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Why Designers Hate Crowdsourcing 569

An anonymous reader writes "Since Wired's Jeff Howe coined the term in 2006, 'crowdsourcing' has been a buzzword in the tech industry, and a business model on the rise. is a site that hosts design contests for small businesses requiring relatively smaller design projects. Anyone can submit their near finished pieces of work to the contests, but only one winner gets paid. Forbes covers just why established graphic designers are so angry at this business model's catching on."
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Why Designers Hate Crowdsourcing

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  • but only one winner gets paid

    Of course graphic designers are going to get angry.

    • Re:Quote: (Score:5, Insightful)

      by morari ( 1080535 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @05:04PM (#32996012) Journal

      Which means that everyone else that submits work has essentially done so for free. No one would want to work like that, and such crowdsourcing is in no way a viable path for real, fulltime employment. Besides, I'd be just as worried as a client. I post vague specifications and hope for the best? That's asinine. Good design work requires that the artist and the client work back and forth, improving and changing the product little by little until both are satisfied. You don't get that here. What you get with crowdsourcing is mostly mediocrity. Why invest tons of effort into something that you very likely will not get paid for?

      • Sturgeon's Law (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Rix ( 54095 )

        99% of everything is crap. That'll be true for crowdsourcing and traditional models.

        Everyone wants a crowdsourced model when they're buying, and no one wants it when they're selling. Do you think the grocery store wants you to pick the nicest looking apples from the pile? Of course not. Do you? Of course you do.

    • by RobotRunAmok ( 595286 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @05:17PM (#32996204)

      Freelance writers have long complained of similar practices amongst "content mills" such as Demand Studios (the guys behind all those "how to" webpages). The mill pays $3/story, $15/video. For a working writer or videographer, it's the kind of revenue that puts the "chump" into "chump change." But -- and here's the catch -- thousands and thousands of people will work for this! Many full-time writers sneer at them as mere wannabes who are pissing into the community pool, but their work is (apparently) good enough for The Client, and these folks are happy to be making some beer money "writing professionally." The thing is, there are so many writers -- and designers, too, apparently -- and the bar for entry into the profession is so low, and the, well, "romance/coolness" of being a paid (however niggardly) creative artiste is so great, that the Content Mills have such low overhead they are making money hand-over-fist.

      Of course, if you're really good at what you do, you get to name your price and you do well. But if you're in the bottom 90 percent of a profession whose products -- such as words and designs -- aren't constrained by artificial geographical boundaries and location (thanks to this new-fangled Internet thingy) then, brother, you are scrapping and scrambling.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by fractoid ( 1076465 )

      but only one winner gets paid

      Of course graphic designers are going to get angry.

      I read it as "only one winner gets laid" which made me think of the following analogy: It's like that girl who goes around accepting drinks from all the guys at the bar, but only goes home with one of them. Sadly, that's still a popular business model.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 22, 2010 @04:39PM (#32995588)

    This is no different than Expedia disrupting the travel agent industry, iStockPhoto allowing designers to buy photos shot by amateurs for $1, or eTrade allowing people to do their own stock trading for $9 a piece.

    The only people that complain about disruptive innovation are those directly affected by it. Gone are the days when you can charge $5000 for 3 logo concepts when some college student is happy to spend 2 hours cranking out a concept in his spare time for the chance at winning $269 - the price quoted on the 99designs logo design page [].

    • by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @04:49PM (#32995726) Journal

      Gone are the days when you can charge $5000 for 3 logo concepts when some college student is happy to spend 2 hours cranking out a concept in his spare time for the chance at winning $269 - the price quoted on the 99designs logo design page.

      Just wait until wannabe designers in low-wage nations like India, China, Brazil, etc (using cracked copies of design software) start entering into the process. $269 will seem overpriced.

      It's like rent-a-coder... no American can earn a living doing piecework for rent-a-coder. Most would be better off working at McDonalds. Same thing's going to happen for piecework design.

