Ethics and Crowdsourcing

Posted: April 26, 2011 in Ethics

Crowdsourcing is the process of graphic designers bidding for a client’s work by submitting designs created for free and according to the client’s specifications, while hoping they will be selected for the paid job. Many times, the client is unknown to the designer.

Well known designer, researcher and writer, Seven Heller posts on his blog, Imprint,Crowd-Sourcing Design: The Last Frontier,” speaks about designers not talking with each other or with the client. Designers read a mail-in brief and have no opportunity to meet or talk with the client about needs or wants. The research, brainstorming, and rapport between designer and client are either non-existent or cut short.

Steve Douglas’ recent blog post “The grim realities of spec work and crowdsourcing” researched how well graphic designers make out financially through crowdsourcing. His data states that 9.5% of work done through crowdsourcing is paid work, while 90.5% is unpaid.

Some advocates of crowdsourcing feel that crowdsourcing gives young designers who don’t have much experience a chance to be judged on their merit alone.

Read Stephen Heller’s article above and the article “Curated Crowdsourcing: The Next Big Thing?” by Andrew Meehan from to see two points of view on Crowdsourcing. Discuss with your partners and reply to the blog. When you reply, include the name of your group members.

What do you think about crowdsourcing?

  1. Does crowdsourcing provide new opportunities for designers just entering the field?
  2. Does crowdsourcing take design to a new low, pitting designers against designers? In other words, if too many designers work this way, will it drives down the hourly earnings of graphic designers?
  3. Will crowdsourcing financially hurt advertising agencies?

Please answer the poll individually.

  1. darceysweeney says:

    Darcey Sweeney & Tom Sabatine

    We both agree that crowdsourcing could be a positive and negative aspect in this feild. If you are working free lance and they didn’t pick you design it can be frustrating, however either way you are ‘wasting time’ due to the fact that you would have to search for a client at some point. Moreoever, if you are working for an agency you’ll have a better understanding and transition when working for a specific company versus competing against 100 other designers.

  2. meghanwernimont says:

    Molly and I think that for new designers entering the field, it provides many opportunites in order for them to get recognition for their designs. Although, for more experienced designers it may not be worth because they need to make a living for themselves and they are not getting paid. Crowdsourcing may take design to a new low because 90% of designers are not getting paid, when they can try and get a job for an ad agency and be the sole designer and get paid for that. It could potentially hurt advertising agencies just because new designers are getting involved with crowdsourcing so they can get their designs out there, when instead they can be working towards bringing their designs to an agency.

  3. Jeff Katra says:

    Ed and I think that crowdsourcing both benefits and hurts certain aspects of the design community. It is a perfect opportunity for new and emerging graphic artists to put their hard work on the table and have the possibility of getting paid. What it hurts are the professional designers who work for agencies and the agencies themselves. It kind of eliminates the traditional creative process of the client finding an agencies and having that agency draft a logo/brocure/etc. Crowdsourcing to me seems kind of like a bargain outlet for clients to find a quick and easy means of drafting branding/marketing materials. The competition is also very heavy so the turnover rate would be quick. It could possibly hurt a lot of smaller agencies, whereas, there will always be a need for the larger agencies.

  4. andrewmikolaichik says:

    Drew and Andrew

    Crowdsourcing is a great way to open opportunities for new designers. A designer who has not found a job at a well know agency will be able to get their work noticed by companies and probably even agencies as I’m sure they pay attention to what is happening.

    We feel that designers are already competting against one another without using crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing helps designers who dont have jobs, giving them a chance to make money. It could hurt the hourly pay because designers can sift thru ideas quickly in enchance their design.

    Crowdsourcing could hurt bigger advertising agencies who like to have contact with clients to make sure they are able to meet all their needs. Products selected from crowdsourcing would seem to be settling for design that meets most needs but not all. For smaller agenicies and freelance designers it creates a huge financial gain that other wise would not be in reach for them.

  5. lcuscani says:

    We all agree on question number one, that crowd sourcing provides many opportunities for new designers just entering the field.

    We don’t think that crowd sourcing is taking design to a new low necessarily, but I think it sort of creates a lot of wasted work. But, we all agree that it does put a pressure on the designers to create their best work to win the “competition”, so although they are “pitted against” each other it creates a little bit of a challenge in a good way, forcing all of them to create their best designs.

    It might hurt advertising agencies, but then again these agencies could take advantage of crowd sourcing sites by searching for ideas and designs on their. They could also hire aspiring designers through these websites. They could find really great designers by seeing how many times a designer has “won” a design job, which could benefit the agency in the long run.
    Lianne, David, Carmi

  6. seanaserrian says:

    1. Yes, it does provide new opportunities however only a small portion of the designers actually benefit. It is a waste of time for those who can not benefit from this opportunity.
    2. Yes, because designers are going to make a lot of poor designs just to get choosen instead of making one or two designs that get the message across.
    3.Yes because the individual designers are getting paid but not the agencies.

    Jerry Lewis, Kevin Lewis, Seana Serrian

  7. jeimers says:

    1. Crowd sourcing is a great way for freelance designers to get the work out into a real-world market. Whether or not their designs are purchased, it provides them the opportunity to have their work judged solely on its quality rather than a reputation. The only problem with crowd sourcing is that many opportunities found this way are unpaid. Essentially, the only way for a designer to grab a job this way is to be consistently exceptional.
    2. Most freelance designers don’t make all that much. Crowd sourcing certainly isn’t a good way to earn a lot of money, but it’s a means of additional income for those already working for an agency. Designers aren’t being pitted against other designers, its business through competition.
    3. Simply put, no. Companies can choose from a large pool of designs. They can then pick one that is most tailor-made for their company’s mission. The design can also be purchased for a small amount of money without going through an agency or hiring a designer.

