Go ahead; pick the headline for this post. I’m crowdsourcing it. There was plenty of buzz on Twitter and in the press today about whether or not CP&B’s crowdsourcing experiment for client Brammo Motorcycles backfired (No pun intended.) The agency, in its inimitable practice of calling attention to itself, went and initiated a crowdsourced logo competition for Brammo, offering a paltry $1000.00 to the winner. (Obviously they made the prize so small intentionally, knowing it would incur the wrath of the design community and generate buzz for the agency.)
No surprise, it didn’t take long for the critics to emerge and start a #nospec hashtag on Twitter. A believer in “all publicity is good publicity” Crispin let all the comments show up on its beta blog website. Folks who just don’t get it may have thought this constituted a faux pas. No doubt, however, that at Crispin people were celebrating once again.
Personally I’m a huge believer in crowdsourcing. At my agency, Mullen, we’re experimenting with it ourselves, joining with clients to try it out and meeting with as many crowdsourcing companies as we can to determine how best to use it. Why? A. We owe it to our clients. B. Consumers want and even insist on a role in a brand’s voice and content. C. If we don’t, we’re simply leaving it up to someone else to do.
It’s not our intention to exploit the crowd or necessarily to source cheap content, but rather to embrace the inevitable and discover what it can yield. In fact the real value in contests like the one CP&B is running may not be in the logo that gets created but in giving customers a chance to participate in the process. While we’re actually more interested in the co-creation side of crowdsourcing – memes, propagation, group created content – we are in the process of launching a crowdsourcing program for ourselves and potentially our clients, initially working with schools and portfolio programs and eventually with the community at large. There’s much to figure out, but we’re committed.
However there’s another side to today’s story. And that’s the reaction of the design community and its reluctance to tolerate spec work. In advertising, there’s no one who likes spec work. But the industry already dug that hole. Not unlike the media giving away free content, we’ve made it a practice in our desire to win business and gain attention and there’s no going back.
But we’re not the only ones. Architects, filmmakers, and writers all create some form of content for free in the hopes of winning an assignment. What makes designers so special? (I’m not talking Paul Rand, here.) The critics among them must either think their talent is so rare, unique and valuable that they don’t need to compete. Or those who are finally semi-established must figure that now that they’re in the exclusive club it’s their responsibility to keep everyone else – young designers, students, aspiring talent – out.
The interesting thing about crowdsourcing is this. It hasn’t emerged as a new phenomenon because there are clients and companies who want cheap content. It’s emerged because there’s a community of aspiring professionals, or, yes, amateurs, who want to try their hand, find out how good they are, or have their work considered by those who curate it. By the way, this isn’t new. Planter’s Peanuts crowdsourced its logo in 1916. A 13 year-old kid won and a professional designer tweaked it.
Will there be crowdsourced logos created today that live for another 93 years? My guess is yes. So, where do you stand? For crowdsourcing? Or against?