      • by Delusion_ ( 56114 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @04:59PM (#32995940) Homepage

        No need to wait. The article doesn't mention this, but 99designs is already saturated by Indians and Chinese who will happily undercut you. It's just a nice name for more outsourcing.

      • it's like rent-a-coder

        and ODesk

        I've given up working with ODesk. What looked like a good idea turned out to be a exercise in futility competing against =$10/hr programmers in India. Quality-be-damned, the client always picks the lowest price.

        I've recently taken over a codebase written by a Ukrainian who believed that by naming your files model.php, view.php and controller.php magically turned applications into MVC frameworks. Of course, the pitch was that he would code in MVC. It turns out that meant My Value is Crap.

      • by IANAAC ( 692242 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @05:06PM (#32996050)

        Just wait until wannabe designers in low-wage nations like India, China, Brazil, etc (using cracked copies of design software) start entering into the process. $269 will seem overpriced.

        It's like rent-a-coder... no American can earn a living doing piecework for rent-a-coder. Most would be better off working at McDonalds. Same thing's going to happen for piecework design.

        This happened about a decade ago in my field (translation) with sites like and later - there are other sites doing the same thing, but these are the two largest. It's a bidding race to the bottom with India and China.

        And those of us who live in the US and Europe have been complaining about it ever since.

        But then you get to a point where you realize that you don't want that kind of client anyway. And there are still many clients out there willing to pay the rate you want/deserve.

      • by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @05:58PM (#32996768) Homepage

        Just wait until wannabe designers in low-wage nations like India, China, Brazil, etc (using cracked copies of design software) start entering into the process. $269 will seem overpriced.

        I'm very curious about this. I worked for a packaging design firm for a while, and my company was very interested in cracking the India market. There seemed to be a huge opportunity in packaged goods there, as a new affluent class gradually trended toward American-style consumerism.

        The problem? Graphic design is ultimately about communication -- often in very subtle, even subliminal ways -- and we, as Americans, simply didn't understand how the Indian mindset worked. We got someone to scour some shelves in India and bring back some successful Indian products, and their packaging was pretty much baffling to our designers. Who was this character pictured on the front of the box? What values did he represent to the consumer? Why this choice of typeface? It was in Indian script, but was this type modern or classical? Why use English here, but not here? Why would a tube of toothpaste be completely colored green -- did green have some special significance to Indians that we didn't understand? And so on.

        I can't help but wonder whether graphic designers who had spent their entire lives in India or China would struggle with designing for American markets in the same way.

    • Gone are the days when you can charge $5000 for 3 logo concepts when some college student is happy to spend 2 hours cranking out a concept in his spare time for the chance at winning $269

      The trouble is apply this to every industry and all of a sudden it's not overcharging fat cats that add no value that are affect: Suddenly there is no way to make a decent living. The only industries that survive are the ones that require qualifications.

      In other words I agree that charging $5000 for 3 logo concepts isn't necessarily reasonable, but I don't want to see only amateurs compete for a single prize pool of $269 either. Effectively most people are working for free. That's not reasonable either. Sur

      • by afabbro ( 33948 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @06:11PM (#32996936) Homepage

        The trouble is apply this to every industry and all of a sudden it's not overcharging fat cats that add no value that are affect: Suddenly there is no way to make a decent living. The only industries that survive are the ones that require qualifications.

        In other words I agree that charging $5000 for 3 logo concepts isn't necessarily reasonable, but I don't want to see only amateurs compete for a single prize pool of $269 either. Effectively most people are working for free. That's not reasonable either. Surely there's a middle ground?

        Nope. Welcome to globalization! Billions of third world people just waiting to do what you do for 1/10th the price. Expect your living standard to trend towards theirs, because if it's one thing this planet has, it's a huge excess of available labor.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ksevio ( 865461 )
      But typically with crowd sourcing, each of the contestants needs to submit something in order to be payed. Expedia doesn't let you try all the flights and then just pay for the one you like best. The competition is good. The need for everyone to provide services without getting paid isn't so much.
    • by Monkeedude1212 ( 1560403 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @05:16PM (#32996196) Journal

      Gone are those days indeed.

