Donating the unpaid labor of others

Steve Douglas wrote an in-depth piece about “the arrogance of crowdsourcing,” where he talks about the design contest for the Dallas Mavericks. He also reviews “unofficial” contests for Sony Playstation, Daft Punk, and Manchester United, where spec work websites “have nothing to lose — they’re donating the unpaid labor of others.”

“It’s a copyright and trademark quagmire. And as is always the case, it’s the designers that are out the time, talent and creative energy, without one iota of protection for their efforts. All of this to benefit rich – and growing richer – businesses that seek to exploit their unpaid efforts.”

Crowdspring Dallas Mavericks

Read the full post on The Logo Factor.

Powerhouse Museum tries crowdsourcing for Sydney Design, then pulls contest

“People are free to decide what they do with the efforts of designers of any stripe – that’s entirely ok. But when a publicly funded organisation (whose entire justification for their funding, and thus their existence, turns on promoting and championing design) chooses a crowdsourcing model, it’s incredibly disappointing to say the least.”

Quoted from this considered piece on desktop magazine:

With friends like these, who needs enemies?

Written by Clinton Duncan.

The contest has since been pulled from the crowdsourcing website, due in part to the quality of many of the poster entries that were submitted (archived here on Limeworks).

Sydney Design poster

Obama crowdsourcing to support American jobs?

A tweet from Niki Bivona (@nikibivona) on Twitter says it all:

“RT @nospec http://my.barackobama.com/page/s/artworks-submission Obama is now crowdsourcing a poster, about job creation. Irony.”

Obama, if you aim to support American jobs, then perhaps paying designers to create your campaign posters would be a good start.

US Department of Interior is crowdsourcing their logo?

Here’s a petition found via Twitter that you might be interested in.

@LogoMotives Petition: Stop the US Department of @Interior from Crowdsourcing a Logo | @nospec #nospec | http://bit.ly/NOSPEC-DOI

“The U.S. Department of the Interior currently has posted a design brief on crowdspring.com (http://www.crowdspring.com/project/2296807_logo-us-department-of-the-interior/details/) asking for graphic designers to work for free in order to try to ‘win’ the prize of being paid for logo design and branding work. This is outrageous, especially coming from a branch of the U.S. Government.

“We are against crowdsourcing of logos due to the harm it typically does the company or organization as well as the damage it does to the general public’s understanding of the Graphic Design profession and the amount of work that really goes into logo development and branding. A branch of our U.S. Government supporting such practices is upsetting to us all. While crowdsourcing may appear like a win-win scenario on the surface for any company or organization, there are many reasons this may backfire and cause more harm than good.”

Read the rest here: Stop the US Department of Interior from Crowdsourcing a Logo

Our signature’s on the petition.

SXSW: Spec Work Is Evil, How Creatives Fight Back

If you followed SXSW 2009 Is Spec Work Evil?, then you are sure to be interested in Andrew Hyde’s proposed panel for 2010: Spec Work Is Evil, How Creatives Fight Back.

Description:
The rise of community has also been met with the rise of the ‘weasel economics’ of spec work. Now that we have identified it as an evil and seen the destructive manner, we can identify how the creative community is fighting back.

Questions Answered:

  1. What is spec work?
  2. Why has it worked?
  3. Why has it failed?
  4. What is the big deal?
  5. What are alternatives to fixing the problem?
  6. Is the design industry broken?
  7. Can peer presure really stop this practice?
  8. Why are the ethics bad?

Andrew on twitter: andrewhyde

The Logo Factory: SXSW’s Is Spec Work Evil? 2009 panel

Crowdsink on Twitter: CrowdSpring, Do What’s Right!

CrowdSpring sinks to even lower lows…

This weekend, while Jay and I were busy updating no-spec.com, twitter continued to be all aflutter over the latest from CrowdSpring: CrowdSpring, Do What’s Right!

Background: Seems a CrowdSpring designer ripped off the work of Mike Erickson of Logo Motive Design (LogomotiveMike on twitter).

