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Huffington Post crowdsourcing leaving bitter taste.

Recently, The Huffington Post  – an online news site  recently purchased by AOL – has joined the latest trend of crowdsourcing creative work with their “Huffington Post Politics Icon Competition.”

It seems that the final straw has been drawn on large corporations seeking free work. When a company like AOL spends $315 Million to buy your company, one would expect they could afford to hire a designer for creative work….

The backlash from designers is getting widespread via Twitter and Facebook. And there are already 5 pages of negative comments on the Huffington Post page already.

Oh look, another page of comments added since I started this post. Tick, Tick, Tick.

Nothing gets my blood boiling more than crowdsourcing creative. Trying to justify an expectation of free work from multiple contributors is outrageous. Imagine crowdsourcing for other professions. Would you request having 100 dentists / doctors / plumbers / etc. to do work for you and then only pay one? Bah! How many HP / AOL managers are receiving high fives and firm handshakes for a job well done in lieu of their salaries?

The sad reality is that people will contribute to this competition, and someone will win. But at what cost to the designers.

Here is the contest link, along with the long list of comments.

What is your take on crowdsourcing? I would love to hear people try to justify it.


Comments: 6

  • tom
    August 15, 2011 12:02 pm

    Even more galling… there’s no money in it!
    If you win… you get a credit somewhere.

    Crowdfleecing would be a better term

  • Stephan Rosger
    August 15, 2011 1:36 pm

    I saved this and like to post it in times like these:

    “I am a graphic artist and in need of a job. I have decided to fill this need the same way many people think the can fill their graphic design needs; with a contest!

    Here is how it will work;

    Send me one weeks worth of salary and benefits. I will keep all of the checks that are sent to me and use all of the benefits.

    Whoever sends me the best salary and benefits package will win the contest and get the prize of two days of graphic design work!!!

    Good Luck! I am really looking forward to recieving your payment packages!”

    Here’s a saying, harsh, but pretty much the reality: “Crowd sourcing: 99 rapes, and one paid…”

  • Bryan Dwyer
    August 15, 2011 2:32 pm

    This is a problem with technology creating a surplus in labor. Mediocre design is no longer a specialized skill and so the cost of it goes down. This is not a defense of crowdsourcing so much as a reality of the free market.

    If you want to protect the cost of design, you must either increase the demand for better design that requires more specialization, or increase the cost of mediocre design either financially or otherwise.

    Since many think great design is subjective much like art, convincing them otherwise may be an uphill battle. However, if the market becomes saturated with free mediocre design, I believe great design will prove its value and receive a greater demand. But that will only happen if great designers refuse to work for free.

    The outcry over free outsourcing as highlighted by the Huffington Post comments, is a way society is increasing the cost of mediocre design. Are the savings in design costs worth the negative sentiment generated? The trick here will be convincing the Huffington Post’s audience that this matters. In an age where great branding is only becoming more important, a loss of brand equity can be very costly.

    To Doug’s point of crowdsourcing being a form abuse, he’s right. That’s why we have minimum wage. Social structures and legislation just haven’t caught up with the internet yet.

    How would you increase the demand for better design? How else can we increase the cost of mediocre design?

  • Paul Holmes
    August 15, 2011 5:28 pm

    I’m a fan of crowd-sourcing … some things. We had 2 design compositions for a website, couldn’t decide which to use, and crowd-sourced it … it was a great publicity stunt, and the designer got paid and we ended up using both designs in different capacities.

    Crowd-sourcing logos or full designs is ridiculous, though. First of all, save for charity, possibly, most good designers will avoid such things.

    So, right off the bat, you lose the best designers.

    Then, for whoever is left, you are asking them to understand your company, to design something that is appropriate, and pour their heart into something that’s going to be spectacular … all so they can go up against 100 other people.

    Not being a designer myself (but I work with many), I can’t say for sure, but my suspicion is that those desperate enough to submit to such a contest would be unlikely to have poured this sort of effort into it. They’d be more likely to slap something together and see if it sticks.

    It strikes me that this is not exactly the sort of foundation you want to build your branding around.

  • Paul Holmes
    August 15, 2011 5:31 pm

    One other thought … there is an industry where this “work” model exists: the popular music industry.

    You put together a demo, you pour your heart into it, you work ridiculously heart, you spend money on your own equipment, and you go up against thousands of people to see who wins.

    If the future of the design industry looks like the popular music industry, it’s an industry in big trouble.

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