      And really, I'm glad to see them going - despite doing some small work in the industry. Here's the skinny:

      My girlfriend works for a conservational society downtown, at a place called the Lougheed House. Peter Lougheed was one of the biggest founders of this city. Even today he has a provincial park and a hospital named after him. His House with it's massive garden is still downtown, surrounded by giant hotels, but still standing with most of its original decorations. They've turned the grand dining hall into an expensive restaurant, and there were some additions to the house during the world wars, but for the most part, its as original as it can be.

      A few years ago, they hired a guy, we'll call him "Ted" - to design a web page. I'm not entirely familiar with how much was involved, but in the end - the website is hosted online - and is considered property of the Lougheed House. However, they have no idea who is hosting it, how to access any administrative tools, nothing like that. Anytime they want to make a change, they call up Ted and Ted makes the updates for them. He charges $40 for this.

      So after the marketting team went to a presentation from the Ex-president of Critical Mass, they have decided that web-marketting is something they really need to pick up on. They've started a facebook page, twitter, a blog, etc. They want to keep their website up to date more often. Monthly news postings, etc etc. My girlfriend, she's not exactly in the marketting team but more like an event co-ordinator also got to attend this meeting (and was rubbing it in my face that she got to go while I was working. And apparently there was a devilled egg tray!). So she approached me afterwards, asking how difficult it is to update a website, because they don't want to spend $40 every time they want to make a change.

      And I told her, it all depends on what you want to change, and how you want to change it. She said they mostly just want to change a few images, update it with some info, not really template or layout changing, just words and pictures. And so I told her, its pretty simple, HTML is easy enough for a noobie to edit. You can, in fact, ignore all the code, look for the section you want to edit, and just change whats between the tags. As for images, its as easy as either overwriting the old image, or putting the new one in the same place and changing the reference in the html to the new image.

      Excited about this, she told her boss. Upon this, they consulted with TED about what they wanted to do, and TED offered that he would make them a CMS (content management system) for $30,000 if they want. Not only do they not have that kind of money, but I already told them how to make the changes they want. The only thing they need is access to whatever FTP or hosting company they are using - I imagine Ted is the only one with the credentials to actually upload to the webserver. It sounds like he is going to hand it over, though, and not hold things hostage, which is good.

      No matter how much my girlfriend tries to relay my information, they want me to come in and consult with their marketting team. They will pay me (more than my current job) for my time, and deliver a free lunch. I think Monday, I never enjoy Mondays so I think I'll take it off from work and do something fun like teach people HTML & CSS.

      Anyways, the point is, I'm tired of companies and contractors trying to over-inflate prices to make more money than they really deserve. Don't get me wrong, design can be a tricky business. But if you are a professional designer, and you can truly produce some stuff better than anyone else, you shouldn't have an issue with crowdsourcing. Some college person spending his off hours on a design SHOULD NOT be able to compare with your product which you have spent all your work experience developing the necessary skills to come out on top.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by JamesP ( 688957 )

      Gone are the days when you can charge $5000 for 3 logo concepts when some college student is happy to spend 2 hours cranking out a concept in his spare time for the chance at winning $269 - the price quoted on the 99designs logo design page [].

      Then go ahead and do that! Except you get what you pay for.

      Disclaimer: I've been close to the results of both approaches (not 99designs, it was something else)

      From the crowdsourcing site you get a nice drawing

      From the 5k for concepts you get:
      -concept that's a close fit for your needs
      -"tech docs and support" (yes, you need it)
      - a visual identity for your product/company

      So yeah, go ahead and do it. Or you can ask your nephew who's good at Corel Draw to make something for you for $10, that's even cheaper.

      And l

  • Piecework is basically bullshit. It's effectively hiring 10 people to do a job and then only paying one of them (at most). It's basically using the fact that they're "Contests" to stiff 99% of the people in the business.

