10 Things We Love to Hate about Crowdsourcing

Friday 26 February 2010 | Keith J. Hamilton

Comments 95 Comments

crowdsourcing 10 Things We Love to Hate about Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing made its debut with a bang, instantly cementing its position in the market place as a viable option that all start up businesses and freelance designers should have in their arsenal.  Unfortunately, what was initially hailed as a revolutionary idea in terms of design, marketing and overall productivity, is now being crucified by graphic designers who are quite frankly threatened by the entire concept and fiercely oppose it.

Although crowdsourcing is widely regarded as effective and has a plethora of benefits, take the design industry for instance, many designers argue its ‘uselessness’ of the concept based on the reasons below:

    1. Crowdsourcing Cost – The advent of graphic design marketplaces seems to have shattered, if not completely broken down, the monopoly of the big shots of the design industry. Now even businesses with a moderate budget can brand their identity without the fear of going over budget and unaffordable costs.

    2. No Prize Money Guarantee – Designers worry that they might not get paid even after their design has been selected as the ‘Winning Design’. This is perhaps is true of some sites that do not offer any guarantees on compensations. However there are Crowdsourcing websites where contest holders offer guaranteed prizes, meaning that the winning design will always get paid.

    3. All that FREE Labor – Many designers feel that their work is devalued by crowdsourcing, arguing that all those designers who don’t win end up working for free. But isn’t that how most get started in service based professions? You will have to demonstrate your expertise somewhere to someone before you can get paid. Also, if you look at the entire design industry, getting a 100% money back guarantee is a standard norm, be it a design firm or a contest website.

    4. Wasted Time & Effort – Some argue that if designers don’t win, their efforts and time are wasted. This is not the case. Crowdsourcing gives the designers an opportunity to build an impressive resume and gives them an understanding of how they can work for clients. All the designs created can be added in their portfolio for future reference.

    5. No Boundaries – Over the years some have argued that crowdsourcing leaves no boundaries between the experts and amateurs, hence it devalues the industry. Truth be told, this ‘cutting edge’ concept is breaking boundaries by creating a level playing field for all kinds of businesses. Now even small businesses with meager budgets can benefit from the large talent pool and brand their identity.

    6. Expert Insight Required – Many contest holders worry that they will possibly not find designs that represent their business motto. That is probably true only in cases where the contest holder does not provide details regarding the business vision and leave the contest on its own. Active participation and feedback from the contest holder’s end will help designers acquire a better understand of the business and so they will be able to create accordingly.

    7. The Red Flags – Those who do not favor crowdsourcing argue that the designers should be wary of clients with small budgets and ask themselves why this is being done. Such people fail to grasp the concept of crowdsourcing and refuse to understand the equal opportunities crowdsourcing creates for big and small businesses alike. Limited or unlimited budget, crowdsourcing is helping businesses find an identity.

    8. Design with Mixed Messages – People argue that crowdsouring is unable to offer proper design solutions and the designs created end up giving mixed message instead of properly branding the business. However this is the case will all designers, be it professionals or freelance. You need to ‘brief’ the designers about your brand and what your company is all about in order to obtain good results.

    9. Devalue Professionalism – Anti crowdsourcing sentiment is that crowdsourcing ends up devaluing the design industry, creates a competitive environment and therefore hampers the creative process of designing. But don’t competitions bring out the best of creativity? Since only the best design can win, a competitive environment will persuade each participant to strive for the best.

    10. Contest Holders Don’t know – Who can understand a business and its vision better than the business holder him/herself? Still there are many who preach that contest holders do not know what they want out of a design and by entering a contest they erode the company’s brand. But how can that be when the contest holders generally are the business owners themselves? Wouldn’t business owners know and understand their business better than anyone else? Thinking that a contest holder doesn’t know what brand/design to choose is just silly.

As this war of words wages on, I suppose the greatest advantage or disadvantage of crowdsourcing (depending on which side you are on) is that it has essentially demolished the monopoly of the few and created an equal opportunity playing field for everyone. Both designers and businesses can now benefit from it and it’s this very feature that is perhaps giving the critics nightmares and causing sleepless nights.


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