Graphic designers Vs Creative Crowdsourcing – Round 1

El nuevo logo de Telepizza

Lately it getting very attention the creative crowdsourcing issue (also known as crowdcontest). The relationship of this type of crowdsourcing with professional designers is obviously difficult, and the fact that Telepizza has used Adtriboo, a crowdcontest platform, to find a new logo for 1,000 € has not helped. The straw that broke the camel is the spanish Ministry of Education and Culture has sought a new image for the National Institute of Performing Arts and Music through the same platform, rewarding the winner with the same amount: 1,000 € .

Given this situation, and as a crowdsourcing researcher, I have thought it necessary to raise a series of questions to a designer, critic with the actual situation, to obtain the whole picture.

By chance I got in touch recently via Facebook with Gustavo Solana, creative director at the company “Hache Comunicación” … so that in him I found my scapegoat.


Enrique: Before I begin my reflection / interrogation (, D), I want to clarify that I am neither for nor against the crowdsourcing. I investigate the phenomenon of crowdsourcing and what I want is to get a picture as real as possible: both the good and the bad.

From what I read in your comments, you are totally against crowdsourcing (at least, against the use of crowdsourcing in the design world). Although I can image your answer, what are the fundamental reasons to reject crowdsourcing completly? I think your answer will confirm what has already been said by some authors.

Gustavo:I think the concept of crowdsourcing has not been rejected completly, what is beign rejected is how it is being used. Without going in difficult discussions about it, pros and cons, you will agree that every tool has a particular purpose; if that use is changed or distorted, at the end, the tool is perverted and greatly diminishes its function.

E.: Another question that arises is if your feeling of rejection is a general feeling. Do other designers as well, your colleagues in the company, etc.. thinks in the same way?

G.: Facebook, twitter,… Social networks are echoing a discomfort created by the improper use of crowdsourcing. We understand that taking advantage of a group specifically for a purpose of an overall benefit is a very justifiable cause, wikipedia, for example. But to take advantage of a so extremely sensitive situation, as the current one, so the only benefit is the one for the private enterprise, bursting the prices of a professional sector, it does not seem quite fair.

E.: As you know, one of the advantages posed by crowdsourcing proponents is that it gives opportunities to those who do not have any. Through platforms such as Adtriboo, any student of design (for example), can do a job (a logo or whatever) and make a profit at both economic and curriculum that would otherwise not be possible. Ignoring the issue that offered financial rewards are not excessively high, what do you think as a designer about this fact?

G.: Here is the poisoned bait. According to the American Design Award “… hundreds of young or novice designers spend countless hours of work and creativity by designing logos, websites, or collateral products for this type of competition not knowing whether they will be rewarded for their efforts, since 99% of the contestants never win. Graphic Designers around the world have had to work hard to maintain a standard of ethics and prices, and speculative work demerits all the things achieved before”. I can understand the difficult task ahead for students to improve their curriculum, their portfolio and the opportunity to find work. All, including myself, had to go through the same stage, and in that moment crowdsourcing didn’t exist. There was effort, persistence, motivation, desire that encouraged you to prepare your own proposals and create a decent portfolio. Now it seems that the fast and inmediate is better, and platforms that use crowdsourcing indecently extend the bait of projects with prices that are more like alms achieving that hundreds of future coming designers, including many amateurs, will compete like gladiators.

E.: In this regard, due to the participation of many people in this type of process using crowdsourcing, many authors (e.g. Jeff Howe, the American journalist who coined the term) say that now, the professionals, have to change their way of working, their business model. In one of his books, as an example, Howe explains the situation that photographers were faced with the emergence of iSotckPhoto. This is a website where you upload digital photos and other people can buy them for a few dollars. No more paying large amounts to specialized photographers,  there are many novice or amateur photographers that can take the pictures you need. How do you see this change proposed by this author (and others) in your sector? Impossible? An utopia?

