Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Crowdsourcing - devaluing an industry?

My wife has just had a very expensive trip to the dentist for a new dental crown.  In fact, the cost was far higher than we’d expected, but you have to pay the price for good dentistry don’t you?  While sat in the dentist’s waiting room, ignoring the random pile of two-year old magazines, I couldn’t help thinking that this ethos of getting what you pay for doesn’t always extend to the world of design.

In the good old days, if you wanted a logo designing, you would go to a reputable marketing or design agency, and you would be quoted for a new logo created by an experienced designer.  You could be confident that the professional designer would do a great job – quite like the highly trained (and highly paid!) dentist.

But back in the real world, the internet plays a massive part in finding suppliers; and there are adverts all over the internet promising logos and design work via crowdsourcing websites for a ridiculously small cost – sometimes even for free.  It sounds like a no-brainer right?  Wrong!!! 

Crowdsourcing sites – of which there are many – allow you to put your job out to tender.  You can get designers (and non-designers) from all over the world all competing for work and it seems projects are generally won on cost. 

The benefits are for the individual designers – it’s a great way of generating plenty of quick work.  However chances are your logo will be identical to hundreds if not thousands of others, and I’d be very surprised if you were happy with the result.

An experienced designer will take the time to get a thorough brief from you, and to get an in-depth understanding of your brand and company culture.  He'll then research your industry, looking at what logos have been successful, what colours are common, and what ‘classic logos’ have been created. 

This will be backed up with a forensic knowledge of trends and experience of what works. Various ideas will be sketched out, far more that you will see at the presentation stage as different colour schemes and layouts are experimented with along the way.

It’s likely that the logo will need to be reproduced on cardboard boxes at a small size as well as on 10 foot banners.  The experienced designer will factor this in, to ensure it will reproduce as legibly and beautifully on a brown box as on the expensive but beautiful vellum paper which has been recommended for your letterheads.

You'll be given a choice of designs, including single/two- colour options which will keep the costs down for box printing – see, we’re thinking of your bottom line after all! The logo has been designed with you and your business in mind, and looks great. Happy days, you never know you may be sitting on a future design classic like Carolyn Davidson's Nike 'Swoosh' or Saul Bass' Kleenex logo.

With so much expertise going into the creation of a logo and other design work, crowdsourcing simply devalues the whole creative industry.  Yes, there are cheaper options – you can go online today and buy 250 business cards for £5. When they arrive in the post, they look and feel awful and chances are you'll see another card looking exactly the same. 

Remember, everything that you see and touch has been designed. Imagine if the task of designing the iPod hadn’t been entrusted to Jonathan Ive.  I’m sure it wouldn't be the design icon it is now.  There’s a man who knew exactly what he was doing, just like my wife's dentist.