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BBH Lab’s crowdsourcing experiment

Crowdsourcing sells hard labor on the cheap, much like outsourcing.   It levels the playing field, like so many web products do.  (Is it just me or did social media turn every twitter user who signed up before 2009  into a ‘social media guru’?)

Crowdsourcing in this context, simply explained is an auction-based form of creative competition.  Hundreds or in this case thousands of people create designs for a project posted by a buyer, who offers a reward to the winner.  It provides great opportunities for young talent to be seen, and provides a wide variety of content for a potential buyer to choose from.

In BBH Lab’s most recent social experiment, they decided to tap into the crowdsourced design market on crowdSPRING in order to churn out a new logo and it has since caused a mix of violent uproar and applause.

crowdSPRING's homepage

crowdSPRING's homepage

As a freelance designer, it irks the hell out of me that a reputable company like BBH would scour the ‘cheap-end’ design market for a logo with a value of $1500.  While not exactly chump change, that amount of money for a large-scale branding project could just about cover the cost of the typeface alone.

Worse yet, talented designers with years of experience and solid design backgrounds would kill to do work for an agency like BBH – and yet they’ve decided to toss it up to the biggest group of amateurs out there?   It’s akin to a big snack brand throwing a Super Bowl spot to YouTube video creators (thank you, Doritos).

Creativity is consistently being sold for less than it’s worth so hungry designers can get some work in their portfolio and that’s the nature of the biz.  crowdSPRING is taking these opportunities from hungry designers and giving them to bored kids with hacked versions of CS3.  It’s wrong.  Knowing that most clients don’t have a clue as to what great design is, the thought of them settling for creative done by a hack is disturbing.

There’s no doubt that talent is out there, but amateur designers don’t know the difference between “I can” and “I should”.  If you look at the gallery you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about.  It’s completely transparent, so people ‘borrow’ ideas and build off of comments.  People scrape together logos in a day’s time or less so they have the chance to compete in multiple contests a week, killing quality altogether.  It cheapens the work, cheapens the labor behind the work, and cheapens the potential buyer who’s seeking a ton of options at low cost.

BBH Labs has a lot to say about the experiment at their blog.  They’ve received over 1,500 entries and admitted defeat in trying to sift and rate them all.  It seems their experiment may have gone sour.

“First, many of the designs being presented seem to be slapped together without much care or thought. As a client, it is taking considerable time to filter through, which adds a cost to the bottom line of my company.”

Now to put on my digital media hat and contradict everything I just said:  This experiment is coming from BBH Labs, which is the innovation driven sector of the agency BBH.  It’s their job to do this type of thing.  They’ve created the largest project on crowdSPRING and have generated considerable buzz for pitching the project.  While it offends designers everywhere, in a social media context it can be seen as a remarkable campaign.

While the results won’t be in for another 4 days, BBH has executed a succesful PR blitz around their innovation lab, and I believe that’s the true end-result they were looking for.  Call it a $1,500 experiment and nothing more, because we all know how frequently ad agencies brand and re-brand themselves.

When BBH creative directors start turning to crowdSPRING for print ads, the design community will surely be up in arms.  I won’t be surprised when it happens, either.  Much like Dorito’s super bowl spots, it will be more publicity ploy than an honest request for good creative work.  It’s another step in user generated content (UGC) – and as long as we label it just that the professionals out there will still have a profession.

Category: Advertising, Design, Digital

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