    On the other hand, the times are changing and you have to either adapt of die. You can't really rage against the fact that globalization increases competition.
    • by AdamThor ( 995520 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @04:53PM (#32995830)

      You could convince the /b/tards that this is a fun way to fuck with The Man... Anyone can set up as a designer. Then the signal to noise on 99 designs will drop through the floor and it'll be 99 Designs that has to adapt or die.

      • They'll have to rename to 1/99 designs because that'd be the signal to noise ratio :-)
      • My first job out of college many years ago was as a tech writer. I got 'synergized' into also being responsible for producing marketing materials (because I had a Mac, and had figured out how to use Adobe Illustrator and Quark and etc.). It seemed potentially fun at first. I read a few books on graphic design, and pestered a couple of buddies of mine where were employed as actual designers for tips and critiques of my first efforts, which they thought pretty impressive.

        The people at work, however, hated it.

    • It's effectively hiring 10 people to do a job and then only paying one of them (at most). It's basically using the fact that they're "Contests" to stiff 99% of the people in the business.

      While that's true, it is also an established business model in many fields. For example, Advertising Agencies, or Architects, TV Pilots, or Engineering firms competing for tenders and contracts. Often they have to do a lot of the work, without ever knowing if they win the contract.

      Bottom line though, is that the cream

  • by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @04:45PM (#32995676)
    They hate it for the same reason that the music industry hates the Internet, they lose control of the marketplace and are unable to charge a premium for intangibles. Basically, the established design professionals are used to being able to charge more than the value they add to the product because it was too hard to find good alternatives. I am not saying that experienced, quality design professionals do not add significant value over most of what you can get from crowd sourcing sites. It's just that they want to charge more for that value than what it is worth in today's marketplace. When it was hard to find people who had a natural talent for design for a particular product or market segment, it was worth paying more for people who were proven at creating good designs for many different areas and additionally had experience in what types of design seem good in development, but turn out to be bad ideas in production. Now that it is easier to find people who are inexperienced, but have a natural talent, that experience is less valuable.
    • They hate it for the same reason that the music industry hates the Internet, they lose control of the marketplace and are unable to charge a premium for intangibles.

      It's not "a premium for intangibles." It's the opportunity to get get paid for your time vs the expectation that you'll work for free unless your work is utilized.

      What do you do? You an IT worker like most of the site? Let's say you troubleshoot systems -- how about we say that you don't get anything old fashioned like a salary or an hourly wage anymore: instead, you'll compete with others to see who can find/fix the problem first. The person who does that gets paid a flat rate. Everyone else gets nothing. Or, let's say you write code. You and one hundred other coders provide to spec. First one gets something, everyone else doesn't. No messy employee-employer relationship -- that stuff is for communists and music industry racketeers, right? Just pure market transactions. Beautiful, right? Certainly nothing you could have any complaint against -- in fact, if you really believe in your comment, truly and deeply, back it up: suggest that arrangement to your employer tomorrow.

      After all, you wouldn't want to be like a music industry dinosaur, and frankly, if you're drawing either a salary or hourly wage off of it, you're exactly as much like the music industry as a graphic designer.

  • A bunch of people working in a saturated job market are pissed off they might have to compete for jobs in a different manner?

    Sounds to me like they don't want to actually produce a product and have the customer pay for the one they like best. They would much rather sign the customer to a contract and make money whether or not the end product would have made the customer the happiest.

    Seems like a win-win for the customer and the market. The customer gets the product he wants and the people that make superi

  • Supply and Demand (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jpmorgan ( 517966 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @04:47PM (#32995700) Homepage

    Sounds to me like there's a supply and demand problem for these established designers... namely there's too much supply for the available demand.

    I understand their position: for someone outside of the design industry, it can be difficult to know who to go to with a project. So large, established designers get good business, just because they have enough of a reputation to appeal to the more conservative business types. But the prices they're charging are well above the market optimum, and they thrive off of imperfect knowledge in their client base. An organization like gives small, unknown, but potentially talented players access to the client base that has typically been reserved for the big guys. This drives the actual price of services (when amortized over all the work that doesn't get paid for) down to the actual economic optimum.

