Guy Kawasaki’s Design A Book Cover Contest: A Good or Bad Idea?

I should first note that I do not consider myself to be a graphic designer in any way. I wish I had the skills of the artists whom I profile on a daily basis, but alas, I do not. Having said that, I’d like to talk a little bit about the controversy surrounding the Design A Cover project set forth by Guy Kawasaki on the crowdsourcing site, CrowdSpring.

Two days ago, the former Apple Evangelist, social media guru and Alltop founder, posted a call for entries for people that were interested in designing a cover for an upcoming book project of his, Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions. Kawasaki used the site CrowdSpring to open up the contest to those who were interested. CrowdSpring is a site that individuals can use to find professional designers to create things like logos, stationary, illustrations, and even clothing designs. Here’s an excerpt from the CrowdSpring About Us page:

By helping Buyers reach countless creatives across the globe, we’re changing the game for the little guy. Now small businesses, one-man shops and individuals anywhere can tap into a global pool of creatives for logo design, web design, company name, product name, packaging design, and many other graphic design, industrial design and writing projects. – CrowdSpring

Soon after Kawasaki posted the contest offering on CrowdSpring he of course let his Twitter followers know, all 258,000 plus. To the surprise of many, there was what seemed to be a backlash from a subset of Kawasaki’s Twitter followers. Designers revolted and accused Kawasaki of offering “spec work” that in effect ripped off the designers that entered and would have a negative effect on other designers within the industry. Here are a few of the Twitter comments:

“@frenden @GuyKawasaki add that up for all the people involved and that’s a LOT of free work for nothing” via @progressions.

“@GuyKawasaki If exploiting the hard work of others equals a pay off, I’ll pass.” via @frenden.

“@GuyKawasaki How about you just use your money to hire a legitimate illustrator rather than taking advantage of the inexperienced? #nospec” via @LandauArt.

Those are some strong words right there coming from experienced graphic designers (Frenden and LandauArt).

So, let’s back up a little but. Some of you might be wondering: What the heck is “Speck work?”

Spec work (short for speculative) is any job for which the client expects to see examples or a finished product before agreeing to pay a fee.

Basically, a client offers a job to any designer interested in the job. The client then, theoretically, receives multiple submissions from a variety of designers. He then picks the one that he likes the best and then pays that specific designer. The other designers who also submitted their work will receiving nothing for the work that was submitted and rejected.

Designers tend to prefer clients review the portfolios of various designers and then offer the job to a single designer that best fits their needs. The designer would then negotiate his/her rate with the client and would then design the project for that client.

Seasoned designers often hate the concept of “spec work” because:

  1. the designers commits time to a project, but is guaranteed nothing in return.
  2. the designers are forced to prove their worth when in fact the potential client can simply refer to the designers portfolio.
  3. some designers consider spec work to be a major ethical flaw.
  4. “unlike other industries is unique in that the intellectual property is put into your deliverable, and when the client asks for you everything you have to put into the project to think about purchasing.” via Andrew Hyde.

So now that you understand what “spec work” is and why many designers loathe it, let’s discuss why I think Guy Kawasaki’s Design A Cover Project is not so bad of an idea. In fact, I think it is an awesome idea.

First a few facts.

Guy Kawasaki is an established figure with a reputable background. He is respected within the tech industry and thought to be a forerunner in the social media movement.

Crowdsourcing*/spec work has become a major part of the social media movement. There are many examples in which large company’s provide an open call to designers to submit their work with no guarantee of payment. Threadless, for example, receives thousands of T-Shirt design submissions each week and only prints a handful of new T-Shirts each week. Needless to say, there are many people that submit to Threadless with no guarantee that they will receive payment for their work.

However, as Andrew Hyde has pointed out before:

“Bandwagon fallacies don’t work for a lot of things, including this. If you are talking about ThreadLess, they have done a very good job a) paying their designers fair market value b) involving a community in the beauty of design that traditionally would have been left out and c) making clear that the designs are done for the love of design, not for a 3rd party to profit off of.”

