Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

crowdSpring Exec Mike Samson continues to show his arrogance

crowdSpring tweeted this picture today.

Notice a resemblance?

Let them know how you feel @mike_samson

crowdSpring is a Ripoff!

Others are speaking out how crowdSpring ripped them off too at Ripoff Report.

Its not just the crowdSpring Boycott blog contributors, there is a wide audience of creatives and buyers that have been ripped off by crowdSpring. Many people have issues with their spec model, but more and more people are realizing that the people behind crowdSpring don't deal honestly and ethically with their customers and are ripping off their customers.

Here are our favorite Rippoff Reports:

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Perfect Example of crowdSpring customer (Dis)Service

The best part of this post below is the complete disregard for customers. Knowing this is all over the internet crowdSpring does not attempt to seem gracious or write a response that will be mass appealing to future customers to give them reassurance that they are a company that can be trusted.

Rather, in keeping with crowdSpring tradition, they respond to customer complaints with a shortsighted, "I'm right, you're wrong", nanner nanner nanner approach.

This is a perfect example of why YOU THE READER should do business elsewhere. Sure the Spec model raises many concerns, but even more than that is the disregard for customers, the unethical business practices, and as many posts and article point out poor management. Many articles, blogs point to co-founder Mike Samson as setting that tone, we encourage you to read up on crowdSpring before doing any business there. 99designs is a solid alternative.

  1. Audree Rowe says:
    Hi Brian,
    My name is Audree, and I am the community liaison at crowdSPRING. In reading this post,
    I felt it was important that we set the record straight. Kathleen is correct that she
    was removed from our community, however, there are several points in this article that are
    completely untrue and I hope you will publish this comment for all to see.
    Kathleen claims that her account was deactivated for the “heinous crime of questioning staff”
    when in reality her account was removed from crowdSPRING for violations of our user
    agreement after several warnings to her that her behavior was unacceptable.
    She goes on to say that we “threatened to deny [her] recent award selection” when in
    fact we sent her a letter to let her know that if she had awarded entries, we would
    help her to complete those projects and make sure she was paid. And, when one of
    her entries was ultimately awarded, we completed the project for her and she was
    paid on the same day that the buyer gave final approval of the project.
    Quite simply, this article was written by a disgruntled user. There are many angry
    people who like to vent on the internet. What we find most surprising is that you,
    Brian, would give merit to these lies without even contacting us to check if the facts
    were correct. We understand you do not like our business model, but giving a voice to
    false facts is unprofessional and sad.
  2. brianyerkes says:
    If you disagree with giving a voice to disgruntled users as you have clearly stated in your
    comment, then you are simply proving my opinion of CrowdSpring’s dictatorial philosophies
    to be incredibly accurate.
    Your support and argument for your employer would have been much better served if you
    responded to the questions Kathleen raises about the CS staff, the questionable staff awards etc.
  3. JohnT says:
    We understand you do not like our business model, but giving a voice to false facts is
    unprofessional and sad.
    We only have YOUR very vague claim that the facts contained in Kathleen’s letter
    are false. Accordingly, an employee of CrowdSPRING calling out someone else as being
    “unprofessional” is in of itself, unprofessional. And sad.

More Reasons to Boycott Crowdspring

It wasn't long, though, before project completions and award methods continued to send up red flags and suspicions of fraudulent behavior on the part of the cS staff, the buyers or both. Writing projects—mainly naming companies/products, creating taglines—are sealed in such privacy at cS that fake projects, fake awardees (ringer accounts set up only as project awardees) and outright intellectual property theft can be easily executed. More than once I suggested to cS staff that greater transparency would be a better business model for them as it would help retain savvy and talented “creatives” [their term for worker bees] over longer periods if they can see what's truly going on...

I also gathered data on another five projects I worked on but that had not yet closed when my account was yanked—aggravating because I was confident I had a really good chance at an award on at least two of them but was not allowed to log in for any updates on status. I’d had the good sense to keep a record of each submission and relevant data to help me track and investigate any use of my entries and changes in domain ownerships. This proved fortuitous as, indeed, the buyer on a high-ticket company-/ domain-naming project selected my work for an award. So a month after King Bee autocrat and co-founder, Mike Samson, branded me an “inactive droid,” this worker bee collected one of the larger awards given on any comparable project...

