Is Crowdsourcing a Viable Option for Design Work?

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Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC)
Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC)



crowdsourcingCrowdsourcing design projects to sites like 99Designs has become a hot-button issue in the advertising industry. Critics voice concerns ranging from the threat crowdsourcing poses to agencies, the cheapening of design work through the growing expectation of free "spec work," ads that are off-message and even pirated images slipping through the cracks.

Despite these concerns among industry professionals, Victors and Spoils is an agency built on crowdsourcing, and hit ads that aired during the Superbowl were crowdsourced. To offer perspective, 11 professionals from the Young Entrepreneur Council have shared their experiences with crowdsourcing design.

Q: What experiences have you had with crowdsourcing design projects (i.e. 99Designs) in comparison to working with a freelance designer or design firm?

YEC1More Complexity, Less Crowdsourcing

"We crowdsource for less complex jobs. We've found that the more complex the job, the less crowdsourcing works because you need to have open communication to discuss the complexities. However, crowdsourcing works well for logo or business card design."

Bhavin Parikh | Magoosh Test Prep



YEC2A New Perspective

"Sourcing design is always a risk. We've tried it and found some success with baseline ideas that we eventually expanded upon. Getting a freelancer to completely follow through in a timely/cost-effective manner is a challenge. Utilizing them for a fresh take, however, is the best approach. It never hurts to get new eyes on ideas and eliminate creative roadblocks that you or your staff may have."

Jordan Guernsey | Molding Box


YEC3Crowdsource Until You Find "It"!

"If you find a good, experienced designer, stick with him. You can go back and forth quite a bit until you get exactly what you want. Until you find the right person, crowdsourcing is a good option. But once you find that sweet spot, don’t abandon it!"

John Hall | Digital Talent Agents



YEC4Not a Fan

"Crowdsourcing is cool, but it's not always safe.

Oftentimes you'll find designers ripping off copyrighted material and using pirated images, which you'll likely get away with, but in my opinion isn't worth the risk. I'd rather go with a freelance designer or a service like LogoNerds (our go-to)."

Travis Steffen | WorkoutBOX


YEC5Crowdsourcing Saved Our Project!

"We hired a reputable, local design firm awhile back when we started looking at re-designing our website. After three months, thousands of dollars and their firm "just not getting it," we fired the firm and posted our project on 99Designs. Within days we had hundreds of designs, had selected an amazing designer and years later we're still working with the same designer we found on 99Designs."

Derek Johnson | Tatango



YEC6Crowdsourcing Opens the Creative Juices

"The advantage of crowdsourcing is that it allows for creative thinking that you may not have had in mind. And because of the nature of crowdsourcing, it forces you to write down specifically what you're looking for (and not looking for) in order to get the best results."

Alex Frias | Track Marketing Group



YEC7Leverage Your Fans for Real Results

"We admire Threadless, a 12-year-old design company out of Chicago that crowdsources every design they make. We have tried to imitate this, and ask our Facebook fans to vote on every new watch before we produce it. Your fans know your product and brand the best — importantly, they also are excited to share what they want to buy. Build your product for your customers, and let them drive the ship."

-- Aaron Schwartz | Modify Watches


YEC8Be Detailed and Use Examples

"If you want good results when using crowdsourcing design sites, be as specific as you can with your instructions. A best practice is to also include visual examples of the aesthetic that you are looking for. With good art direction you'll get results you'll be happy with."

Benjamin Leis | Sweat EquiTees



YEC9Plan for the Long Term

"The danger with outsourcing design long term is the high probability that the designs will need changing or updating on a regular basis. Having someone in-house who can tweak design concepts helps immensely; have a design firm do major overhauls, but keep the iterations in-house. The balance helps you make the crowdsourced vs. design firm more accurately, based on what you need at that moment."

-- Derek Shanahan | Foodtree


YEC10You Get What You Pay For

"It's always appealing when you can get a great rate on your design needs, not to mention get a lot of options from different providers. I have always found that you get what you pay for though. While many crowdsourcing platforms have offers that look attractive on the surface, I've had more success hiring top talent. You definitely pay more but it has always been worth it in the end."

-- Natalie MacNeil | She Takes on the World



YEC11Success Through Transparency

"We’ve had huge success with companies like 99Designs. The competitive element ensures a diversity of design styles and gives us a high amount of control over the outcome. We also know we're paying a competitive price because of the transparency of the marketplace."

-- Robert J. Moore | RJMetrics



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