Crispin Porter + Bogusky’s Crowdsourcing Experiment Backfires

Designers revolt after the ad-agency solicits a crowd-sourced logo for Brammo Motorcycles.

Brammo logo


Crispin Porter + Bogusky‘s always rattling the ad-industry’s cage–whether through disturbing ads for Burger King, or roundly lambasted ads for Microsoft. But recently, they just lost the Volkswagen account–one of their marquees–while Burger King franchisees are blaming Crispin for flagging sales. And their latest experiment may have overstepped the line with designers, who usually pay them a grudging respect.

To create a logo for the electric motorcycle start-up Brammo, they’re crowdsourcing the design, for a reward of $1000. The winner will be announced in six days, and over 700 people have submitted work. But no matter: To many professional designers, so-called “spec” assignments–that is, exploratory work, done for free–is taboo. Many designers think it undercuts them, and denigrates the profession. was among the aggrieved, and they’ve started a Twitter campaign (#nospec) against Crispin.

So what? The funniest part is that one of Crispin’s other experiments has been an open-ended homepage which broadcasts unfiltered Tweets and news stories about the agency. As you can see now, the site is filled with over 200 tweets declaring, “Crispin Porter + Bogusky has no integrity for design.” Whoops!

advertisement explains what stoked their ire:

Let me explain to CP+B why spec work and design contests (or the
bullshit term “crowdsourcing”) are detrimental, not just to the design
industry, but for your own clients. And I’ll keep it simple since
you’re most likely distracted by all of the money that Brammo is paying
you to do practically nothing. When participating in such nonsense,
designers work for free in hopes of getting paid or winning a prize. It
completely devalues our work (maybe some designers are finally realizing this?).
It does clients a disservice in compromising quality of work by
completely skipping the research and development stage. Instead of using your interns or crowdsourcing students and amateur designers,
you could have hired a professional designer who would be able to work
closely with your client and mostly likely produce better work. But no,
you were trying to get media coverage which distracted you from the
brand development. I’m sure that was the entire point, but what a
terrible idea.

They even produced this logo for Crispin’s consideration:

brammo logo


Most of Crispin’s clients seem rather pleased to stir up controversy. And this article is proof that their campaigns get attention. But a new company like Brammo can’t be terribly pleased that right out of the gate, they’ve been accused, by association, of being anti-design cheap skates.



About the author

Cliff was director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.