But I have seen other up-and-coming T-Shirt design contest sites use the same model and not pay nearly as much as Threadless. Some of these sites pay $500 or less. And let’s not forget that Threadless, when first starting out, did not pay market value like they do today. Hyde also notes in point c: “designs are done for the love of design, not for a 3rd party to profit off of.” But come on, at the end of the day Threadless loves design BUT they also love bringing in the money. They are a business, a multi-million dollar business that thrives on spec work.

UPDATE 1 (8/2/2010 at 10:45 am): Some people in fact do not consider what Threadless does to be “spec work.” Here’s one reason why according to Creative Pro:

Some designers believe that sites like are a better alternative to cattle-call contests. Threadless produces t-shirts based on artwork submitted by designers. Winning artwork not only gets printed up but also bags the designer $2,000. Why is threadless different? Members of the site — designers themselves — vote on each design. It’s a collaborative community-based decision rather than the edict of a client who may not be well informed about the nuances of successful design.

However, if I am going by the definition of spec work provided earlier, “any job for which the client expects to see examples or a finished product before agreeing to pay a fee.” then I have to say that Threadless is in a fact a form or a type of spec work. It is true that the designers vote on submitted designs and the chosen designs that go to print are a combination of Threadless discretion and communities votes. But at the end of the day, though, there are still many, many people who submit to Threadless who spend countless hours on a project before they are selected as a winner and if they are not selected as a winner then they do not receive any payment. They do, however, retain all rights to the artwork and can resell or submit to other sites or even produce the product on their own. Does the community involvement not make what Threadless does spec work?

Back to Kawasaki’s Design A Cover project. Why would I do it?

  1. If you are an up-and-coming designer, with little to no real world experience then you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.
  2. It’s not just about the $1000, but it’s what could potentially arise from you making a connection with Guy Kawasaki.
  3. Kawasaki is a big time player in the social media world and tech industry. He tweets a lot, but more importantly, he engages with his community of loyal followers and friends through multiple mediums.
  4. In fact, he is already engaging with his community in regards to this project. Submissions are already being seen by thousands on Alltop and comments and feedback are plentiful.
  5. Even if your design is not selected, there is a good chance that it will be seen somehow. In fact, this is what Kawasaki did the last time he ran a similar cover contest in 2004: Design Eye For The Startup Guy Contest. There is even speculation that non-winning cover designers may make it to the back of the cover sleeve.
  6. Kawasaki’s rate of $1000 is reasonable and competitive. This site (Alpha Advertising) offers a professional package that is priced at $1000. This designer (Archer Graphics) specializes in book covers and charges $800-$900. And there are a few more here that charge the same or similar rate.
  7. If the design is not selected, it would make for a good portfolio piece.

At the end of the day, I think Kawasaki’s Design A Cover project is an excellent idea and a wonderful way to network and build your portfolio. Professional designers may not think this and rightfully so. They have the experience, payroll, and contacts to allow them that right. They have the right to refuse work and offer their own rates. Up-and-coming designers may not have the same privilege and may jump at the opportunity to work with Kawasaki to get their work out there and rightfully so – they should not be persecuted or looked down upon for this decision.

As an outsider looking in (I’m not participating in this contest) and as a non-designer that is enthusiastic about social media, I must say that this battle between Kawasaki and a select subset of designers has intrigued me. Let’s not forget the old saying of you get what you pay for. Kawasaki may not get the most renown book cover artist to design his cover, but he is doing what he does best for many years now – engaging with his community in a positive and interactive way. He could easily pay someone $5000 to design a cover for him, heck he could pay much more than that. But that’s not what he does. He engages his community. This is him doing exactly that.

This Design A Cover project is not about ripping off professional artists, but rather, providing an opportunity to those who 1. are not as fortunate as those professional designers that are on a steady and current payroll, and 2. simply want to enter just for the heck of. If in fact Kawasaki did go the “review a bunch of portfolios” route, he would be ignoring almost all of the people that fall under type #2 (those that simply want to enter just for the heck of) – bad idea considering he would be ignoring a large portion of his rabid fans, a death move for a social media guru like Kawasaki. And of course, up-and-coming designers tend to have small network, which would theoretically reduce their chance of being reviewed by Kawasaki. By crowdsourcing the book cover design, Kawasaki is not only reaching out to all designer types, both seasoned veterans and fresh up-and-comers, but he is also extending the offer to his large fan base.

