In the past week, I’ve stumbled onto two major brands that launched crowdsourcing design projects they probably should not have. The first is the Barack Obama Reelection Campaign (MY poster submission is posted to the right) and the other is Moleskine. For obvious conflicting reasons, Obama should be giving young designers paying gigs instead of trying to steal ideas from the most vulnerably unemployable during this recession, but more unforgivable is Moleskine for poking their core audience in the eye with a disrespectful rusty finger. (You figure out the euphemism.. you’re all smart people)
Below is the response Moleskine posted on its Facebook page to the backlash they received. The tone not withstanding, it looks like they perhaps should have hired an English major to compose the status update. (Really, I copy/pasted this unedited.)
As far as the Moleskinerie logo contest is concerned, we would like to clarify that since the nature of Moleskinerie has always been participative, made up of passionate contributions and voluntary submissions, we decided to let the community participate again in creating the new logo of the blog.
We decided to collaborate with Designboom to do so, a leading online design magazine, which is well aware of how to run a contest of this kind.
If you had spent some time on the “Competitions” area of Designboom website, you certainly have seen that other Brands are running and previously decided to run similar contests, with the same regulation of our with great participation as well as amazing results.
That said, being a contest, there’s a final price for the winner, but all the submissions are free, as well you are free not to taking part to it.
Thanks to anyone who has decided, and will decide to take part to it.
So basically, because other companies are cheating designers and writers out of their talents and skills, it’s ok for Moleskine to do it as well. Is that the rationale? Do we now understand why it is so hard to get anyone to take the liberal arts or design seriously? Or why we have an entire generation who thinks it is ok to copy and paste images they don’t own from others without paying for them? Incidentally, I find it ironic that all this devaluing of design happening in the same period of time most are praising the design genius of Steve Jobs, who never crowdsourced anything.
On the one hand, I love to see big, stupid brands fall for this kind of rationalization. I have been on the judging end of far too many crowdsourced contests to know that what ultimately ends up in the pike is cookie-cutter, technically incoherent student crap that ain’t worth a damn. I know very few (if any) designers and artists who do crowd-sourced work; they are too busy with real clients who pay them. The only brands who think that crowdsourcing is a reliable way to develop a logo or poster are those who have been hoodwinked into it by companies like Designboom who get paid regardless of the quality of the end product. (BTW, hop on over to their web site. Icky-ca-ca-poo-poo)
On the other hand, I think young designers see crowdsourcing as the “fast-track” to work for larger brands and getting quick exposure. They are wrong, but it is hard to counsel a generation who sees reality TV as the road to success for doing pretty much what amounts to crowdsourcing. In the generation of the YouTube star, fame is perceived as only one upload away. The brands know this about young designers. Young designers need to quit believing this myth about themselves. A respected career in design does not work this way.
When you are willing to give away your skills and talents for free, nobody takes you seriously. And nobody will pay you for what you have demonstrated you will do for free. Even if you are the lucky “winner” of a crowdsourced design, you will not be able to parlay that into a job or contract. The company will only become more emboldened to crowdsource the next job, and the next, and the next. Your design career will eventually mirror that of an ingénue who gave herself too readily and cheaply in her youth for promises of fame and spends her skilled years in the gutter, begging for work in exchange for a twenty-dollar rock.
But I could be persuaded. I could be wrong.
The day I see the US Army Corps of Engineers crowdsource the latest levy, bridge or lake dredging project is the day I concede it is ok for Moleskine and others to crowdsource design and creative. Until that day comes, however, I’m going to steer clear of any brand that trusts “the crowd” for any of its products, logos, posters or construction — as a customer and a vendor. I’m also never going to hire any designer — as an employee or contractor — who has done any crowdsourced work.
And shame on you, Barack Obama for allowing your campaign to steal skills from the creative community. Is it not enough we have to endure the non-mention of skills like writing, reading, arts, music, etc. in your State of the Union and education speeches in favor of STEM? Now we are being hit by the other fist loaded with your crowdsourcing crap.
I still love ya, man, but right now — today — I wish I had another choice for President; someone who values the creatives as well as the scientists in our community we call The United States of America. This country did not get to the moon on the left half of the brain alone. It first took the imagination of the right side to dream up the mission.
Don’t you think it’s about time you started giving the right* side credit as well?
*Yes, that is a political joke, made up by the right half of my brain. My left half is still piecing it together, but at some point my whole brain will be laughing its STEM off. See, the puns just keep rolling…
The crowdsoucing contest is probably the best advertising Field Notes never had to buy. Buy from them instead of Moleskine if you want your contempt for crowdsourcing creative to be heard.