G.: The model is changing, is clear, not by the presence of crowdsourcing, but by how we communicate globally and how to run the questions and answers between the two channels. But perhaps, before submitting to any professional sector to give up with a new business concept, why do not wonder what we want to become? I mean, up to this momento, if I even now I needed a particular design, I could go to any of the agencies in my city, see its portfolio, value his work and hire their service.

Now appears this “supposed” new business model, and wants to eliminate the professionals, calling them “intermediaries”, and want to subsitute them converting itself in a platform. You go away because I come. Then it says that it has on staff 200,000 “possible” designers, I say possible because I have no way to check it, and best, without any contract … that’s the new model? Convert studios, agencies, independent designers, future professionals in crowdsurcing platform slaves?

E.: Finally, as you know, crowdsourcing has more applications than design. Through platforms such as InnoCentive, complicated problems can solved or through crowdfunding platforms such as Goteo or Injoinet, projects, companies, etc. can be financed in a way it would be impossible to do otherwise. Do you have an opinion about it or, as it does not touch your professional area, you don’t mind?

G.: That is exactly, and no other, the model that should be adhered to the crowdsourcing concept. Through filtering methodology a specialized group can be employed to solve problems that can benefit local, national or global. In the same way, crowdfunding as a method of financing is an excellent tool, and I insist, using it in an ethical and responsible way, knowing at any time where are is going the money that thousands of users are paying. Certainly poses a danger, but could be an excellent platform in a time when economic instability and the excesses of the banks have turned off the tap to many promising projects and ideas. If you think about the crowdfunding is just a tool that feeds from the emotions and needs of individuals to benefit others.


  1. Tengo dificultades con el discurso de "crowdsourcing es malo, excepto para las industrias fuera de la mina" … ¿Qué pienses Enrique?

    Y cuando dice que "todos hemos tenido que pasar por la misma etapa, y no existía todavía el crowdsourcing. Existía el esfuerzo, la persistencia, la motivación, las ganas que te animaban a preparar tus propias propuestas y crear un portafolio decente", no piensa que aplicaciónes del mundo real estan mejores para estudiantes que aplicaciónes abstractes de la universidad?

    but why not apply to real then?

    1. Hi Yanning!

      Well, its obvious that proposing tasks to the crowd implies to not propose those tasks to the professionals that work in the ordinary way. So I understand that for many professionals, crowdsourcing can be an enemy to defeat.

      In the case of creative crowdsourcing and graphic designers, the situation is specially difficult (almost here in Spain). What has happen here is that, not only SMEs or small companies are using creative crowdsourcing platforms, but big companies ( = big customers) like Telepizza and, more important, the Spanish government.

      What makes me wonder is why this situation, at least with the info I have, doesn't takes place in other areas. For example: R&D and InnoCentive. Is because the money they give in reward is bigger than the prizes of creative crowdsourcing platforms? Is because the tasks proposed in Innocentive are less than those proposed in creative crowdsourcing platforms? Is because there are less R&D teams than designers, so they see their jobs more secure? I don't know, but is a good researching issue. What do you think Yanning?

      I completely agree with you about the possible benefits of crowdsourcing for students. It's a way of facing real problems, the real problems they will have to solve when they begin to work. In fact, one of the papers I have in mind is about this issue.

      By the way, your spanish is awesome!! 😉

      1. THanks Enrique 😉
        like you I think that it's surprising, especially since competitions and calls for submissions are very frequent in creative industries (see in architecture, for example, where pitching projects is the norm). If the logic of competition is in the ADN of reative industries, why do people rebel against spec work more than in the R&D sector? Maybe the people in R&D are more intrinsically motivated to solve challenging questions? Maybe the amount of prizes plays a role? Maybe it's the IP policy of creative contests that makes people angry?
        Interesting research question indeed, I guess you started a project on that? 😉

  2. Thanks for this wonderful post on Graphic designers Vs Creative Crowdsourcing. I have gained a lot of information about crowdsourcing through this post. I think after reading these questions and answers any one would have a basic knowledge about graphic designer and the concept behind his/her profession.

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