Crowdsourcing your design project fails all involved, here’s why:

Crowdsourcing fails the client because those designers willing to gamble on putting in hours of work in the slim hope that they win a contest against hundreds or perhaps even thousands of competitors, for a modest or usually insulting ‘prize’, are people who—putting it bluntly—don’t really care about doing a decent job, and why should they? After all,  it’s unlikely they’ll even get paid. Unless of course, they happen to be insane, in which case their heart may be in the right place but their head really isn’t. So, they’re either insane, don’t give a damn, or they live in rural India, operate in a vastly different economy and likely have zero genuine insight into your market, or even the wider culture in which your market lives. In fact, my in-depth scientific research concludes that the closest they’ve come to your business and audience is a Hollywood movie. A Tom Hanks Hollywood movie from the 1980s. I’m not sure I’d want to consider watching a 1980s Tom Hanks movie as market research, but there they are—the cold, hard facts. Of course, they’re not all from India, and no doubt there’s some talented designers in India, but lets face facts, most designers on crowdsourcing sites haven’t got a clue, bless their cotton socks. Assuming they can actually afford cotton socks considering they’re doing all this work for free.

Crowdsourcing fails the designer because they’re rarely ever going to get paid and they can’t even plan a project properly because they’re working for the slender chance that someone will choose their logo or whatever it is from a slop bucket full of others. All they can do is think “Bish-bash-bosh, gotta bang out a logo in an hour”. And that is what you get. You get a take-away logo that is boshed out in an hour, by a student, in India, who has no socks.

Let’s get scientific, here’s how crowdsourcing ACTUALLY works, this is what you are getting involved in should you choose to:

  • Client has a problem and decides they need to do something about it, but they likely have little or no experience in marketing or design or whatever it is they are asking for
  • Client does their best to make a brief, so they ask for ‘a logo’ or ‘a brochure’ or whatever it is they have decided they need
  • Client decides their brand identity is worth an entire $300. Sweet, I can already see these guys mean business and are well invested in their important project!
  • Thousands of random people, hobbyists, juveniles, moonlighters, chimpanzees with typewriters, people from the far corners of the planet and even jailed serial killers go ahead and produce logos, with literally zero dialogue with the client. Zero opportunity to gain insight or to provide a unique third party perspective based on talks with the client, and zero collaboration or iteration to ensure the clients needs are met
  • Client now has to choose from thousands of options, with no explanation or rationale offered. They have to make a choice based solely on their own taste rather than the expertise and experience of bona fide industry professionals
  • Client walks away with a logo with no guidance or clue on how it should be used, no strategy as to their brand message, nothing. Just a logo that could have been plucked from clip art or a stock image site for all they know, but hey, it’s only copyright infringement, who cares?!

Here’s an example of a professional creative process:

  • Client has a problem, so chooses someone to work with based on their ability, experience and budget.
  • Client explains the problem to their chosen partner, they discuss the clients business in depth, asking questions, gaining genuine insight and understanding.
  • Designer assesses the problem and puts forward what they deem the best solution based upon their knowledge, experience, and expertise. The client should offer transparency as to their budget, the designer can then work out the best solution based on that budget. Afterall, you don’t just walk into a tailors and say “How much is a suit?”
  • Assuming client agrees with proposed solution, the designer can then begin the creative work.
  • As they have produced a quote based on knowledge and experience, they know they can work effectively to provide a quality end result.
  • Client approves creative, perhaps after some iteration.
  • Product is launched, success, everybody is happy!

So, there’s an example of how you can achieve a successful project. The former shows how you will more than likely fail thanks to crowdsourcing, and why you are an idiot if you choose to work on crowdsourcing projects, and an even bigger idiot if you think it will benefit your business.

The only people who benefit from crowdsourcing, are the parasites that run the crowdsourcing sites and cream heavy percentages from every project.

End rant!

  1. David Martin says: August 3, 20117:57 pm

    Thanks for sharing your perspective Chris, this article is specifically about crowdsourcing by the way. I’d like to address your points anyway:

    A company who is betting millions that design work with have it’s intended effect needs to know that the work can be done.
    Of course they do, anyone investing in an important project (not betting) should of course take the selection process seriously and choose a company that can prove their proficiency in whichever field it may be.

    Designers only show you their best work in their portfolio not their major screw-ups.
    Of course they show their best work. The selection process should involve some conversation and exlpanation of process and expectations on both parts, a good working relationship requires transparency and trust.

    It’s me getting fucked in the ass by a designer who won’t listen or thinks too highly of himself and stretching his capabilities
    Again, it sounds like your selection process is to blame here, if you had a project worth millions, and at global reach, rurely you would have been better to invest more wisely and choose a reputable design agency rather than perhaps take a cheap route of hiring a freelancer who it seems obviously wasn’t up to the task. As in any industry which has no official regulation or accreditations, the design industry has its share of blaggers and cowboys. It’s important to choose wisely and be certain they are up to the task, not choose someone who is ‘stretching their capabilities’.

    It’s more about paying for someone who can do the work
    Exactly, I couldn’t agree more!

    It’s a fucking insult when I am paying for something and can’t see what I am paying for
    Unfortunately, the nature of design projects doesn’t allow you to see what you’re paying for before the work has begun, it’s a bespoke service and you can’t expect someone to work on a project on the basis that they may or may not get paid depending on whether you like what you see at the end. Design is subjective, and with respect, clients do to some degree need to place trust that what they are being given is good for their audience, and may not necessarily to their individual tastes. That said poor quality is poor quality, so make sure you work with a proven designer or team.

    Design is not a grocery store where you can choose off the shelf products, it’s very much a collaboration between professionals and both sides need to have good communication. I wrote a bit on this here: Stop, collaborate and Listen

    Anyway, sorry you had a bad experience, but I can assure you that crowdsourcing ideas from hundreds of random people is not a good idea. Pitching is a different story in some instances, my pitches would certainly not involve supplying creative or ideas for free however, but I would make the effort to convince you of my process and abilities so you could be certain.

    Thanks again for your post.

  2. David Martin says: August 3, 201111:30 pm

    apologies for the typos

  3. Sonya Yencer says: September 22, 20113:08 pm

    I am especially appalled at design industry-related publications that run contests for designers to submit cover artwork for one of their publications. How could these “reputable” design publications have the gall to run contests based on spec work?

  4. David Martin says: September 22, 20113:21 pm

    Agreed, it’s crazy, as an industry we should be promoting best practice and what is best for our industry, not encouraging exploitative techniques based on some notion that ‘exposure’ will pay off in the end.

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