Guy Kawasaki is definitely using social media to his advantage. Is he abusing it? I don’t think. Is he making the experience interactive, fun and enticing? I think so.

What do you think? I know that I am probably opening myself up to a can of worms BUT I’d still love to hear what you have to say about the issue! Let your voice be heard and leave a comment below.

*I use the term crowdsourcing synonymously with spec work HERE because in fact, crowdsourcing as we know it is a form of spec work. It is an open call to large group of people to get a particular task done. Threadless considers themselves to be a company that thrives on crowdsourcing. However, I should note that in the case of Threadless, both the designer and Threadless retain all rights to the designs. At CrowSpring, the buyer (in this case Kawasaki) becomes the “sole and exclusive owner and copyright proprietor of all rights” pertaining to the design.

Here’s an excellent video from SXSW 2009 that looks at spec work from both perspectives:

Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions

Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions


  1. says

    Great post.

    One comment, Threadless is not spec, for, to be spec, the call must be custom. If they were to say ‘all shirts must have a logo’ or ‘all designs must be x design style’ that would be spec, but an open call with no limitations makes it free and clear around the issue.

  2. Metronome49 says

    “CrowdSpring is a site that individuals can use to find professional designers to create things like logos, stationary, illustrations, and even clothing designs”

    Professional designers? There are professional designers that participate in CrowdSpring, for whatever reason, but there are no gatekeepers to keep out the detritus of hobbyists with a pirate copy of Photoshop and a misunderstanding of what goes in to design, either.

    Another thing not mentioned in you list of why professional designers tend to hate crowdsourced spec work, is that it even further confuses the public about what we do, who we are, and how we should be compensated. They start to think we should be brimming at the chance to work with them for free.

    Just ask yourself if you would participate if Kawasaki was offering a competition in whatever it is that you do… and then you do hours of work that you are used to getting paid for, and then someone else “wins”…

  3. says

    From a business owners perspective, Guy Kawasaki’s Design a Book Cover Contest is a great idea. Why limit yourself to the creativity of one designer, when you can have hundreds of designers from around the world compete for your business? We used Crowdspring for’s logo and our $200 design budget received hundreds of entries from dozens of designers from around the world. The winning designer was from Indonesia and we couldn’t be happier with the result.

    Note to designers out there:
    -It’s survival of the fittest. You don’t want to do the work? Fine. Someone else will gladly do it.
    -Low pay? It depends on who you are and where you work. A $200 logo or $1000 book cover may not make sense to you as a designer in the USA, but a designer in Estonia, Indonesia or Bangladesh may feel otherwise.
    -Low quality design work? Perhaps, but really low quality design work is obvious and won’t win the competition.
    -Traditional design rules? Who cares? As long as the owner is happy with the work, it doesn’t matter what rules the designer breaks.

  4. Metronome49 says


    This is the exact reason why designers are lashing out at the Guy’s choice, which is presumably for a different reason entirely from what you are saying.

    You are just being cheap, and don’t want to really pay an graphic designer for their work.

    Low pay? Most of the designers get NO PAY… no matter where they are from.

    “really low quality design work is obvious and won’t win the competition”

    How would you know what low quality design work is? You have no training, experience, or knowledge base from which to base that opinion off of.

    “As long as the owner is happy with the work, it doesn’t matter what rules the designer breaks”

    Design isn’t for the owner, design is for the end-user that will be consuming the business owners material, and if the business owner forces the designer in to making their preference instead of effective solutions, the design fails.

    This is so insulting to the design profession because you obviously have no idea what we really do, and have no respect for our field.

    How about this: I want you to come and give me a bunch of advice on my small business, or write for my blog, or whatever it is you actually do, and I also am going to have several other professionals who do the same come and do their best, and I will pay you after you finish, and only if I deem you to be the most effective at doing whatever that is. In addition, everyone else will be able to see your work, so they can ride your ideas and steal your thunder out from under you.

