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Crowdsourced design needs to die

It devalues design and designers themselves.

Crowdsourced design needs to die
[Images: courtesy Claudia Sheinbaum]

Behold the finalists for the next symbol of Mexico City’s government. These are the best ideas from a controversial public contest led by the city’s new mayor-elect, Claudia Sheinbaum, who launched the contest in September with a first prize of 150,000 Mexican pesos–or $7,353.

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The city’s current brand is only a few years old. The straightforward sans serif logotype set in a recognizable magenta hue was instituted by the city’s former mayor in 2016. It’s a simple but identifiable and effective brand still in its infancy.

The current brand. [Image: Wiki Commons]

Sure, it could stand to be improved. As Citylab explained in September, the brand has had some consistency problems when it comes to the way it’s been applied, but brand evolution is a complex process, one that requires both a strong rationale and time to execute. Throwing a brand in the trash–especially a strong one like CDMX, which the city reportedly spent $150 million rolling out–seems like a waste.

[Images: courtesy Claudia Sheinbaum

But beyond that, it’s a reminder of why crowdsourced design competitions can be so problematic. Designing a new brand identity requires months of work, spent into thinking, researching, and executing a vision according to a rationale. $7,353 won’t even begin to cover that process, which puts undue financial burden on designers and returns designs that tend to be underbaked. And the proof is in the pudding: The competition finalists are divided between minimal if uninspired options and overly busy cliches. What’s worse, many of these logos seem to be plagiarized, as the Mexican media has pointed out.

Some design advocacy groups have organized against speculative design work, but it endures. And public contests have been going on for years: As a precocious 10-year-old, I remember thinking Naranjito, the mascot for Spain’s 1982 World Cup, was awful–unsurprisingly, he was the result of a popular contest, too.

[Photo: Peter Robinson – EMPICS/PA Images/Getty Images]

Imagine BMW throwing an open contest so anyone could send in designs for its next engine. In the end, it’s a process that cheapens design both for designers and clients and disregards the art and science of identity design.

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You can check out the finalists here.

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About the author

Jesus Diaz founded the new Sploid for Gawker Media after seven years working at Gizmodo, where he helmed the lost-in-a-bar iPhone 4 story. He's a creative director, screenwriter, and producer at The Magic Sauce and a contributing writer at Fast Company.

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