The industry as seen by top designers.
"Crowdsourcing": The Future of
Design by and for the masses.
by Michelle Temares (March 1, 2010)
(Note: Recent entries in Designing Perspectives have
covered the plight of professional designers; the impact of
non-professionals, particularly scrapbookers; and the issue of
"clip-art" vs. quality design. Michelle Temares adds
another dimension to the situation.)
To the delight of some and the chagrin of others, clip art has
long been a player in the design business. More recently, the
Internet cemented trend of "crowdsourcing" has also become
a player in low- or no-cost design acquisition. In crowdsourcing,
tasks traditionally done by a single entity are instead distributed
to a community through an open call via the Internet. The philosophy
is that many people working on a problem are better than one.
Wikipedia is a good example. Typically, there is little or no
compensation for those participating. The corporate design community
has picked up on the trend and is using it, to some success, with
Hereís how it often works in the design community: A company
posts an Internet call for designs, posts the entries, and then asks
consumers to vote for their favorites. The winning designs are then
put into production. The advantages to the company are many,
including a wide choice of design with little or no financial
investment or commitment, a broad opinion survey as an organic part
of the process, and, conceivably, increased odds of sales success
based on perceived consumer interest.
On the downside, for the company, proven designers often donít
participate because the entry fee in terms of work is too high with
chance of reward too low. Companies may also find themselves working
with inexperienced and, at times, unprofessional designers. There is
also the risk that the designs submitted will turn out not to be
original (despite disclosures/warranties to the contrary), which may
lead to ownership/copyright/unexpected royalty and legal issues.
The advantages for the designer are few. Sometimes the winning
designer is compensated. Often it is at a price well below market,
including the loss of copyrights. Perhaps it will lead to ongoing
work with that client at a reasonable rate, but its unlikely.
Sometimes the compensation is merely bragging rights. The losers,
essentially working on spec, receive nothing.
The cost barriers to business entry for start-ups have plummeted
with the onset of the Internet. It is often these start-ups who are
relying on crowdsourcing exclusively. Crowdsourcing of design
provides an opportunity for start-up businesses, with little
capital, to test the market. Many are even obtaining their logos and
corporate branding through this strategy. However, it is unlikely
that any major industry player would take the risk of trade show and
delivery deadlines by relying on design contests.
None of this is new. Clip art has existed for years and so have
design contests. However, as with many things on the Internet, the
magnitude of each and the speed of delivery have increased
dramatically. Designers, like all 21st century businesses, may need
to develop and explore new business models to survive. Being a
Luddite doesn't seem to work out too well for anyone.
(Note: Michelle Temares is a Professor of Studio Art and
Art History at the State University of New York and an award winning
American Impressionist painter. To view a portion of her work
available for licensing, visit her website and blog at www.bellamichelle.com.)
Clip Art = A Stale Category
Is everyone who makes something a designer?
by Name Withheld
While the first email talked about scrapbook designing, I think
the main thought from this email is originality of design. All areas
of crafts Ė needlework, clay, sewing, etc. Ė need original and
trendsetting designs to grow their category. Take the word
"illustrator" out of that email and substitute
If unoriginal designs or clip art is used as the primary design
basis, then that category will go stale quickly. It will all look
the same and there will be nothing to set the manufacturers apart.
The age of the designer/artist doesnít matter, it's the uniqueness
and originality of a good design that will grow the category and
sales. Those who are using clip art to become "rock
stars," will not survive as the industry will grow and evolve
using the unique and original designs.
Good designers most often do start out as consumers using the
products. They also come up with new and refreshing ways to use the
products. These type of designers will have staying power in the
industry, although they may not be deemed "rock stars."
They may often start working for free or for free product, but
then somewhere along the line, they realize that they need to be
paid in order to earn a living as a professional designer. Iíve
been in the business for years and have seen so many designers come
and go because they needed to get a job that paid.
I have to also agree that I have seen a trend toward calling
anyone who puts something together a "designer," whether
itís within the industry or to the population in general. I saw an
ad from a large chain on Facebook last week to buy their products
and "you can become a designer." Iíve seen many other
instances of this mentality.
(Note: To read previous articles on the topic, click on
the headlines in the right-hand column Ė and read Why "The
Impatient Crafter" won't design for free in the Mar. 1 issue of
CLN. To join the conversation, email CLN at email@example.com.)