the frequency a kenny chung blog

June 16th, 2009
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Source: Crowdsourcing: What It Means for Innovation

There’s an age-old story about a contest where villagers had to guess the weight of a cow just by looking. The town butchers were of course the most accurate. But a curious thing happened- after pooling together all of the guesses, their average was even closer to the actual weight. In short, the combined wisdom of the crowd was greater than that of any single individual.

Now then, that brings us to crowdsourcing. To summarize the concept glibly, crowdsourcing is when a company allows many different individuals to contribute their ideas in a contest-style format and the company then chooses a winner (or amalgamates the best aspects of several ideas). This can work for designing logos, programming scripts, deciding a color scheme for a product- pretty much anything in today’s technological age of connectedness.

Competition lights fires under creatives, right? It makes you put in that extra 10% so you can edge out the competition to gain recognition or a quick buck. So crowdsourcing is a good thing, right?

Well, think about it from the perspective of the creative. The company will no doubt be paying less to the contest winner than if they had hired a professional to do the work, so in this respect, it devalues your work. But it’s not just about the money. If companies just crowdsource the design of everything, then in theory wouldn’t that mean that the opinions of all those individuals would create a super-opinion that would be better than any individual designer? Only in theory. In practice, designers and creatives work in their own distinctive styles, which when done well, help a brand create their own trademark style. If a company just takes bits and pieces of all the best entries, then they’ll lose the subtleties and nuances behind each decision- why these two colors work together, how the curves of each part complement each other, the overall theme of the work, etc.

And of course, let’s not forget that Twitter paid $6 for the design of their logo.

We creatives have to eat too.

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