    If the advice that you you are giving businesses is to underappreciate design and marketing, then noone should be taking your advice… I think Guy Would likely agree, as this was very far from his reasoning when doing this.

  5. says

    I think a contest is a great idea and Guy is of course a first class guy. I’d suggest he consider using TalentHouse. They build a great community for budding designerse.

  6. says

    All reasonable points.

    @AndrewHyde Fair enough, however, one could argue that Threadless does offer “spec work” whenever it has one of it’s “Threadless Loves…” contests. Here they provide specifics and details as to what they would like to designers to submit. Would that then be considered some type or form of spec work to you?

    I’ve asked a couple of designers over Twitter and the idea of whether or not Threadless is spec seems to be split. Some think it is spec, while others do not. I feel that whatever you call it, you must admit that Threadless treats its designers with a lot of respect, spec or not.

  7. says

    Great post. It’s good to see so much quality discussion regarding this contest and spec work in general.

    I would agree that Threadless does treat its community with a lot of respect; however, I don’t believe that site was the best example for this situation. I believe that many of the people that submit work to Threadless are artists (as opposed to designers). If Threadless chooses not to accept an artist’s submission, then they’re still left with what they had to begin with — a piece of art that has value to them. That piece of art can still presumably be used in another application to earn them a profit.
    A designer entering Guy’s contest, on the other hand, would be left with a book cover that is specific to that project. For graphic designers that are in school or just entering the field, I agree, there’s nothing to lose; however, most established designers will not touch this type of project.
    Honestly, I think that many designers have behaved poorly since this contest was announced, but I can see why they’re up-in-arms about such a high profile crowdsourcing competition. As I’ve said, I don’t think Guy would fancy entering a publisher’s ‘book contest’, right?

  8. wulan says

    I’m from Indonesia, and i’m a graphic designer with 10 years experience in, handling major clients like Citibank Holcim etc. I may handle big names but i have to say i really like CrowdSpring, i can see it as a training ground, or just for fun.

    About the quality, even if i lost to a ‘lower quality’ design, it doesn’t matter. So some people just have bad taste, and u can’t change that.

    Designers can be cocky about their profession & about taste, but in reality people still buy products from very poorly branded products. I know it’s an eyesore to us, but some people actually like it.

    However, believe me CrowdSpring will not bring down the traditional work of designers or the world of graphic design, there will always be a lot more people who have better taste.

  9. says

    The trouble with sites such as CrowdSpring is that there is very little value passed in any direction. Taking advantage of a need of a designer or aspiring designer (or any other) on one hand, and of the customer who has little if no experience on what good design should do on the other.

    It is absolutely right to argue that there is a need. But comparisons to democracy in relation to it’s service, when clearly CrowdSpring takes advantage of this need, and doesn’t solve it, is clearly wrong. CrowdSpring is a business built upon this market need. I’m not convinced it sets out to help anyone beyond it’s own growth. I might be wrong, there might be good intention there. Unfortunetly it’s all in the execution, and in CrowdSpring’s case, it falls short.

    Aspiring designers want to grow, want to learn. The lucky (and talented) will land a great internship role, but clearly, with a limited number of internship opportunities, many do get left behind.

    My issue with crowd sourcing design isn’t one of principle, it’s one of quality. The aspiring designer doesn’t get mentorship, the customer only gets design that is skin deep. Design as art, as expression, good or bad, that doesn’t deliver results.

    So who’s to blame? CrowdSpring? No. Guy Kawasaki? No. The fact is that mentorship opportunities, and good design are both hard to access. Accessing good design for a mom and pop shop, or for that matter, a potentially amazing start-up, is tough.

    We need to ask ourselves the question “what are we doing to solve this issue?”

    Whether we’re talking about a aspiring designer, or developer, or whoever, there should be a more supportive system in place.

