Coffee for the masses.

Be a Pro, not a Tool – How to beat Crowdsourcing

I for one welcome the growing crowdsourcing trend. Many artists in my position loathe the idea because it’s unethical and threatens their own livelihoods.  I happen to agree – crowdsourcing spells ruin for the art of design, and pretty much any other discipline that can and will be turned over to the masses for a buck or two, or none.

But there is always opportunity to be found.  Not in crowdsourcing, mind you; the risk to the artist is too great to participate in a crowdsourcing project – so don’t waste your time.   The practice of crowdsourcing is based on greed and the idea that design is not worth anyone’s time and money.  Logos are small, simple images that anybody with Adobe Illustrator can just crank out…at least that’s the prevailing attitude – why pay possibly thousands of dollars for a logo, illustration, or web site when you can make starving artists fight for the “opportunity” to GIVE you more free work to choose from than you can handle?

The truth is that many people will leave the design and illustration industry because of crowdsourcing – not to mention the already damning effects of stock houses.  There is, however, the part about crowdsourcing that few people like to thing about and the way you will be able to capitalize on it.  A glaring flaw in crowdsourcing is the unprofessional veneer that it gives anybody who promotes or participates in it.

Therefore, I think that if you have the nerve to withstand the assault and not quit, then you can effectively market yourself as a professional.  That word is too often taken for granted, I think, because there’s too many professionals out there.  Everybody’s a pro nowadays; anybody who can draw can design, and anybody who can design is a professional.  What people expect from crowdsourcing is the insight of hundreds of professionals; what they get, on the other hand, wouldn’t pass for a C grade at a community college.

Make your professionalism a selling point and it will set you apart from what I believe is a growing trend that will in all likelihood never go away.   But that’s good – finally, it looks as if you don’t have as many professionals to compete with.  Hell, you might even be able to charge more, seeing as design pros are harder and harder to come by every day.  Compare your work to those of crowdsource houses and it’ll be like comparing a pint of Guinness to that stale shit your toothless cousin makes in the bathtub.  Crowdsourcing does as much for the artists as it does for the client – you know which clients to avoid working for in the future; they’re not professionals.  Forbes magazine writes an article proclaiming the virtues of crowdsourced design?  They must not be professionals – don’t bother with them.   Is there a company holding a “logo contest”?  They must not be professionals either – why would you fuck with them in the first place?  Non-pros don’t know the value of your work and may not even pay you for it either.  Non-pros are sloppy and half ass Mickey Mouse outfits – you ain’t got time for all that.

Of course, if you’re not actually in the business it’s OK to be a non-pro.  Last week the corner store around my house held a mascot contest in which kids from around my neighborhood submitted their designs.  They were swamped with tons of cute picture of animals, and aliens, and monsters.  But I don’t expect the corner store to hire a graphic designer for a mascot to go on a banner; why would I?  They’re not art directors.  They work hard for a living doing their own thing.  But would any professional bother submitting a design for a mom and pops logo contest when there’s paying work to be had?  Let the small fries submit their pictures of Mickey and Goofy; let them worry about “crowdsourcing” – the rest of us got grown man shit to do.

It’s not that crowdsourcers are bad people; they just don’t know any better.  You don’t have time to educate them – work with pros.

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