As comments rolled in in response to my article “Crowdsourced Design: Commoditization or Democratization?” I was admittedly surprised both by the quantity and variety of opinions expressed. One thing was clear; the graphic design community continues to remain divided on the issue of crowdsourced design, a practice some view as devaluing the design profession while others perceive it as providing opportunities for work.
Poll results from 122 respondents bore this out with 56% of those polled, responding “No” to the question, “Do you think that spec requests and crowdsourcing practices have hurt the industry?” and 44% responding “Yes.”
A number of comments were aimed at quality versus quantity. One commenter stated, “I can hire 10 designers and have them each spend three hours on a design and I will end up with 10 mediocre designs or I can hire one designer to work back and forth with and spend 30 hours on a few concepts that are truly brainstormed, unique, and carefully planned out.”
Despite the anti-crowdsourcing sentiment many polled responded that they had participated in crowd sourcing at one time. In response to the question “Have you ever participated in crowdsourcing/spec work?” 24% responded that they took part in crowdsourcing “all the time,” 35% selected “A few times and I would do it again,” 14% “A few times, but would not do it again” and 27% said they had never done so.
Also, revealing was the response to one slanted poll question where nearly 70% of respondents labeled crowdsourcing “a good way to build my book,” while only 35% dubbed the practice “bad for our industry.” Taken with the results of another question, where 80% of readers answered “Yes” to the query, “Do you feel that crowdsourcing helps a student or someone starting off in graphic design?” the responses point to a strong perception by some of difficulty in getting started in design and building a portfolio.
While there were well taken points on both sides certain ideas seemed to be overlooked. Such as Debbie Millman’s suggestions of pro bono and self initiated work for building a portfolio and harnessing existing portfolio sites and design community platforms like Behance.net to attract clients. Another was that of revisiting the structure of crowdsourced sites such as 99designs by implementing “kill fees,” and a more curatorial process that would benefit designers and clients. Lastly, and of particular importance to me was an idea that went largely unmentioned—that designers are (or can be) a community. One that (hopefully) can put their creative minds together to come up with some sort of reconciliation to the issues crowdsourcing raises.