Last week, graphic designer P.R. Chase tweeted us saying he had mentioned us in his most recent blog. We were honored to have been mentioned in his blog, but more so than that, we found his sentiments about today’s crowdsourcing market profound. We can evangelize until we go blue about the merits of curated crowdsourcing…but the words mean so much more when it comes from the mouth of a creative. We found P.R’s blog to be so valuable that we obtained permission from him to share it through our GeniusRocket blog.
CROWDSOURCING, WHY DESIGNERS DO IT
Reprinted by permission from yourdesigndemocracy.com
Crowdsourcing As A Designer? Doesn’t That Go Against Everything We Stand For?
The other day I got into a debate with a friend who is also a graphic designer. He didn’t think any designer should ever join a crowdsourcing site and do work for free. I disagreed with him. Now before you string me up and brand me a traitor, hear me out.
It’s an interesting question. Why would designers risk not being paid, when there are always businesses needing new logos, restaurants that crave a web presence and non-profits who could use a fund-raising brochure?
In the course of writing my guide The Design Democracy I had to go under cover so to speak. I put myself in the shoes of someone who knows nothing about design and explored all the biggest crowdsourcing sites to see their benefit. I created fake projects just to see how much control a client actually gets in this process. This brought me to a shocking realization—many of the largest crowdsourcing sites do the same thing we do. They offer a client brief to pick the brain of the client. They ask for samples as a starting point. In fact in the course of my research, when it comes to starting a project, the only real difference I found was personal interaction.
Just like in the real world, a client who comes into this process completely unprepared will end up requiring way more comprehensives than a client who comes in knowing what they want. The difference is, instead of one designer doing it, multiple designers do.
Crowdsourcing Has Come A Long Way
A lot has changed since Jeff Howe coined the phrase crowdsourcing back in 2006 in Wired magazine. Crowdsourcing is no longer just a den for amateurs and hacks to steal away work from talented designers. It’s now a reputable business model and more and more becoming a regulated industry. Companies like GeniusRocket (which creates crowdsourced video content) actually monitor the quality of work. You can’t just sign up and start designing. Much like a real world interview, you now have to prove you have the skills to even compete for the job.
So is it the regulation of the industry that has more designers getting involved? Or is it something more? There are many reasons a designer might choose to see what this whole “crowdsourcing thing” is all about.
There’s Too Much Competition
Design is an over-crowded field. Every quarter, colleges across the country release new graduates into the fray. This isn’t just design schools, it’s universities and other specialty schools. Because of this, many designers have had to rely on corporate jobs or positions not in the field. Crowdsourcing gives them a place to flex their creativity and keep their skills sharp while they look for clients or full-time employment.
Think of it like a training ground. It’s a way to keep design skills up to date with the latest trends. It’s also a way to experiment with new styles that some designers normally wouldn’t. Many designers need the structure of an actual project to design something and this gives them the chance to do that, and possibly even get paid for it.
The Programs Are More Accessible
The rampant availability of illegal downloading has given everyone the tools to be a “designer”. How many people actually own Photoshop legally these days? A quick surf through the graphics section on Fiverr shows numerous offers to do all sorts of Photoshop effects for only $5. These days anyone can download Adobe products and learn them without a degree. All it takes is the time to surf tutorials and learn the programs.
It’s A Global Marketplace
Think about the term crowdsourcing. It’s a combination of crowd and outsourcing. Just like in traditional outsourcing, the playing field has been opened to the rest of the world, which drives down the price. The costs of living in places other than the United States makes crowdsourcing a few logos for hundreds of dollars more than enough to survive on. That’s one of the main draws for crowdsourcing designers, they can compete on projects they never would have been able to previously. A quick look through the portfolios on designcrowd shows the majority of their designers are not based in the United States.
Why We As Designers Should Consider It
Alright, I can see you stringing up that noose and looking for a sturdy tree. This is where things get controversial. It’s my personal belief that all current designers should try crowdsourcing just once. That may cause a pain in the pit of many people’s stomachs, but this isn’t just a way to shock people. There are concrete reasons why designers should consider exploring this business model.
- It’s a number’s game baby. For really talented designers, the odds of making money through a lot of designs, instead of through a few meticulously created ones is a safe bet. It’s a law in statistics, the more opportunities we open ourselves up to, the more likely we are to get lucky. In this case, the luck comes in cold hard cash. If we can consistently get our designs picked, we can actually make some decent money.
- This job would be great if it wasn’t for the f*cking customers. Ever have one of those days where you just don’t want to deal with a client? Perhaps one of your biggest money makers is also your biggest pain in the butt? I know from personal experience, many designers prefer to sit behind their computer and create. They leave the handling of the client to the sales people and account reps. With crowdsourcing, designers who may not be the most adept in real life social situations can shine. There is no client interaction. If your design is picked, at most it’s a few emails to refine the concept. This eliminates the need to sell the project; the client gets to choose without any directive from a designer.
The Number One Reason We Should All Do At Least One Crowdsourcing Project: It’s the Future
This is the path of graphic and web design. It’s not going away. The more companies can save money on design services, the more commercial art becomes a commodity. Crowdsourcing is not just being used by small businesses with limited budgets, Fortune 500 companies are using it. It’s no longer limited to just design services, these days anyone can get almost any service crowdsourced, from focus groups to software engineering.
Crowdsourcing is direct competition to traditional graphic designers, so we need to size up the competition. The days of just competing against a design firm in your city are over. The competition has gone global.
Even if you’ve been fortunate enough to maintain solid client relationships for a number of years, be prepared. Right now the focus is on budget, not aesthetics. In order to compete we need to offer something different—whether that’s a higher quality product, an exclusive skill or service, or something that hasn’t been discovered yet. We need to prove why designers are still relevant in today’s modern landscape, because like it or not, we are all in an online competition these days. Some of us are just doing it voluntarily.
P.R. Chase is the author of The Design Democracy a guide to help small businesses and entrepreneurs brand themselves without using a graphic designer. He has contributed articles to The Daily Crowdsource and Noobpreneur, and keeps business owners up to date about new technologies and branding strategies on his Twitter account @PR_Chase