Crowdsourcing – A Losing Proposition

March 6, 2015
Greg Henry
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It was recently announced, that Mark Cuban is crowdsourcing the design of the next Dallas Mavericks uniform. As compensation for the winning submission, Mr. Cuban is offering bragging rights and maybe some tickets.

This is not the first example of a billionaire looking to take advantage of the design industry, and it most likely will not be the last. Crowdsourcing is defined as the practice of obtaining information or input into a task or project by enlisting the services of a large number of people, either paid or unpaid, typically via the Internet. While crowdsourcing may be a cheap quick fix solution, there are a few things that Mr. Cuban, and many others, fail to understand.

 

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Yes, Mr. Cuban, crowdsourcing will get you a cheap piece of generic art that meets your immediate need.

But, even though you view this as a win – both for ease of effort and cost – by crowdsourcing, you lose. By selecting a design based on hundreds of thousands of templates sent in by Joe Shmoe designer and Sally Photoshop, you miss out on the most important part of design – the process and development. A design partnership provides you with a successful process, strategic thinking, and brand strategy that serves as the backbone for your company’s public image.

 

True, you will need to pay a professional designer for these things.

But a smart man like yourself should understand that in order for your business to succeed, you must invest in a strong foundation. Any flourishing business, even a professional basketball team, starts with a strong team –  experts in finance, law, management and more – and while, maybe a bit less obvious, an excellent design partner.

 

So I’m begging you – my fellow designers – consider the integrity of your craft. Even in the best case scenario, in which you beat out thousands of designers for the winning design of the new Dallas Mavericks uniform. Do you have bragging rights? Sure! A few free tickets? That’s what it said. But what has this really done for your career? After all of the hours of hard work you put into your design, you sign away the rights to your work the minute you posted it. What’s more, you cheapened the value of your skills by working for free, without any formal recognition or credibility. Do you think the Mavs are going to put a byline on their jerseys? Not likely. And what will become of your design in 5 or 10 years from now when Mr. Cuban decides he wants a new look?  Who is really winning here?

 

Bottom line? When it comes to crowdsourcing your design work, proceed with caution. Respect yourself. Respect your design community. Don’t sell yourself (or your client) short of the real value that a cohesive design can and should provide.