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Four Design Links: October 22, 2009

We're not trendy, but we are well-read. You can be, too: Four Design Links is trolling the interwebs so you don't have to.

1. Is Spec Work Ever Okay?

Threadless Website

Threadless is a popular t-shirt company who crowdsources its designs from user submissions. Chosen designs are awarded $2,500 with bonuses for reprints and a shot at a larger prize in a yearly “best-of” competition. But of course, the company might make a hundred times that in sales, which has led some to accuse it of basing its business on spec work.

Jake Nickell, CEO of Threadless, doesn’t argue that he uses spec work, but he disagrees that what his company does is a bad thing. His argument is that Threadless submissions 1. Allow designers to keep their copyrights 2. Are an open process with no specifications (no brief) 3. Pay quite a bit. Most importantly, he says, people who submit to Threadless do it for enjoyment and not for the money.

I’m torn. On one hand, it doesn’t answer the critics of spec work which argue for professional engagement– that design is serious business which is not something to be farmed out on the cheap to amateurs. On the other, people who aren’t designers like to make things and Threadless actually seems to give them a fair shake. I’m not sure what the breakdown is ethically. But if you’re going to solicit spec work, I suppose there’s a sea of people out there doing worse.

2. 2D Boy Asks Customers to Name Their Price

Survive an Avalanche with an Avalung

For their 1 year anniversary, 2D Boy, makers of DLB-favorite World of Goo, allowed customers to name their price for the game.

The sale seems to have been successful, resulting in 57,000 copies sold at an average price of $2.03. While most paid a dollar or less, more than 3,000 spent $10 or more.

2D Boy posted an analysis of their data from the sale, along with a qualitative survey. While the largest percentage of respondents said they bought the game because it was affordable, an almost equal number said they purchased it in support of the pay-what-you-want pricing model.

More ammunition to reject DRM? If it’s a quality product, priced low enough (or flexibly priced), and free of restrictions, there’s profit to be made.

3. Left vs. Right World Infographic

David McCandless: Left vs. Right

David McCandless (Information is Beautiful) is unstoppable. Here he is, in his third Four Design Links mention with this smart-looking infographic charting the ideology of the left and right in the US.

4. 10 Useful Usability Findings and Guidelines

Survive an Avalanche with an Avalung
Nielsen: Effective User Testing Doesn’t Have To Be Extensive

Smashing Magazine has a great post full of usability tips, with links to many more. Of course, some of them are intuitive, but it’s nice to have the research citations. Time to study up!

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NickOct 22, 2009

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