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Crowdsourcing – Chic for Some, Bad for Designers – Educate Your Clients!

Posted: August 24th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Articles, Business | No Comments »

Whether you call it design by democracy or crowdsourcing, it’s bad news to designers.  Crowdsourcing is where a project is turned over to the public, which in turn gives its input on the outcome of the project. Everyone gets to collaborate on it, and that’s anyone, whether they have a design background or not. One philosophy behind the approach is that collective creativity can lead to great things. The problem is that it leads to lower quality work, and you put your clients at risk of lawsuits for copyright and trademark infringement.

Copyright and Trademark Infringement

Copyrights are one of the first properties your clients may own. It is intellectual property that is valuable to someone. When you design a logo for someone, it provides value to them only if it excludes others from using it. For example, the golden arches used by McDonald’s are recognized worldwide, and no other restaurant can use it. If a restaurant owner uses crowdsourcing and the group decides that golden arches are cool and incorporates them in the logo design, that restaurant owner is at risk of a lawsuit. Most restaurant owners will know that the golden arches belong to McDonald’s, but what about lesser known works? What if a crowd member decides to rip an image or two from a website and it gets incorporated in a logo down the road? There’s no incentive for the crowd to do its due diligence, and that owner may find himself in a costly legal battle a few years down the road.

Poor Quality Work

Low quality work that’s produced consistently has a negative impact on the design industry. Prospective clients will expect you to lower your rates, because the alternative is to get work done cheaper or even free. Your argument that the work you produce is high quality and not comparable to what you’ll get with crowdsourcing will fall on more deaf ears as this method of producing work becomes more popular. It will become harder to make your case and narrow your pool of prospective clients.

Not So Cheap After All

The irony of crowdsourcing is that it could end up costing the clients more, even though the perception is that it’s a cheaper way of doing business. Someone has to manage the group giving input, set milestones and ensure that it’s getting done. Clients can expect to redo work or start over with this method. That costs money, and clients who spend too much on crowdsourcing may get stingy about allocating more money to other design projects. It affects the design industry as a whole because designers are competing with the crowd at large, where resources are limited. And with fewer designers getting hired for these jobs, you can expect lower quality work. It’s important to demonstrate to clients that it might cost more to crowdsource when they rebut your sales pitch with that as an option.

Before you get seduced by crowdsourcing, consider the effects it can have on your income. It’s a bad idea for the design industry, and it has a direct impact on your ability to land more sales.

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