design commodity

Design: A Commodity or a Critical Asset?

Should you go to a freelance crowdsourcing marketplace when looking for a designer? When you don’t really care, yes, but if you do care, you are taking a risk.

Recently, I was listening to Ilise Benun of Marketing Mentor’s podcast, “What is your value to your dream client.” where she quoted Steven Gates, Head Design Evangelist of InVision. “Design is disrespected and underfunded, it is treated like a commodity rather than a critical asset.” 

Was this printer an ideal client for me? Not necessarily. But his take on design—and its value (or lack thereof)—got me thinking: Are there times when sourcing to a freelance crowdsourcing marketplace is okay? Are there times when it’s never okay? And most of all—how can businesses in need of design find the designer that will best suit their needs? 

Is Crowdsourcing Ever Okay—and When?

This may come as a surprise, but I know there will always be a need for those quick, down-and-dirty, cheap projects, where the goal is to have something for that one-time event, like a t-shirt design that will be used for your brother-in-law’s guys fishing day out. In my opinion, crowdsourcing is okay for a project like that, for it is likely, that the very same design will be repurposed for others with a similar request. Since nothing is being branded for mass appeal, bought or sold, or being used to establish companies’ graphic standards, there’s no need to build value or loyalty around this “brand”—and that is okay.

However, when it comes to a growing business, it is vital to consider the value, strategy, and overall goals that this project must achieve. In this case, crowdsourcing the design is not a great option, and there are many reasons why.

The Downsides of Crowdsourcing

When taking a chance with crowdsourcing, you may encounter the following:

  • Design or artwork that really doesn’t hit the mark of what you may have envisioned or expected
  • Artwork that was not correctly created in file formats that will work for all mediums and sizes
  • Receiving artwork that was repurposed, or used over and over by others 
  • The final cost being beyond what was initially expected or quoted
  • The time to complete the project is longer than expected
  • There is much hand-holding in the execution of the design—you are telling the designer exactly what to do, and there is no collaboration or development for improvement
  • Communication mishaps due to email-only exchanges, long response times between rounds, no local access to meet in person, working within different time zones, or simply just not knowing the person you are working with

Price of Crowdsourcing—Deal or No Deal?

Sure, you may get a low price if you crowdsource, but what does your business lose? Several essential questions immediately came to mind about the effectiveness of such a cheap and possibly unreliable resource. I was curious:

  • What value is being placed on this project?
  • What is the strategy, and how does this project drive success for the company? 
  • Was there research conducted into the competitors or the target audience? 
  • What was the process of giving and receiving feedback? Was the process collaborative and responsive?
  • How was the feedback incorporated to develop and improve the development of the project? 
  • How did they know if the item created was unique to them and worked within their overall marketing plan? 
  • Would the design stand the test of time? 
  • Did the designer care about your timeframe, budget, or business goals? 

It is hard to say if these factors were considered but when you are starting or running a company, these factors need to be top of mind.

I say let’s not forget the adage: You get what you pay for.

The Evolution: When You Need More Than Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing might get your company to a certain point. Still, when a crowdsourcing dependent company realizes they need strategy and partnership in order to grow or have just had a horrible experience working with a crowdsourcing designer, they may approach a design partner with skills, talent, and relevant expertise. Which is great!

Unfortunately, since this company has gotten used to crowdsourcing, and treating design as a commodity for the lowest price, they often don’t understand the value of good design or realize what it costs. Value can be hard to understand until you actually experience it.

Often times, these companies come to a crossroads or a breaking point—where crowdsourcing isn’t worth it anymore, and it’s time to move forward. This is where reaching out to a design partner to provide all-encompassing solutions, is a great idea!

Whether you crowdsource your project or partner with an experienced designer, you ultimately decide what is best for you. Still, I can tell you, when you find a great designer to partner with, you will see that they become a part of your team and aid the growth of your company. Trust, comprehension, and value, in addition to expertise, creative skills, and willingness to get the job done, will help your business grow and expand.

Are you ready to find your ideal design partner to help your company grow? Head over to my website and let’s talk! 

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