CrowdSpring’s misunderstanding of design

Just a warning, this will be long.

I was just reading this article in Forbes. The idea of having contests for design solutions sets the false precedent that design is a commodity and shows a fundamental lack of understanding of the design industry as a whole.
The first example in the article used to promote CrowdSpring's main goal is the contest that decided which architect would get to build the Tribune Tower in Chicago. This example may at first glance seem to be appropriate because of the reference to a design contest but it immediately breaks down when examined more closely. Individuals that wish to become architects must meet a pre-determined set of standards in order to be licensed to practice. This is very important because buildings need to remain standing and without certain standards unqualified individuals could build faulty buildings. The risk of death as the result of a poorly designed printed piece seems unlikely, then again some have said a poorly designed powerpoint slide may have led to a space shuttle disaster.
Furthermore the counterargument used in the article concerning going to a restaurant and sampling the food before choosing to buy it doesn’t even come close to approximating the problem with design contests. It would be a more accurate analogy if the person in the example went to five different places for lunch, ordered five complete meals, consumed each in its entirety and then decided which s/he liked best and paid for that one.
The reason this is the case is because design solutions are created for a unique predetermined scenario and are therefore only be able to effectively fulfill the requirements of the project they were created for. Much like the food, which was consumed but not paid for, design solutions that are not bought are lost work. There is no redeemable value. The designer is left with a worthless design and hours of wasted time.
If this contest mentality were to continue it would devalue the craft and make the profession irrelevant. If we were to apply this same principle to the news industry and large reputable news agencies had contests for the headline stories of the day’s news I can’t imagine that many students would continue to study journalism. Learning the craft of journalism would no longer be necessary, news agencies would produce their product much more cheaply and for a short time quality might remain but eventually as trained journalists phased out the public would lose all awareness of quality journalism and the craft would be lost. All of this just to cut costs and not have to pay for those expensive journalists.
If this kind of mentality prevails then I feel sorry for generations to come who will have to put up with the results.


Ayashi said...

Yeah that kind of attitude really makes me sick. Of course it's natural to want to spend hours and hours on something and then not get paid for it (nevermind the fact that in 99% of contests, you still lose the rights to your own work, and they can use it in the future)

Because design requires some amount of creativity obviously we don't deserve to get paid what it is worth! I don't understand why a logo that is going to represent your company and basically be one of the faces of your company that someone first sees shouldn't be worth the amount an experienced designer would charge.

At least the comments on that Forbes article seem to be leaning in the right direction!

Tangentially related: http://www.fukung.net/images/2674/designer.gif

Chris Beesley said...

Ayashi, thanks for your comment. Yeah a really thoroughly and completely fail to understand people who think this is a positive thing.