And while this is shocking enough – ok, not shocking as rips happen all the time on crowdsourcing sites – what has upset designers is CrowdSpring’s three strikes policy.

That’s right. A CrowdSpring designer gets to submit various ripped designs a total of three times before getting banned.

To follow the event yourself, here are the top searches on twitter:

CrowdSpring: Where have all the cheerleaders gone?

Ross Kimbarovsky: The voice of CrowdSpring on twitter.

Crowdsink: The twitter tag designers are using to publicise the problem.

And of course, make sure to read down through the original article: CrowdSpring, Do What’s Right!

Apparently this has been going on for about three weeks, but the designer in question is still submitting work at CrowdSpring. Amazing.

Btw – if you haven’t noticed, no-spec.com is now on twitter too: nospec.

So if you do twitter, go ahead and give us a shout…

Translators Against Crowdsourcing

LinkedIn annoys professional translators

Seems designers are not the only ones upset over being asked to work for free.

LinkedIn – the professional networking site with 41 million members where relationships matter – has today managed to mightily annoy professional translators who use the site by asking them if they would like to translate the LinkedIn site in exchange for a LinkedIn badge or because it’s fun.

Does this sound familiar?

put me in touch with a professional, English and German-speaking painter and decorator with 15 years of experience, who will strip the old wallpaper off all rooms of a house consisting of 20 apartments and offices and will then paint each room, preferably each in a different colour, naturally by tomorrow afternoon, and FOR FREE, I will be pleased, on satisfactory completion of the work, to translate the term LinkedIn into a language of my choice.

Translators have responded by not only creating a dedicated group on LinkedIn, Translators against Crowdsourcing by Commercial Businesses, but by flooding twitter too. They have also asked to become a part of the NO!SPEC Campaign.

You can read all about it at MatthewBennett /blog.

Artists say no too: Use Their Work Free? Artists Say No to Google – NYTimes.com

A thank you goes to Tom’s Cano Binder and Matthew Bennett for the heads up.

Translators, welcome to the NO!SPEC Campaign!

Comments on Spec Work and Crowdsourcing

From the previous post, CreativePro: Spec Work and Crowdsourcing, I thought I’d grab a few of the opinions from the comments.

Shale Grant said: Thanks for your constant and steadfast guard over working on spec. I’ve done both (have my own design firm and have submitted to Crowdspring and frankly no one’s forcing the designers to submit. Some can handle it – some (apparently) cannot. If you don’t like it, don’t do the work on spec! Simple!

If I were a prospective client, I’d think you’re coming across as a whiner. Under the aegis of not giving the client the best they can get, I feel like you haven’t really understood what Crowdspring actually does for the client (they have a chance to answer any questions a designer wishes to ask, not to mention have to fill out a rationale anyway)- only weighing in on how it affects YOU, which makes me think you’re really not in it for the client’s best interest – or for that matter superlative design.

I think you just want to whine in order to justify your client inevitably overpaying for design by you. Face it: it’s the way things are. Either swim or get out of the way.

Several designers posted their opinions to dear Shale Grant, so please take the time to read them.

There is one comment in particular I’d like to share here.

Steve Douglas: Shale, I see spec and design contests as an industry issue – relevant to designers, buyers of design and yes, design firms.

The argument “well, some people do it, and they’re not being forced to” has no bearing on whether anything is good, effective or productive. It’s actually a classic case of the bandwagon or “Argumentum ad populum” logical fallacy – “the mere fact that a belief is widely held is not necessarily a guarantee that the belief is correct”. Lots of people smoke, nobody’s forcing them to, but no-one would use that argument as being illustrative that smoking isn’t harmful to the individual or society itself. The numbers of people participating on spec is, to be blunt, irrelevant.

I’m not sure why expressing a view that YOU should get paid for YOUR work is whining, but no mind. When talking to other designers who participate in spec, let me say this – to a person, they’d ALL prefer to be paid for their work. They’d rather get paid for EVERY contest or spec offering they enter. None of them, and I do mean NONE, actually WANT to give their time or talents away for free. They participate for a myriad of reasons, ranging from desperation to not being aware of alternatives, to the honest belief that they will somehow manage to make a decent living with design contest winnings (most find out rather quickly that they won’t). Unless you are the lone ‘professional’ designer who prefers not getting paid for your services, we probably agree on that one basic premise. Accordingly, I’m not sure how my stance could be determined as “whining”.