    I’m thinking of developing just such a system. Which seems to me a much more productive approach to take. Let me know @barrie_robinson if you’d like to get involved (anyone).

    p.s. Guy Kawasaki has just brought a contentious issue to the foreground. If he’d presented this as a design competition, there wouldnt have been such a backlash. Even better, a design competition reviewed and supported by established/recognized designers who could constructively assist designers in their submissions. For those who know Guy’s reach, the benefits are obvious.

  10. says

    Actually Tim Ferris (author of the 4-hour work week) did this exact same thing a while back, and also experienced a backlash from the community.

    As a web designer, I hate spec work with all my heart. Simply because it gives you a worse end result than a hired freelancer could. When the work is speculative, the designer is thinking WAY too much about pleasing whoever is going to be the judge (in this case Guy Kawasaki) and not about solving a real design problem. Even if you get 1000 submissions, the sum of those parts is still worse than the one great design you could have gotten if you had contacted a professional designer. Bad spec design is also caused by not being able to speak directly to the client. Typically you have a page of directions, and that’s it. Besides limiting creative freedom, it causes the designer to be relatively uninformed about the goals and mindset of the client, and an uninformed designer simply doesn’t do as good work as a designer who can enter a dialogue with the client. A great analogy is the “tatoo design competition” analogy by

    I don’t think submitting to Threadless is spec work. The submitters are, first and foremost, artists. Their work is not tied to Threadless in any way, and if they don’t win the design contest, they can go elsewhere and have shirts printed. There is a reason that Threadless have not gotten massive amounts of critique: The community respects them and think what they offer is fair. Some of their more closed competitions probably could be defined as spec work, but again: if everyone thinks it’s fair, there is no problem.

    In the end, I think Guy Kawasaki could have avoided this backlash if he had just presented it as a competition. If he had gotten some well-known graphic artists, professional book cover designers, etc. on a panel and had them choose the best submission, all this would never had happened. It’s amazing how little difference there is between a design competition and asking for spec work, but the difference really matters to designers.

  11. says

    I do not think it is as a spec work if the design is initially created without a must of inclusion of certain image, certain logo, or certain message. Something that is done on free will.

    The cover book project is a spec work in my opinion.

  12. says

    You have to understand the difference between art and design in order to understand why Threadless isn’t spec work and why this contest is bad for the design industry.

    Professional designers are much more than makers of pretty pictures. We provide strategic thinking and visual communications by developing close relationships with our clients while seeking to understand how there businesses work and what their audiences want. All this to the benefit of an organization.

    Artists create mostly for themselves, producing a piece of art that expresses an emotion, a political statement or a humorous exchange for the enjoyment of an audience that they want to connect with. Profit be dammed (but gladly accepted if possible).

    Submitting to Threadless is an act that appeals to the artists (whom coincidentally are often also designers). Its mostly not a professionally motivated pursuit.

    Contests like the one that Mr. Kawasaki is proposing, are high profile statements that designers are in fact artists. They boil down our work to the subjective level, ultimately creating a race to the bottom.

    Unfortunately the general public doesn’t understand the difference and as a result, the design industry pays the price because the value added services we provide become even more unexpected and subsequently devalued.

    I get that contests like this look like a win-win for designers who are just starting out and have nothing to lose but that isn’t the reality. They’re ultimately doing a disservice to their industry on the whole.

    The no spec movement requires solidarity in the face of desperation. No designer should ever devalue their talent or their time by submitting to a contest.

  13. says

    Kg, interesting points.

    One thing that struck me though, was your statement that the value-added services you provide become unexpected and devalued.

    I would reason that if anything that presents opportunity. Your services beyond the creation of artwork, those involving the analysis of the audience and whatnot become more valuable, and not less.

    They are not expected from the client, and are therefore seen as something you do that is above and beyond the spread of services they anticipate being available from someone they hire.

    Your need to sell and explain the necessity of these services as part of your work doesn’t change; it’s something that could be necessary with many clients already who feel they have their brand or look-and-feel figured out and just need a hand to draw a pretty picture.

    You will always have that battle and will always have to sell the merits of those services, even if the world’s perception draws a distinction between artists and designers.

