Forbes calls designers snooty

Forbes magazine recently published this article: The Creativity of Crowds, which opens with the following subtitle:

“CrowdSpring aims to slash the cost of graphic design work — and democratize a snooty business.”

This article is ludicrious. I have no words.

(via davidairey)

29 Comments leave a comment below

  1. I saw another of these sites – LogoTournament – personally I like the idea. Granted I’m a freelance designer. However, like you, I don’t care at all for how Forbes frames our industry.

  2. I think the biggest drawback behind these types of sites is that there’s little thought given to the what problem needs to be solved. A company may go to CrowdSpring to get a brochure designed, when in fact, by consulting with a designer/studio/agency, it might be determined that a brochure isn’t the best way of reaching their customers.

  3. Completely ridiculous and one-sided. These sort of groups, crowdspring, logoworks, etc, devalue our industry and profession. There might be some clients out there that find it best to work with these companies; so be it.

  4. We’ve outsourced everything else, I guess design is next.

    This is from about 99designs (similar to crowdspring):

    “At the time of this writing, $1,226,703 has been awarded across 346,171 entries. Second-grade math teaches us this averages out to $3.54 per entry. So playing the odds, over a long period of time, every logo (or website, or business card, or whatever) you submit cannot even buy you a Venti White Chocolate Mocha at Starbucks. By comparison, 99designs pulls in $39 for every posted “contest”. That’s more than a 10:1 differential in averaged earnings. Not only that, you have to transfer the copyright whether you want to or not, so you’re essentially engaging in a work for hire agreement.

    To summarize: you’re doing spec work for third-world prices with no option for copyright retention. Everyone wins! Oh wait, except you. At the core, 99design’s business model is as evil as any oil company’s — it relies totally on the ignorance and desperation of its constituents.”

    Still sound like a good idea Jamie?

  5. I gotta tell ya that with statements like this:

    “The difference between a Designer and Developer…”

    The design business does seem a bit snooty. I’m both a designer and a developer. I can understand the writer’s sentiment.

    If it’s any consolation architects are just as snooty.

  6. What a snooty response, Tina. Why did you take the bait?

  7. They say it right there in the first paragraph, this model comes from architecture (and big advertising). If we charged half a million dollars for a logo, maybe we’d revise our economic model to include the number of contests and pitches.

    The solution, of course, it simply to boycott this site. And at the risk of sounding like a nutcase religious group complaining about Harry Potter, we need to spread the word in our community. If you know anyone engaging in work such as this, you need to nail them to the wall and give them many paper cuts.

    This is why we need something like a BAR association to kick people out of the trade who break the ethics guidelines.

  8. that site is depressing…

    in terms of idea (submissions to win) i’m still a big fan of threadless though. they were one of the first, i love that site. i never felt cheated by competing.

    i love reading the clients comments though…they have no idea, good design? what’s that? i have to pay for that?

    crap in, crap out…

  9. Unfortunately, this is the attitude towards many skills from people who don’t possess them.

    Of course, I’d encourage anyone to try anything that takes their fancy, but it’s naive to claim that anyone could produce the same level of work without lots of effort, knowledge, experience and a smidge of talent. :)

  10. Is someone who is only willing or able to pay coffee money for a logo going to be your client anyway?

  11. with t-shirts sure that model works. design never, the process and the product are too tied together to divorce them completely.

  12. and maybe we are a little snooty, but isn’t everyone in their area of expertise? i mean i can just see the snoot from the writer of that article as he reads the comments.

  13. why some people think its ok to devalue graphic design work because people can get copies of our design programs to play around with? this “anyone can do that” mentality that disrespects our profession would never go for many other careers.
    True professionals get educated and put in time, effort, research and creativity into our work and deserve to be paid accordingly for it.

