Haven’t heard of crowdspring yet? They call themselves a “Global marketplace for logo design, business card design, graphic design and website design”. It works like this: if you need a logo for your startup you post a brief on the site, define price and a deadline, then sit back and wait. Meanwhile, designers all over the world jump on your brief and throw something up on the site that you might like. You can give feedback as comments or star ratings before the deadline is up, and you choose the best of all the submitted designs. You get a logo, the designer you chose gets the price you defined, and you’re happy.
In the agency world we know this process well–we call it pitching. A client selects a handful of agencies, and all of them make a proposal as to how they would solve the client’s problem. An invitation to pitch from any potential client worth taking seriously includes what I call a “handshake payment”–a minimal sum which does little to offset our investment in the pitch, but proves a certain amount of seriousness and appeciation on the side of the client. The big difference between an agency pitch and crowdspring is we pitch (at most two weeks work) to get a job which will be done after the pitch and amounts to months of work and in the best cases a client relationship with follow-up work that will last for years.
The idea of crowdspring, which I’d describe as “connecting designers and clients” sounds great in theory. The designer suddenly has access to plenty of briefs and theoretically could do work for lots of clients. Which is fine is if you’re a designer keen on doing a logo for $100. Granted, that’s the lowest price they’ve got on there at the moment, but the price curve remains very flat as you look through the briefs. I can’t help but ask myself how the designers throwing their work away at these prices are earning a living. And on the client side, I can’t imagine any of them expect quality, but why would you want a crap logo? At least their price for their own site design proves that the crowdspringers have a more realistic understanding of what design costs.
In a response to my heated Tweet tonight, crowdspring responded that “we really just want to be the Threadless of everything else…”, which also sounds good but doesn’t gel–the models aren’t comparable. Threadless pays $2500 for every design that gets printed, which I consider a pretty fair price, considering what Threadless can earn from selling the shirt. If I design a shirt I accept the risk that I might not get anything for the chance of getting $2500. If I design a good logo for a crowdspring client I get $100. Thanks very much.
Crowdspring is offering designers who obviously don’t know any better a chance to bend over, and giving their potential clients the best web 2.0 tools available to screw them. A slogan that would fit better is “feeding suckers to sharks”. Of course crowdspring can’t be faulted. If designers insist on throwing their talents away for so little reward they deserve what they get.
Food for thought for designers thinking of submitting to crowdspring: if you’re not living with your parents or designing as a hobby, i.e. you are living from your good work and need the money, consider this: the clients buying your logo, web site or whatever are earning money with what you make. A logo will be their face for years, and if they’re a startup and ever earn any money, they’ll earn it through their site. Do you really want to give them so much value for so little cash? Maybe you’re just extremely big-hearted?
On a more positive note, how would the site and the designer/client relationship work differently if the designer set the price? Clients post briefs, and designers post designs, but they set the price they think is fair themselves? Would better designers earn more? Would clients see proof that better design does and should cost more?