Monday, June 20, 2011

Crowdsourcing Won’t Help You

I originally wrote this post for Duane Kinsey at Logobird. Surprisingly, many readers have yet to read it so I thought I'd share it here on the blog. This is a very touchy subject that designers are sometimes divided on, so I would like to hear from the design community. Share your thoughts, disagreements and success or non-success stories.

In the last few years crowdsourcing has become the single greatest enemy to design, more so when it comes to logo design. Let’s start off with an explanation about what crowdsourcing is.

This is when a company or an organization offers a fixed amount of money as a cash prize for a chosen design. They define this as a contest. The designers then submit their logo designs for review with the hopes of the potential cash prize. When a specific designer’s entry is chosen, that designer and only that designer, gets paid for their work; leaving the hundreds of other designers twiddling their thumbs.
From a layman’s point of view this contest might seem like a fair trade, but it’s not fair at all. Not to the company and not to the designer.

Why it's Not Fair To The Company
The company is looking for a logo that will best define their brand and all that that will encompass. The problem is that the designers that participate in this method are usually creatives who have a careless engagement with the project. They know they’re working for free, so they skip what’s important about the process and churn out a piece of work they hope will win them instant fame. This careless engagement bypasses the craft of logo design and gives birth to mediocre work that is then declared the ‘winner”. The company is oblivious to the fact that their new logo lacks effectiveness and value. What is skipped in the process is the engagement between client and designer, and the design brief. Without those two elements you are essentially writing a biography without knowing anything about the subject.

Why It’s Not Fair To The Creative
You just won X amount of money and recognition throughout the web, but what you don’t know is that you’ve just had some discount sushi. What this means is that your choice seemed like a great idea at the time, but it will come back to hurt you. Why? Because you haven’t delivered good work and it’s now searchable on the web. When it’s found it will be recognized for what it is to those who see it. Disagree with me? Name one designer who has gone onto have a lucrative career due to crowdsourcing. There isn’t any. Designers who participate in crowdsourcing continue to crowdsource in hopes to make it big. Let me tell you right now, you cannot skip the starving-artist phase. It is a part of your growth process. You must go through the hurdles of being a young designer, finding your clients, serving them and doing great work every time. You must add value to your work and design as a whole (it’s all of our responsibility), and crowdsourcing cheapens what you and the rest of the design community does.

When a moth emerges from its cocoon it can spin silk, something that the more popular butterfly cannot do. They’re also faster, stronger, but struggle twice as much when breaking through their cocoons. Without that struggle they would be too weak to survive. The struggle is nature’s way of strengthening it. As designers, we’ll go through some rough times and take on less than exciting projects at the beginning of our careers. I promise you that no matter how small the project may be, it is incrementally moving you closer to where you want to be. Crowdsourcing is not the answer. It won’t strengthen you as a designer whether you win or lose. Embrace the struggle and become exceptional.

Happy Designing,

Dennis Salvatier

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