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February 22, 2012 / maloney90



About NO!SPEC. (n.d.) Available: accessed 28th Dec 2011

AIGA’s position on spec-work. (n.d.) Available: Last accessed 28th Dec 2011

Belsky, S. (2010). Crowdsourcing is Broken: How to Fix it. Available: Last accessed 6th Feb 2012

Big Blocks in Cow Town. (2009). Available: Last accessed 28th Jan 2012.

Challand, S. (2010). GAP turns to crowdsourcing (or not).Available: Last accessed 17th Jan 2012.

Comstock, G (2010). Creative Review (October). London: Centaur. 89

Douglas, S. (2010). Creative crowdsourcing & design contest. Hype or reality? Contest holder & buyer’s edition. Available: Last accessed 3rd Jan 2012.

Grefe, R. (2011). What’s the harm in crowdsourcing?. Available: Last accessed 21st Dec 2011.

Howe, J. (n.d.). Crowdsourcing: A definition. Available: Last accessed 21st Dec 2011.

Is Spec Work Evil? (2009) Available: Last accessed 28th Jan 2012.

Launch a contest. (n.d.) Available: Last accessed 17th Jan 2012.

Mooth, B. (2010). What about crowdsourcing?. Available: Last accessed 17th Jan 2012.

Redding, D. (2011). NEA reveals ‘Art Works’ logo. Available: . Last accessed 3rd Jan 2012.

Shaughnessy, A (2010). How to be a graphic designer without losing your soul. 2nd ed. London: Laurence King. 89.

What do I receive for a winning design. (2010) Available: Last accessed 6th Feb 2012.


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February 17, 2012 / maloney90


It looks like crowdsourcing is here to stay it continues to grow and is being used more and more by businesses even though it has obvious problems. Until these problems are sorted crowdsourcing will continue to be detrimental to design and the design community as it undermines and exploits the industry. Crowdsourcing websites provide businesses and clients a market place were they can get a vast amount of designs at the lowest possible prices, where they only have to pay one out of a hundred designers for work they have done. But by paying the lowest possible price comes a comprise in quality work. As the client only supplies a brief and no other form of contact designers can only produce work from the information in the brief, unable to question the client and find out more designers work suffers as the a missing an integral part of the design process; questioning the client and finding out their true needs. It leads us back to Misha Black’s quote “when the client and designer are in sympathy, they can together produce better work than that of which either alone would be capable of” and this is what crowdsourcing prevents; designers and clients working together as equals towards to the same goal instead the client is nothing more than a consumer and the designers are the slaves producing work hoping for very little pay if any at all.

Until these issues are tackled crowdsourcing will continue to undermine, devalue and dilute design.

February 17, 2012 / maloney90

How we can improve crowdsourcing

With all the problems that crowdsourcing has there must be solutions to how we can improve it. One of the main issues that people have with crowdsourcing is that the competition winner is the only person who gets paid while the other 100 or so people in the competition receive nothing. One way we could fix this problem is to pay people a percentage of the prize money for competing in the contest with the winner receiving the full amount, although this would mean clients paying money to on average 100 designers who are said to enter each competition which would not be feasible, but if the client could pick their own crowd of around 10 designers for their competition they would be able to pay all of them. This is an idea Scott Belsky raises were he looks at architecture’s lead were “3 to 12 architects are selected to propose a rough set of plans for the building based on the quality of their previous work. Each one is compensated with a submission payment that helps to cover their costs, with the full fee for the project going to the architect ultimately selected.” (Belsky, S. 2010) If the client could pick their own crowd for their competition they would be able to quality control the contest as they be able to judge which designers would be best based on the previous work they have submitted to the site and how many competitions they have won.

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Another model crowdsourcing sites could follow is that implemented by Threadless. Threadless is an online t-shirt company whose t-shirts designs are uploaded by their users who then rate each t-shirt, at the end of each week the 10 t-shirts with the highest ratings are made. Winning designers receive $2000 as well $500 gift card and membership to Threadless Alumni Club. (What do I receive for a winning design. 2010) What’s more the winning designer gets to keep the rights to their designs unlike conventional crowdsourcing websites. The Threadless model allows the designers to become involved with the company as well receiving the prize money they also become members of the exclusive Alumni Club, which allows a community to be built rather than just complete unknowns competing against each other. Also the fact that the designers and users of the website rate each t-shirt means that there is a level of quality control going on in that the best designs the majority of the time receive the highest ratings. This is something other crowdsourcing sites could take on board with designers that are not involved in a competition voting for which work they think is the best so that when the client comes to choose a winner they have an indication of what designs are good an which are bad without having to look over 100 individual designs.

