aquent site redesign-spec work

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  • Aquentminister0

    OK. This is "that person Matthew." I've set up a poll on my blog to find out how much everyone (or if everyone) in the design community hates design contests. You can voice your protest here:…

    • How about some damage control. You owe us that much.cannonball
  • sintaxera0

    Every designer out there who searches high and low to find clients willing to pay a decent fee for quality design work and expertise gets a gigantic slap in the face every time companies support or sponsor one of these contests.

    How are we supposed to justify our fees or be regarded as experts in our field to clients when we are expected to give away our talent and hard work for the off chance of winning some contest? Having a company like Aquent, that supposedly has designers best-interests in mind, participating in a contest like this only makes it harder for us to convince clients that design is worth paying (and paying well) for. I'm sorry, but it's blatantly obvious how destructive this is to our profession.

    It seems to me that this would also be bad for Aquent's busines, no? If they're not even willing to hire a designer to do their own website, wouldn't the companies going to Aquent expect to get design work for nothing as well?

  • Josev0

    Not only that but I assume that they are the "official sponsor" of the AIGA (it's on the AIGA home page) so that they can have access to a higher quality of professional and have more legitimacy in the creative community. Yet they do this which undermines the AIGA's cause.

  • epete220

    Hmmm how about a contest for doctors. The first doctor to perform the surgery correct gets their name on a website! woohoo!

  • GammaRay0

    Here's something that a lot of people are forgetting about...

    Good design is, in large part, about communicating a message to its intended audience in a clear manner. It is also about providing a solution to a problem. (of course there are many other things I'm glossing over here but bare with me) Design contests don't allow the designer to fully understand the clients needs, problems, concerns and, therefore, doesn't allow them to provide the client with the best solution possible. How, Matt, am I supposed to know why you guys are redesigning your homepage or what your intended goals are with it if I can't have a full kick-off meeting with you?...if all I have to go on is a few words posted on a site?'re completely glossing over the fact that there is more to design than just "let's make something look pretty"...YAAYYY....

    CLEARLY you, Matt, do not understand the value of good design. It is MUCH more than just making something look new or different or fresh...yes good design (something that is purely aesthetically pleasing) can be achieved through a design contest...there are tons of talented designers that could just make something look good...but, are they really providing you with a total solution??? Do they really understand WHY you want to redesign the homepage??? If the current Aquent homepage is working so well why redesign it? Obviously it is not meeting some business level expectations somewhere and someone raised that concern and felt the need to redesign this contest going to provide Aquent with the business solution it needs or just something that looks pretty??? Or is that all that matters to Aquent...all gloss and no substance.

    Seriously, Matt, you really have no idea what goes into providing a client with a good design solution do you? You should feel very very sad about yourself...clearly you are a hack who wormed his way up the food chain...cause if you had a clue you wouldn't even begin to think about doing what you're doing.

    • um, actually GammaRay, I do know what does into good design. I saw this more as a kind of public brainstorming. Oddly enough, although the contest entirely allows for it, not one person has asked me these business related questions. Likewise, it's curious that people focus on how much we suck for doing this, but know one approaches us as a designer interested in working with us to solve this business problem.Aquentminister
    • I for one think this content should stay in topic if it is to be legit. Gamma you don't have your website listed are you trolling?Iggyboo
    • If Matt is willing to step up and say he's the one who setup the contest then he has to be ready to personally defend his decision...let's not be babies here.GammaRay
    • decision...let's not be babies here.GammaRay
    • And, if you're going to do something stupid be prepared to be called stupid.GammaRay
    • Wait a second, are you calling me stupid?Aquentminister
  • GammaRay0

    ...and all that design contests do is continue to broadcast the flawed idea that design is only about making something look good and that's it.

    heavy sarcasm ---> No other work or thought goes into's easy right?...anyone can do it..."My nephew knows how to use Photoshop, he's a designer, right?"...just learn the Adobe softwares and get some business cards done up and you're now a designer!!!

