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February 8, 2012 / maloney90

What is crowdsourcing?

Just what is crowdsourcing? Jeff Howe, the man who coined the term defines crowdsourcing “as the act of taking a job traditionally performed by a designated agent and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call.” (Howe, J. n.d.)

In relation to design this is when instead of approaching an agency or a group of agencies the client uses a crowdsourcing website (like crowdSPRING or 99Designs) and posts their brief online, sets the time scale for the project and sets a price. Once all this has been done and the brief is posted online designers or members of the public will start to come up with their solutions for brief and then posts their solutions online for the client to see. At the end of the project the client chooses what they believe is the best design and the person who came up with the solution is the one who receives the payment. Crowdsourcing is basically spec-work competed for online with clients having access to a wider range of designers who will compete for their work.

Figure 1: Just some of the crowdsourcing websites

The problem I find with crowdsourcing is that it turns the design process into nothing more than a transaction for the clients, they merely write out the brief and offer to pay a certain amount then wait a round for a few days or a week to see the results, it appears to turn the design process into something no more different than going to IKEA and deciding on which table legs should go with which tabletop. With crowdsourcing there is no client-designer partnership, the only communication is one way from the client to the designer. This gives the designer no chance to meet the client or find out more about what they want or allow them to ask questions which can often aid in their development of ideas, all the designer has to go off is the brief given to them.

Figure 2: What package will you choose ; economy, standard or pro?

The second problem I have with crowdsourcing is the ethics behind it. Only one person is paid, the designer whose solution is chosen. That means if 100 designers all submitted designs for a brief, 99 of them will receive nothing for all the work and hours they have put in. There is also the fact that the winner receives relatively little compared to industry standard, designers can expect to win £195 for a logo design, £125 for print designs and £395 for a website. (Launch a contest. n.d.)  It is this problem with crowdsourcing that makes many designers unwilling to participate in crowdsourcing as they feel that it “demonstrates a lack of respect for the value of design’s full potential and places the lowest, rather than the highest, value of design services.” (Grefe, R. 2011)

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