Crowd sourcing: latest buzz word or new era?

When the need arose for some creative (design) talent in our very small collaborative environment, we all looked at each other and realised that none of us could actually “do” it – we searched our directories for freelancers, contacts, smaller design houses etc that may be able to deliver. Being 3 professionals who didn’t know what we did or didn’t want, we appreciated that we were about to be a horrible client for someone.

After being tipped off by Tiffany at Freckle, we thought we’d try crowdsourcing. What’s crowdsourcing you ask? In traditional days we used to outsource work – well crowdsourcing is simply the trend of leveraging mass collaboration through an open invitation.

For the 1st project, a logo, we used US-based CrowdSpring – one supplier in a raft of many.  Register on the site, write a nice brief of what you’re after, place a financial reward up for grabs alongside a deadline and voila…. after 7 days we received 359 entries for the tiny cost of USD$400. At the end of reviewing the entries we have a VERY clear idea of what we did and didn’t like – taking our shortlist down to 12 and culling it down to the winning logo. Don’t be disillusioned though, you have to sift through some pretty average WordArt designs, but there were definitely at least 5 logos we could have settled with comfortably.

The 2nd project, a party invitation, I used 99 Designs to see the difference. Offering USD$150, I received 74 designs within 48 hours. Far out, this crowdsourcing thing is extremely powerful.

As a small business, I found these services invaluable. Starting with no idea and ending with too many ideas, it’s a great starting point for any creative outputs. I can see the merits and perhaps the downsides, but it certainly made me question the need for elaborate creative teams in-house. If I had to book in my creative resources internally to do the same work, I’d wind up with 3 logo concepts which would take 2 weeks to deliver and only 1 party invite without any real choice at all (and that’s if client work didn’t push out the ever not-as-important-internal-work deadlines in the first place). No over heads, no bad attitudes, no creative-blocks, just the work you asked for, on time, within budget and if you briefed it in properly, within brief.

What you do need is 2 things: a creative thinker who understands the strategy and meaning of the work you’re trying to develop; and secondly a great project manager who can filter entries, provide useful feedback to glean better submissions & manage the overall process seamlessly.

I started looking around at other providers and was blown away by the variety. Below are just a few of these available in the crowdsource landscape which is ever growing.  I also came across some interesting outsource companies – you’ll never need to panic over a resource again:

Ideas Culture: Ideas while you sleep, submit your problem by 4pm, you receive 100+ ideas, evaluation pack + action plan overnight.

Idea Bounty: The value of your idea is predetermined and dictates the quality of the ideas produced.

Design Crowd: These are the next guys I’m going to try out. Australian based with 15,000+ designers at your disposal.

Freelancer: Australian traditional outsource solution with a bidding system – review bids and samples; communicate as necessary with bidders, select one or more providers, pay the provider on successful completion of the project.

elance: outsource solution – immediate, cost-effective and flexible way to find, hire, manage and pay independent professionals and contractors online.

Fiverr: Personally one of my favourites, this site reverses the process as it lets anyone sell a service of virtually any type for $5.  Keep a good sense of humour when you see what people are willing to do for $5.

Txteagle: Targeting the more than 2 billion literate mobile phone subscribers in the developing world, Txteagle aims to help alleviate high unemployment levels in many rural areas of countries like Kenya.  They can accomplish billions of image, audio and text-based tasks via mobile phone, eg phrase translation to market surveys to software localisation.

There are so many more, so check out the landscape and solve your creative problems virtually overnight. I can’t help but think there will be a few casualties in the creative industry with the increase in use of crowdsourcing.

Have you crowdsourced a project?  Share your experience with me, I’d love to hear it.  Comment now!



  1. Alec Lynch | DesignCrowd

    Hi Valentina,

    Good post…

    We like to think crowdsourcing is here to stay but also think the process with evolve and mature over time.

    If you’re planning to use DesignCrowd with a client project we offer a wholesale / white labelled crowdsourcing offering for digital agencies – see:

    Either way, please get in touch via @aleclynch or @designcrowd 🙂

  2. Valentina Borbone

    Thanks Alec, I agree that it’s definitely here to stay and we love it! Also think white labelling is a brilliant idea – will contact you under separate cover to check out this option too. Cheers!

  3. Lisa

    I must speak from the standpoint as a designer who has used DesignCrowd before and has had a bad experience with it. Although there may be good clients on DesignCrowd (and you may be a good client yourself on other crowdsourcing sites), there are too many who do not provide any feedback at all, continue to extend deadlines so that the contest never ends and a winner is never selected, and there are even those who don’t choose a winner AT ALL at the end of a contest. And I’m talking contests that are extended for months at a time, and contests that have been “closed” since early this year. DesignCrowd may work in the best interest of the client, but if they continue to ignore the rights of designers to just KNOW whether or not they have won a contest they spent their time and effort on, they will lose all credibility and all of the designers who know their worth will move on to other sites that treat them better. DesignCrowd needs to step it up and be a fair middleman.

  4. Valentina Borbone

    Thanks Lisa and that’s a very valid point to be honest. I feel sorry for the designers who put their heart and soul into their work only to be discarded by those who request the work. I think personally that this is what will be the downfall of the crowd sourcing industry and particularly sites that don’t manage their crowd as carefully as they manage their buyers. I must admit, extending a contest by months sounds pretty unreasonable and in any case, a prize should be awarded within timeframes or they’ll simply lose designers to other sites doing it better. I’ve had mixed experiences already – and am now facing arbitration on for a development job that has gone very wrong, but I was pleased with their dispute resolution process (so far) and their involvement to be a fair middleman as you suggest (even if that did need a 5am conference call with the US to resolve). I think if you speak with DesignCrowd about the issue (and I know Alec reads my blog) then I think this could be addressed to find a comfortable ground. I really hope they fix the issues for designers because ultimately without you, they don’t have much of a platform for buyers.

  5. Lisa

    Thank you for your reply Valentina. Unfortunately DesignCrowd and their buyers are just so unresponsive that it seems almost pointless to pursue anything. It’s just a shame that so many designers’ time and work are for naught. DesignCrowd does need to enforce timely communication and make sure that buyers abide by the process appropriately or they will be their own demise. I am sorry that you are now facing arbitration on Elance. As long as there is effort being made to resolve these important issues, then faith will not be lost on these crowdsourcing platform.

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