    Kawasaki’s contest is pure survival of the fittest. The design the client likes best will win. The purpose of the cover is to sell books and reinforce his personal brand, and whatever design he chooses will be judged solely on his perception of its ability to do those two things.

    It doesn’t matter if it breaks all kinds of design rules, if he likes it and thinks it’s going to sell books, then it IS the best design for the objectives of the contest.

    “If it sounds good, it is.” – Duke Ellington

  14. says


    I wholeheartedly agree with you on the point that the value added services we provide as strategic thinkers and visual problem solvers DOES make us more valuable. But where I think you might be missing the point is that those services, aren’t in addition to making pretty pictures.They’re part-and-parcel. They ARE the design process.

    You’re also correct to point out that the client education process will never go away. Designers are used to rationalizing their designs. Its a way to acid test our ability to read the client and audiences needs as well as displaying for the client why the solution we’ve conceived is the best solution for their audience.

    Where I disagree with you is on your last statement. Guy Kawasaki himself is not the best person to decide what the best book design cover is.

    A qualified graphic designer who specializes in book design has years of experience behind them. They live, eat and breath typography and book covers. They collect historical books, they know the studios who were most famous for certain cover designs and why. Most importantly, they understand better than anyone why a certain book cover design historically resonated more effectively with the audience than others in the same genre.

    They apply that experience when discovering which approach to take and they study the competition, the author and the audience with fervent dedication. No one can design a book more effectively and efficiently than they.

    They would get to know the audiences likes and dislikes by studying market trends and sales and subsequently design a cover that would aims to balance relation and differentiation while attempting to catapult the G. Kawasaki brand.

    In the end, what matters most is that if you hire a qualified graphic designer with experience in publication design it will ultimately yield higher sales.

    We don’t stab in the dark my friend. We aim with a well sighted scope. ;-)

    “Good design is good business” – Thomas Watson

  15. says

    The Threadless <3s contests are leagues away from this type of spec. If I make a design about coffee and it doesn't get printed, I can just shop it around somewhere else or just print it myself. Not so in the case of "design my book cover". Nobody else is going to want to buy a design with Guy Kawasaki's name on it.

    The idea that working for high-profile clients brings in 'exposure' and therefore business is 100% horse crap. I have been printed at two of the most high-traffic tee sites on the internet, with hundreds of thousands of pageviews and a prominent link to my portfolio. I've been endorsed by a blogger with 1.5 million twitter followers. That's a lot of damn exposure, but how many paid projects did any of these land me? Zero. Every gig I've landed, I've landed because I presented my work in a close-knit, personable setting to clients who felt my style and abilities met their needs. The designers who win spec contests generally do not get good, paying clients. In fact, they usually get clients who demand more work for free. Far from building yourself up, spec work digs you into a hole.

    Will the world come tumbling down because of Guy's silly design contest? Certainly not. But every piece of spec work like this sets a terrible precedent. It perpetuates the stereotype that creatives are A: desperate for money and B: content with working 'just for kicks'. It's a terrible state of affairs, and if Guy is really as influential and successful as he is supposed to be, he should be challenging this sort of nonsense, not perpetuating it.

  16. says

    I discovered CrowdSpring about three days ago when a potential client that I’d had several conversations with told me he decided to “crowdsource” one of the logos he wanted (turned out both the logos he wanted). I’d never heard of the site before.

    BUT, I’m fascinated. I’m sucked in. There are a lot of very cool projects posted, many of which, including the cover of Kawasaki’s new book, I’d LOVE to do. I have no personal connection to GK or his publisher, so unlikely I’d be on the RFP list. It’s design fun. It’s an exercise. Every design studio should take on a CrowdSpring challenge just for fun and mental gymnastics and submit entries to things that you don’t usually do.

    Somehow, there’s a big difference in the spirit of these competitions, (cheapo guy offering $200 bucks for a logo design mentioned above excluded, thank you), than in the spirit of postings on Craigslist where a post will ask naive designers to send in their work and if they like it they’ll pay you $50 or promise more work later. puhleeez. THAT’s the worst of spec work, as is a much larger budget client who’ll ask a number of firms or designers to submit work on spec. This is something different.

