best (not spec) practices

07.07.2015 News

ICoD strongly believes in the value of professional design and fair compensation for design work. 'Spec competitions' like the Government of Canada’s recent Canada 150 Logo Design Contest undermine the professional standing of design and produce poor results.

In recent years, many ICoD Members have expressed disagreement with the detrimental effects speculative practices have upon the value, development, and economic growth of the design industry, and ICoD wishes, at this time, to once again strongly reaffirm the Council’s position on best practices for design, in light of the Government of Canada’s recent acquisition and release on 28 April 2015 of the winning student logo from the Canada 150 Logo Design Contest.

In January 2015 ICoD supported the social campaign carried out by the Association of Registered Graphic Designers (RGD) of Canada, whereby student representatives of RGD issued a call to the creative community to speak out against the Canada 150 contest and other requests for speculative work by sharing the message ‘My Time Has Value’. The Canadian government did not respond to that initiative nor the GDC petition signed by 5,000 people opposing the speculative contest.

The Council stands in agreement with (GDC) president Adrian Jean and his open letter issued 27 April 2015 expressing his industry’s “collective disappointment” in the Canadian government’s failure to consider the contest’s impact on the design industry and on the value of professional design:

“The GDC had hoped that Canada’s 150th anniversary, and the corresponding visual identity, would be the cause of great pride and celebration,” Jean said in the open letter. “Unfortunately, it represents a glaring reminder of this government’s significant lack of understanding of the value of design, the creative process and the design profession.”

From a global perspective, the Council does not support speculative exploitation of the intellectual property of students or professionals. This incident recalls the open letter from ico-D Member (GAG) protesting the 2011 Obama for America poster call for submissions asking designers to show support, in the form of a poster design, for President Obama’s plan to create jobs during his presidential term. GAG’s response to this was as follows:

“Obama for America is asking artists across the country to work for free to show they support President Obama’s plan to create jobs for people other than artists.”

The Council also reacted in support of the Croatian Designers Association (Hrvatsko dizajnersko društvo - HDD) regarding Croatian Ministry of Interior’s offensive treatment of designers in the competition for the design of new national license plates, which invited all citizens with elementary school level art education to submit a proposal. Under political and popular pressure, the government decided to reintroduce the Croatian Coat of Arms onto the plates in lieu of opening the call to professional designers. Iva Babaja, ICoD President, publicly stood up to defend the professional designer’s position and integrity on national TV.

Council President, Iva Babaja, stated: “ICoD Members are united against speculative practice and recognise its detrimental impact on the professional standing of designers, standards of the profession, and design economy. It is very disheartening to see these recent examples, in which governments - given their unique role to protect and promote the value of design—are, in fact, setting precedents which undermine the design industry.”

The Council’s role is to advocate for the position and value of design and to promote practices that support a professional designer’s needs and challenges, as part of the vigorous pursuit of its mission and objectives and in adherence to its core values.

What is speculative practice? 

‘Speculative practices’ refers to design work (including documented consultation), created by professional designers and organisations, provided for free or at nominal fee, often in competition with peers and often as a means to solicit new business.

In harmony with the Council's Professional Code of Conduct for designers, the Council recommends that all professional designers avoid engaging in such practices.

The Council's  position on speculative practice 

ICoD believes in the value of professional design and fair compensation for design work and therefore discourages all practices that engage designers in any kind of speculative, unpaid work, including competitions. Such practices undermine the value of design and the professional standing of designers.

An industry standard 

ICoD's Member associations and other members of the international design community have articulated their disagreement with speculative practices and have launched programmes to raise awareness of: 

 the detrimental impact of these practices on the quality of business outcomes 

— resulting restraints on developing the status and standing of design as a respected profession


The Council maintains its support of best (not spec) practices, values expressed in the Council  Best Practices papers and thus stands in solidarity with design students and professionals worldwide in a stance against the global usage of speculative practices in soliciting design work. For more information, contact Alisha Piercy, ICoD Communications Officer,