 Figure 12: Threadless allows you to rate t-shirts with the highest rating t-shirt being made

The other major problem crowdsourcing has is the lack of dialogue between the designers and the client. Due to the fact that so many designers enter the competition and the fact that they are scattered all around the world it would be impossible for the client to see the designers to discuss ideas and answer their questions. But if on each competition a forum is setup so designers can communicate with the client it would go some way as to helping them communicate with the client which would help when it comes to ideas and the design solutions, this should in turn result in better quality design solutions.

The added benefit of a forum also helps to establish a relationship between the client and designers which could lead to the winning designer being involved in doing more work for the client, for instance if it is a logo competition the client might ask the winning designer to do the whole identity for the business which give the designer more work and money. This would also help stop the idea of design being seen as a commodity were clients visit a crowdsourcing website state what they want then come back a week latter and they have a smorgasbord of designs to choose from, it would involve clients in the design process and if so give them a designer who they could continue to work with.

February 17, 2012 / maloney90

Crowdsourcing democratizing or diluting design?

As heated as the people who oppose crowdsourcing there are people who are equally passionate about supporting it. The people who support crowdsourcing believe it helps to democratize design giving people a level playing field on which to compete, indeed this is the point Mike Samson, creator of, argued at the ‘SXSW Conference’ saying that “it democratizes the industry, it gives people opportunity and access who might not have had that opportunity and access, the internet enables this. It allows people from all over the world to compete on a completely level playing field.” (Is Spec Work Evil? 2009) When talked about like this we can see why crowdsourcing seems like such a good idea, a level playing field were everyone is only judged on the work they submit and anyone can submit work to any competition, so in theory you could have a designer from Pentagram competing in the same competition as an amateur who only has a basic understanding of the Adobe Creative Suite and there would be no bias towards one over the other they would be based solely on the work they submitted for the competition. It also can be away for design students and graduates to experience working on a live brief and dealing with a client’s needs. At the conference Mike Samson discussed this point saying that graduates when trying to gain experience will do placements and internships for little or no money and crowdsourcing sites allow them to gain the same type of experience but in a different way.

 Although at the same discussion David Carson argued that “no serious or professional designer would be associated with these sites” and that now design and ad agencies “blacklist those that do, its kind of a negative to say oh yeah I submitted 5000 sketches and I didn’t win this time but I might next time.” (Is Spec Work Evil? 2009)

Although crowdsourcing is democratizing design it appears that it is also diluting design and lowering the standards of design. When we look at some of winners of crowdsourcing competitions we should ask ‘is this work to the same quality of a design studio?’ Most of the time the answer is no, but why is this? Yes on crowdsourcing websites a lot of people with no background in design are submitting their designs but so are lots of designers who have experience and probably have a better understanding of what the client is asking for in the brief. The answer to why the work is of inferior quality lies in something that has already been mentioned, the client-designer relationship. Below are two examples of museum logos one (Madison’s Children Museum), which won the design competition on crowdSPRING the other (Fort Worth Museum), was designed by Pentagram.

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Both logos are designed in similar styles and both are catered towards children, so why is the Pentagram logo deemed better? While the Madison Children’s Museum logo is very nice and well crafted, that is all it is, it is superficial. Where as the Pentagram logo is part of a whole identity, the letters FWM are part of a font that Pentagram designed for the museum and the shapes are used throughout the brand. Pentagram was also able to research and ask the clients questions about the museum and their solution came from asking these questions; they found out that the museum’s architecture had a recurring theme of using cubes and squares and this has been used in the logo and throughout the identity. (Big Blocks in Cow Town. 2009) It was through research but more importantly talking to the client and architects of the museum that Pentagram was able to reach their design solution; they went further than just using the brief they had been given. Compared this to the design for Madison’s Children Museum were all the designer was given was a simple brief and a week or so to come up with ideas, they were unable to question the client or find out any more information which could have helped in the design process and helped them come up with a more interesting solution.

February 17, 2012 / maloney90

Why businesses decide to use crowdsourcing

It’s easy to see why a business would choose to crowdsource it’s new logo. Crowdsourcing is cheap and easy to do and it appears to be good value for money, £195 (Launch a contest. n.d.) for a selection of one hundred logos to choose from? It sounds like an offer to good to refuse. It’s nothing new either, clients have always asked designers to produce some work for free or for cheap so that the could get an idea of our style or our thought process, now with crowdsourcing they can do this but can use a much larger crowd.

