Is Crowdsourcing Disruptive?

March 22, 2010  

There was an excellent post by Hutch Carpenter on the blogging innovation website.  In the article, he asked the question – “Is Crowdsourcing Disrupting the Design Industry?”  He makes an excellent case for the value (and pitfalls) of crowdsourcing design work.  As readers of this site know, I have used design crowdsourcing on several occasions.

In response to the article, I wrote…

I use crowdsourcing for some of my designs. And I have to admit, I do sometimes feel a little bad. It’s clear some people put a fair amount of thought into their designs. Sadly, there is typically only one winner.

Having said that, as a consultant, no one feels bad for me when I spend days or weeks developing a proposal that does not get awarded to me. We recognize that it is the cost of doing business.

Let’s face it…for some design work, it might be just as fast to develop a rough concept as it would be to develop a compelling proposal. Crowdsourcing can reduce the time and effort involved in selling design services.

And crowdsourcing, when done correctly, can give you (the “Seeker”) benefits that you would not get through conventional means.

Right now I am running a crowdsourcing competition for a design for my Personality Poker cards. The competition has been running for 2 days, and I received some amazing designs. Because I did a blind competition, everyone has to develop their own idea, rather than simply build on the idea of someone else. This is enhancing the level of creativity significantly.

The winner will get follow on work from me in fleshing out the concept and in future design work. [NOTE: The competition is over and I received 32 designs of which a half dozen of them were fantastic]

I used to use eLance (an eRFP site) for design work. But the results were not always great. Plus each designer has to submit a proposal and decide upon a fee. With 99designs, the designer knows the “prize” and can decide if they want to invest any effort at all.

It’s not spec work that is changing the rules. It is access to the masses. Personally, I would prefer to pay for a solution than a proposal.

I do think, if done well, design crowdsourcing can be beneficial to all involved.

Crowdsourcing has the potential to give designers a reach they have not previously had.  Although their cost per design might go up, their cost of acquisition might actually go down. Proposals are a cost of doing business – and you don’t win every proposal.  Spending time/money on finding customers who want the proposal in the first-place is another cost – and you don’t acquire every customer you target.  Mailing marketing materials to potential customers is another real cost.  The list goes on.   The real cost/time associated with marketing/selling design services is not insignificant.

Crowdsourcing allows you to convert your marketing/selling time into design time.  Your only cost is your time to develop the submitted designs.  This feels like a much better use of design resources.

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