How to crowdsource design

How to crowdsource design

a crowd as metaphor for crowdsourcing

Transform your digital design strategy through crowdsourcing

Transform your digital design strategy through crowdsourcing[/caption]One day soon, knowing how to crowdsource is going to be as important as knowing how to manage employees. Crowdsourcing means outsourcing a task to an undefined, large group of people.  In crowdsourcing, groups of people compete or collaborate to deliver a task.

“Knowing how to crowdsource is going to be as important as knowing how to manage employees.”

Crowdsourcing leaves other types of design procurement for dead. The only exception is if you know someone with Leonardo da Vinci’s drafting skills who understands you better than your partner/best friend/dog.

Crowdsourcing design works like this.  You post your brief on a site like Crowdspring or 99Designs and pay the design fee up-front (it’s held in escrow).  You specify how long you want your contest to be open.  Thousands or even tens of thousands of freelance designers can see your brief.  They submit designs that you rate and review online.  Their work iterates with your comments.  At the end of the time period, you choose a design, receive finished artwork and release payment to the winning designer.

Over the years, I’ve become very good at managing this process.  I say that because I consistently get top quartile results (in terms of number of entries and quality of design) while paying bottom quartile prices.  Most other crowdsourcers don’t get the results I do.

What makes the difference?  I do six things that consistently get good results:

1. Guarantee to buy

To make the effort of submitting great creative, designers need confidence that you’re going to buy at the end of the process.  You can signal this by committing to buy at the end, no matter what.  It’s  scary, because you’re committing to a product  you haven’t seen.  But paradoxically, commitment makes it very likely you’ll get the design you wanted.

2. Make it quick

Work expands to fill the time available.  So does crowdsourcing.  I find that a week is plenty of time to run a successful contest.  Designers (like the rest of us) have a time preference for money.  We’d all rather be paid today rather than tomorrow and a short design contest plays to that preference.

“We’d all rather be paid today rather than tomorrow and a short design contest plays to that preference.”

3. Don’t change the goal-posts.

Crowdsourcing is donut-shaped.  I find that I get the best designs at the beginning and right at the end of a contest. There’s a hole in the middle that sometimes gets scary because you don’t see great stuff being produced.

It’s tempting to extend the time period or change the brief.  Don’t!  Designers prefer it when the goals posts don’t move.

Instead, take a deep breath.  Relax.  Trust the process.

4. Write a brief that’s an interesting challenge

Like any other professional, good designers prefer interesting challenges. But crowdsourcing sites are full off boring, unspecific briefs along the lines of “retail business wants nice logo”.

Write something that’s interesting, specific and empathic with freelance design folk. I write briefs with an attitude and an ideology that appeals to freelancers.  For example, for a B2B agency focussed on small business, I started the brief with “Help small companies kill big ones.” As opposed to “agency wants design“.  It got attention.

5. Give specific feedback twice a day

In crowdsourcing, feedback is the hand of evolution; without it, all kinds of weird life forms emerge.  Designers expect feedback; it’s the only way they can iteratively and collectively understand what you like and don’t like.

Feedback needs to be specific.  “That’s lovely” is not good feedback.

Good feedback is “I really like the division of space, the balanced colour palette and the gradient on the green.  But the typography doesn’t feel serious enough and the text layout is too crowded.”

“Design feedback is the hand of evolution.  Without it, all kinds of weird life forms emerge.”

Designers will love you for giving this kind of feedback.

6. Be courteous and appreciative, even when the designs are off-the-mark.

I’m not sure if this makes a difference to results.  But behaving like a decent human-being isn’t subject to the laws of the market.

If somebody has spent a few hours of their life thinking about what you need with no guarantee of payment the least they deserve is a little respect.

Good manners and constructive feedback cost nothing.

What do you think?

What do you think of my six rules of crowdsourcing?. Have you ever crowdsourced?  If not, why not?  If you have, did you find other approaches that worked well?

Photo Credit:  Agnes Eperjesy




About Simon Kirby

Digital strategist, CX advisor and agile Product Owner. My core expertise is aligning the political, strategic and human factors that determine the success of digital, CX and innovation projects. Doing that helps organisations deliver better experiences, happier customers, distinctive propositions and improved commercial bottom-line

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