    In other words, it's an industry bitching about the internet killing their business model. Yawn.

  • by Infonaut ( 96956 ) <> on Thursday July 22, 2010 @04:49PM (#32995734) Homepage Journal
    Designers, like everyone else in service industries, are competing against everyone in the market. There's no more hiding. You have to demonstrate value. It's not easy to show non-designers what the value of good design is, but good designers are effective communicators; if you can't communicate your value to clients, you shouldn't expect them to pay the rates many designers are used to charging. On the flip side, I'm reminded of this reminder [] of the value a truly skilled, experienced designer can deliver.
  • Oh no! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Mantrid ( 250133 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @04:49PM (#32995738) Journal

    But...the unwashed masses might PICK THE WRONG FONT...the horror...the horror...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Delusion_ ( 56114 )

      You joke, but most businesses rely on their ability to project sober professionalism and seriousness. People who don't understand that Comic Sans (I know, I just font-Godwinned myself here) deteriorates that image of professionalism rather than merely communicating "informal" or "fun" (often when neither is even appropriate in the first place) shouldn't be designing anything that represents their company. And if they're in charge of paying someone else to design it, they should take advantage of that desi

  • by karlandtanya ( 601084 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @04:49PM (#32995742)

    After God had finished the rattlesnake, the toad, and the vampire, he had some awful substance left with which he made a scab. A scab is a two-legged animal with a corkscrew soul, a water brain, a combination backbone of jelly and glue. Where others have hearts, he carries a tumor of rotten principles. When a scab comes down the street, men turn their backs and Angels weep in Heaven, and the Devil shuts the gates of hell to keep him out....

    Attributed to Jack London, but there's not really any proof he wrote it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jpmorgan ( 517966 )

      Monopolies are always bad and competition is always good. Unless it's labour we're talking about. Then competition is just a bunch of scabs and monopoly is the loving embrace of the union organizer.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 22, 2010 @04:49PM (#32995746)

    It's the same in any industry...once a group of people figure out how to make an income they then put bureaucratic barriers (e.g. legal, regulatory, educational, or certification requirements) in place. They then develop their own lexicon which future puts an informal educational barrier in place and they treat anyone who doesn't speak their cant as an outsider. It's a natural evolution where they try to protect their income by making it harder for the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th person through the door to accomplish what they have. This of course struggles against technology and innovation which is making it easier and eventually innovation overcomes the barriers but in the mean time the dinosaurs fight ferociously to live in the manner they have become accustomed to. See RIAA, MPAA, Software Patents, all certified careers, etc. etc. etc.

  • by Delusion_ ( 56114 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @04:49PM (#32995748) Homepage

    You put a job up, you pick the "winner", and it gets fulfilled.

    Then you see the same design has been shopped around to every other site, including your direct competitors.

    Then you see that this "design in a box" approach actually handily ignored many of your stated requirements in your original request.

    All this to save a few bucks on design by farming it out to people who do this for literally a few bucks a job. You get what you pay for: a $50 design that looks cookie cutter (because it is), and is designed by "e-lancers" from India and China who didn't understand all of your requirements and in most cases, didn't have time to care, because they'll only see $10 of it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dubbreak ( 623656 )
      Have you looked at any of the competitions on these sorts of sites?

      I've voted on about 10+ logo competitions on one of these sites and I haven't seen any "design in a box" regurgitated designs (at least in the good designs, there are always a few that look like they were done by 12 year olds who just learned about filters, or did one web2.0 style tutorial). There is a market for this service and obviously people with talent who are willing to design stuff for the sake of design. Heck, if I had better skil
  • by afabbro ( 33948 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @04:51PM (#32995784) Homepage

    While clients may or may not be getting "Walmart-quality" designs, they're certainly paying Walmart prices. Logo payouts can run as low as $211, while a webpage design package starts at just $499--rates considered absurdly low by some in the business.

    Hate to be the one tell you artists this, but that's hardly low. Lots of people simply google for attractive website templates and pay $50 them, or some small amount to get them exclusively.

