment to create t-shirts for some dude named Jonathan Coulton. Does Pixish really think that designers just happen to have some t-shirts on their hard drive that they just happened to design for Jonathan Coulton? If I've never heard of the guy, it seems unlikely that people are designing t-shirts for him just for fun.

But that's exactly what's happening in this instance, and it's why I think Jonathan Coulton's example is a poor one for this argument. Even though you've never heard of him, he has a devoted following of fans who like to create all sorts of peripheral stuff for his music - videos, guitar solos, illustrations, dances, stuffed monkey/pony hybrids. He's always elicited and responded to that interaction. I think he saw Pixish as a site that would enable him to do what he's always done - solicit fan participation and promote the stuff he liked - rather than a place to get free work. It seems like more of a game for his fans than a workaround for him. I think that the majority of people who would submit a design for him would do so because they would think it really neat if he used their image on his t-shirt. Hell, if my design abilities ranked about Orangutan-with-Parkinson's level, I'd submit something for that reason alone. The IPod is just an added bonus.

Which changes nothing about the above arguments about spec work. I imagine in the typical scenario, potential designers will be responding to prompts for specific designs more than the people who promote them. And in that case, I can see the concern for potential abuse. But I don't think it applies in this case (especially now that he's removed the disclaimer about using non-winning works that Matt pointed out much earlier).
posted by bibliowench at 9:26 PM on February 13, 2008


I did some work for a local guy recently who couldn't get anyone to take his work, and he was really upset about it. When I talked to him, his basic complaint was " I don't understand these fancy-pants designers. $1000 bucks is a thousand bucks"

Kudos. But that complaint is something that AIGA and its members are going to have to address, because otherwise, people are going to come up with alternatives that clients do understand without explanation. And some of those alternatives will likely be run by people who aren't interested in discussing those problems, or in making changes to accommodate them.
posted by holgate at 10:23 PM on February 13, 2008


I've made my living as a creative since I was knee high to a knee (several decades) and one thing I have learned is that unlike plumbing and other arts and trades with clearly defined activities and outcomes, many people think they can design, draw, write, make music, etc. whether they actually can or not. Creativity is a primal human impulse after all. The number of amateur hobbyist plumbers has got to be far fewer than all the people who are ready to cut albums, become authors or design logos. Professionalism is pretty clear cut in plumbing, but in the commercial arts you can have talented amateurs and professional hacks and every gradation in between, exploiting or being exploited by a client base who find the whole process inscrutable when they are not thinking it is easy and overpriced. While successful plumbing is self evident (leak plugged!), the subjectivity of design keeps its worth/value in flux. Plumbers don't plumb on spec, but I have had to. Plumbers are seldom undercut by amateurs, but I am. Few plumbers have clients over their shoulder telling them how to plumb, but it happens to us designers all the time.

It's the gig. The creative professions have always been faced with an onslaught of amateurs empowered by new technologies. I lost business in 1984 ("We taking all our design in house now...we got a Mac!") and I could bemoan how Photoshop took out the photo shops or how Dreamweaver devalued the HTML jockeys...I got a whole pile of buggy whips I can't sell no more!

Web 2.0 is amateurism ascendant and Pixish is completely logical. To call yourself a professional designer, writer or artist these days is to hear a lot of people, including your plumber, say "Me too!"

-----------

I think most of us (designers who are barely scraping by) are upset about is the basic devaluing of the graphic design field

Tell that to musicians!
posted by bonefish at 11:59 PM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Maybe we're especially disappointed that a man we had come to respect in the Web and new media world is now opening a site that operates like the red light district of artwork. It's not noble, it's turning people away from the benefits of good design practices into want ads from broke "publishers" to get loads of work in return for a pittance from naive designers, artists and photographers. Is that really what Derek had in mind -- to be an art hustler?

At least stop bullshitting to visitors that the site is a "place for artists and publishers to collaborate." If that were true, it'd be invite-only. And if it was really a "community project," the work should not be used for commercial gain. Until there are some fundamental changes to its structure, Pixish is just another janky-ass Craigslist 'Gigs' section, only with fancier CSS and AJAX scripting.

It *could* be like Threadless (which is what I imagine Derek was going for), but what Threadless does is quickly cut out the crap work, due to a cut-throat user base that quickly demotes any new submission to one point. Even after this, the variety of winning Threadless submissions has been growing very stale in recent years; the site regularly needs an influx of fresh ideas and approaches, and this only happens when its regular contributors burn out of ideas or because they've found more lucrative work elsewhere.

