Jeff Howe, an editor at Wired Magazine, and an originator of the term ‘crowdsourcing’, describes it as the act of taking a job traditionally performed by an employee and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call. Crowdsourcing websites such as DesignCrowd, 99Designs, and CrowdSpring offer design services at a fairly lower price than that of a professional designer, with a multitude of people, or designers, who are ready to work for you at the drop of a hat. However, business owners need to keep in mind that everything has its own system of balances, and crowdsourcing is no exception.
In lieu of the financial savings, businesses are tasked with managing and filtering hundreds or thousands of workers with a significant cost of their time and energy, with no guarantee that the resulting end product will be of sufficient quality or effectiveness. When the crowd gets involved, much of their input will have little or no value or relevance with Sturgeon’s Law at its finest (Sturgeon’s Law essentially indicates that 90% of everything is crap).
Some young designers and students feel that crowdsourcing is an opportunity to break into the field of design, however, participating in these lottery-esque contests with hundreds of others and working for possibly no recognition or pay might not be the best use of their talents. Many of the other design participants are from lower wage countries such as India, where $20 U.S. pays for a month’s rent for a family of four. As a United States-based designer I cannot compete with this; $20 does not cover even the monthly fee I pay in order to use design programs. In my opinion, neither taking advantage of young designers nor disindustrializing ourselves by outsourcing (our already too few) U.S. jobs overseas are happy solutions.
Detrimental to your business is the fact that the crowdworker (the designer) would own the copyrights to their work absent a written agreement changing the relationship – they would not be your employee under copyright. Therefore a small business that crowdsourced its company’s logo design but did not receive the copyright to the design from the creator would not have the right to reproduce, distribute, or publicly display copies of that logo. Do you own a restaurant? If so, unless you particularly enjoy being the defendant in- the court of law, you had better think twice on using that logo on your menu, advertisements, or awning.
Developing a brand identity is an activity that benefits from expert advice and consultation between a designer and a client, drawing on skills, expertise, knowledge and creative talent. Purchasing a design for the lowest price is not the same as retaining design services, which is a consultative relationship. Professional designers offer a thorough and thoughtful engagement. Businesses, designers, and our nation’s economy all greatly lose out due to crowdsourcing.