In terms of Crowdspring, I don’t want to dwell too long on them specifically, but as you brought them to the table – their website is 100% set up for the abuse of designers, many times as the hands of small business people who aren’t even aware they’re taking liberties. I don’t give a tinker’s toss about how much Crowdspring charges – that’s never been an issue of mine – my issue had always been that designers are exploited on sites like Crowdspring (and being exploited voluntarily has no bearing on whether something is exploitative or not), often by clients hoping to get ‘more for less’ while actually running a very high risk of obtaining inferior design work. Or worse. The vast majority of work on Crowdspring is, to be charitable, amateur (shouldn’t be surprising – design by amateurs is one of Crowdspring’s selling points to attract, well, amateur designers). By the way, this isn’t my opinion, but the published opinion of people who’ve reviewed CS services POSITIVELY on their blogs after running contests. The amount of copied art and stock artwork (submitted as logos) is astonishing. Again, don’t take MY word for this. Read Crowdspring’s own forums for complaints by designers who are otherwise quite happy tinkering around on the so-called “community”.

In terms of what Crowdspring does and the client-designer interaction, I must disagree. Pretty strongly too. The ‘buyers’ NEVER listen to the designer’s suggestions, even when told that what they’ve requested isn’t going to work (especially from a technical POV). All communication is FROM the buyer to the designer, never the other way around. Whatever communication from the designers to the client is usually the “yes sir, no sir – I await your next command, sir” variety. When utilizing people who are supposedly knowledgeable in their craft, the buyers never utilize that portion of the designers’ skillset. Their knowledge and/or experience. It’s akin to me taking my car to a mechanic and ignoring them completely when they tell me my wheels are going to fall off. And that, by the way, is if the ‘buyers’ communicate at all. Read the Crowdspring forum and read how designers carp that the lack of communication is a real hindrance to many contests. The management of Crowdspring have even taken to encouraging communication, suggesting that active participation means more entries. There’s lots more issues we could discuss, but rather than turn this into a Crowdspring-bashing thread, let’s leave it for another day.

In terms of my personal motivations, I’ve always been pretty pragmatic when it comes to business, so If I honestly believed that a service like Crowdspring was good for designers, good for clients, good for the industry (and profitable to boot) I’d be busy setting up my own logo design platform rather than blathering on some blog. I run a small design shop (and have so since 1996), staffed by people who have extensive backgrounds in design and online marketing, so converting my custom shop to a so-called design “crowdsourcing” platform would be a relatively easy transition. Accordingly, “if I were only weighing in on how it affects (ME)” and thought spec sites were a step forward, I’d have launched a logo design contest site years ago, and rather than debating with you on a blog, I’d be inviting you to come work on my site, supplying my ‘buyers’ with your artwork, for free. Which, apparently, you’d be quite happy to do.

Alas, I DO believe that spec sites like Crowdspring are exploitative, harmful for designers and a second-rate solution for clients. I also have to live with myself and would never expect you (or any other designer for that matter) to work for me without payment. Old school? Maybe. A Dinosaur? Perhaps. Whiner? Hardly. Continuing on my personal angle, I’d also like to point out that not once have I EVER suggested that people hire my firm rather than employ Crowdspring or another spec solution. Rather, I’ve suggested that spec contests are not terribly effective (my blog contains a myriad of evidence) and that design buyers have a ton of OTHER alternatives, ranging from small design shops to independent freelancers. As there’s nothing in your comment to indicate that I’m incorrect, I’ll stick by that stance.