  • monkeyshine0

    So, if a design centric company like Aquent doesn't understand the value of design, what's the point? How frustrating, really. All the time I spend with clients, understanding their business, their objectives and needs in any type of redesign. All for naught, apparently. :(

  • Aquentminister0

    I fully understand the problems inherent in design contests, though I don't think that people realize that contestants can actually interact with the people sponsoring the contests.

    My question remains: if clients actually see value in these contests, or crowd-sourcing more broadly, what is the best response from the design community?

    Crowdsourcing, portfolio sites, job sites like this one, are part of the web. They are a threat to us as well and a threat that is not going away.

  • GammaRay0

    Let me re-post what sintaxera wrote:

    It seems to me that this would also be bad for Aquent's busines, no? If they're not even willing to hire a designer to do their own website, wouldn't the companies going to Aquent expect to get design work for nothing as well?

    • Believe it or not, we actually do have designers on staff who work for us and have even hired well-known firms to do work for us. Just so I'm clear, trying this, in addition to all that stuff, is just over-the-line and demonstrates something deeply flawed about us.Aquentminister
  • monkeyshine0

    Well, where have you been? Clients have long seen value in design gotten cheaply (be it a site that sells templates, or ready-made logos) so by your reasoning this is just the way things are. The thing is, these are clients we typically steer clear of because they do not value design or their brand for that matter. Aquent has put themselves in the same boat.

  • robotron3k0

    are you going to drug test the designers that submit, are you through with that????

  • GammaRay0

    To answer your question Matt...

    Clients see the value in template monster and design contests because they aren't educated on the value of good design that is unique and specific to their business needs...and all these contests/sites do is continue the ignorance.

    You're completely undermining design as a valuable and meaningful profession and, in turn, undermining Aquent. Why would anyone go to Aquent to hire a designer for $60 an hour ($30 for you guys and $30 for the designer) if they can just post a quick 3 bullet brief on some website and pay $200 or $500 and be done with it? Why do they need Aquent at that point? So you're helping to undermine the company you work're helping Aquent lose the long run this little $500 contest has (and will) cost Aquent waaaaay more than sending out an RFP ever would have.

    We should be out there educating clients on the value of good design not perpetuating the ignorance. Way to be a solid part of the design community.

  • GammaRay0

    High fives all around!

  • ukit0

    Cross posted on the Facebook page...

    Matthew -

    If the "crowd-sourcing" model is here to stay, the question becomes what impact it has on the profession and the value of design.

    Right now, I would say that sites like 99designs occupy a fairly low niche in the design food chain. They serve as a place where small businesses can go and quickly and cheaply get a number of designs created for them. The quality of design, while maybe not terrible, is certainly not very good and definitely not representative of the best the industry can produce.

    In other words, I don't see them as a threat at the moment, because most of my clients would not use a service like that. They tend to put a premium on good design and wouldn't consider using a site of that kind for their corporate communications, the same way a large company wouldn't hire some kid fresh out of law school to be their lawyer just because he was cheaper!

    What is problematic for many of us is when a major company - scratch that, a major DESIGN company(!) - like Aquent steps in and makes use of that service, to redesign their homepage no less. That begins to legitimize the concept for mainstream and professional use, which makes it harder for the rest of us, who occupy that professional space, to sell our services at a decent price. And quite frankly, it reduces the quality of design for the client as well. Basically it leads to a lowering of everyone's standards, including ultimately, the user's.

    In the end, it will always be a struggle to convince people of the value of good design because it is such an ephemeral thing. Any kid can crack open Photoshop and slap together a design these days, and he might even do it for $500. However, I strongly believe that good design, which comes from years of study and experience, is an important component of a business's success. In my mind, companies like Aquent, whose livelihood depends on design, should be working to increase recognition of the value of that service, rather than reducing it.

  • letters20

    Cross-posted on Facebook:

    The AIGA, who collaborate regularly with Aquent have a position on this, starkly in opposition. Perhaps Aquent could reach out to the AIGA for guidance in this respect.

    From their sample letter:

    It has been brought to our attention that you are in the process of choosing a design firm to produce communications materials for your organization. We are concerned that your request for proposal includes a solicitation of design concepts to be produced on a speculative basis by the professionals you are considering.

