Crowdsourcing Your Design Needs: Why It's Bad for Everyone


A not-so-new trend is proliferating through the design world: Crowdsourcing. We say "not-so-new" because it's actually just outsourcing, which has been around forever. Except, unlike outsourcing, which takes jobs from locals and contracts them to a third party, nobody has to lose out on the work with crowdsourcing, just the pay.

Crowdsourcing sites like 99designs allow the client to post a creative brief along with a prize amount as low as $200, (which is usually the norm for most of the postings). Once the contest begins, dozens, sometimes hundreds, of hungry young designers fight for the chance to win the pot. The client selects the designs they like and can provide feedback for the designers to use to revise their submission. This process goes on over a few days until a lucky winner is selected, now a whopping $200 richer.


This should be obvious. Say 40 designers participate for the chance to win $200. Each designer spends an hour on their design (we're low-balling that estimate), that equates to 40 hours of labour, which is a collective hourly rate of $5. Except, obviously it's not a collective payday, so instead one designer walks away with $200, (not enough for a logo design) while 39 designers walk away with nothing (definitely not enough for a logo design).

So, as a designer, even if you win you're severely devaluing the service you provide. At best, the message you are sending is that your work is worth almost nothing, and the work of your peers is worth less than nothing.


This is less obvious, but even more important. When you opt for crowdsourcing for your design needs, you're paying for a result, when design should always be a process and a strategy.

Is the crowd going to sit down with you to understand your needs and goals? Will they research your market space? Will they craft a custom design solution intended to optimize your return on investment? Not even a little bit. They will pick a font, maybe pair it with a little icon, apply a couple of effects, then pray to the design gods that you like it enough to pay them for it.

Professional graphic designers should be specialists. They should develop proprietary methodologies in service of a business strategy catered to their client. These kinds of specialists are educated, experienced, skilled, and usually worth their rate. Most importantly, they aren't typically not found on 99designs waiting for logo jobs to pop up in the queue.


We don't really love the expense of paying for an accountant, but we wouldn't have 25 accountants do our books and then only pay the one we think did the best job. That's just not how business is conducted. We understand and respect that accounting is a specialized profession that costs what it does, and it's an inevitable expense of running any business. Design should really be no different.

Find a good, reliable designer and pay them what they are worth. Your business will be better for it.