    For those who want more custom work, places like vworker, freelancer, etc. have an abundance of people who'll do graphic design work for peanuts. True, it may not be as fantabulous as something costing thousands, but you can get a logo design for $20 and for 80% of the people in the marketplace, it's good enough to have your company's name in some sort of distinctive design.

    The world is lousy with art students and third world people with cracked copies of Photoshop. Graybeards from the 80s are annoyed that this work is no longer geographically bound and the Internet has made cheap labor abundant. Not everything about the Internet is good for every person.

  • Crowdspring (Score:3, Interesting)

    by PktLoss ( 647983 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @04:53PM (#32995832) Homepage Journal

    I've run a few projects through crowdspring. I try to be really responsive with submissions, I've seen designs go from "meh" to "completely fantastic" with only a few revisions.

    Looking at my history, the people who I seem to pick seem to win a decent percentage of the time.

    For larger projects, or projects where the stakes are simply larger, I'd want to build a relationship with a designer, or design house, rather than go through something like this.

  • That I should go check Renta-A-Coder to see if there is any well paying work available!
  • by Garwulf ( 708651 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @04:58PM (#32995912) Homepage

    Frankly, I can see why they're angry. This business model reduces their profession to amateur hour - and it can only hurt it in the long run.

    I've worked in both the public and private sector. There is a reputable way to select somebody for a contract in a competitive setting. It's called a request for a quote, or RFQ (or request for a proposal, RFP). A general call goes out to businesses and people in the required industry. Proposals are collected, with projected timelines, pricings, and samples. Then, a decision is made, and the winner gets the contract. The losers go on to bid on other contracts.

    The point, though, is that the time spent producing the final product is spent only by the winner. Everybody else moves on.

    Now, that's the right way to do it. What's described in the article is the wrong way to do it. Imagine, for a moment, that you're a web site designer (I know the article is about graphic designers, but bear with me here). How would you feel if instead of preparing a proposal for a part of a website, you had to prepare the entire finished product - and then, after those hours of work (that could have been spent on working for a paying client, or in finding a paying client), you find out that somebody else got the contract, and therefore you get nothing?

    Somehow, I think you'd be pretty pissed off too.

    Now, this may be fine if you're just starting out, but it's not going to sit well once you've got a few years of experience under your belt. The really good people are going to get sick of it and do one of two things - they'll either leave that model and just work for the people who will treat them like professionals, or they'll leave the field itself.

    Will amateur hour be cheaper than dealing with professionals? Absolutely. But, in the long run, it will drive the real talent out, and that will just make the field poorer.

  • If you want to earn a living in the design business you anly have a limited amount of hours a day to do that. That means you can't afford to work for free, which is essentially what you did if yiu don't win. I know that this is what's happening when big ad agencies "pitch" to a client, but they make it up by adding these hours to the bill for the next client where they win a pitch. On sites driven by cost competitiveness like 99designs this will be difficult. And then i don't want to work for a client who
  • No surprise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mike449 ( 238450 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @05:01PM (#32995972)

    Any profitable business is based on some barrier for entry for competitors. When the barrier gets lower, the profitability inevitably goes down to zero as a result of unhindered competition. This is called free market.
    Being angry about this is like being angry at gravity or evolution.

    • Re:No surprise (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MarkvW ( 1037596 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @05:49PM (#32996654)

      In an unregulated environment, the free market is only a transitory stage on the way to a marketplace dictated by trusts and cartels.

      Foolish people don't realize that a market must be regulated to remain free. If the market is totally free, the most dominant and predatory businesses will destroy the smaller ones and then use their uncontested market power to create an "unfree" market that minimizes competition and decreases the cost of production (like wages). Late nineteenth century/early twentieth century history provides many examples of this (look at the railroads!).

      So, when you compare the free market to gravity or evolution, you are just being silly.

      I do agree that this is a free market situation, though. It looks like a certain category of designers is way overpricing themselves. This appears analogous to what happens to movie script writers--they're so eager to get creative acknowledgement that they virtually give their work away to Hollywood sharks.