  14. Unfortunately this model continues to appear anywhere off-the-shelf technology puts previously unavailable tools into the hands of the masses. With advent of the personal computer, word processing and desktop publishing software in the 80’s, folks were predicting a glut of new unknown genius authors. It never happened. Photo Shop, Illustrator, Dream weaver, Flash, After Effects, Final Cut, Shake, Flame, etc. allow more people to “create” more stuff. but really, the bar raises higher with creation of more and more substandard twiddledry. In the end you get what you pay for.

  15. Wow Prescott, you’re very bold with your words…

    It seems like these jobs are work-for-hire and it doesn’t deserve as much credit as it even gets now. Does this say anything about the constantly evolving landscape of mass marketing media? Could there be more and more firms closing shop in the next, five years per se, due to these hack+glue shops? Personally, I see the founders as the kids that didn’t really care what their professors said, but decided to take matters into their own hands. To make matters worse, a wagon-full from the next gen of designers will inevitably see this as something to be praised. Why spend even 48hrs for R+D on a logo, when you can chalk one up for a percentage of the time? Faster, quicker, harder, stronger. Who knows, hopefully my peers and I won’t indulge in these practices. Thank you for bringing this up Tina, as it will become a bigger issue in a few months, what with the belts being so tight.

  16. As part of the new generation of designers, I can say most of us are educated in why this is a bad idea. Unfortunately it’s usually the kids who stole a copy of the CS who think they’re designers who find this to be an appealing way in. The rest of us struggled to get internships and/or jobs and to get an art education to inform our sensibilities.

    There are few other industries where people say to themselves “I could do that, those snoots just don’t know what they’re talking about!” Tell that to your mechanic, or the local TV anchor, or the journalists at the paper. Perhaps tell your engineer that, or maybe have 100 teachers tell your kid how to do algebra with no qualifications required and then pay one and let the rest try to make third world wages (maybe) while they teach another 100 kids and maybe win a single job after all of that time. Maybe you should get a bunch of lawyers to go pro bono until you think one has met your needs. Or maybe we’ll just start paying anyone to do surgery who is willing and has a scalpel and a band-aid. And then when that happens, tell the outraged doctors that they can try to compete for $50/brain surgery and sit back in wonder at why they’re being so snooty.

    When people realize that there’s value in the education, experience and creativity of professional designers this won’t be an issue.

  17. What a fundamental misunderstanding of what design is… It isn’t a logo or a website, it is a process. It has little to do with what the client likes and everything to do with what they need. This misunderstanding is why I got out of design. Maybe we should do this with other professions. I’m going to start one for medical advice. People can submit their advice to win the $200 and I’ll just choose the advice I like best. No idea if it will cure my disease but that isn’t what’s important. I just need to “like it.”

  18. Browsing thru some of the posting on crowdspring is almost therapeutic…heres my fav one

    “I am a very high priced consultant. $38,000 a day fees. I show successful businesses how to better sell their products and services to other businesses”

    he wants a logo for $300, thats not even 1% of his daily rate…wow

  19. Why ludicrous? The article is more informative than critical. As in many other media-based industries, there is ample room for diversification of the business model and direct, democratic competition between experts and novices alike. Admittedly I am a ‘young’ freelance designer, but most designers such as myself would ideally like to work at a successful studio. However until then, the costs of software, education, etc. far exceed our minimum wage brought in through working evenings in the supermarket. If CrowdSpring can help partly support an aspiring designer until they establish themselves more fully, then what is wrong with that? Conversely, businesses should have the freedom to source work from any place they please.

  20. @Sarah

    Are you okay with paying only one person for one hundred people doing the same amount of work for you? Are you okay with removing the client from the creative process? Are you okay with promoting a culture where theft is unpoliced? Are you okay with moving design from a service to a commodity?

    If you answer all yes to all of these, then sure, spec is great.

