It’s a project that lingers in limbo, neither alive or dead. For whatever reason, the work has been completed (or mostly so), but the final product has not been launched, printed, presented or used by the client.
One of the first decisions I made as an independent designer was to create a policy not to do “spec work.” We’ve been pretty successful at honoring the policy, although there are a few cases where we felt we had to do it to remain competitive.
When I present a design idea to a client, for example a selection of 5 logo concepts, I generally post the concepts to our extranet and send the client a link to view them. Every once in a while, a client will react badly to this tactic, asking why I don’t mount the concepts on black boards and present them to the executive team in person.