Crowdsourcing your design: The arguments for and against

feature-crowdsource-thumbAlmost every start-up needs a logo, signage and business cards. So how do you get great design work for these things without paying a fortune?


Increasingly, businesses are turning to crowdsourcing sites such as 99designs, where briefs for work are posted online for designers to compete over.


But there are concerns that crowdsourcing may not be good for small businesses nor, for that matter, designers.


Here are the arguments for and against crowdsourcing:


The case against crowdsourcing




By Spencer Harrison, founder of design agency Happy Studio.


Recently in my co-working space at Hub Melbourne, I have witnessed more and more small businesses looking to 99designs and crowdsourcing sites for their design needs.


With many of my current clients that have used 99designs in the past I have to spend a lot of time redoing or fixing their logos and designs as there are many problems with what they received.


This leads to greater costs for them as they have to effectively pay twice for the logo, once to design and once to fix or redesign it.


All these problems could have been avoided in the first place if they found a local designer and worked one on one with them on their design.


Below are some of the reasons that crowdsourcing is not an effective option and some of the problems that are often encountered:


Effort and time spent


In order for a designer to make a living on a platform like 99designs they have to be able to do many logos for many competitions, as the odds of them ‘winning’ are low.


Because of this, they pump out designs and spend as little time as possible on entries submitted as there is no guarantee they will be paid.


For you, yes, you get many options, but the effort, research and attention to detail in those logos will not be there.


The best designs come from strong original ideas which require research (into competitors, the market, the target audience, etc), time and thought in order to come up with what suits your business.


Copyright infringement could be an issue


Time and time again I have seen people get logos from 99designs they were happy with only to find that ideas and parts of the logo are direct copies of other people’s logos (rendering them unusable).


Once again, with many designers on 99designs spending as little time as possible on the logos, they go looking at the work of other designers and copying parts of logos and designs they find online.


Working with a reputable local designer means you will avoid the risk of this happening and ensure you get an original design that is not plagiarised.


Quality and attention to detail lacking


I have seen many crowdsourced logos that are poorly drawn with little attention to the fine details of the logo.


This might be alright when the logo is small or on a website but when you go to use it in other mediums or blown up bigger (e.g. on a banner) it can cause problems as these rough details become apparent.


Different cultural contexts


In many cases, design works best when designed by someone familiar with the cultural context and business environment in which it will be used and displayed.


Many designers on 99designs and other crowdsourced sites are based in countries with lower cost of living (due to the low pay rates!), which means there may be language and cultural barriers involved.


Of course there is an argument that design should be universal, but there will always be cultural factors and influences involved that impact the design outcome.


Experience, or lack thereof


Anyone can participate in 99designs no matter their training, level of experience or knowledge of design.


This means that a high school student or anyone with a copy of photoshop could potentially be designing your logo.


These people lack skills and experience in areas such as typography (e.g. vertical type, squishing letters together, bad legibility), print production (e.g. incorrect specification of colours, wrong file formats) and general knowledge of the proper design process.


Costlier than you think


You may think you are saving money using a crowdsourcing platform but in the long run it can end up costing you more.


From what I have seen around the Hub and through my clients, they pay on average $300-500 for their crowdsourced logo.


Later on when that logo needs to be fixed or they find it does not work as they wished, they have to pay more to people like me to fix it or redesign it, which costs them even more!


For more around the $500-1000 mark you can find a young local designer or freelancer to work one on one with you and develop a bespoke, well thought-out, high quality logo for you.


If you consider the value added to your business from a good design that speaks to YOUR customers the small additional cost will come back many times in additional income for your business.


So if you do move away from crowdsourcing as an option, where does this leave you?


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