  21. @Josh, design is already commodified. Any threat to the integrity of original design and ownership of content is for both client and designer who consent to involvement within this model of service to take into consideration at their own discretion. The client may remove themselves from whatever process they choose, and that option is likely to become popular with small start-ups already facing the financial impact of the economic downturn. Whether it be one person or one hundred, so long as the work done satisfies both client and designer(s) involved, it should not present a problem; after all, quality not quantity. If the industry status quo is as worthy of being maintained as implied by some designers through their backlash against this article, then surely their work will stand strong against a mere fad such as CrowdSpring?

  22. @Sarah

    By definition, design is not a product but a process. Whatever you are describing as “commodified” cannot, by definition, be design.

    Yes, the client may remove themselves as a part of the process. However, to remove the client as a function of anything other than process itself will once again defy the definition of design. In the case of spec work it is not a function of the process or even a constraint in the process, but rather an action that requires no consideration of the process.

    It does present a problem when 100 people do work and only one gets paid. It not only creates a system where the client is not going to have a process to achieve the best result, but it means that 99 people don’t get paid for their work.

    And, as a professional, my work isn’t threatened by CrowdSpring. We ONLY choose clients who want to be strategic because that is, at it’s core, what I get paid for. I could draw pretty pictures all day, but my function isn’t to draw pretty pictures. They are paying me to solve a problem, and CrowdSpring’s model completely ignores the actual problem and turns “I need to extend my brand” into “I need you to draw a picture”. My livelihood is not threatened (there are plenty of people out there who understand what design is), but the concept of design, for which I’m VERY concerned, is.

    How long did it take designers to make it into art history books? Because however recent an advent that is, it’s about to go the exact opposite way if the public treats and views it as a commodity.

  23. @Josh, there is a part of the public that already treats and views design as a commodity. And what is design today if not partly commercial? Design is both process and product, and emphasis can be placed on either end of that spectrum. Rather than approach the matter from an esoteric standpoint, it would be wise to take a more empirical approach: CrowdSpring is a consent-based model. The parties voluntarily involved concede to the commercial gambling of their designs within an un-policed, lottery-style domain. They may come out of it with absolutely no return for time and money invested. But who is to say that some designers are not benefiting if without it they would be worse off? And who is to say that some businesses are not sourcing ‘strategic solutions’ from third parties, thus waving necessitation for a designer to fulfill that role? As you yourself mentioned, we as professional designers are not threatened. We as professional designers are also not entirely objective; nor are we always in practice of the supposed philosophical ideals of design. As such, it would indeed appear ‘snooty’ if we were to purportedly take the moral high-ground.

  24. @sarah

    You’re failing to recognize that design cannot be just a product.

    To really drive the point home, I would ask you to answer the questions I posed before. I doubt you can honestly answer them and still hold that spec work is an ethical or acceptable practice.

  25. @Josh, I refer you to my comments above. I did not say that design is ‘just’ a product. I have indeed answered all four of your questions whilst further clarifying my position on the matter. If I was not clear enough, then I reiterate: Yes, in the personal opinion to which I rightfully have claim, spec work is okay for those who choose to get involved. And it is up to those individuals to both decide and consequently deal with the practical and ethical implications of their choosing to do so.

  26. @Sarah

    It seems, and I mean no offense (I hope this is a discussion, although reading my comments over I can see how tone could come across otherwise) that you’ve indicated that design can be boiled down to an image. Spec work does this. For the author of the Forbes article to suggest that a spec house is offering anything in the design industry is to completely disregard what design is. Forgive me if I continue to misunderstand, but in light of that, it seems extremely unethical to continue the practice. Given that the Forbes Entreprenuer submission on CrowdSpring had multiple submissions breaking copyright law, I can’t say it’s a legitimate or excusable business practice either.

  27. @Josh, absolutely no offense taken. You are entitled to your opinion, and I am entitled to mine. And those who choose to either endorse or condemn spec work are also entitled to theirs.

  28. well, Sarah Badr designed logo for herself, didn’t she, or was it design agency?

  29. Yes Lukas, I am the one who designed it. :-)