What happens without the rapid rotation of talent is that Amateur Hour never ends and the reputation of the site will drop -- unless some real talent is somehow kept on board, or there are bigger stakes than a dinky iPod. Threadless does this by getting sponsored contests (like Wired magazine, for instance), and through Threadless Select, where "real" artists get to tout their skills without taking away from the competition of the basic site.
posted by Down10 at 1:23 AM on February 14, 2008


I came back to this thread now that I have a little time to throw my 2 cents in and respond to all of the "snotty elitist artistes1!" comments, but I see that many designers above have already laid out the reasons why spec work is shady and unprofessional.

Thanks to Ook, Down10, billyfleetwood, and all the others who chimed in with detailed explanations of how this system is rigged against creatives. I have a difficult time understanding how some of the posters fail to grasp the concept that there is a difference between one's own creative work (even if it's at the level of "hobby") and creative work-for-hire. The first is self-directed and there's a large sense of autonomy and control over the end result. The second is what spec work asks for- the artist/designer has to create something that adheres to the guidelines that the client outlines. The client also profits in some way from the end product. In my world, this is called work, and I am paid for it.

Is this disconnect happening because art and design is considered strictly recreational by so many people that it's devalued in a way that, say, to use bonefish's example, plumbing is not? Or do too many people wrongly assume there's such a thing as a wealth of "artistic gifts" that allow otherwise lazy slackers to be able to pull something artsy out of their nether-regions at will?

The idea of artistic genius, and the general mystique that surrounds the artistic and design process ( often the fault of the artists and designers themselves who play down the hard work and years of training required to produce quality work in order to appear "gifted" and special) is the profession's worst enemy. Just as anyone can train to become a master plumber if they focus, work diligently, study, and put the hours in, one can also study in a similar fashion and with similar efforts in order to become an artist or a designer with a comparable command skills in their chosen profession. Some people will have more of an aptitude for it than others, as it is with any endeavor.

The sooner we are able to do away with the idea of "creative vision as divine gift bestowed by heaven", the better it will be for all of the design professions.
posted by stagewhisper at 11:28 AM on February 14, 2008


The sooner we are able to do away with the idea of "creative vision as divine gift bestowed by heaven", the better it will be for all of the design professions.

And when the weird go pro, the good stuff is gonna run you.
posted by humannaire at 7:51 PM on February 14, 2008


I have a difficult time understanding how some of the posters fail to grasp the concept that there is a difference between one's own creative work (even if it's at the level of "hobby") and creative work-for-hire.

I have a difficult time understanding how some posters don't understand that different people value their time differently.

If it's not worth it to you to enter one of these contests, don't. But it is not the fault of a person who thinks that their time is well spent working on something to enter the contest. I maintain that a site like Pixish is not going to affect the market for anyone who was going to hire a designer/photographer/illustrator otherwise.

But that is sort of beside the point. Society does not owe you a living because you are good at something, or because you went to school for something, or because you have experience doing it. You chose a field that many many people choose out of love. Maybe you thought it was like plumbing, just a good skillset that will allow you to support yourself and your family, but I doubt it. I reckon that you chose to do it because you love it, or you love something that is close enough to it that the skills and training and aptitudes overlap.

Chances are if you work hard you can make a fair to excellent living in the 'design professions'. But if you can't, it's not the fault of people who like to do it and dabble. Learn to plumb. Or find an actor/painter/musician/puppeteer/mime/whatever that is not in the top 5% of their field and ask them about scraping by. You can probably find one behind the counter at Starbucks.
posted by dirtdirt at 6:51 AM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


That's absurd, dirtdirt: design is one of the few creative professions that doesn't require 95% of its practitioners to work at Starbucks just to get by. I don't see what's so unreasonable about trying to keep it that way.
posted by ook at 7:23 AM on February 15, 2008


Trying to keep it that way by prohibiting other people from doing what they enjoy?
posted by dirtdirt at 7:26 AM on February 15, 2008


You obviously haven't read any of this discussion.
posted by ook at 9:12 AM on February 15, 2008


That was assholish of me; I can do better.

