The Gap redesign has sparked a lot of discussion in the design community about crowd-sourcing and spec work. In a recent article, Francisco Inchauste argued that designers’ reaction to Gap’s new logo was serving to lessen the importance of design in the public’s eye. Mike Monteiro also wrote a satirical post directed at Gap to illustrate his similar take on the redesigns that were popping up everywhere yesterday.

I absolutely agree that spec work is bad, and that some reactions from designers were unprofessional and undermine design in the public eye. But I think certain redesigns, notably those posted on Dribbble, are perfectly acceptable because there is a fundamental difference between crowd sourcing and Dribbble. And that difference is audience.

Dribbble is a community for designers. It allows us to share our work with each other and to receive feedback. Although everyone can view Dribbble shots, it is a closed community with a specific audience. When someone uploads a Gap redesign idea to Dribbble they aren’t talking to Gap, they are talking to other designers. It’s not the equivalent of “Hey Gap, I want this to be your new logo, here it is.”, it’s more “Hey guys, I know we all hate the new logo, here are my ideas.”

And that is where it is completely different from spec work. The designers had no intention of giving their work away for free, they were simply adding to the discussion. This is something we do all the time in design. Were the iTunes logo redesigns spec work? Was Dustin Curtis’ note to American Airlines spec work? Is the Dollar Redesign Project spec work? I don’t think so, they are all examples of designers talking to each other and attempting to strengthen the importance of design in the public’s mind; counteracting the consequences of working for nothing.

What’s more is that these shots on Dribbble are not complete identity solutions; they are mere sketches of concept. The designers didn’t take into account different scenarios, or the direction Gap wanted to steer its brand, or create a set of brand guidelines. All they did was post a quick concept on Dribbble for other designers to look at. People who are outraged act like they just did all the work for Gap for free, when they barely started process. There’s no need to acknowledge the shots on Dribbble as finalized solutions in the first place. It could even be argued that those who have treated the concept sketches as finished logos have their own share in the undermining of design.