Thanks to all who commented on last week’s post about my excellent crowdsourcing adventure. The majority of you thought my response to my client was right on, but there was a vocal minority who seemed to think the issue was about me being allergic to competition, and a couple saw fit to lecture about the free market. Such as Anonymous: “So you're upset that people who bid lower prices usually (but not always) win the gig? Competitive pricing - imagine that. There are designers out there, some just as capable as your kind self, who see design as a business and are willing to treat it as such. Free markets and all that. “
Sigh. Another person who doesn’t get the difference between price and value. If the highest expression of the free market was price, we’d all be living in refrigerator boxes. The most insidious aspect of crowdsourcing design is the assumption that all little graphic doodads are created equal, especially in their ability to support clients’ businesses and help them become successful.
It is not the responsibility of clients (or crowdsourcing sites, for that matter) to somehow magically know the true value of design. Crowdsourcing has been able to make inroads because we as a profession have not done an adequate job of making our value clear. Rants about how “unfair” logo mills are only underscores what can present as an entitlement attitude: “I’m a great designer so you owe me (respect, awe, a job, lots of money, etc.).”
As a business person, I have to say that if someone tried to sell me software using that rationale, they’d be shown the door. If I’m going to spend several thousand dollars on something for my business, I need some assurance that this investment is going to pay off. The beauty of the free market is choice, and if I want to be chosen, I have to respect my clients’ choices by explaining why they should hire me.
A responder named Vitaminizer said, “A good client knows the value design brings to business, appreciates good design, knows the price . . . It's our job to attract them and work with them. We shouldn't be surprised that there are clients out there who want everything for $5. We also shouldn't waste time explaining that, to put it in a different design context, Old Navy clothes are bad quality. Instead of educating we should spend time marketing our services to businesses that appreciate the value of design.” (My bold.) So Vitaminizer, tell me this: since clients start out knowing as much about design as you might know about quantum physics, where will they learn all that stuff? And if they don’t know it, how can we successfully market to them? What basis do they have to understand our value to them?
I think that for designers, client education and marketing design have to be synonymous. As Marcelo Alvarez Bravo commented, “The big problem of the perceived quality and value has to do with the education of customers and also the inexperience of the designers to argue correctly.” I would add that in addition to those two aspects, it also has to do with the disinclination of many designers to bother explaining their worth. We need to get over ourselves.
Crowdsourcing has made inroads into the design profession partly because we let it. The push-back has to include the ability to explain clearly (and with no jargon) what design brings to the success of any organization. And no one is going to do that for us.
PS to Anonymous in Joplin: You are perfectly right, and your dilemma is a sad one. Some version of it will happen to most of us soon, if it hasn’t already. I had my own scares in July. One of the responders seemed to have a partial solution. Shewchuk said, “There are many more crowdsourcing platforms out there that vet their community (via portfolio review) and actually pay the hand-picked crew to participate in a design project that best fits their skill set and talent. The final solutions are guided by creative directors and the winning creative output earns a premium . . .” So Shewchuk, can you share the links to those sites? They don’t sound like they crowdsource if they are picky about to whom they assign work.