Not by prohibiting people from doing what they enjoy. Obviously. By pointing out that working on spec is damaging to the career of the designer doing it on spec, gives worse results to the client, gives the client a false impression of how design should work, and harms the industry as a whole. All of which is spelled out in detail above, by several people who are more calm and articulate than I am.
posted by ook at 9:33 AM on February 15, 2008


Ook, I sent you a Memail a couple hours ago. If you want to keep talking one on one please respond through there so thread doesn't devolve further.
posted by dirtdirt at 9:34 AM on February 15, 2008


dirtdirt,
I don't think any of us who are outlining the pitfalls of working on spec and even going so far as to call spec work sleazy for the most part are demanding that the rights of anyone else to participate in pixish or similar endeavors should be trampled on. We are voicing our opinions and talking about our experiences based on years of working in creative fields, and alerting greener designers, illustrators, and photographers about the things they should be wary of. I'm not trying to keep competition out, I'm trying to provide a service to up and coming designers by offering advice based on experience. I'm confused by why you would attribute such evil ulterior motives to people who are already making a decent living at this.

If someone asked a question about taking on spec work in Askme, you'd probably be seeing lots and lots of answers warning them off from doing it, far more than you're seeing here because I have a feeling a lot of professional designers reading this thread have been keeping our mouths shut because they don't want have to deal with being painted as elitist jerks by the same big brush.

Also, could you clarify this sentence? I am completely confused by it and would like to understand what you mean and how it relates to Pixish and spec work:

Chances are if you work hard you can make a fair to excellent living in the 'design professions'. But if you can't, it's not the fault of people who like to do it and dabble. Learn to plumb. Or find an actor/painter/musician/puppeteer/mime/whatever that is not in the top 5% of their field and ask them about scraping by. You can probably find one behind the counter at Starbucks.

Again, I am not in competition with the dabblers. If they want to dabble, that is fine. But if they want to someday make a living at this and/or build a portfolio of work, and are contributing to Pixish with this goal in mind, this is *not* the way to do it, they will be screwing themselves over. My problem with Pixish is that they are encouraging people who don't know better that this is a good way to further their careers and (maybe, if you're really really lucky) make a little pocket change.

The advice offered here by seasoned professionals, if followed, will actually lead to early career designers mapping a more intelligent career path and increase our competition with them for paid work.
posted by stagewhisper at 10:30 AM on February 15, 2008


By many counts I am a "seasoned professional". I do this for a living and have for years. I agree that spec is bad. I do not do it, have not done it as a designer or a consumer of design, and encourage others to avoid it as well.

I just disagree with the notion that Pixish is spec, exactly. If everyone plays by the rules, and the assignments, criteria, prizes, and rights are laid out clearly, people who otherwise would have no access to good work might get some, and people who otherwise would probably not be doing targetted work, might be able to. I don't think that either side of that relationship will be occupied by people who would be otherwise engaging in that sort of transaction. I could be wrong. I see it working well for small things, and not well for large ones.

Really, are you proposing that Pixish should not exist? That it should say "DO NOT USE THIS SITE IF YOU ARE, HAVE BEEN, OR EVER HOPE TO BE A PROFESSIONAL"?

I'm sorry that I wasn't clear enough in the part of my post you quoted. How about: "Plumbers, to use the going example, get value for their time by charging money. So do designers. However, it seems likely that many designers gain value for the time they spend doing it by ALSO enjoying what they do, in a way that I think many plumbers do not. If I were to make an illustration for Pixish, I would get value for the time I spent by a) enjoying it b) exercising skills, and c) possibly winning an iPod. Or $50, or whatever. I imagine other people will probably gain value in a similar fashion. But at any rate, what luck to be in a field where I get value for my time both because I enjoy the way I spend my time, and because people pay me to do it. I'm going to go get a latte and put an extra quarter in the box for that kid who plays clarinet"

Argh. This is one of those times. I don't care a fig about Pixish. I don't have a pony in this race. Why am I still talking about this?
posted by dirtdirt at 11:07 AM on February 15, 2008


Okay, I get what you are saying now, thanks.
Yeah, I think we agree more than we disagree. I think I've just gotten weary over time of seeing the dramatic increase in art/media/design job posts on craigslist that say, at the end of the post something along the lines of:

"compensation: no pay, but a great opportunity to get your work out there". or "compensation: the lucky designer gets to see their work on our poster/t-shirt/cd"

It really didn't use to be this way, and so I start to look at these sorts of postings as the equivalent of Nigerian spam. Therefore, I guess my first reaction to Pixish was that it's just another Auditor of a Bank in Nigeria needing some help to clear up some issues concerning a will from an American contractor from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
posted by stagewhisper at 12:25 PM on February 15, 2008


