Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Crowdsourcing for your graphic design work: Is it a good idea?

For years there have been crowdsourcing websites that run contests for just about any type of graphic design work you may need. You just log on, write a short project description, post the fee you are willing to pay the winner and in no time you will have a no-holds-barred, battle royal of design taking place.

On the surface this may seem like a winning approach for acquiring graphic design services. After all, you will save money since these contests usually run at a fraction of the going rate for design work. You will also have a multitude of designs to select from, from sometimes dozens of designers. Best of all you only have to pay the winner when it's over and done with. Now, how could this possibly not be a good thing?

The reality is that there are serious underlying issues when you take a closer look at crowdsourcing. First of all, you have to wonder who's in the "crowd". Do they really know what they are doing? These sites mainly attract "designers" that aren't really designers at all, or at least not very good ones. Most are just hobbyists that occasionally fiddle around with Photoshop in their spare time. Some are high school and college students that don't have the skill and experience to work without the close supervision of an art director. Others are just not very talented at all, even with formal training and working experience. 

One of the biggest issues with crowdsourcing is the very premise of it, which is a bunch of people working for free with no guarantee of compensation. That type of working situation doesn't exactly attract top level talent or inspire anyone to put forth their best effort. In fact, they will end up putting as little time as possible into your project since they most likely aren't going to be paid anyway. That, in turn, leads to shoddy, low quality work.

The impersonal nature of crowdsourcing doesn't do much to help matters either. It is necessary to get to know a client and their business as much as possible. This helps the designer make decisions on how to go about designing what the client needs and what will suit them best. Reading a few sentences online is not going to accomplish that. Without really knowing you or your business designers are essentially taking a shot in the dark with no real insight into what you need or what it will take to do the job right. 

After looking a bit more into crowdsourcing it should be easy to see that it's not all it's cracked up to be. Yes, you'll save a few bucks, but it will be at the cost of quality and your business image will suffer for it. If you really want the best results then hiring one designer to work on your projects is the way to go about doing so. It just takes a bit of research which starts by looking at designers portfolios online, asking questions about their services and following through with a quote request.


Brad Thomas said...

Although hiring a professsional, educated designer will almost guarantee the best possible quality work for a company, I think there is another very interesting benefit of crowdsourcing (or as some call it, co-creating).

By offering a contest/project to the "crowd," the hosting company suddenly becomes involved with the creative public. Although the "crowd" may not have the intimate business relationship or professional experience of a contract (or in-house) designer, working with the "crowd" will offer more exposure to the company than working with one professional designer or design group.

In addition, designers (even the amateurs) tend to be very connected to online communities through blogs, social networks, etc. Company exposure through hosting these contest/projects has potential to create a viral publicity online that will reach well beyond the initial crowd.

Burn Creative said...

I've never seen any evidence of crowdsourcing providing viral exposure, at least not for small businesses. The only contests that I've seen that have had any sort of popularity are ones that are held by large companies, like Pepsi, that already have massive brand recognition.

If businesses are turning to crowdsourcing in hopes of attaining viral popularity then they will be sorely disappointed.