Tuesday, June 30, 2009

To Crowd Source or Not To Crowd Source?

Now that's a question...

Crowd Sourcing – Crowd sourcing is a neologism for the act of taking a task traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people or community in the form of an open call. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crowdsourcing

To put this in advertising terms- Large corporations or companies asking designers to create completed works with the hope of a future payoff. For most of the designers contributing works of art designed specifically to the corporation's specs, it's an unrewarded competition as only one designer will become the winner and walk away with the prized paycheck. I see how corporations benefit from crowd sourcing: By getting a large group of hungry artists to develop an ad, logo, or marketing piece for free and only paying the one that actually wins the competition. The rest of the designers walk away with hunger pains and homeless works of art. Crowd sourcing nullifies the idea of proving your value to clients in hopes that they will come back to you for future works. Those clients will more than likely crowd source their next projects. I got a taste of this type of thing first hand. When I started out as a photographer, I worked with an up and coming agency (not to be named). As their client base grew and the work began getting noticed they became inundated with photographers looking to work with them. My good deal was about to come to an abrupt end as these photographers indirectly created a competition of sorts. The agency eventually wanted to see my portfolio and select the best artist for the job. When they realized they were my biggest client they asked me to cut my fees to do them a favor on a small project. Desperate to keep them as my account, I reluctantly cut my fees. Once I let the proverbial Genie out of the bottle, my fees never came back up to the original fees until after I quit doing jobs for them and was asked back by a former client to work on their specific project. There are many reasons why artists might choose to participate in crowd sourcing. They might be trying to break into an industry, attempting to create portfolio pieces, or just striving to stay creative and productive in slow times, as the idea of doing something has to be better than doing nothing all. While these might seem like good thoughts, the fact is there are better ways to make money and spend your time.

As in years past, artists today are getting squeezed due to bad economic times and crowd sourcing is taking today’s economy to another new low. Don't become a victim of crowd sourcing and walk away hungry. Use your talents to create pro-bono work for community and non-profit needs. Develop projects that you can be proud of for your neighborhood, community and portfolio. If you're looking to create revenue, create generic logos and designs that can be sold as stock. You'll get paid for your efforts and get your name and/or studio out to new possible customers.

Quick recap:
Reasons why artists participate in Crowd Sourcing:
Possible pay check
Ability to break into a new business
Stay busy in slow times

Reasons why not to participate in Crown Sourcing:
It’s a competition with no real winner; the majority of artists get nothing for their work
Damages your reputation: A client isn’t going to reward you with a new project
Time lost in creating artwork without the promise of payment

However you elect to work, consider a long-term plan.

Crowd sourcing is short-term thinking and your chances of winning the prize are slim to none.


Anonymous said...

Awesome topic... this is something I've bristled against for many years. When guest lecturing at a local campus, I often tell the famous story of the University of Minnesota, Moorhead athletics logo. (See it here: www.msumdragons.com) It is the product of an on-campus design competition where the winner was awarded only a couple hundred dollars. It's a great logo and has been used for almost 20 years now without change. The university has made millions in licensing this design and that student probably still feels pretty lousy about that!

Todd said...

Great writeup. Here is another great article on the same topic, a must read for all graphic designer.


catherine said...

Yeah unfortnately in this economy this goes on alot. One has to be a bit more smart to not be taken advantage of.