February 10: Graphic Design, Spec work and a Limited Edition Print

This is my graphic design and illustration round up for the month of February. As before I am going to segment this post into 4 sections. This month highlight has been the release of my first limited edition print from the Futurism series. It would be great to say they have all sold but as it’s an edition of 500 there are still a few left. There has been some talk this month again about spec work and I thought I would share my view on this from some first hand experience in my thoughts of the month section.

Thoughts of the month

Last month I questioned whether the iPad was going to be good for designers to use as portable portfolio display device over the now seemingly dated approach of showing a printed portfolio. The feedback seem to be split but I think that a printed portfolio still has the edge. This month I am going to think out loud about a couple of portfolio based questions:

“Where should I display my work?”

I read an article over the month  called Portfolios – Design, be everywhere and prosper which stated that you should put your stuff out on as many sites as possible. The reason for this is, from the article, to make sure you get the most exposure you possibly can in order to get a client who might not find you through the mainstream sites.

Personally I don’t subscribe to this and if you look at some of the best designers about at the moment neither do they or did they before they were top designers. The main issue with having your work on countless multiple sites is that you are creating a lot more work for yourself as you need to update these sites regularly and if you slip on the updating it gives an impression of a lack of detail. I also think it dilutes your work and takes away time you could be spending doing actual design work. The other thing I don’t like about it is that in my opinion it makes you look more desperate for work – which you might be, but you really don’t want to give that impression to future clients – you want them to think they have found something special when they see your work.

This is definitely one of those debates that you can argue both sides. If you are a successful designer who uses lots of sites or you have seen a top designer who self-promotes work over loads of sites please add a comment and let me know who they are.

I would stick to a handful of sites that you can manage well like Behance, Flickr, Society6 and Cargo collective – as well as your own personal site.

“What’s the deal with spec work and should I do it to increase my portfolio?”

Last year I looked at my logo portfolio and thought “I need to create some more stuff here”. Creating self-initiated logos for me is a lot harder than creating a poster or say some typography work – and it really helps to have some direction. I decided to join Crowdspring and see what the deal was with Spec work. At the time I had heard good and bad things about this but decided to give it a whirl for myself and make my own opinion.

“Spec has become the short form for any work done on a speculative basis. In other words, any requested work for which a fair and reasonable fee has not been agreed upon, preferably in writing.” – no-spec.com

My initial thoughts were “great there are loads of low quality designs on here and I’m bound to get a logo accepted”. This initially was not the case and each logo entry ended up taking up a lot of time and the majority of the logos weren’t even used. I can also list countless times when a client went for a very poor design and better designs by others were just dismissed – the main problem here being the designer isn’t given time to research properly and doesn’t take charge of the project having little input for the client on what is best for them and their company.

The main process I got into was via feedback. I would get a rough idea of what the client was asking for and then do a bunch of designs, post them and then wait for some comments. From these comments I would then create some iterations and so on (similar to how you would do it with a client on your own, with some exceptions).

The designs that didn’t make it I would use in my portfolio so the work wasn’t all wasted. In the end I came up with a few designs which were accepted like flixiq.com albeit this was my winning design before they asked to change it and ended up using the flickr-esque colouring. But overall at Crowdspring I felt cheated at the amount of work I had put in for such little gain.

So to conclude from my time in spec work I have realised that the answer to this thought is, no:

  1. The designs on Crowdspring or one of the similar spec work sites won’t be well researched and clients needs to realise how important a logo is to their company and avoid trying to get a quick, ill advised fix that they like on the cheap (which will cost them in the long term).
  2. A lot of the designers will copy work from other stock images or other designers – and in many cases have lead to lawsuits. What designer is going to spend hours creating lots of original logo work for free for it to just get ripped off by someone else and/or rejected by a client who hasn’t really explained what he is looking for in a proper brief?
  3. You can build up a portfolio of logo designs but are they going to be work you will be proud of displaying – the only time I have thought it good is when you think your design is better than the company’s current logo or chosen design (which I have done a few times).

Here is a great article on spec work that is well worth a follow up read.

Inspiration of the Month

Tavis Coburn

Website: http://www.taviscoburn.com/

Type: Graphic Designer

About: I first spotted his work from the BAFTA posters he did but he has also done a lot of other great poster work in a very distinctive style – you can find more on his website and below are my personal faves.

Flickr Advertising Stream

Website: http://www.flickr.com/photos/roadsidepictures/sets/939353/

Type: Image set

About: Flickr is full of great sets of images and this one is just one of those and proof that you can get inspiration anywhere – so many of these old package design are just great.

Press & Features of the Month

Magazines and Books

  • Paste Magazine (who annoying interviewed me but didn’t include this and also printed it with an incorrect web address)
  • The Typed Image Book (available soon)

Blogs and Websites

Graphic design of the month

This month I have kept up nicely with my Futurism design series (as I plan to do throughout the year) and I have also created some other new prints this month, all detailed below. On top of this I now have made 21 of my prints, some old and some new, available for purchasing – see the collection image below to see all of them in detail.

Threadless T-Shirts

These designs are up for scoring. If you like them please click on the images below and give me a nice score – if I get any through I will be giving a bunch of them away to my readers.

T-shirt based on Tidal Rainbow v2 print

T-shirt of International Year of Astronomy 09 Print #3
(maybe I should pick a Red tee?)

A Window of Pleasure

This is a new series of album cover style designs.

Ripple poster

This is a one off geometric poster which I created one evening. It is for sale in my print store.

CUBEN 2010

The CUBEN series gets some fresh new designs this year with a new set of Cubic Spines and a new sub set called Colour Shambles.

CUBEN – Colour Shambles

CUBEN – Cubic Spine version 2, 3, and 4

Kohina – Sahko 004 Album Artwork

A couple of designs for the relaunch of this album from Kohina. I will post some more pictures of this actual album when I get it very soon.


Beyond the International Year of Astronomy now has another 4 designs added to it – 3 of which are available to buy now.

Vintage Geometry

A new series that I have started which mixes together geometry and vintage photography.

Desktop Wallpaper

There are 2 desktop wallpapers available this month. One typography design and one of the Photoshop 20 year celebration print (click on them to download larger 1920 x 1200 wallpaper).

Colourful Universe II

New poster in the Colourful Universe series.

The World we knew is Gone – Poster #3

Another poster for this series now at number 3.

Collection of my new art prints

Here are all the new art prints that have been added to my store which you can purchase here. The print below these is the limited edition Futurism print available through Gamma Proforma.

Futurism Series

29 new Futurism designs this month – so at least 1 day! There is now over 80 designs in the series. I realise I have gone a bit mad with the new display format which I kind of like – but what do you think, bit over the top?

February, done – that wraps up another month.

As I have said before best way to follow my work is to either sign up to my new monthly Newsletter or my Flickr site, follow my Art Prints updates on Tumblr if you want to buy my work or simply follow me on Twitter if you want all this and more.