    It’s interesting to see the many design solutions offered up. Some awful, some really interesting. It’s part conversation, part contest, and right, part another way to rip-off designers. Buy, hey, if it’s a project that catches your eye and you feel like breaking out of your usual milieu and working on it, then it’s a design challenge and a great exercise. If you win, better yet, but really winning isn’t necessarily everything. How often does anyone get to see maybe one or two hundred iterations to the same design problem from all over the world. Fascinating!

    I absolutely agree with the spec work argument and with all the detractors who’ve posted above, but somehow, I’m hooked and I like it better than Facebook!

    It can also be a good vehicle for a designer to recycle work. We all have iterations and initial concepts a, b, c, d that were great but rejected by a client, just hanging out in folders on our computers. So, possibly it’s a way to monetize the concepts we liked but the client didn’t and try to sell them through Crowdspring to someone else they might work for. If one of these recycled design ideas is chosen, then you get paid twice. Cool.

    But, a major drawback for both client and designer is the lack of personal relationship and intellectual interchange. The design briefs are sketchy. In the case of Mr Kawasaki’s project which I’ve been playing in, I haven’t read an outline of the book, I haven’t had a conversation with him or his publisher so I’m somewhat shooting in the dark.

    Design is about context and exploration. It’s about deep understanding and listening and grasping a client’s business model, competitors, and marketplace, let alone personality and psyche. It’s not about just making something that looks nice. In the case of a logo, it’s brand development. Would you value your brand at $200? What does that say about how you value yourself or your enterprise?

    Another negative is copycatting. In the case of the two projects I’ve posted to, I’ve seen my designs appearing reworked badly a few days after my initial post by someone grasping for ideas.

    Pros and Cons. Interesting. 67,000 designers participating. Don’t know how long I’m in, but it’s been fun for a couple of days.

  17. says


    Very interesting thoughts, but do you really think that CrowdSpring enables you to do your best? As you say, designing is all about deciphering the clients need in relation to the business model, target audience, competitors, etc. Does CrowdSpring facilitate that kind of dialogue?

    Secondly, how much money are you making on CrowdSpring? It seems like a lot of the competitions offer $400 for a logo, but get 200 entries. That is, on average, $2 per entry. So if you’re an “average” designer, you have to work your ass off to make even a little money.

    If I read your comment right, you’re mostly doing this for fun. It’s very admirable that you’re so passionate about designing stuff that you will do it without getting paid enough. But I think you will get bored of it eventually. When I design, I get a much bigger kick out of understanding the client’s need and finally “cracking” a concept, than I do when I spend 30 minutes on a mediocre logo in Photoshop. Don’t you miss the client-designer interaction on CrowdSpring?

  18. says


    Yes. I absolutely miss the client/designer interaction and I think that the final product for all involved suffers. I think I was pretty clear on that.

    And, I also think it’s highly likely that I’ll be over Crowdspring in the next five minutes (in social networking time). But, I still think it’s fascinating.

    Does Crowdspring enable me to do my best work? No. That requires the dialogue and relationship with the client’s business. It requires market research. It requires the personal exchange and commitment that only a real relationship can supply.

    Am I dashing something off in 30 minutes? No. I’m putting thought into my submissions and trying to do my best. Why? Like you said, I’m passionate about design and having a little fun — for now.

  19. says

    alphagrl: Well that I can understand. What I don’t get are the people / clients who think that CrowdSpring will offer them a GREAT solution to their problem. It looks like a good place to get inspiration, but to professionally design something, there has to be extensive dialogue between the client and the designer.

    There aren’t a lot of places where you can get 100 logo mockups for $200, so if you’re cheap on your branding/web efforts, I can see why CrowdSpring is attractive. People should just keep in mind that their business brand/website/whatever will suffer as a result of not having made a big enough investment, both financially and in terms of time spent discussing with the designer.

  20. says

    There’s a reason lawyers and doctors have certain restrictions on their professions. It’s to maintain their dignity and value. Crowdsourcing is unethical, no matter how you slice it! Exposure, connections and a fat portfolio can’t pay the bills!