Crowd sourcing design can be a nasty issue. On one hand, many burgeoning startups see crowd sourcing design as an ingenious method of getting their design work done. On the other, designers and the design industry are being undermined as a result of it.
Put simply, crowd sourcing design is a design competition where a client offers payment to the designer whose design best suits the client’s needs. As NoContests.org, a website dedicated to the stopping of crowd sourcing design, brilliantly states that crowd sourcing design, “asks for people to perform the work ahead of time, at no cost, for a remote chance of payment. This would be unacceptable in any other profession.” Personally, as a professional designer, I categorically stand against crowd sourcing design, and I hope after reading this article you stand with me as well as the many other designers who are against it. Crowd sourcing design belittles the design industry and designers as a whole by asking us to work for free, encouraging unoriginality and turning design into a cheap commodity.
When we see things from an entrepreneurial perspective, we can see why crowd sourcing design has become so popular. People are always trying to cut costs in order to increase profit. Good design is costly, especially to people that lack capital. If they can get a logo for $5 versus a logo for $250 they are going to go with the cheaper rate. Many people don’t understand the design process and as a result, both the $5 and $250 logos are the same to them. However, try telling someone in the middle of Asia, who needs to feed their family, with the monetary conversion rate being out of this world that they shouldn’t work for $5. As unfortunate as this is, this is the reality with which we as designers are faced.
When we see things from a design perspective, we truly see the dirty factors of which crowd sourcing design is composed. When we as designers participate in a crowd sourcing competition, we are competing with hundreds or sometimes even thousands of our peers. Of course, we do this every day. However, when doing it in the aim of capturing a contest prize things can get very sticky.
We begin by working for free with no guaranteed form of payment. We gain no exposure since the only people to see the design work are the ones who proposed the contest. NoContests.org put it beautifully. They described design contests as basically asking 40 restaurants to cook dinner for you and then only paying for the food from the one that you liked. Even if we do participate in crowd sourced design contests and give it our all at first, like many young designers often do when trying to break into the market, eventually as we begin to realise our self-worth crowd sourced design contests will get the worst of our work, if even get our work at all. Too many times the winners of these contests are found guilty of plagiarism. In the event of crowd sourcing you often find designers giving substandard work or sometimes barely tweaking an existing logo. One recent, infamous example is the 2020 Olympic Games logo.
Crowd sourcing design work breeds monotony and unoriginality. A designer will not take the time to do all the research a client would provide through a proper brief, extract wonderful ideas from the depths of their imagination and craft their design project with their love for design for free. We’re very aware that we are competing with a countless number of our colleagues worldwide and we know that no matter how good we are our work still may not be chosen due to forces outside of our control. If we’re being honest, we can most times tell the difference between a crowd sourced design project and a carefully designed one. There is absolutely no comparison.
The reality of the industry is that many of us designers are unemployed or underemployed. As a result, crowd sourcing companies decided to exploit their situations by creating a medium for clients to offer jobs to us, at an extremely undervalued cost. We glance at a brief, whip something up in twenty minutes and attempt another. The entire design process is completely boycotted and the personal touch no longer remains. Soon, the world will be saturated with uninspired design. Design is not a cheap commodity. It is worth so much more than that. There is a reason large companies invest so many resources into proper design. And one may counteract that they do not have the capital to afford proper design work. While this is true for many startups, companies such as Nike, for example, were also startups at one point. Nike’s famous “swoosh” logo was designed by a no-named student who is now known by almost every graphic designer, Carolyn Davidson. Great design work is affordable. A company’s design work, startup or not, tells half of its story.
Also, to touch briefly on this, there is a difference between crowd sourced design competitions and good design competitions for the sake of competitiveness. Good design competitions are often judged by experts in the field. Furthermore, the entries receive exposure regardless of whether it is chosen as the final work. Good competitions are meant to add vitality to the design world. Crowd sourced design competitions demean the design world.
As wrong as crowd sourcing design is, it seems as though it is here to stay. All we can do is try our best to spread the message and educate people on its dangers while boycotting it. Let’s not ruin our industry. Designers are problem solvers. Crowd sourcing design is a problem. Let’s keep trying to build our industry by doing what we do best.