It may have been lost on the general public, but earlier this week a Forbes article was the shot across the bow for most of the professional design community. In the article, Christoper Steiner interviews CrowdSpring about their “design contest” business model. Based on the comments to the article, the topic is one that is close to the heart of many professional designers. In my opinion, Steph Doyle makes a good point about the lack of balance in the article, how it favors the idea presented by CrowdSpring, and doesn’t present a fair counterpoint. Steph also goes on to mention how inexperienced designers are only hurting themselves and the design industry. You may recall last month I wrote an article asking, “How much are you worth?“, which addressed the issues facing students entering the job market. I agree with Steph that the design community needs to do a better job of educating new designers, students, peers & the general consumer.
So what happens now?
The reality is new technology always brings about change in any industry. I call it Art & Business 101. Skilled & unskilled labor are impacted by technology that make tasks easier, or perform tasks better. While I disagree with the business model presented by CrowdSpring, they are catering to a demographic that is not my customer base. If a client company neither has the budget or desire to spend thousands of dollars on a design project, a professional designer’s portfolio may do little to change that company’s mind. I worry little about the company searching Craigslist for “artist for hire” because I’m not actively marketing to that company. I believe it’s imperative that while we educate those around us about our industry, we should also refrain from belittling those who do not understand or share our view. “I hope CrowdSpring burns in hell.” does little to squelch the point that “professional designers” are elitist snobs. The future is coming, you can stubbornly hold onto your way of doing things, or learn & adapt to the changes at hand.
Bigger, better, faster, cheaper. We can’t deny that there are customers driven by those wants & needs. Likewise, we can’t compromise the quality of our products & services to meet the wants & needs of every individual. I encourage you to recognize the impact of sites like CrowdSpring, but not to be discouraged by the challenges ahead. Educate your peers, educate your clients, but most importantly educate yourself to stay ahead of the game.
UPDATE – Thanks to @MrEvil for pointing out an article by the Strobist about working for free. While it doesn’t address the Forbes article, I think it falls inline with how the world is changing and what professionals should consider in adapting to that change.