Since it launched last May, the crowd-sourcing design website CrowdSpring.com has been causing a stir in the design community. Advocates praise the site’s ability to put businesses looking for creative help in touch with talent they might not otherwise find. It is, they argue, a great leap forward in the democratization of design, a big trend in the creative community these days.
The site’s critics, mostly professional designers, generally seize on one major issue: They argue that designers shouldn’t “work in advance of getting paid” with an ironically irrelevant metaphor: “You can’t go to the new restaurant at the top of Trump Tower, ask for a taste and then decide if you’re going to pay.”
The design industry should take a hint from the music industry: When new technology comes along that enables a wider audience to access your product (in this case, the tools and software needed to design) the one thing that you should not do is back-pedal. Plus, many large and well-respected studios already work in advance of payment; it’s called trying to win a pitch and it is exactly what CrowdSpring is doing, just with a larger crowd.
The biggest problem with the site is one that neither group has yet to mention: Design is not just about making the best possible product. The hardest part about being a designer is convincing your client to pick the best solution. The best graphic designers also happen to be the best salesmen. The best design firms got to the top of the heap by being profitable and garnering respect from the design community for achieving and then maintaining a level of excellence. The “cloud” design world has yet to form a cohesive community that spans more than one site like this, but that’s what it needs to ensure a high level of quality (the crowd must become a community). Crowdspring.com just reduced the designer-client relationship to a few mouse clicks.
To really work, Crowdspring, and similar sites, really need to explore the ways that they connect people. A system that connects creative people and the folks who want their work should be at least as inventive and imaginative as the folks who use it.