    Sabrina, Justin, Janessa

  8. I believe that crowd sourcing provides an abundance of opportunities for new designers entering the field. By putting a designer’s work on display where there are no rules and no limits, the designer can show his or her best work pieces among other designers. It also could be used for other designers to brainstorm and come up with new ideas for designs. The designer will also get feedback that could help them reach their full potential. The client is also at a prime advantage because they get to decide which designer fits their aesthetic. Either way, everyone wins with crowd sourcing.

  9. I think crowdsourcing is a double edged sword. Even though a graphic designer could get their work out into the advertising world, it also may get lost amongst the other work being submitted. Competition is a natural human trend, but to have it be so difficult to even get noticed may just end up discouraging lots of graphic designers because they feel like they don’t have a voice.

  10. I do not think that crowdsourcing is a good idea. The opinions of a few designers is acceptable but not 99+. Having so many designers create one design leaves no room for a designers ideas to grow, with no communication with the client. This idea may be good for agencies but not for the designers. I think that this will make it hard for a lot of designers to get jobs, and they will be spending their time designing with nothing in return if their design is not used. In a way, designers will always be competing but it would be better to have a few designers use their ideas and work as a team, as opposed to going head to head in competition.

  11. Crowdsourcing definitely provides new opportunities for young & inexperienced designers, which, on one hand is great because someone who wants to break into the field can try and get experience that way. But on the other hand, it’s more of a disservice to anyone trying to learn the field of graphic design, advertising, etc. Crowdsourcing is a new concept and not the practice of all agencies, so is this design “experience” really going to teach them anything, or build their resume? How great can you improve your designs if they’re thrown into a pot of 100?

    I think it does diminish the field of design because it’s not about quality and the customer, it’s about how fast a new agency can pump designs to clients. I’m sure some of these new agencies have had some successes, but at what cost? Creating a competition fueled design arena may be cheap, but how can a client actually process 100 different designs and be able to make a decision and rely on their original concept and get what they actually want?

    I think it’s great to get different ideas, concepts, and designs from different people, but advertising, marketing, and design is about the client and the wants and needs of their customers. Crowdsourcing is obviously about building up one’s own agency.

  12. 1. I dont know if it does give new desingers a good opportunity, Yes they get a chance to show what they can do on a project when they might not have been able to before, but I dont think it is a good idea to put two designers against eachother.

    2. It is taking designing to a new low, designers are supposed to work together on projects, not go head to head to see who has the better design idea. I feel that this is going to cause new designers that might come into the felid to feel that they have to fight all the time just to get their ideas seen when they should really be working in a team to combined their ideas with someone who might not more then they do.

    3.I think in the long run crowdsourcing will hurt advertising companies, say one company goes to crowdsourcing and another does not, a new designer might see how the company that does not crowdsource would give them more and better opportunities, others might deside that that company is better for them as well and the company that does crowdsource will loss the chance at some really good designers.

  13. 1. I feel that crowdsourcing indeed offers new designers just leaving college an opportunity in the field. It gives them the chance to get their work out into the professional world and showcase the talents and style that they bring to the table by sending their designs to prospective employers/clients. Unfortunately, with crowdsourcing, the fact is that the odds of the client choosing your design aren’t stacked too high in your favor.
    2. I think that crowdsourcing is more in line with business through competition than pitting designers against each other. The business work is full of competition in order to get the best results at the cheapest price and design is not immune to this, especially in today’s economy. But at the same time, I can’t see too many designers who are crowdsourcing getting many pay raises.
    3. I don’t really think so because while crowdsourcing may result in individual designers getting business the agencies otherwise would, the agencies can take from these pools of design as well.

  14. 1. Crowd sourcing provides freelance designers with the opportunity to display their work in the market. It gives freelance designers the chance to have their work displayed and are judged on the quality of the design and are not judged based on reputation.
    2. It’s not providing you with an opportunity to make a lot of money, but it gives some freelancers the chance to make a little extra money on the side if they need to. I also don’t believe that designers are being pitted against other designers, everyone has an equal chance.
    3. It won’t hurt advertising agencies because they get to pick the design that best matches what they wanted without having to hire a designer or spend that extra money else where.

  15. 1. Yes I do think it does benefit new opportunities for new designers in the field because it will help the person be able to know how they do at their jobs and how their work is being judged in the real world. But it also could not be a good opportunity because it could be a waste of time for some people in the community that are not a part of that type of field.

    2. Yes I do believe that overcrowding takes design to a new low because it is putting designer up against designer so it could be showing one designers good deigns next to a poor design. When graphic designers first start out they don’t get paid that much anyway. But yes I do believe that it does down the hourly pay of designers.

    3. Yes I do believe that overcrowding financially hurts advertising agencies because the individual designer doing the project is getting paid not the agencies.

  16. 1. Crowdsourcing would be beneficial to new freelance designers to get their work out there on the market.

    2. I believe that the it does take it to a new low becasue most of the designs are not up to par with some of the better works although it does give everyone an equal opportunity.

    3. It may hurt the ad agencies becasue they are taking the time and resources to go through all these works and trying to pick out one good design out of 10 designs they find.