    The approach you are pursuing is one that seriously compromises the quality of work you are entitled to and also violates a tacit, long-standing ethical standard in the communication design profession worldwide.

    AIGA, the 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 on a project.

    continue reading here:…

  • letters20

    And the AIGA's sample letter in regard to design "contests":

    Dear _______,

    I am writing to on behalf of AIGA, the professional association for design. We are concerned about your recently publicized design contest [name or nature of contest].

    Although we realize that such contests are a popular way for organizations to generate publicity and participation—and to save costs—there are a number of reasons why asking for work without compensation except for a single design that is selected, which is termed speculative work in the profession, contradicts the ethics of our profession.

    The first is that design is a process. It involves time, creative energy, strategy and, most importantly, client participation. For a designer to generate work without going through this process is to create something that is undeveloped and that does not reflect the client’s input and participation. The resulting work is not truly representative of the value or level of service designers provide, nor does it adequately or appropriately address your needs as a client. Just as you wouldn't seek legal or financial advice from a consultant prior to hiring them, a designer must also be well acquainted with your organization and goals if they are to make informed and responsible recommendations.

    The other reason is that expecting speculative or uncompensated work demonstrates a trivializing of the contribution design makes to creating value for clients. Of all the entrants in your contest or competition, only one will be selected as a finalist. The time and work of all others will have gone for naught. This attitude on the part of a prospective client is likely to result in receiving work from students, inexperienced or untrained designers, or those less likely to get work from more traditional ways of demonstrating the soundness of their approach toward clients’ problems. The pool of work from which you will select will not necessarily represent the quality of work you deserve from seeking a professional designer. In the end, everyone loses.

    We encourage you to reconsider holding this contest, and instead issue a Request For Proposals from qualified design professionals. I know that selecting a designer can be a difficult and daunting task. To assist you, the AIGA provides resources to help you research firms in your area. This database is available online at We have also created a helpful guide that can assist you in researching qualified designers, writing a design brief, and managing the design process. This resource is also available free online at…...

    We are pleased that you recognize the need for design, and hope that you will consider these recommendations in the spirit in which they are offered—to help you realize the most that design has to offer. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me directly at [contact info].

    Your consideration of these professional design issues is greatly appreciated.

  • ukit0

    It is definitely spec work - it's a whole business model built around spec work FFS!

  • Aquentminister0

    I understand that this is threatening to people, but you've got to listen to what you're saying. Aquent doesn't determine the value of design any more than the design community does. Value is assigned by the market and what actually works. If cheap/inferior design "works", then businesses will use it. If it doesn't or it hurts them, then they will turn to something better. Preventing people from seeking cheap(er) design solutions, to the extent that is even possible, does not solve this problem.

    • amazing. stop making excuses.jsds
    • that doesnt mean companies like Aquent should assist in promoting he lowest common denominator.sintaxera
    • they SHOULD be one of the chorus of designers promoting quality, experienced and informed design.sintaxera
    • I'm not making excuses. Is my only option to say, "Design contests are evil; Aquent is stupid. We'll never do it again and everything will be fine"? Or can I actually have an opinion about what's happening that differs from the consensus here?Aquentminister
    • probably you should have thought, " is this a good idea in the first place." but yes is the answer to your question._me_
    • You should address the design community directly, rather than asking inane question about contests.cannonball
  • epete220

    can someone explain "spec work" to me? I am lost in translation.

    • basically, doing work for free in the hopes that the client chooses your work. "do the work, if we like it, we'll pay you"sintaxera
    • O fuck thatepete22
  • johndiggity0

    matt, do you understand you are representing the aquent brand on a design forum populated by designers, aka, the lifeblood of your company? how do you think this will effect aquent's rep with the designers on this board? when potential talent googles aquent and this thread pops up, what kind of perception do you think they will have of the aquent brand? do you think they will see it as a place that values their talent? is that contrary to the aquent brand promise?
    here's a resource for you to engage with your base, to develop an authentic brand, and you are basically shitting all over it.