The World Really is Flat – Crowd Sourced Design Rules

I’ve finally collected enough of my Twitter 20 interviews (live interviews with social media luminaries, conducted on Twitter) to create an ebook.

I re-read every interview, and picked out the highlights. The best, most intriguing answers. I then categorized the answers topically: brand communities, PR, content creation, social CRM, etc.

The next big challenge was the design of the ebook. I got some excellent advice from my friend Charlene Kingston about ebook best practices (she’s an ebook producer, and Twitter 101 genius). I thought about doing it myself, but decided that given the time I’ve invested in Twitter 20 (and the time devoted by the 20+ interview subjects) that I wanted a highly customized, knockout design.

So, I turned to Crowd Spring.

Have Photoshop, Will Travel is the online matchmaker for small and medium business, and a global community of 47,000+ independent designers in 150 countries. It’s a head-slapping concept that’s pure genius in its simplicity.

You sign up for an account as a client or as a creative. If you’re a client (like me), you then draft a project description. What you need, why you need it, intended audiences, color schemes, etc. Most of the projects on Crowd Spring are logo designs, Web site templates and the like. But, this crowd-sourced creative community works so well, the boundaries are stretching. Barilla Pasta has a project to design a new pasta shape. (I’m submitting a Fusilli Jerry)

Once you post your project – and how much you’ll pay the winning designer (Crowd Spring keeps a percentage, eBay style) – the designer elves go to work. Soon, you see proposed designs popping up on your project microsite. Your job as a project manager is to rate and comment on each design, to give the submitting designer and the entire pool of participating creatives additional insight into your preferences.

You’ve Got Designs

The average project receives 85 submissions. When’s the last time you got 85 choices on anything except breakfast cereal? And remember that these are not quotes or estimates, but actual designs. 85 logos for you to choose from, for example. In my case, I had 53 designs submitted from more than a dozen designers (a bit less than average, due to the unusual nature of my needs).

It was tough to pick a winner, as there were at least 6 designs that I would have gladly accepted. Ultimately, I chose this design from Tzeyee Goh.

She’s a very talented designer in Malaysia, and has been a terrific collaborator on this project. Once you select a winning design, Crowd Spring sends both parties a standard fee for services contract that you digitally accept, and once the project is completed and accepted, Crowd Spring pays the designer (they bill your credit card once the design submission process is completed).

Fair Enough?

Many designers loathe Crowd Spring and anything that operates in a similar fashion, because it requires creatives to produce free work to win projects. I understand that perspective, and if someone wanted me to create a customized sample social media strategy to win a job, I’d probably pass.

But, I believe that most of the designers that object to Crowd Spring often work on projects much larger than those typically found on the site, and that if 47,000 designers are eager for work, Crowd Spring is doing more good than harm.

In my case, I loved it, and I recommend giving it a try if you’re in the market for a small design project. Also a good option for agencies wanting to outsource.

What do you think about crowd-sourced design? Good, or evil? (and be on the lookout for the ebook, thanks).

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