11/19/2010 Update — AIGA Minnesota is currently in open dialogue with the leaders of Twin Cities In Motion, the organization that produces the Twin Cities Marathon. They have been receptive to our concerns and are considering AIGA Minnesota’s recommendations to modify their contest’s policies. The AIGA Minnesota leadership is encouraged by this open dialogue.

11/15/2010 (Original posting) — AIGA Minnesota is committed to supporting the interests of professional designers and strives to play an authoritative role in promoting and communicating standards for ethical conduct and professional practice in the design industry.

Recently, AIGA Minnesota has been made aware of two local design contests that include solicitations of design concepts to be produced on a speculative basis:

The contest for the Legacy Amendment logo hypocritically shows a disregard for the value of arts and design by asking creative people to submit—for free, and with no reward if chosen—finished logo options that will be used to identify projects funded by the amendment that, among other things, recognize Minnesota’s cultural and creative heritage.

The contest for the Twin Cities Marathon is especially disturbing because its rules clearly state that all entries become the property of the Marathon, regardless of if they are chosen as winners or not. Further, the rules state that the Marathon can use part of any entry submitted and may choose not to select a winner at all. Under these conditions, it is possible for the Twin Cities Marathon to select no winner and pay no award, yet slightly modify an entry for use as the “final poster.”

Both contests utilize speculative (or “spec”) work, a process that undermines the quality of each organization’s stated outcomes. Through competitions, both organizations risk compromised quality as little time, energy, and thought can go into speculative work, which precludes the most important element of most design projects—the research, thoughtful consideration of alternatives, and development and testing of prototype designs.

On behalf of its members, AIGA Minnesota’s president responded today to the organizers of both of these contests in an attempt to explain AIGA’s position on spec work. Below, find an excerpt from those letters, which are based on language initially drafted by AIGA executive director Ric Grefé.

Click here for further information regarding AIGA’s position on spec work.

Excerpt from letters to Twin Cities In Motion and the Minnesota DNR:

[…]  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.

There are several reasons for this position.

First, to assure the client receives the most appropriate and responsive work. Successful design work results from a collaborative process between a client and the designer, developing a clear sense of the client’s objectives, competitive situation, and needs. Speculative design competitions or processes result in a superficial assessment of the problem and can only result in a design that is judged on a superficial basis. Design creates value for clients as a result of the approach designers take in addressing the problems or needs of the client and only at the end of that process is a “design” created. Speculative or open competitions for work based on a perfunctory problem statement will not result in the kind of work a client deserves.

Second, capable and professional designers do not work for free. While there will always be some designers who are willing to create designs in response to an open call for work, without any assurance of compensation, the buyer immediately relegates his or her choices among those designers who are least likely to be experienced, knowledgeable designers who are in demand among clients and who work according to the professional standards of the profession. Only too often, it results in a client eventually having to bring a more experienced designer onto a project in order to execute it.

Finally, requesting work for free reflects a lack of understanding and respect 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 practices and standards.

[…]  If you would like us to work with you in developing a process that will benefit you most and maintain the professional standards we would expect of an organization such as yours, please do not hesitate to give me a call.

Seth Johnson
President, AIGA Minnesota

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Brent Larson
Brent Larson
Brent is an award winning Motion, 3D, and Graphic designer with 20 years of experience working in the architectural, manufacturing, legal, corporate, and film industries as a solopreneur, agency, and in-house designer. He has experience in illustration, graphic design, product design, 3D modeling & animation, motion graphics, video production, live & virtual event production, presentation design, art direction, and project management. He currently works as a corporate in-house Principal Motion and Graphic Designer in the MedTech industry.

Before becoming AIGA Minnesota President, Brent served as Vice President from 2022-2023 and Chair of the In-House Designers Committee from 2019 - 2023.

Brent volunteers as a mentor for emerging designers and is a member of the AIGA Minnesota Mind to Mind Mentorship Program Committee.

His interests include history, film, design, animation, illustration, 3D printing, model making, woodworking, golf, bowling, fishing, and restoring things.