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May 09, 2013

Can creativity in design and writing be Crowdsourced?

by Judi Wunderlich

We live in a new age, that much is clear. Not even five years ago the idea of crowdsourcing a creative project, whether it is writing or design, would have been virtually unheard of and dismissed. But with multiple web sites offering crowdsourcing, the entire world is open to companies looking to tap new outlets.

But not everyone sees eye to eye. From the perspective of the writer or designer, doing an entire project without the guarantee of payment can be detrimental. Realistically, if you are trying to sell a project done on spec through crowdsourcing you are competing with colleagues not just locally but internationally. It is much easier to deal with not being picked up by a client when it is between you and a direct competitor rather than 100 competitors from around the world. The AIGA warns that “some clients may see this as a way to get free work; it also diminishes the true economic value of the contribution designers make toward client’s objectives.”

That is not to say that crowdsourcing isn’t beneficial. It can, it some cases, yield noticeable results for companies. Much of those results depend on making sure those being asked to do their projects on spec are clear about the criteria involved in each project. The more clearly defined the task, the better the final product will be for everyone.

Bringing new blood into projects is one of the perks of the crowdsourcing model. While the opportunity may be open to literally thousands of potential candidates those that do end up getting picked for spec projects are not always the ones you might expect. The Internet has opened up the floodgates for new talent to be picked up from literally anywhere. No longer does one need a college degree and a massive portfolio to be seen. Indeed, one good project could launch the career of the next big writer or designer.

“Crowdsourcing can help you discover talent for your own firm. All you need to do is scan the contest entries from time to time and note entrants who consistently follow a creative brief and produce great work. Then, crowdsource a project of your own and make it invitation-only. Seek contributions from those handpicked designers and then split the prize among all of those that you’ve invited to participate so that no one is working for free,” notes designer David C. Baker in his article Crowdsourcing: Irreversible Movement.

Still, there are many who disagree with that statement. notes that “when a design gets crowdsourced, creativity dies. No matter how loose the specifications are and how accommodating the job provider is, the first few designs almost always end up dominating the creative output for the entire competition. Once designers are exposed to those first few samples, creativity suffers and everything ends up looking the same. While great for consistency, crowdsourcing kills the creativity that fuels great design.”

In the end, a company must determine whether or not they will see tangible results from its crowdsourcing efforts. There is no lack of writers or designers out there looking for projects and with more and more graduating college every year the numbers will continue to grow. For your business crowdsourcing may simply fill a one-time need but for others, such as startups, the process can jump-start campaigns that might otherwise take months to complete. As a new age dawns upon us we must be aware of both the opportunities and pitfalls created by the crowdsourcing movement.


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