Crowdsourcing in the Design Industry

crowdsourcing in design by Function Creative Co.

Being a designer and freelance business owner, I have been reading a lot lately on crowdsourcing within the design industry. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, crowdsourcing refers to the method of providing a creative brief to a pool of designers. From here, the person posting the contest or brief gets a ton of submissions from designers all over the world. The “winner” is the only one who gets paid and the “prize” is often significantly less than the market rate for designs. It’s important to note the difference between posting a brief and asking for portfolios versus posting and asking for submissions. Free submissions are considered spec work, which is highly frowned upon in the design industry. The following is under the assumption that designers are submitting work for free, or for a very low charge.

crowdsourcing in design by Function Creative Co.

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With more and more crowdsourcing sites popping up, what are the benefits of businesses using freelance designers or design studios for their business needs?

People have many different opinions on the matter and it’s interesting to hear opposing arguments. Here are some of the reasons businesses are turning to crowdsourcing for their design needs:


Advantage: The turnaround time for some of these designs is very quick. Within very little time of posting the contest, the owner receives tons of submissions to sift through.

Disadvantage: Fast doesn’t always mean quality. It’s the difference between eating a meal from McDonald’s and eating a meal from the Keg. Sure, if you’re in a time crunch, you get to look through hundreds of submitted designs quickly. But how much time can a designer spend truly understanding your business needs and target audience under these circumstances? It’s a stab in the dark most of the time.

Another thing to consider is that fast ideas are not always original. When time is limited this way and designers are bidding against one another, there is a ton of room for plagiarism and re-used designs. There’s no guarantee that these submitted designs have not been used elsewhere by other businesses.



Advantage: If $1,000+ for a logo design makes you want to run in the other direction, then sure, $100 ready-made-logos may seem like a great option for your business/cause.

Disadvantage: I always say that there are some things I would buy at the dollar store, and there are some things I would not. When it comes to the first impression that my brand gives to prospective consumers or clients? That is something I am willing to invest in. It’s important to have a cohesive and professional look in order to stand out among competition. It also gives your brand much more credibility.

All in all, I believe crowdsourcing is going to stick around for a while, and perhaps for some individuals or businesses, it makes sense to hire through this type of process.

It’s quick, usually costs less than hiring a designer and you have access to hundreds of designers to choose from. However, if an individual or company values their product, service or message, I think working with one designer or agency who can truly focus on your needs and values is the best route to take. Good designers are problem solvers firstly.

The time and research that goes into the design phase before execution is the most important part for a successful project, so getting a design on the quick and cheap isn’t a always a great way to go about solving your problem at hand. Investing a little bit more money and time into the project will win you far better, long-term results.

Taking the time to hire a quality designer and speaking with them about your goals can go much further than posting a contest online. Besides, it would be a shame to spend time and money crowdsourcing only to have to go back and fix or change the winning design.


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