      There are competitive alternatives to this model. Quality designers could form cooperatives and market themselves online, for example.


  • by Itninja ( 937614 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @05:10PM (#32996110) Homepage
    Threadless has been very successful crowd sourcing designs for shirts, wall clings, etc. I have seen Hanes and other big names try and get on the 'clever/funny t-shirt' money train, but their stuff is horrid. I don't think any design 'team' could ever do better job with this type of thing than one person with some decent software, a Wacom tablet, and a really great idea. What's more, Threadless pays a few hundred bucks the most highly voted designs.

    Nude No More!
  • by bzzfzz ( 1542813 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @05:11PM (#32996116)

    The problem that 99designs solves is that most clients don't need a $20,000 design and don't have $20,000 to spend.

    Years ago I worked for a company that made point of sale systems. They had a logo that looked like a monogram on someone's shirt. It was drawn by a marketing VP who had no design experience, in the early days of the company. Eventually it became an embarrassment and they hired a consultant who made a new logo, new letterhead, etc., for $80,000.

    But the thing is that they only sold to industry and didn't need that degree of expertise. Something from 99designs would have been good enough, and if it happened to look exactly like the logo some real estate management startup in Boise, Idaho was using, too, so what. Since then I've worked for a bunch of startups and the logo and website design has always been a problem. Usually it gets done by somebody's kid or somebody's friend, because startups don't want to spend thousands of dollars on a logo unless they're selling a consumer product.

  • It works (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CapnStank ( 1283176 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @05:36PM (#32996486) Homepage
    Look at it from the other direction. I have a very skilled friend that's having a hard time making money off the graphical design business because he hasn't made a name for himself yet. He uses that site to collect money to pay bills as his contributions are just as likely to get picked as someone with a big name because the exposure is similar for all 'contestants'.
  • by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) * on Thursday July 22, 2010 @06:18PM (#32997020) Homepage

    There are various "coders for hire" sites and such like that. The sites do well, but they are not truly disruptive to the software industry. This is because few professional programmers will put the time and effort into going there because the rates are terrible. And few serious companies use it because they can't get quality for the prices they are offering. But bored students, the unemployed, a few freelancers, and inhabitants of undeveloped nations will look for work there.

    The question is: what percentage of the demand for this product can be met by that market segment?

    It may turn out that the average corporation can't tell a good design from a bad one. If so, then graphic designers will start to go out of business until either the corporations realize that their designs aren't working, or until graphic designers realize that design quality doesn't actually matter. I suspect reality lies somewhere in between: cruddy designs are good enough for a lot of the market. Only the best designers will survive to get the remaining high-end contracts.

  • by epp_b ( 944299 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @09:37PM (#32998826)
    Let me preface this by saying that I know it's probably going to sound fruity among the Slashdot populace which thinks that it needs to be quantifiable to be worthwhile.

    I have two points to make. The first is one of what Werner Herzog calls the "Inadequate Imagery" of our time. To quote Herzog on Herzog, "I have often spoken of what I call the inadequate imagery of today's civilization. I have the impression that the images that surround us today are worn out; they are abused and useless and exhausted. They are limping and dragging themselves behind the rest of our cultural evolution."

    You can find the quote further elaborated here [].

    Businesspeople think in numbers, sales figures and short-term profits; not in visual aestheticism and subtlety. Presented with many, many options for promotional materials, they will usually choose what is safely cliche and what they think is "good enough". The point I'm trying to make with this is that crowdsourcing does not find the best (and not the best for the business, either).

    This brings me nicely to my second point, which can also be summed nicely in a quote (which I'm paraphrasing because I cannot find the source at the moment): "Advertising is a unique business in that your wealthiest client can demand your worst product while your poorest client must humbly accept your best."

    You are the poorest judge of yourself because you can only perceive yourself as you always have. A business is the same way: you can say that your business is about this and about that, but your customers' perception of you is your only true face. Crowdsourcing typically involves a business micromanaging every detail of a project in which they have no expertise ("we want a bold logo with a strong corporate message about blah blah blah, and it has to have these colours and these shapes and these words and blah blah blah").

