A subject that has been fiercely discussed within the design community in
recent months is the rise of crowdsourced websites, which claim to offer
great design at a fraction of the cost of commissioning a design agency to
do the same job.
But how do these sites work and should the design industry be quaking
behind their apple macs?
The exact workings vary from site to site, but essentially they mainly
consist of you as a ‘person’ or ‘company’, who are in the position of
wanting to commission the creation of a logo (they often also offer
websites, printed material & t-shirts) registering with the site. You then
host a ‘design contest’ in which you stipulate what you want, the name of
your company, types of logos you like and a few other details. You then
sit back and relax whilst ‘designers’ from every corner of the world
submit their concepts for you to choose and/or feed back on all within 7
days, and often as cheap as Â£25 with money-back guarantees in some
instances. Sounds perfect right? Well no, not really… well maybe…
guess it depends who you are, what your company stands for, what you’re
trying to achieve and how much value you place on design, design/brand
continuity and the prospect of a long term brand strategy.
Like many other products and services there has, and always will be,
competition from cheaper alternatives. In particular from over seas. Just
look at how the British manufacturing industry has changed in recent
times. Design (to a point) has managed to remain a premium and localised
purchase, but times, the global marketplace and the t’internet has changed
and continues to change this.
So, as a design agency should we be worried about this change to cheap,
fast design? Well, like all things, it depends what you want and the value
you place on it. Will Nike and Coke go ‘crowdsourcing’? Probably not, no.
The scale of their business empires and their brand equity, although rock
solid and almost (only almost!) untouchable, they just wouldn’t consider
going down this path. Their far too strategically minded (and rightly so)
for it be viable. After all, as the age old saying goes… you get what
you pay for… so cheap and fast just wouldn’t do.
However, it is a perfectly sensible and appealing approach for our friend
with the white van. A one-man-band plumber or carpenter for example, who
is less worried about his/her logo, brand consistency and ‘identity
rationale’ over whether someone will recommend their work, is probably the
right target audience and likely purchaser of the crowdsource model. After
all, it’s unlikely their audience is quite as concerned about the traders
level of upmarket (or not) branding when they’re frantically searching
Google for a local bod to stop their toilet overflowing into the dining
So is there a place within the design industry for this type of business
model? We think so. Are we quaking yet?… Nah.
As long as there are people and businesses that want, or in fact only
‘need’ to spend as little as possible, the model will survive and there
will be demand for crowdsourced design sites. The day we, as professional
design agencies, need to worry about losing out commercially to such sites
is the day the bigger companies with more to risk from a brand value
perspective decide to ‘give it a go’. And to be fair, if they do, this
probably says more about the credibility, experience and approach of the
individual running their ‘show’ as it does the value proposition of the
crowdsource branding route.
Our advice? If you’re an agency or freelance creative and you get
approached from a company weighing up the merits of going down that route
and they want a price from you for ‘comparison’, wish them well and move
on. If you’re a reputable business looking for an agency but deep down
you’re kinda tempted by crowdsourcing… tsk, tsk.. shame on you. You’re
better than that, and you know it.