Designing on spec for an interview

I just had a lined up interview cancelled with a major American consumer products company because I would not agree to do a design project as part of the interview process.

What is this world coming to? Is design valued that little by corporations? What ever happened to ethics?

I was told that this was common practice by this company - I have had this happen a few times before in recent years. Why should I bother keeping up my portfolio if this is becoming the norm?

Design is all about problem solving. How can one judge your design abilities with a rushed project where you have no inside information about the companies’ processes, values and resources? What really scares me is that this is a major corporation who openly admits design is the driving force to the innovation in their products.

Sad, really sad…


There are good reasons never to design on spec:

  • It’s a lot of unpaid work. Design is only partly decoration. Mainly it is problem solving. Unless the RFP spells out site goals and user needs in phenomenal detail, you can’t create an appropriate design because you don’t yet know what problems need to be solved. (Even if the RFP spells out goals and needs, it’s unlikely that the people who wrote it know what all their site’s problems are. Most times you need to talk to people who use the site and study how they use it to get a handle on what works and doesn’t. It also helps to interview stakeholders. Doing that at your own expense is risky business at best.)
  • It’s unsafe for agency and potential client alike.

The AIGA strongly advises its members never to design on spec, and we know of no professional web agency that disregards that advice. Most potential clients who’ve initially requested that we submit designs along with our proposals understand our reasons for saying no. Those who insist on getting free designs anyway are simply advertising the fact that they would not be good clients to work for.

i’m happy to see that you stood your ground. From one professional to another, thank you.

You don’t see companies asking an engineer to design a intake manifold for a car during an interview, do ya? Heck no, so why should a ID’er do a design for free?

This is one reason why there are so many unemployed designers. EGO!!! We get paid good money to do what we do. But if someone is asking you to design on spec it useualy means that they a seriously considering hiring you. It also shows how you work under pressure. Anyone can spend hours and hours putting a great portfolio together but when I ask you to give me a design showing your process and how you work in a week, that actualy show me how talented you really are.

I don’t agree with you on this issue. I think if you had done what they asked you probably would have gotten the job. I also don’t no you employment situation. But I’m guessing your either a new grad or your not that hungry to get a new job.

Bell/Giro helmets had 13 applicants design and model a helmet for them to determine who “won” the job. That’s a lot of work for no money. Tell me you wouldn’t be pissed off after working 20-some hours for free.

I’ve been working for 6 years in ID. The hiring manager at the companies I’ve worked for so far were content in seeing my design porfolio and calling professional references.

I have done these “projects” in the past during interviews only to see the company use my design severel years later and profit from it. I have no intention of doing it ever again.

I forgot to mention this project was requested 2 days before my interview and I am currently employed full time.

That’s another thing. You have 6 years experience (same as me actually.) Your portfolio should suffice to show what you can do. You have professional experience and good references. Not references from your high-school art teacher, but real references from past employers or freelance customers. There should be no reason whatsoever for having you do a project for them. However, I can kinda see why a company would do this with fresh grads. I’ve seen fresh grads fail miserably in the real-world after being given a chance. Some lie about what computer programs they know, exaggerate their modeling skills, etc. A simple project does help to avoid this.

I agree sorry thought you were fresh Grad

Yet another example of “design theft”. And the only reason companies keep doing this is because people will do it, congratulations for standing your ground, now take the next step against these swines, and tell us what company it was.