Crowdsourcing vs. Design Agency

November 20, 2015 | Bobby Buchanan

What you need to know before choosing price over value.

So you’ve decided to start a business and need a brand, or maybe after years in business your logo needs a serious overhaul. You have decided it’s time to bring in outside support to get the job done. Like most people, you turn to GOOGLE to start your search.

The result is an assortment of local design agencies along with some interesting paid ad options. Being a smart shopper, you visit a few of the agency websites and poke around their work, office culture, and client lists. Then you explore a couple of the online crowdsourcing websites like 99 designs, Crowdspring, etc. Crowdsourcing is the process of obtaining services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people and choosing what you like best. It’s made even more tempting because the cost is fractional compared with a professional design agency.

This is the moment of truth: do you pick the cheapest option just to have something to put on your business card, or do you choose value and receive a brand identity custom tailored to you and your business?

As a design leader with over 20 years in the industry, I’ve always had the belief that if something is worth doing, it is worth doing right. Not all brand identities are created equal and price should not be the only factor in making your decision. For these reasons, I’ve gathered the following comparisons to help you be better prepared to make your own right decision.

    The online option will force you to become an art director and guide the participants with instructions and information to launch your contest for a new logo. In contrast, most professional design agencies will meet with you in person to understand specific goals, discuss strategic objectives, and complete a project brief that will be a useful tool for both client and design team.
    Crowdsourcing “designers” are often from third world countries and will have very little understanding of your industry or local competitive landscape. A design agency will learn about your company, your goals, and the cultural norms that are shared by you and your customers. Additionally, their proposal will include time to research your industry and your competition for important insight.
    Communication is limited to an online portal with crowdsourcing, and in most cases, time zone differences delay communication even further. Since you are the art director, the process will inevitably turn into a risky game of eeny, meeny, miny, moe… as design options flood your screen. On the contrary, open dialogue regarding concept explanations and rationale are maintained throughout the design process when working with a design agency. You benefit from their experience in the form of guidance, strategic thinking, and asthetic considerations.
    In many, many cases, logo designs presented by online sources have been “borrowed” from the web or design annuals, only to be passed along as original ideas. They believe that most clients may not understand trademark laws or stop to think about the source of the logos presented. We have experienced this first-hand as several of our logos were stolen from published books, modified slightly, and presented online as a menu item. Legal action put a stop to that, but only because we know this type of corruption exists. A design agency understands the importance of original work and reputation.
    Perhaps the most subjective reason for not using crowdsourcing sites is the lack of “concept.” A design agency will spend hours researching the client and their competitive landscape before putting pencil to paper. Online participants don’t have this luxury when competing against 20, 30, or 100 other anonymous individuals. Instead, they submit as many ideas as they can, hoping for one design to stand out so they can get paid. It’s a numbers game. Works for some, but the design profession benefits from experience and process.
    Crowdsourced logos are often produced strictly as a logo alone. These logos are created without the understanding of how they may evolve into a broader identity or brand look. When a logo is developed at a design agency, it is created with a larger brand strategy in mind. A design agency will create the logo in conjunction with a much larger identity plan. Whether or not you desire additional brand collateral, your logo will carry the roadmap to expand as you shape your business going forward.

I understand that hiring someone to help with the creation of a new identity isn’t the easiest thing to do, but I hope you find the information above helpful as you navigate the process of making this important decision.

Branding, Design Industry

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