Please be sure that your request for proposal does not include a solicitation of design concepts to be produced on a speculative basis. This approach compromises the quality of work you are entitled to. It also violates a long-standing ethical standard in the communication design profession worldwide. AIGA, our nation’s largest and oldest professional association for design, strongly discourages the practice of requesting that design work be produced and submitted on a speculative basis in order to be considered for acceptance. There are two main reasons for this position:
To assure the client receives the most appropriate and responsive work. Successful design work results from a collaborative process that is ideally enjoyable and effective for both of us. My goal is to develop a clear sense of your needs, objectives, and competitive situation. Good design creates value as a result of a cooperative strategic approach. Speculative work and competitions are in direct conflict with this process, and usually results in a superficial assessment of the project that is not truly grounded in the health of your business.
Requesting work for free demonstrates a lack of respect for the designer and the process. To put it more lightly, it reflects a lack of understanding for the value of effective design as well as the time of the professionals who are asked to provide it. This approach reflects on your personal practices and may prove harmful to the reputation of your business.
Rarely does one find a profession in which all possible candidates are asked to do the work first, allowing the buyer to then choose which one to compensate for their efforts. Consider the response if you were to ask a dozen lawyers to write a brief for you, from which you would then choose who to pay. Along the same lines, one would not ask a plumber to fix their kitchen for free, claiming that if they do a good job that it would make for good word-of-mouth exposure.
Unfortunately, some creative professionals accept this treatment because they do not know any better. These designers are inexperienced and lack an accurate view of their own time and energy. Such designers rarely develop their talent and make a successful career.
May this letter ensure you that I value my work with your organization. If we are on the same page, I believe I can make a stunning difference for you.
Thomas L. Johnson
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