Creative crowdsourcing - the future of design?

by Alex Anderson on 16 August 2012

You can crowdsource almost anything. Websites like Kickstarter & Quirky allow you to pitch a project (anything from animated movies to a wristwatches) to a community of people who may or may not decide to donate money to fund your idea. Taking a different slant on the same crowdsourcing principles is DesignCrowd, now its the users that pitch their ideas to you. Essentially DesignCrowd introduces you or your brand to over 80,000 graphic and web designers who vie against one another to create you a logo, brochure or even website. For a price you stipulate in your brief you might receive hundreds, even thousands of designs - each created by a different person. This is one end of the spectrum, on the other you have corporate giants spending millions on logos. For example:

  • Shell's logo re-designed in 2008 at a cost of $211,000,000
  • Accenture spent $100,000,000 on theirs in 2000

These prices did include a complete branding package but this is still a serious sum of money, especially considering some freelancers essentially re-brand big businesses for fun. See this stylish re-brand of Microsoft Metro and what if Wikipedia was more usable and better looking.

Looking to the crowd

I should not have been surprised, big brands like to spend big money. But could the Crowd help? Does it have benefits over big name agencies? Well, possibly. Crowdsourcing means you get a huge number of designs from people of various backgrounds, cultures and viewpoints. What is more it's low risk; you don't pay until the work is finished and you don't have to pay anyone if the work is not to your liking. Arguably the only thing stopping crowdsourced design being of comparable quality to agency work is money. As with anything money plays a huge factor and up until recently most DesignCrowd projects have struggled to break the £1,000 mark, however this trend might be about to change. A client of DesignCrowd recently received over 5,000 entries to their logo design contest setting a new record for online logo crowdsourcing. offered $10,000 to and received 5,706 logo designs.

 This is a design related example, but what does happen when serious money if offered to the crowd?

Striking $3bn of gold

When a new chief executive arrived at Goldcorp he put all its geological data online and asked for help on where the gold was located and put up $500,000 in prize money for accurate suggestions. "They got submissions from people all over the world, including people using 3D computer modelling techniques. They found $3bn worth of gold on the property and Goldcorp became one of Canada's biggest mining companies." So it can work. I wonder what would happen if you offered even £50,000 to the crowd to design a logo, even a whole branding package. But will big business take notice in a design context? I don't expect they will and I would not be surprised if TimesSquare was a one off example. Nevertheless, it's an interesting proposition. But what happens if you share a problem with millions of people, asked Tom de Castella in a BBC article. "Are you left with a millionth of a problem? Or just lots of rubbish suggestions?"

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