Crowdsourced Creativity, Is this any way to buy design

gr-logoI am usually a huge fan of web technology, but call me old fashioned something about Genius Rocket disturbs me. I hesitate to even bring them up for fear of giving them more work, but thought it might lead to an interesting discussion. 

First, lets discuss the business decision.

Imagine you own a business and that your company is being threatened by a serious and complicated legal challenge, one that threatens the growth of your business. Or imagine for a moment that your business has run into a complex accounting issue with a new subsidiary. I have a feeling that you would not go on line and hire hungry lawyers or accountants, that you have never met, let alone follow their free advice.

What makes the creation, selection, and purchase of design services any different?

Second, lets discuss the ethics.

Would you let your company use unpaid labor, from all over the world, to create your products? Of course not, and yet this is what Genius Rocket seems to be doing. Employing thousands of creative people, to develop design concepts, for no fee. In the end only one individual per project gets what amounts to a nominal fee.

Third, lets discuss recommended best practices in the design industry.

I have been a proud member of the AIGA for most of my career, and am currently a member of the Board of Directors of the AIGA Metro-North Chapter. Founded in 1914, and now with over 23,000 members, it is THE professional organization of designers in North America. As such it is the voice for professional best practices in our industry.

The AIGA is adamantly against this type of exploitation. Here is what they have to say about work on spec,

AIGA believes that doing speculative work—that is, work done without compensation, for the client’s speculation—seriously compromises the quality of work that clients are entitled to and also violates a tacit, long-standing ethical standard in the communication design profession worldwide. AIGA strongly discourages the practice of requesting that design work be produced and submitted on a speculative basis in order to be considered for acceptance on a project. This is work on spec, pure and simple, and abusive to the talent, regardless of experience level or location.”

Now I can hear the critics saying,

– Yes but nobody has forced the designers to contribute their work or,

– Yes but $2,000 is a lot of money for a designer in India or,

– Yes but it is a great way for small clients to get quick access to a lot of creativity or,

– Yes but how is this any different from services like

I watch with trepidation as the business models of the music industry, the newspaper industry, the software industry, and the publishing industry are upended in various ways by technology. I wonder whether this new business model, of free or extremely low cost delivery of services, will thrive in the design industry. If it does we’re toast.

Having said all of this, I am darn curious to see how this plays out. My suspicion is, even after the harsh criticism, that this business model will find a place in our industry. Just like has within the legal profession. Upon reflection I think most clients, large or small, will see that you usually get what you pay for.


About Richard Shear

designer, husband, teacher, blogger, father, athlete, author, historian Richard has over 25 years of brand identity and package design experience, with a wide range of clients such as Ahold, Coca-Cola, Hasbro, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Pernod Ricard and Procter & Gamble. He began his career working with the legendary advertising art director, and AIGA Medalist, George Lois and the British design manager Clive Chajet. In his next design management position at Lippincott & Margulies, he worked with Walter Margulies learning the complex skills of global corporate identity. He then became Creative Director and Partner at Peterson & Blyth, one of the premier brand identity and package design firms of the time. He is a founding faculty member of the Masters in Branding Program at New York’s School of Visual Arts. He publishes the blog The Package Unseen, and has been a guest lecturer at colleges including FIT, Trinity College and Tyler School of Art. He is a graduate of the Tyler School of Art at Temple University. Richard is a Board member of the AIGA MetroNorth Chapter, past President of AIGA‘s Brand Design Association, President of the Package Design Council and a member of its Board of Directors. He is a member of USA Cycling and US Rowing, a nationally ranked masters bicycle racer, and a member of The Saugatuck Rowing Club, the 2010 Masters Club National Champion.
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2 Responses to Crowdsourced Creativity, Is this any way to buy design

  1. Pingback: Crowdsourced Creativity, continued « The Package Unseen

  2. Pingback: Our Top 10 List of Packaging Stories for 2009 « The Package Unseen

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