Small businesses and startups rarely have a treasure chest that they can squander at whim. (not initially anyway) While being small and nimble that means business owners or branding service advisors try to get the most quality for the smallest price. For this reason, many small-scale businesses lap up crowdsourcing as if it were nectar sent from heaven. Almost anything from: business names, logo designs, stationery, business cards, websites and general graphic design needs is being crowdsourced. What gives?
Relatively new, crowdsourcing takes advantage of the collective power of the “crowd”. It provides solutions for real-life or imagined problems or the creation of a product (such as a logo design). It is, in essence, an open (or semi-open) invitation to a “crowd” or community—usually a wide and public one, such as online communities of graphic artists—to solve a problem or create a product, with or without monetary compensation. Most often though, prize money is dangled like a carrot.
Being a marked deviation from the traditional, full-service design model, crowdsourcing has earned the close attention of players in the graphic design industry, many of whom almost fell off their seats during the rise of 50-dollar and 99-dollar logos.There was a time when 50-dollar and 99-dollar ready-made logos were peddled online, and many new business owners scrambled for such services. The “Wow! Cheap!” mentality, unfortunately, it gave most of them exactly just that—a logo worth 50 or 99 dollars. Such logos still abound on the Web.
At least, with crowdsourced logo design which is often in the form of an online competition—the quality of the designs submitted are becoming more refined and are more creatively successful. Generally, the greater the prize money being offered, the better the quality of the submissions which leads to more professional artists and graphic designers being drawn to the price money like moths to a flame. Who wins in this scenario? The company no less, as it often gets hundreds, even thousands of design drafts from competing artists. Though, there’s still a risk of paying for a logo design that makes viewers say, “I’ve seen that somewhere.” Similarity, is hardly any good for effective logos or for business branding especially when trying to carve out a niche. Your logo has to be unique and memorable.
Crowdsourcing has closed the gap between professional artists and the amateurs, as well as between the seasoned designers and the hobbyists. Nobody cares anymore if your logo was done by a 16 year old student or a tried-and-tested graphic artists with a portfolio and years of real world experience under his belt. Crowdsourcing has raised graphic design to the level of meritocracy. If your years of experience have sharpened your artistic skills, well and good. If you have sheer talent, that’s well and good, too. It’s all about getting the job done and according to the client’s requirements. Turnaround time is very fast and the more the clock ticks, the more design proposals come in. This simply means less time waiting for the design drafts, which during that time you can use to sort through the hundreds of design proposals. If you are the project owner, all you really need to do is pick one that suits your needs.
Where does this leave the traditional, full-service, B2B graphic design company? In it’s place. Crowdsourcing may be perceived as health competition, and one that will eventually sway the market back to the traditional business model. One reason is that the crowdsourcing model has inherent shortcomings, least among them: the quality of the output itself. This happens because of the absence of a personalized and intimate relationship between the designer and the client—something that a full-service company can easily provide. This intimacy between graphic designer and client often stokes the inspiration for a design draft coming from someone who is in the know about the client’s needs.
Another important reason is that more-traditional clients would prefer the red carpet treatment and exclusivity. Most importantly, they’d prefer to dip their fingers deep into the logo design process. After all, it’s their logo and their design—and they do not want it to be patterned after some design trend or some variation of a design theme. Yet, crowdsourcing and logo design contents are here to stick around for some time, and I hope they do, because the longer they hang around, the stronger their impact will be on improving design standards, which currently are lacking.