Spec Work and Contests

The two always seems awkwardly close.

Spec Work:

Please design this menu for us. If we like it, we’ll pay you for it. And maybe more work if you’re lucky!


If you’d like, you may submit to our menu design content. The winner gets a prize!

Largely I think contests are fine and spec work is not. But what if the “contest” says:

The winner of this contest gets $50,000 and their work will be used on menus at a prestigious organization all around the world.

Hm. Now it feels more like spec work again. It’s being billed as a contest, but the prize is so enticing that you might as well be asking. And it’s the asking that makes it feel like spec work to me.