    A good designer and advertiser will develop an actual, face-to-face relationship with the business, be able to perceive it with fresh eyes and use their expertise to design the best possible outcome for the long term.
  • by jtara ( 133429 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @10:24PM (#32999124)

    I recently sponsored my first two 99Designs contests, and it was (for the most part) a throughly pleasant experience. I paid $250 (plus fees) for a great logo. My local designer would have charged me $750. Oh, his absurd logo price schedule: $400 for non-profits, $750 for normal companies, and $1500 for big fish. Yea, you read me right. Nothing to do with effort. Based on ability to pay - charge what the traffic will bear. Is that a better system than 99design?

    (The one negative was excessive nannying by 99Design staff and the "sour grapes" reaction by some contestants when I permitted a design to make use of a tracing of a photograph. The designer disclosed that to me, I gave him permission, and it turned out to be the winning design. Unfortunately, 99Design suspended the contestant for 7 days. Thank you very much, but let ME manage my legal risk. But they did pay him the prize money. Now, had somebody pointed-out the tracing before the contest was over, or at least before the winner was chosen, it would have been USEFUL to me. Instead, they waited till it was all over - and so it was just obstructive. In fact, I will probably have the traced part of the logo re-done, using the original tracing only as inspiration. I love the DESIGN CONCEPT and it is a starting point. I would have never come up with that logo design myself, and the tracing is just one element that can certainly be re-drawn from scratch. Contestants and 99Design staff DO NOT KNOW whether the logo will be used commercially as-is, and shouldn't make assumptions.)

    Yes, there are poor-quality Chinese and Indian (gotta pick on SOMEBODY) entries. And they were obviously low-quality I eliminated them early on. I never eliminated a DESIGNER (something you CAN do), and in fact one of designers of the early low-quality entries listened to feedback well enough to ultimately come very close to winning. BTW, the Chinese designers tend to have horrible typefaces, so they get eliminated on that if you have any taste at all. Yes, some of the designers have poor or no English skills, so that feedback is nearly impossible. But they still see other's designs and your "star ratings" of designs (unless you run a "blind" contest) and so they still can see the direction you are going. Myself, I prefer to work with the designers that have excellent English skills making feedback effective. There's no lack of designers with excellent English skills.

    It's important to provide feedback. I gave plenty, and the designers appreciated it.

    Sometimes you get a great result through feedback and iteration. Sometimes a great design just drops out of the sky. The winner of my logo contest worked his ass of making change after change at my request. My second choice just swooped-in with a beautiful, simple design that required just a single iteration - to change the colors in the company name. I told him "don't change a thing - it is perfect". (The second choice was really a much better logo - it just wasn't the image I wanted to project. Great for a Fortune-500 bank or investment house. Not playful enough for an iPhone software development company.) The second-choice probably didn't take the designer much time. Three simple shapes that overlap to form the logo. I think he just got an inspiration that took him a half-hour to draw. Both approaches are valid, and 99Designs allows you to choose.

    In fairness to contestants, once I had leading choices, I stopped making requests of other contestants. No need to run the ragged for nothing. I imagine most contest holders (or at least experienced ones) are pretty fair to contestants this way.

    Next time, I will try running a "preliminary design" contest, and a second one (or contract with the winner) for a finished design. Tell the contestants right-off, I'm not looking for a finished design, but design concepts. I think it's useful to be a bit creative with the process. This is the way it often works with a single designer, anyway. You get rough sketches, color palettes, etc. first, then final artwork later. 99De

  • Damn it! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by zmollusc ( 763634 ) on Friday July 23, 2010 @02:46AM (#33000238)

    Guys, our porches and fancy holidays are in danger! Some hack company has figured out a cheaper way to supply the emperor with his new clothes!

"The number of Unix installations has grown to 10, with more expected." -- The Unix Programmer's Manual, 2nd Edition, June, 1972