For small businesses you can see the appeal of crowdsourcing, where as in the past the may have gone to a sign maker or print shop and asked a logo and some business cards they can now go online and ask for the same thing and get a bigger and better choice. It should be considered that these small businesses most likely don’t have the budget to pay a design agency to create a solution for them and crowdsourcing gives them the opportunity to get a well designed logo for their business. There is also the fact that design agencies probably wouldn’t even take on these clients as they’re deemed low-level and that by them crowdsourcing a logo is not preventing design agencies getting work but “simply replacing the quick-print guy and the executive assistants.” (Mooth, B. 2010)

Figure 7: Would a design agency really want to design a cleaner’s business card?

Some businesses believe that crowdsourcing is a way for them to connect with their customers, setting up crowdsourcing competitions for customers to enter where they will then take the best design and use it for an advert or turn it into a logo. This is what Peperami did for an advert back in October 2010 they posted a brief online asking for ideas for a T.V spot with the winner receiving £6,000 and Peperami getting a new advert. Everyone’s a winner it seems although Peperami by crowdsourcing the advert managed to save around “60-70% on the cost of using a traditional agency.” (Comstock, G. 2010:89)

Figure 8: Peperami’s crowdsourced advert

Although it doesn’t always work this well for businesses in the same month GAP redesigned it’s logo, which caused an outcry from its customers and many design blogs and publications. To try and save the situation GAP announced that it had been listening to its customers and now “we’re asking you to share your designs. We love our version, but we’d like to see other ideas. Stay tuned for details in the next few days on this crowdsourcing project.” (Challand, S. 2010) The crowdsourcing project never happened and GAP realizing they had misjudged the whole situation reverted back to their old logo.

February 17, 2012 / maloney90

How crowdsourcing affects the designer-client relationship

Designers for the most part need clients, in the simplest of terms they provide designers with work and they pay us. Designers and clients should see each other as equals working together towards a mutual goal. It is through this partnership based on equality that designer and client can work together more effectively and through mutual respect, honesty and frank discussing in meetings they can produce worthwhile work, as designer Misha Black put it “when the client and designer are in sympathy, they can together produce better work than that of which either alone would be capable of.” (Shaughnessy, A. 2010:89) The designer-client relationship is critical to the design process; through meetings with the clients and discussing and understanding their needs the designer is then in a better position to create work which will meet or exceed the needs of the client.

Figure 6: A typical brief on a crowdsourcing website

When a business decides to crowdsource a project they lose the client-designer relationship. When it comes to crowdsourcing all a client does is fill in a creative brief to tell the designers what they require and then wait for the designs to be submitted. With crowdsourcing no dialogue takes place between the designers and clients, communication is only one way from the client to the designers through the creative brief they post online. This is counter-productive for the designer as they have only a small piece of information to work from for them to come up with solutions and they are unable to ask the client for any additional information that could be useful to them. With the designer unable to communicate with anyone regarding designs or concepts their designs will suffer and the whole process becomes “frustrating, highly impersonal, and ultimately disappointing.” (Redding, D. 2011)

Businesses who use crowdsourcing don’t always come out unscathed. As there is little communication the client needs to make sure their creative brief is as clear and expansive as possible so they can be sure they get what they require. But not all clients know what they need, they may want a logo but they don’t know how the want it to appear or they’re unable to communicate what they want into their creative brief in which case they’re left with a large selection of work they don’t like which they still have to pick and pay for. There is also the danger of choosing a logo that has been plagiarized and you run the risk of being subject to copyright claims. (Douglas, S. 2010)

February 8, 2012 / maloney90

The industry’s stance on crowdsourcing

AIGA the professional body for design discourages designers from taking part in crowdsourcing or doing spec-work as they believe that “professional designers should be compensated fairly for their work and negotiate the ownership use of their intellectual and creative property through an engagement with clients.” (AIGA’s position on spec-work. n.d.) AIGA also points out how crowdsourcing and spec-work is detrimental to both designer and client as the client risks receiving work that is of lower quality as the designer hasn’t had enough time to thoroughly research and come out with alternative solutions for the client to consider. It is not just about discouraging designers from crowdsourcing AIGA also aims to educate clients about why approaching designers to take part in crowdsourcing or spec-work is not necessarily always the best option.

As designers have become more fearful of the increase in work being crowdsourced a campaign NO!SPEC has began to try and bring the issue into the public spotlight. The aim of the NO!SPEC campaign is to promote “professional, ethical business practices by saying NO! to spec.” (About NO!SPEC. n.d.)

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As we can see the industry is strongly against crowdsourcing yet it is continuing to thrive. This is probably down to the fact that as long as there are clients submitting briefs and offering money there will always be people willing to enter the contests. The people taking part don’t take into account the fact that they are not being fairly compensated for the work they are submitting they just see the chance to win money.