What Do You Think About Crowdsourced Design?

The new website GraphicDesign.com is using provocative topics and poll questions to attract and engage readers. For example, GraphicDesign.com recently asked readers to weigh on the controversial topic of crowdsourced design.

Crowdsourcing is defined as “the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people and especially from the online community rather than from traditional employees or suppliers.”

Slightly more than half (56%) of the respondents said “No” they didn’t think crowdsourcing was hurting the graphic design business. The other 44% said “Yes” it was.

Of the 122 people who answered the poll question if they had ever participated in crowdsourced or spec work, 35% selected the response:  “A few times and I would do it again.” Another 27% said they had never done so, while 24% took part in crowdsourcing “all the time.” The remaining 14% of respondents chose the answer: “A few times, but I would not do it again.”

Nearly 70% of respondents agreed that crowdsourcing was “a good way to build my book,” with only 35% dubbing the practice “bad for our industry.” In another question, 80% of respondents said “Yes” to the query: “Do you feel that crowdsourcing helps a student or someone starting out in graphic design?”

The poll questions tied in with an article entitled “Crowdsourced Design: Commoditization or Democratization?” in which NSG Design owner Nicole Spiegel-Gotsch talked with the CEO of the crowdsourcing design firm 99designs Patrick Llewellyn and the President of Sterling Brands Design Division Debbie Millman.

Llewellyn defended crowdsourcing, noting that it encourages community participation, affords informal design feedback, and even allows entrants to win prizes. Even though 99designs has designers on staff, the firm went to the masses for the massive redesign of the front page of their website.

Llewellyn says crowdsourcing can have a life-changing impact for some designers: “99designs has paid out almost $1.5 million a month to winning designers… Some have built such a large following that they no longer have time for contests.”

The home page redesign contest has received over 400 entries to date from over 120 designers.  Moreover, 99designs currently has over 1,500 open contests.

Debbie Millman painted a less-than-rosy picture of crowdsourcing, asserting, “At the end of the day, [crowdsource businesses] get paid and clients get a plethora of design options for free. How is that fair?” Millman believes portfolios and proposals are a better way for would-be designers to share their work.

“When people are willing to do work for free, it becomes very demoralizing,” said Millman. “How many millions of dollars in free work is being given away?”

The article attracted more than 45 comments from readers. Neil Tortorella suggested that that 99designs could try crowdsourcing their management decisions. “If they believe crowdsourcing is the fun community answer, what the heck? How hard can it be?”

Another reader wondered if graphic design is the only field in which companies are taking advantage of creative professionals who are so passionate about “breaking in” that they will work for free. (The short answer to that question of course is “no.” Photographers, writers, and artists have all been asked to do work for free, simply to get the “exposure.”)

Some commenters compared the quality of crowdsourced to commissioned work. One reader wrote: “I can hire 10 designers and have them each spend three hours on a design, and I will end up with 10 mediocre designs. Or, I can hire one designer to work back and forth and spend 30 hours on a few concepts that are truly brainstormed, unique and carefully planned out.”

Spiegel-Gotsch suggested a hybrid between free crowdsourcing and paid work. In essence, the designers whose work was not chosen through crowdsourcing could still receive some sort of “kill fee.”  As Spiegel-Gotsch noted, “What could be so bad about having both the competitive aspect and getting paid for your work?”


Crowdsourced Design: Democratization or Commoditization?

Press Release: Impact of Crowdsourcing Graphic Design Appears Mixed

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