Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Clipping from Pratt's Crowdsourcing & Disruption Panel Poster by Alexander Smith

There is a lot of debate on the subject of crowd sourcing. If you’re not familiar with the word, crowd sourcing is when a lot of people are asked to complete the same task. For example, CrowdSPRING, a website company which offers creative competitions; for example, competing to design a logo for the prize of “x” amount of dollars. Anyone can enter and it seems that you can enter as many times as possible.

As you know I'm currently an unemployed designer looking for work. My portfolio could always use a new project or two and why not do a project that might win me a few hundred bucks or so. So, I ventured into Crowdspring.com. I opened a Login account which surprising asked for very little information. I could upload projects and make a portfolio of sorts, but I mostly just wanted to get started. I began with a small logo project with an award for $300. It was for Social Media University (See project here, if still posted) My first thoughts are how much time should I put forth into this logo? As with previous projects I charge by the hour. Well, I guess that is how I could do it this time, but maybe I bit less time since I may not win the prize.

So, I started by reading the "details" which is the design brief tab of CrowdSPRING to get to know what the "buyer" or company requesting the project is looking for. I collected the information, important requests, and materials (which can be provided files to download or links to research) needed to start the project. I read what I could about the company and also looked at logos from companies they had worked with. I designed my own visual design brief on a page in Illustrator. I felt good that I knew what the company might have been looking for. Here is what they provided as resources and examples of logos they liked:

"1. logo for http://socialmediaclubhouse.com/ - more modern, 2.logo for http://socialmediaclub.org/ - more simple, traditional, now ubiquitous on laptops around the world, 3. Apple logo, 4.BarCamp Logo, 5. Firefox Logo, 6. Harvard Logo 7. http://ribbit.com/ logo

We are really fairly open to different ideas, but want something solid/reputable with the typography, and somewhat stylized as modern like that clubhouse logo (which is actually an abstraction of the house we did that event in during SxSW)"

Although not much information was given as to where or how this University was to be run, what I got from the company is that The Social Media Club or clubhouse works like this: they would have one individual rent a house nearby a conference, such as South by South West (SxSW), a music Conference in Austin, Texas and the house would get filled with members of the Social Media Club and they would report out media about the city, the conference and any other things.

I started to sketch. I focused on the word "modern" in relation to the SxSW conference logo (above) looking for inspiration. After sketching a bit, I looked at the “gallery” of submitted logos. Mine was very different from the other entries and although it worried me I also thought maybe my logo was something that might surprise them.

This is what I came up with and below is the description I proposed.

“This Social Media University Logo is designed around their media club logo of a house. I have simplified and modernized the design and made it look like you are looking up at a building, such as house/university, and also that the building is looking out at the world. I gave it an attainable height as well as making it appear social and inviting. It’s accompanied by a modern academic font”.

The next day my submission got a reply. CrowdSPRING sends you email updates on the projects you are active in and watching. This was my reply from buyer socialmediaclub.

“Entry: Social Media University
socialmediaclub: the font is good, the proximity to our current logo conceptually is interesting.
overall it doesnt work for me, but its a good try and good fonts for a fun conference - not as modern as I would hope, but nice
Score: 3”

So, I scored 3 out of 5 stars, with some positive feedback and feel good about that.

I have worked on other projects since the Social Media University and have felt a bit lost. I can send a personal email to the buyer or make a public post to get more information, but I still feel a loss of connection. A logo should be more than just a visual description of what you once posted online. It should be a communicating image that grew out of strength and work, not by a gallery of choices. As a result, I feel that my work for the individual buyer is not as strong as it could be and they should know that their logo, from me or any other artist, will not be at its highest potential, because of this lack of connection.

Other ways CrowdSPRING can disconnect, is offering to a buyer to make their project private. You, as the artist, may not be able to see the score of other entries to see their thought process within a project, the buyer may not respond as well or at all , such as providing a score, to your entries, or you may not be able to read or see other entries at all. When many projects get submitted the buyer can “update” their Details page and add comments on what they have received so far, sometimes these are helpful comments and sometimes they are too general.

Other downs to CrowdSPRING in the eyes of the artist can be: If buyer doesn’t like any submissions they can ask for a full refund, Crowdspring does offer a prize to but not as much as the prize was once listed as. Some projects you have to sign a contract to never communicate the project to anyone. Payouts are per Paypal, but nowhere on the site does it mention the commissions of CrowdSPRING and if the winner will actually receive the full prize amount. I know on another crowdsourcing site, 99designs.com it seems that you do not get the full prize amount.

In the end I felt disappointed, I wanted to do better for the client and it just was not going to happen in this way. Also, I feel bad for the buyer. One project that was going on at the same time as I was working the Social Media University logo had a prize amount of $5000, this meant everyone and their mothers where entering. It seemed to me that getting 3,467 (and counting) entries is just too overwhelming, not to mention the public comments were getting out of control and filling my email. I don’t know about you, but for a buyer, that’s just too many options to choose from. As for the Social Media University, there were only 148 entries and I felt there were a lot of submissions that were very good, while others horrific. Below is the winning logo by CrowdSPRING profile name pixy, who as of today has won 2 of 68 entries.

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