When you think of mortal enemies you think of legendary foes like the Hatfields and the McCoys, Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty, Batman and the Joker. Design also has a mortal enemy that’s come to power in the last few years and it is called crowdsourcing. Many well known companies are participating in this method of receiving design services and it’s becoming more and more popular. The worst part is the design community is eagerly participating.
What is Crowdsourcing?
Imagine a company or organization looking for a new logo and devising a way to cut costs by creating a “contest” (through a third party rep) where they offer a cash prize to the winning design. Imagine the amount of spec hours spent by the design collective, all hoping to win recognition and fame. Imagine that, and you’ll see what crowdsourcing is all about. A real contest is where people submit their work to compete against one another with the result of a single winner. Crowdsourcing uses this formula and perverts it by adding one more element to it; they keep the work, even the work that didn’t win, and use it for their branding and marketing benefit in any way they see fit.
Why It’s Bad For The Company
The company is obviously looking for a way to get thousands of options for very little out-of-pocket-costs. They think they’re going to get a product that will serve their branding endeavors, because they believe that design is about how you want to look and in reality it’s all about how you want to be perceived. There is no design brief so you can’t do any research or do a background search on the company’s competitors. Also, the designer’s careless involvement with the project lacks a proper engagement with the client. Plus, the designer’s know they’re working for free, so they turn out a quick piece of work in hopes of gaining instant fame. The company is oblivious to the fact that their new logo lacks effectiveness and value. By skipping the design brief and the client/designer relationship, you are essentially writing a biography without knowing anything about the subject. The result is an ineffective and mediocre piece of work.
Why It’s Bad For The Creative
You just won the contest and the cash prize. Awesome! You should be congratulated, but instead you’ve made your life much worse without knowing. By taking this shortcut called crowdsourcing, you’ve participated in telling the whole world that what you and the rest of your design brethren do is push buttons. You’ve helped reinforce to the ignorant that what we do has no value and that this is the way design services should be commissioned. And the worst part is that you’ve made it harder for all the other designers who aren’t participating in crowdsourcing.
You can’t skip the starving-artist phase of your creative growth process. You have to go through the hurdles of finding your clients, designing for them, dealing with them, sometimes getting into it with them and making them happy. If you don’t value what you do as a designer, no one will. It’s your responsibility, as part of the design community to help educate people on the benefits of design and the creative process. Taking part in these phony contests cheapens what we all do.
Butterflies and moths are pretty similar, with the butterfly being the prettier and most popular of the two, but did you know that when a moth emerges from its cocoon it can spin silk? A butterfly can’t do that. Moth’s are faster, stronger, but struggle twice as much when breaking through their cocoons. That struggle is necessary for their survival. Without it they would be too weak and die. The struggle is nature’s way of strengthening the moth and as designers, we’ll definitely struggle and go through some hard times. We’ll even take on less-than-exciting projects at the beginning of our careers, but I encourage you to embrace the struggle and become exceptional.
I promise that every tough step you take is incrementally moving you closer to the designer you want to be. Give yourself that chance and never participate in crowdsourcing. And most importantly, spread the word!
Dennis Salvatier is the principal and lead designer of Salvatier Studios. When he isn’t providing graphic design and illustration services at Salvatier Studios, he’s creating fun illustrations as Tanoshiboy. He is a fan of comic books, movies, doodling on napkins, his lovely wife and connecting with other creatives, so say hello! Read Dennis’ blog