CrowdSPRING: The Agency Killer?

crowd spring logo

You might think that it’s pretty strange for a guy that’s launching his new online agency to promote an alternative to working with an agency altogether… but that’s what I’m going to do. I’m sure I’ll get some hate mail from my designer friends for posting this. I’m okay with that. I’ll explain why… just watch the video that explains crowdSPRING first:

The argument in the industry against CrowdSPRING is that systems that promote the use of speculative work takes talent that took years to develop and makes it a commodity. There’s an entire NO!SPEC movement, stating:

The NO!SPEC campaign serves as a vehicle to unite those who support the notion that spec work devalues the potential of design and ultimately does a disservice to the client.

What is Spec?

Spec has become the short form for 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.

What’s so wrong with that?

In a nutshell, spec requires the designer to invest time and resources with no guarantee of payment.

CrowdSPRING personally has felt the heat – under attack from a CrowdSINK campaign. Some work on CrowdSPRING has been found to be copies of work from other designers.

In full disclosure, I recently tried the service and paid $200 for a banner design for a site that I’m going to overhaul (Pay Calculator). You can review the submissions and see the the wide array of talent and styles that was submitted based on my project details.

Here’s why I appreciate what CrowdSPRING is doing:

  1. Great design and the ability for interpretation of a project description to a final prototype will always win. That provides great designers without agency-backing or a history of large clients with the opportunity to get great work and great clients. In other words, great designers that participate will be rewarded for their work.
  2. Great design can provide a website with the edge it needs to move a business forward, but without affordable access to a designer, companies are forced to cut corners and have a design presence that often doesn’t match the quality of their work. Sorry designers, it’s not all about you!
  3. Great design doesn’t make an agency. Design is one aspect of an overall strategy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen bump and run agencies that throw up a $30,000 project that doesn’t get any results – and then watch them bail on the client and head to the next victim. I’ve seen a trail of tears when it comes to “No Spec” work.
  4. Pay for performance makes for better performers. Paying for design time has no guarantee of performance. If I get hired to build a website and it doesn’t work, I shouldn’t get paid. If someone submits a bad design (there were quite a few on my CrowdSPRING project), they should not be rewarded.
  5. Pay for performance can be more profitable for great designers. I have no idea whether the project that I requested took 10 minutes or 30 hours for the designer to complete. I don’t care. That means that the designer could be paid exceptionally well for my project. As well, I’ll be looking forward to working with that artist in the future to get consistent work and quality on my next project.
  6. Why should a company be punished by paying for poor design? Why shouldn’t a designer have to submit some ideas to ensure they’re creating a design that matches the desires of the company? The finest designers I know always seem to interpret requirements with great talent and even put their own signature on the project. Great designers have nothing to fear with Spec work.

In short, I believe that systems like CrowdSPRING open opportunities for skilled designers to make a great living by rewarding great design and deterring poor designers. As well, I believe it provides opportunities for businesses to obtain affordable, quality designs that they would never have been able to have access to before.

Do I empathize with with NO!SPEC supporters? Of course I do! I’ve built project plans, software, proposals, meetings, conference calls, speeches, articles, brainstorming sessions… the list goes on and on for ‘Spec’ work that I’ve accomplished that I was never formally compensated for. If I were a NO!Spec Marketer, I wouldn’t be able to afford to eat right now… and I’d get laughed out of every meeting I attend.

Truth be told, I wish there were a system like CrowdSPRING available for my work! I’d put my strategies and ideas up against those of top agencies any day! CrowdSPRING isn’t an Agency killer, it’s a new marketplace for designers.image 2260935 10648149