The Slippery Slope of Spec Work

It seems the City of Portland is experiencing the spec-creative backlash as we speak.

Yesterday, the news got out that the City of Portland has proposed a design contest to redesign PortlandOnline.

From Silicon Florist:

Now, you can try as hard as you might, but few things can be as insulting to people as telling them their work is worthless. Which is basically what the City is doing by asking for designers to work on spec.

Web developers, graphic artists and visionaries to transform the navigation and design of PortlandOnline, the city’s primary web presence. Winners will be fully credited on the website for their work – a website that receives over two million visits a month and includes over 140,000 pages.

That’s right. Or to paraphrase, that work that you do? It isn’t worth anything more than a link.

And today came a response from the Portland Advertising Federation’s President, Jerry Ketel —  The City Should Know Better:

This is simply the wrong way to go about designing an important communication tool in our fair city. The idea of this kind of contest is a perfect example of how much the city fathers value the contribution of the design community in Portland. I am certain that there is a very good Web design firm here in town who would work for pennies on the dollar to help the City of Portland to polish its presence on the internet. Not only would they provide design look and feel, but they would provide navigation and strategic expertise. This is Portland after all, craftsmanship is in our DNA. Our community wants to be a seen as a creative magnet in the world—it is a source of pride. So why don’t our elected leaders get that?


Now is the time for the Portland creative services industries to rise up and plant a flag in the sand. We need to be recognized for the contribution we make to our city. We should start by writing letters and emails to the city about this disrespectful contest. And then we need to join together and strategize how we can become a force that cannot be ignored. It is time.

While this is not happening here in Idaho, it is an issue that shouldn’t be ignored.  I’d encourage those of you with contacts in the Portland area to get involved, and make their voices heard.  Contact the PAF or the City of Portland.

Jerry is right:  It is time.

One Reply to “The Slippery Slope of Spec Work”

  1. Nice. So, when their next city council elections happen, will all the candidates and incumbents be willing to work for free until the public decides which ones they’d like to hire? Sounds like a fair trade to me.

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