I notice you close with the old “evolve or die” (or in your case, “swim or get our of the way”) chestnut. Not the first time anyone who’s been online for a while has heard that. Remember spam e-mail? When it first hit the scene back in the mid-nineties, the exact same rationale and arguments were used by the Direct Marketing associations. People complaining about spam were called dinosaurs. The JHD (Just Hit Delete) folks told those of us who hated our e-mail accounts being saturated with porn and pharma junk that we were “whining”, and trying to stand in the way of people getting “great money saving offers”. Spam e-mail was actually defended as being a positive thing for people getting it, as well as the small companies who couldn’t afford traditional advertising, who had started using it to deliver their message. Fast forward 15 years and spam e-mail accounts for over 80% of ALL Internet traffic, costs the world-wide economy billions and is a major headache for anyone trying to do anything online, from sending pics of the grand kids to parents, to running an online shopping business. This idea that all business models made possible by technology are positive is rubbish. Use of technology is what you “can do”. That needs to be tempered by what you “should do”. In terms of your comment “it’s the way things are”, and continuing with our analogy, the same can be said of spam. Are we better off because of it? Hardly.

Shale, thank you for posting your opinion.

And Steve, once again, thank you for taking the time to share your experience and views.

Cat

The Logo Factor: Why you should crowdsource your logo

If you’ve been keeping up with the comments on David Airey’s post, Forbes calls designers snooty, you couldn’t possibly have missed the excellent points made by Steve Douglas from The Logo Factory.

Steve has long been on top of the spec issue with significant posts such as Logo Design Contest Copycats, Why logo contests don’t work and Logo Design Contests. Fun and all.

During the Forbes conversation, Steve came out with Design is a “snooty” business: Forbes.

And now he’s gone one further with Why you should crowdsource your logo.

First-rate Steve. As usual.

Forbes Says Designers are Snooty

Two weeks ago, Christopher Steiner, a senior reporter with Forbes Magazine, sent me an email with FORBES MAGAZINE QUERY!!! in the subject line.

After a back and forth with Christopher, interviews were set up with top designers in the industry. Busy designers, who agreed to take time out of their workload to talk via phone with Christopher.

Designers such as…

The fabulous Debbie Millman of Sterling Brands, Design Matters (Voice of America), author of How To Think Like A Great Graphic Designer and Essential Principles of Graphic Design, and board member of the National AIGA.

Also included was popular logo designer Jeff Fisher of Jeff Fisher LogoMotives, bLog-oMotives, author of The Savvy Designer’s Guide to Success and Identity Crisis!, as well as member of the HOW Magazine Editorial Advisory Board, UCDA Designer Magazine Editorial Advisory Board, and HOW Design Conference Advisory Council.

The first interviews were missed. The second missed too. With no explanation. No email of apology from Christopher.

The next thing we know, Christopher’s article ad is out with this charming blurb in bold…

Xxxx aims to slash the cost of graphic design work–and democratize a snooty business.

Way to go Forbes.

This is not a well researched, balanced article. It’s an ad for yet another bottom feeder in the design industry. That, and a testament to Christopher’s professionalism. And Forbes, well… what does it say about Forbes?

David Airey was the first to post opinions with Forbes calls designers snooty. Design Observer’s Observed section sported a blurb, as did SpeakUp’s Quipsologies. Swiss Miss then came in with Forbes calls designers snooty. Steph Doyle posted about the subject with Forbes Promotes Graphic Design Kitsch. Brian Yerks came out with one of his own. As did Steve from the LogoFactory, with Design is a “snooty” business: Forbes. Then Jeff Andrews posted Forbes Magazine: Graphic Design is a Snooty Business. The design forums are debating this subject as we speak.

UPDATE: Debbie Millman has now been asked by AIGA to ‘chair a task force in an effort to understand the various sentiments about this practice in both the design community and the broader creative community, and report back to the National Board our findings and potential recommendations at the National Board retreat in April, and to share these findings at the Leadership Retreat in June.’

If anyone would like to contact Deb about this matter, follow this link to AIGA’s discussion on spec.

This morning Terri Stone, editor in chief at CreativePro.com, requested an interview on the subject of working spec. Knowing Terri as I do, it’s sure to be a professional, well researched article.