Thursday, July 30, 2009

"Crowdsourcing" Continues To Be a Hotly Debated Topic

Some of you may have read a hotly debated topic on "crowdsourcing" or also referred to as "spec work" where designers bid for a design job online with the likes of "crowdSpring" and "99designs". It has created quite a controversy to the point a group called No!Spec (Twitter account @nospec) was created.

Recently I stumbled upon an article written by Jeremiah Owyang entitled "Designers: Why Spec Work Is Not Going Away – How You Should Respond". Jeremiah's article was simply stating a social media trend. He actually started off his career as a UI designer. However, it wasn't so much his article that had taken me aback, but what had gotten my attention was the lively discussion that ensued at the end of the article. So of course, being a professional interactive manager/designer (one of many hats), I commented the following:

"What’s not reflected in the conversation is the value Experienced Designers bring to the table. It’s not just about a design that’s aesthetically pleasing, but how strategic design can enhance a brand campaign and product positioning, as well as heighten a brand’s perception. Experienced designers are also strategic creative business partners for the brand and their products.

Spec work may be a venue/channel for a new designer just starting out in the field. I believe there are other options out there, but it takes time to build. I think they need to consider the time they spent vying after spec work vs. creating and building up their personal brand from scratch, i.e., portfolio sites, WOM marketing, etc."

This whole topic spurred me to ask a question on LinkedIn in the 2 design groups I belong to, AIGA and ADCNJ. I wrote 'Do you think "crowdsourcing" devalues designers and design in general?' I wrote a brief description then added, 'I'm curious to hear your thoughts about this issue and what you would recommend as other alternatives for designers.'

The intent of the post was to draw out recommendations and alternatives from other designers. Besides committing to not follow this trend, we all need to find a solution and become proactive in our own personal branding. Here are some ideas that were listed:
  • Non-profit organizations for designers just getting their foot in the door
  • Get involved with your city's Chamber of Commerce
  • Cold calls
  • Referrals (this should include friends, family, colleagues and old acquaintances)
  • I haven't heard of too many people having luck with these, but it's possible: Elance, Guru, Odesk, iFreelance, RentaCoder, etc.
  • "The Artist's & Graphic Designer's Market" (book listings)
  • Craigslist
  • Branding/Identity/Marketing yourself
  • Advertise
  • Find design firms that have overflow work that can use your assistance
  • Join communities like No!Spec (Twitter account @nospec)

Then a fellow designer posted just a link with no comments to this video, which I have to say, really made my day. (Thanks @kenlange! :D)

I'll continue to follow this hotly debated topic and may update the list above from comments provided. What could we do collectively and what could we do for our own personal branding and WOM marketing?

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