Anti Spec Movement – A personal Vendetta ?

Recently the global design community has witnessed a new movement. A movement called AntiSpec. Slow to catch on with many part of the design community, AntiSpec is a movement that is “supposedly” focused on saving designers from – Spec(ulative) work, which  is a cancer within the design industry. Recently when I stumbled upon this movement I was amazed by the initiative and a little confused after reading about it. But what exactly is this whole initiative ? Are Designers dying of Cancer? Are Designers not finding jobs? No.  Lets begin.

Well what is AntiSpec ?

AntiSpec is an initiative by Mark Collins from UK. He is the founder and constant source of updates for the AntiSpec movement. To really understand the nature of this initiative, we need to dive in slowly into this topic. As I mentioned earlier, it focuses on how Speculative work is a cancer in the Design industry. Well whats Spec work? Spec work – Crowd Sourcing – Spec competitions, they all involve  a single designer or agency working and designing for free in the hope of winning a project or reward.

In short and simple words, today a lot of online platforms provide opportunities for clients seeking design aid to simply tap potential designers and designs in the most easiest manner. All they have to do is pick a suitable site that host design contest, pay them a fee, host a competition to design the creatives they need. That’s the easy part.  Now here’s the deal. These sites attract thousands of budding and well experienced designers and artist. They participate by designing an entry and submit it to the site. In this fashion the client receives abundant entries and not forgetting tonnes of concepts and ideas. Well like any race, we have to have a winner. Eventually the client picks a favorite design and the design is awarded with a cash prize etc.

Understanding AntiSpec ?

Lets put this in numbers. 1 client, 1 competition, 2,00,000 designers active on the host site, 1600 designers participate in the client competition, 1 winner. The other side of the coin – 1599 designers lose. Client has received not only a winning design but also those 1599 losing concepts and designs. Expected right ? Well here’s where the AntiSpec comes into play. AntiSpec stands up for all those designers  who lose. It has a general message. DO NOT use these sites. Your efforts need not go unpaid. Regardless of the fact whether you a starter or professional, you shouldn’t work for free in this manner.

You’re better off contacting a charity and designing their website for free to add to your folio rather than pissing into the wind at a crowdsourced website. Become an intern. Contact your local design agencies. Freelancers and design agencies can explain to potential clients that they have a policy not to work for free. It is proven that clients can respond positively to the self-assurance that comes from an agency that isn’t willing to sell their soul. – AntiSpec

Being a part of  AntiSpec ?

So that is basically what AntiSpec is all about. Aims at creating awareness about the this growing trend where potential talent and hard work is being washed down the drain.  Just to get a little bigger picture here, do checkout the AntiSpec website –

Currently the AntiSpec movement is supported by various communities worldwide and thousands of individual designers and artist. This movement is creating awareness and gaining a crowd gradually. They have got support from a lot of  sponsors like Media Temple , Invision and Behance . They main goals are :

1. Make the AntiSpec message clear and easy to absorb.

2. Gather thousands of designers to unite to help drive the message home.

Things you can do for AntiSpec: 

1 » Automate process so folks can add themselves [COMPLETE]

2 » Need links to existing articles on the web regarding spec work and crowdsourcing.

3 » Need some copy written for this website. [IN PROGRESS]

5 »Web badges of sorts that folks can add to their own websites to help spread the word and show support.

Under the AntiSpec scanner –

The AnitSpec tries to keep tab of such crowd sourced events. They have successfully archived a couple of site and past events that have had designers design for free. Here are some of them.

