A case for Crowdsourcing

I have read the sitepoint article by Matthew Magain”Design contest made me a better designer” and the response of Anthony Zinni in “99design stoops to new low attempts propaganda” via Design Intellection’s 99designs and the Harmful Effects Thereof article.

I wrote a quick response on Anthony’s article, but I decided to do a proper follow up In this article.

I think Crowdsourcing is good idea for participants. I will make this case by using a simple scenario.

A Scenario

I have just finished (assumption just for this case only) my studies, and I am looking for a job, I want to make a career in designing(again for this case only) I know I am good (but how to prove it?), my grades are not good, I don’t have contacts to get me started.

What are my options?(I would love to here your view for this question)

Well, I will try find a contest in which nobody is interested in my experience and/or grads. I will participate and try to win it. Or, I will start posting my designs on sites like devianART. If I would have been a programmer(for this situation) I would build free plugins to popular softwares like firefox, wordpress(i have done this) and/or try to use this as leverage to show my work to client instead of my experience. I will do whatever it takes to showcase my design/programming skills.

How long I will do this?

I will continue to participate in contest for as long as it takes me to get my first Big break, which will make me a PRO like every other established person. Then I might stop participating.

Why would I take this option?

Simple, when I am a fresher with no proven background, No one will give me fair price anyway’s .Will you? If I ask for a job they will ask my experience and will try to evaluate me based on my experience which is zero(or stupid interview questions designed to test my memory), So If I get a job, I will be given stupid things to do till, things that employer doesn’t want to do himself( I am hoping I might get hired by big shot designers, as they have better chance of understanding the difference between experience and skill). Do I want this for myself? No. I want to work on real things. So when I will participate in the contest, It will be level playing field, every one will be judged on the basis of the submission and not their history.

Sure I will get paid less (anyway no one will pay me, equivalent to an established player) but I will get a chance to interact with client right from the beginning. I will see the quality of competition, I will try to improve if my last submission is not good compared to what others have submitted. I will learn, I will improve on my own terms.

If I am any good I will get my edge, and from here I can start to rise, and may be soon join the league of professionals.

That is why sites like 99designs.com are useful for me. Open Source projects are important to me. Softwares with options for creating plugins, help me. They all give me a chance to showcase my skills and not my experience(in years), hence increase my value(read price) in short duration.

What will happen if competition increases?

Quality will improve, and if I am good I will win, who cares about competitors. Anyway’s, Is their no competition in normal situations?

Actually, even established players can try and use these websites to test their wild ideas that might not be acceptable by their usual clients.

This fight against Crowdsourcing reminds me of “Microsoft vs Linux” game.

Check this slightly unrelated video “More” directed by Mark Osborne, and take some time to think.


In the end choice is yours. So what is your choice?

4 thoughts on “A case for Crowdsourcing

  1. Nice article, and I completely agree with you, as I was in a similar situation.

    However consider this…

    You’re working your way up to be a “PRO” – But lets say you get your big break and you’re now ready to be out there on your own finding clients and being paid a decent price for your work.

    But you’re finding it hard to find work, because the clients you are trying to work for are looking at 99designs and thinking – Yeah this guy is good, and he has experience. But I could put up a competition and get a lot of different entries, and I’ll probably find one I like.

    So yeah, in your situation it does sound good, but think of where it’s going to leave you in the future. You’re de-valuing your trade to get to a possition where you no longer need 99designs to get work/experience. But by the time you’re at that point nobody wants to hear from you because they prefer to spend a lot less money on 99designs.

    So it’s a catch 22 situation, in the short term it seems like a fair thing as an individual. But in the long term of your career you might be turned down work because clients would rather look to 99designs for cheaper work.

  2. liam, i agree that it could become a catch 22 situation as you described, and my feeling to this is that i am relying more on general human nature of trying to avoid difficult things(being lazy given a choice), going through 100’s of entries just to get one logo or design is not an easy thing. Anyways in general the contest holders on 99designs and other such sites are the agents(or middle person) who discuss things with clients and then they try to get the max out of these contest so that they can get some extra money.

    My understanding is that once you become PRO you don’t need these intermediaries between yourself and your client. As for “de-valuing your trade”, you devalue a trade by bringing bad name to it, not by charging less money.

  3. This is fabulous. All the shitty clients and all the shitty designers can now find each other and quit bothering the rest of us.

    And actually you inevitably devalue something by continually underpricing, i recommend a thesaurus or dictionary as well as the AIGA Ethics and Pricing Guidelines Manual. Unless you are a crap backyard designer in which case you will need none of these.

  4. Speak your mind, your form label is telling me. So here goes.

    First, I feel the need to avoid pointless responses by clearing up that child labour and slavery are two different things. When we speak of child labour that in no way hints at slavery; merely the option for a child to *willingly* enter the full-time workforce (which many, many would do) before, say, their mid-teens as regulated by most governments.

    Read your own post again, and see how much of it cannot be copied and pasted to compose an argument of equal strength for legitimizing child labour. That’s all that needs to be said.

    Supply and demand are neither judge nor jury, they are dispassionate market forces which must be kept in check. Alas, profit needs absolutely no encouragement to be prioritized over qualities of work and time (life). The profiteers will say to hell with the world for their own love of money, whether a major corporation dumping oil instead of recycling it, or the one lucky designer per project on 99designs, who have cost any number of peers dearly and directly.

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