Calling All Designers!

February 2, 2009 at 2:07 pm | Posted in Web 2.0 Strategies | 5 Comments
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Need a website designed? Want a new logo? Not sure who you want to work with?

Put the job out for bid on!

99-designs-quote199designs utilizes the latest R&D method available: crowdsourcing. According to Wikipedia, “crowdsourcing 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.” In laymen’s terms: it’s allowing the public to help a company in research, development and product design.

Using Web 2.0 For New Ideas

How would you like that gentleman in the front to design a new logo for you?

Companies like 99designs take full advantage of the concept that the world is flat by allowing people all over the world to connect and collaborate. Coordinating with people all over the globe means that the most creative ideas can finally come together in one place: the Internet.

But how do the creatives feel about the ability to collaborate like this?

99designs, founded by some SitePoint guys, uses inane web 2.0 vernacular (“crowdsourcing”), deceivingly open-armed design (“oh look, it’s a paper airplane icon! tee-hee!”), and the thin veil of “contests” to come across as a legit alternative to traditional business practices.

According to this post by Kevin Potts on graphicPush, 99designs is the anti-christ who steals the blood, sweat and tears from real graphic designers for a measly $200. His argument is valid: sites like 99designs cheapens the art of graphic design for everyone. The designs submitted are based on a creative brief created by the client, but the designer never has the chance to meet the client, learn about the business, and get a feel for the company’s brand.

As we’re learning in the IMC Program, cohesiveness in a brand is imperitive. So maybe these sites ARE the anti-christ? Or maybe they’re a great alternative for a start-up company without much expendible cash? The jury is still out.

What are your thoughts on crowdsourcing design work? Is it the next big thing, or is it destined to strip the world of talent as Potts argues?



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  1. What people like Kevin Potts (and the rest of that vocal minority) need to realize is that the 26,000+ people who perform design work for clients via 99designs are, in fact, designers. If you include them in a survey, you’ll find that designers love design contests 🙂

    The disruptive model of design contests certainly adds some competition to the design market, but competition is a Good Thing not just for consumers, but for an industry, right?

    At the end of the day, there’s corporations that need to spend huge amounts of money working with established design firms, and there’s companies that are in need of an affordable logo or other design material. To put it another way – McDonalds hasn’t driven fine-dining restaurants out of business, and nor is 99designs destroying the design industry.

    Thanks for the article, Kerri! 🙂

  2. Honestly, I’m torn.

    On one hand (and as someone who would love to eventually start my own business) I think it’s great to get a whole lot of ideas and input for not much output.

    But, on the other hand (as a marketer who greatly values her designers) I hate the idea of anyone being able to give their input on logos, websites, etc. It does seem to take away the “purity” of the design process.

    I think crowdsourcing overall is in fact the next big thing…and this may work out well for some, I’m just not sure that it will pull in the big clients that may be needed to keep it afloat.

  3. Paul: Thanks for your input. I agree that competition is the basis of capitalism, and should therefore be nurtured. On the other hand, I can see January’s point. I work closely with our designers when working on marketing materials, and I’m not sure I would be willing to give up the “personal touch” on a collaborative site. However, when my boss started this company 7 years ago, he paid a design student $250 to design his logo and never saw him again. We are still using that logo (much to my dismay). For a start-up company looking to establish an identity through a logo, a cheap option worked. If 99designs had been around back then, I believe my boss would have put the job out for bid.

    Paul- as someone who works for 99designs, I would be interested to hear if there are many repeat clients on your site. If there are, do they typically request the same designer or are they starting from scratch with each new project? My guess is that it would be hard to remain consistent in branding if a new designer works on each project. What are your thoughts?

  4. Kerri,

    More than half of the 17,000+ contests at 99designs have been held by repeat customers. So there’s certainly a lot of clients that find the process good enough to come back and do it all again.

    On the other hand, we also encourage follow-up work between clients and designers. This is something which we don’t track (nor monetize), but in speaking our designer community they say that contest wins almost always lead to follow-up work with the contest holder.


  5. […] I wrote a post about crowdsourcing last month, and at the time I wasn’t sure how I felt about the practice. I have to say that, depending on the situation, crowdsourcing can be a great way for consumers to 1) interact with a brand, 2) “make their mark,” and 3) feel as though their opinion/voice/creativity matters. It truly is a win-win situation. […]

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