Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Free pitching seems to be the "dirty" words within the Design industry. But why wouldn't designers prefer their work be exposed to possible future employment and recognition.

Well lets explore why!

Lets firstly define Free/spec pitching. This is the term referred to as "the supply of design services with only partial payment or without payment", or as "the act of doing free work to win the tender or proposal"

Now there are many pro's and con's involved with free pitching so I will compare and contract

both arguments.

Firstly pitching is a legitimate competitive expression of a free market that allows the designer to demonstrate their credentials in a way that would minimise the client of hiring an inappropriate or incompetent service for the required task as well as gaining valuable experience in the real world as for the inexperienced designer as an example. Then again you could look at it as undermining your own abilities as a designer to sell your services and possibly destroy your professional credibility as a designer in the future. All of the time,resources and energy placed in trying to "win" the client over could have been placed in nurturing existing client relationships or sourcing potential clients who are prepared to engage you on the strength of your portfolio.

On one hand free pitching allows new designers to demonstrate their flexibility to the clients needs and requirements,yet on the other hand how can a client make an informed decision when often they have provided a poorly briefed project in which the designers have likely only committed enough time for a superficial response. As well as unlikely taken the time to immerse, research and understand his/her needs of the brief. So in this case I think the client would be the one who would lose out in the end.

Thirdly the old saying of "you've got to be in it to win it" comes into play, but consider who actually wins in the end. Free pitching is almost entirely designed to deliver short term financial benefit to the client at the direct expense of the designer both in time and resources.

There is a whole new argument surrounding designing for competitions or for charities but at the end of the day if the client's intention is for commercial gain then we are right back to the above pro's and con's.

Now what is being done to protect us as designers, especially the inexperienced designers. AGDA (Australian Graphic Design Association) provides national benchmarks for professional service and conduct within the graphic design profession by endorsing a Code of Ethics. The Code of Ethics is intended to provide protection for both the client and designer from unethical business practices. As free pitching is ethically and morally unacceptable to our industry The Code of Ethics is an effective tool in dealing with unfair practices and also educates the clients understanding of how/what/why of graphic design.

The DIA (Design Institute of Australia)

also has a policy (DIA Practice Note PN008) that provides guidelines for running design competitions to avoid situations of unfair treatment of the designer. Although none of these directly can stop free pitching

many designers have decided to put pressure on other designers by way of social media tools such as Twitter (@nospec and @specwatch) and exposing clients.

Either way free pitching simply is classed as either the client requesting free design services in hope of choosing the best solution out of a wad of designs at no cost or it is the designer providing free design services in hope of later payment. Regardless of intention, free pitching is condemned by professional design organisations around the world and we as designers should consider how free pitching devalues our skills as a professional, not to mention the financial viability that is placed upon the design industry to survive-


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