As a big fan of Coulton's I was kinda saddened that Coulton heard of this thread and now is finding a contest he set up for the fun of his fans - well, less fun. While I agree that there are good things to come of critiquing services like Pixish - doesn't it seem a bit much rain on this particular parade? This is the guy who gave away a huge amount of his music free on the internet after all. As others have said he's also been wonderful to fans who wanted to use his music to make various videos.
I'm not calling anyone out or trying to be rude - but well, this does make me honestly sad that MeFi is known as the place that made Couton's day less fun.

Since he can't post this here himself I'll quote his entire blog entry.

http://www.jonathancoulton.com.nyud.net/2008/02/13/pixish-flap/
"Scott left a comment on my T-shirt contest post, leading me to this discussion on Metafilter about Pixish and spec work. There are some who are saying that Pixish is essentially enabling Web 2.0 slavery practices, cheapening design work, etc. My contest, and specifically my language about how I will use your design on T-shirts and not pay you for it, are cited as one of the examples of how Pixish can be used for evil. As someone says in a comment in that thread “Am I the only one that notes the irony of a musician gleefully admitting they will be using another artist’s work for free?” Oy.

Let me be clear about a couple of things:

1) I wanted to run a contest, not because I wanted to get free design work, but because I wanted to get a design that comes from, and is ratified by the community here on this site. I think it’s fun when fans get involved - it’s the same reason I got people to send in hand claps for “We Will Rock You” and why I held a solo contest for “Shop Vac.” That was fun, right? Right?

2) I have no idea how much it would cost to commission someone to design a shirt for me, certainly it would depend on who it was and what they and I thought their work was worth. But for the record, it’s going to cost me $200 for the iPod, maybe 50 bucks in raw materials for Thing a Week Box Sets, a few bucks for shipping, and probably a few nights sleep while I worry about this whole affair and read a bunch of flamey comments. After all that, I’m not sure I’ll end up with any designs that I want to print (in which case just having had the contest will have been worth it to me). Honestly T-shirts are not a huge profit center for me, in fact, they’re just barely less trouble than they’re worth.

3) Another quote: “[H]oly cow, JoCo is going to get an assload of free design work that is only going to cost him a single iPod, and on top of that, he might use anyone’s submission without them winning anything.” Yes, that is what I said, I can see how that last part is not really fair, and in fact it seems to be against the rules at Pixish: “…publishers have no rights to your work if you don’t win.” So I’ll change that. Only the winning design may be printed.

4) I admit this is not the first time I’ve felt a little weird about getting free work from fans - I’ve got helpers working on this video shoot for comp tickets (or not, if they already had tickets), many fans who have sold merch in exchange for comps and free merch, website work from Kerrin, illustrations from Len, forum moderation from Bry, music videos from all sorts of people, not to mention the free handclaps I tricked the internet into giving me. And I’m not the only one getting free stuff from the internet: Amazon gets book reviews, YouTube gets videos, MySpace gets, erm, error messages. But seriously, where do you draw the line?

Anyway, this whole thing was supposed to be fun, but it’s feeling a lot less fun now that the internet thinks I’m some kind of Web 2.0 plantation owner. I myself am pretty sure this contest is way different from me asking a bunch of designers to do spec work for me, and I’m also not comfortable deciding that Pixish is evil just because it can be used that way. But I am curious to hear what you all think (and folks from the Metafilter thread if they find their way here - I was going to sign up and post a comment, but it costs $5). If I’m wrong, I’ll call the whole thing off. Then I’ll just buy an iPod and smash it in the street, I don’t care, I’m rich."
posted by batgrlHG at 9:36 PM on February 19, 2008


Sorry, meant to properly link to the blog entry.
posted by batgrlHG at 9:38 PM on February 19, 2008


Shouldn't JoCo get one of the "Metafilter Free Memberships"?
posted by Megafly at 1:10 PM on February 22, 2008


I've never even heard of this Coulton guy before this thread, but it seems like if the intent was for someone from his fanbase to design a shirt, he could've run the contest on his own website. On Pixish the implication is that the project is open for any designer, including people who've never heard of him, and people who haven't heard of him are probably not going to be that psyched about getting an iPod full of his music as payment.
posted by loiseau at 2:24 PM on February 22, 2008


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