  •  The New York Times targets cartoonist to work for free – Read about it
  • You won’t find a self-respecting professional designer at 99designsRead about it
  • Penguin books crowdsource book cover for best-selling author John Green – Read about it
  • Obama supports job creation by launching a spec competition. Oh the irony. –Read about it
  • Paul McCartney & Rod Stewart Crowdsourcing Promotional Material – Read about it
  • 1stWebDesigner launches a spec competition – Read about it
  • CBC Television’s Gerry Dee wants a logo for his new TV show – Read about it
  • The Huffington Post, an AOL company, is seeking free design. Shame on them. – Read about it
At the end of the day, I ask myself.  So do I support this initiative or what ? Does this whole movement have a target or is just another  personal vendetta ?  Well in my opinion, the AntiSpec movement is more of an awareness campaign. Simply because it fails to draw a clear call-to-action. Ok so now that I’m aware of AntiSpec, I shouldn’t use sites like 99 designs ? Is that what it is about. I must admit, that this movement a right side and wrong side. Right side being it creates an awareness about the misuse of talent and also highlights other options to build a portfolio or find work without having a designer to sell his or her soul. Basically it portrays a simple message – Don’t work for free. But whats the bad site  ?  Well at the end of the day, a designer may submit a design to such crowd sourced projects out of his own free will.  AntiSpec suggest that even if you are an amateur, you shouldn’t try these options. I say WRONG.  Try these options. Yes you may not win, but it’s a mater of gaining experience. A lot of designers turn to these sites as a quick source of income. At the end of  the day, the site clearly states rules that there will only be 1 winner. Yet you have 1000+ designers participating out of own free will. And free will is something you can’t change or control. If designers want to , they will continue sending entries. But at the same time the clients too go wrong at one end. Don’t they have a heart? So many designs and ideas at their disposal and they reward only one ? But again each individual is aware of the facts!
So what do I have to say? Being a freelance designer for the last 3 years, in my opinion the AntiSpec is a good initiative to build awareness of the fact that designers need not sell their soul to grow and build their portfolio. And at the same time, I strongly believe this movement lack a call-to-action. All I’m going to say is, its a designer’s will if he or she wants to make her ideas and concepts available for free. You don’t have a say in it. But any designer who knows the value of his work and talent will never let it go for free. And when I say  ‘never lets it go for free’, it doesn’t mean it has to involve a cash reward.  But as I close this article here, I can’t help but think of the fact that crowd sourcing does enrage a large mass of people simply because it is taking away plenty of job availability.  Many who have supported AntiSpec has strongly expressed concern in regards to this subject, as more and more clients opt for crowd sourcing as it is cheaper, faster and more for a less price.
I support the AntiSpec initiative to bring about awareness, but I fail to understand the end stage of this movement. 

Keep Calm & Carry On

The story of the WWII Poster


You have probably stumbled across this poster several times, but never really understood the message it carries. This is no ordinary poster. The story of this plain and simple poster dates all the way back to the second World War. I happened to come across a recent post via twitter, where I watched a short film that told the story of  this ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ poster. It originates at the beginning of WWII and  rediscovered in a bookshop in England in 2000, becoming one of the iconic images of the 21st century.

History of this poster –  WWII (1939)

During WWII the British government created a series of posters that were to be used in times of war, that would provide the people with reassurance. These poster were to be uniform in appearance and also carried a uniform typeface and an image of the crown of King George the sixth, which would make it hard for the enemy to copy. These poster were designed only in two colors and out of all the design, 3 were finalized & went in to print. These poster aimed at  creating a sense of peace and confidence among the people during the time of war. There were 3 simple designs, that carried 3 simple messages. Out of which 2 were printed and distributed by the government. However the remaining one poster never made it out officially, until 2000 !

These were the 3 printed designs:

Out of the 3 designs, the second and the third were printed and distributed in the cities. However the first poster bearing the words “Keep calm…” was never distributed and intended to be used only in times of invasion . In the end this poster was never officially issued.

The Rediscovery:

Almost 50 years layer, this poster was rediscovered in a second hand bookshop in England. I could go on and describe its amazing rediscovery, but I think by Temujin Doran  and Nation (Concept and production) have done a beautiful job with this video.


Today only a handful of the original posters survive and most are held by the British National Archives. Only two posters are in private hands, one is held by and one by Barter Books in Alnwick, Northumberland (responsible for starting the recent popularity of the poster). This beautiful short film tells you the story of how it was rediscovered in a second hand book store in England. Even the bookstore has an amazing story – A railway station converted into a book store. It was only after the poster went up in the bookstore that people discovered it. Over the years people have replicated and sold this poster. Many seem to connect with the message it carries. While some just appreciate its design. Whatever maybe the reason, its hard for me to understand, why a phrase from the past decade would have so much appeal now. Is it the design ? Is it the message? Or perhaps its the words and simplicity it carries. Its something that many of us need in today’s busy life. Keep Calm and Carry on. Very few have been able to speak through their design. This definitely one  of the most connecting and engaging poster I have seen. Its almost like a voice out of history, for me. It offers a very simple and heart filled message for all, no matter whether its work, study, relationships, a struggle.

The message is simple – ” Keep Calm and Carry On.”

I have tried to dig up some more information about this poster. Feel free to check the links below:

  • The Store : Barter Books (UK)
  • Keep Calm iPhone app: Download
  • Article – “Stash of original iconic poster” (daily mail) – Read
  • Article – “The Greatest Motivational Poster Ever” (BBC News) – Read
  • Article –  “What Crisis? Keep Calm and Carry On: The Poster We Can’t Stop Buying” (Guardian) – Read
  • Article –  “Remixed Messages” (New York Times) – Read
  • More information on the Poster: Info
  • Keep Calm & Carry On wallpaper : Redesign – Download    Original design – Download
  • Scanned image of the original poster : Download
  • Buy the poster (Redesign) – Buy 
  • Keep Calm Carry On typeface – Download / Buy font
  • Purchase Keep Calm design merchandise  and products – Visit Store