Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Forbes Magazine: Graphic Design is a Snooty Business

A disappointing turn of events today as a recent article published in Forbes Magazine comes to light. Dated February 16th, 2009, it's entitled The Creativity of Crowds, and states, "CrowdSpring aims to slash the cost of graphic design work--and democratize a snooty business."

The article proves to be poorly researched and irresponsible, and in my opinion serves as little more than an advertisement for Crowdspring. Crowdspring, in simplest terms, is a contest site. Would be designers can post an image (logo, stationery, website design) in the hopes of winning a prize. No guarantees however. Crowdspring's own user agreement clearly states:

We have no control over and do not guarantee the quality, safety or legality of Creative Services, the truth or accuracy of project listings or member information, the qualifications, background, or abilities of members, the ability of creatives to deliver Creative Services, or that members will complete a transaction.

This type of business plan, would be considered spec work. Spec work is clearly defined on the NO!SPEC website as "Any work done on a speculative basis. In other words, any requested work for which a fair and reasonable fee has not been agreed upon, preferably in writing. In a nutshell, spec requires the designer to invest time and resources with no guarantee of payment."

To say that this is dangerous business model would be an understatement. The most obvious reason is that, as a consumer looking to benefit from this model and get some design work on the cheap, you're most likely trusting your design work to someone with very little actual design experience, and no guarantee that the design you choose is original. In fact, the article even states:
"The beauty of our site is that it doesn't matter if you have a degree from the Rhode Island School of Design or if you're a grandma in Tennessee with a bunch of free time and Adobe Illustrator," says Samson. "If the client likes the grandma's work better, then she's going to get the job."
Keep your fingers crossed that Grandma hasn't swiped that design from the most recent Design Annual, or from Ladies Home Journal for that matter. Some would argue that you're not guaranteed originality even from the most seasoned veteran designer. My reply to that argument is that, "In that event you have a face to place to the blame." As clearly stated in the quote above, Crowdspring will take no blame if this were to occur. Scary.

My friends Cat Morley and Jeff Fisher and designer Debbie Millman have reported having been contacted to contribute to this article, but despite numerous attempts to connect with the author, nothing became of it. It would seem that an opposing point of view wasn't really necessary to post this advertisement.

Jeff Fisher said: "A couple weeks ago Cat Morley emailed me with a request from Forbes magazine for someone to discuss NO!SPEC and the crowdsourcing (spec work in disguise) of a certain company. I contacted the reporter and set up a phone interview time with him. I never heard from him at the appointed time. I emailed him the next morning. He said he'd been tied up at the appointment time and he'd call me immediately - and I never received a call. I also gave him the contact info for Sean Adams and Debbie Millman of AIGA as possible sources for the article. He said he appreciated the information as he had tried to call the AIGA office the day before. Debbie emailed the reporter to let him know she was available - and never heard from him."

Additional insight can be found at the following links:

Brian Yerkes - Why CrowdSpring Owners Should Be Ashamed of Their Business
David Airey - Forbes calls designers snooty
Steve Douglas - Design is a 'snooty' business: Forbes
Steph Doyle's - Forbes Promotes Graphic Design Kitsch
NO!SPEC - Forbes Says Designers are Snooty
AIGA - Position on Spec Work

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superdaveh4eva said...

As I think most clients would attest, designers in general are from what could deemed as snooty. After all, running a business where you are promoting your talents wouldn't make it very far with a "snooty" frame of mind. Based on my own experience with hundreds of designers, I find them a very helpful bunch. This article was obviously poorly researched, and appears to be more of an advertorial than anything else!

Anonymous said...


Thanks for echoing my sentiments and tracking back to my blog.

The key here is to educate the design and business communities concerning the unethical practice of design on spec, and bring negative light to the "contest" sites that promote this practice, and at the same time work towards shedding this so-called "snooty" perception that has tarnished the graphic design profession!


Brian Yerkes said...

Very good points. I have never heard of this "Snooty" label ever before....and if the Forbes writer spent any time involved in the PROFESSIONAL design community,especially online, he would have realized how nice and helpful 99% of PROFESSIONAL designers are. No question about