What makes my “How Curiosity Killed the Kat at crowdSPRING” cautionary tale more compelling is the e-mail trail of exchanges between myself and staff revealing the cS personalities involved and showing how questions are either ignored or non-responsively answered and, ultimately, not tolerated. Two among those sent by Samson himself outright threatened to deny my recent award selection, and only pressure by the Chicago buyer on my behalf allowed an honest project completion...the heavy cloak of secrecy combined with a dictatorial business model that simply removes anyone who dares to question it, create an ideal recipe for fraud at crowdSPRING.

Entire post can be viewed at:

Monday, January 9, 2012

Crowdspring, Hubris and why you should spend your money and time elsewhere

The following is an excerpt from here :

The comparison between crowdsourcing and design contests as some sort of Industrial Revolution level event is, to be honest, a load of bollocks. The invention of the printing press, the weaving loom, compugraphic typesetting machines (and in the case of this example. shoe manufacturing assembly lines I guess) represented a bellwether change in the technology of the production system. What once took forty people to do, only took a few operators to accomplish. Or what took a skilled artisan to do, could now be completed by loosely trained, unskilled workers. None of that has occurred in crowdsourcing orlogo design contests. Designers still use the same tools and technology. They still have to be fairly skilled and/or talented to cobble (pun intended) together a decentlogo designor website. The only thing that’s changed is that rather than getting paid for their cobbling (yep, intented again) they’re not. All crowdsourcing and design contest sites are merely gussied up CMS forums. The method of production, thedesign processitself, remains largely unchanged and spec designers still put on their Illustrator one leg at a time.

Further, any of the bellwether changes mentioned represented the down-sizing of the work force that was needed to accomplish the exact same task, a ruthless application of capitalist efficiency. Crowdsourcing is actually the complete opposite of that. Hundreds of ‘designers’ now participate, rather than an individual designer or a small sized team. Up-sizing I guess. Crowdsourcing is not like the ‘industrial revolution’ for design but the industrial revolution in reverse. Whereas the industrial revolution increased efficiency, and reduced waste, crowdsourcing and design contests decrease efficiency and increase waste by enormous factors. See, if we insist on using these silly industrial revolution metaphors (I’ve been called a Luddite for opposing unpaid labor from designers), let’s get it right. The ‘steam engine’ event for designers was the advent of desktop publishing software and reasonably priced desktop PCs. That, for anyone keeping score, started happening in the 1990s. The second was the traction of the internet, which allowed designers to market themselves to clients outside their home town, using the same tools and technology as the so-called ‘gatekeepers’ and established majors that we keep hearing about. Those two events ‘leveled the playing field’ long before Crowdspring opened their doors, and are still available for many designers now participating in spec work dog-and-pony shows. They’d be much better if they did, too.
SAMSON: That buyer who comes to crowdSPRING with a 500-dollar book cover project or a 300-dollar logo project couldn’t afford the fee that a traditional designer charges, so their options before a platform like crowdSPRING were very limited.
This chestnut, a very close relative ofthe $5,000 logo’, is simply not true. Before ‘platforms like Crowdspring’ came along, there were loads of choices and options already available. There still are. Outfits like Crowdspring have to convince the market that so-called ‘traditional’ designers charge far more for design work than they actually do. Besides, and if we wanted to be snarky (not I), and take Samson at face value, before Crowdspring came along, there was always 99designs, where Crowdspring cobbled (never gets old) their business model from.
BOB GARFIELD: But there’s a second question, Mike, and that’s an ethical question concerning the new labor force. When they participate in crowdSPRING, when they bid on my book cover or somebody else’s logo or a webpage design or what have you, 100 or more entries for each project come in. One winner. The winner gets paid poorly, according to the professional scale, and the others get paid not one red cent. Can you explain to me why this isn’t exploitation?

MIKE SAMSON: All of the work that was created for your project, except for that one winning entry, remained the property of the person who created it. They can resell that, they can use it as a template, they can use it in their marketing materials.
I may be a Luddite (snooty too), but I’ve never understood how hundreds of designers working on someone’s project without pay can’t be considered exploitation. But, for the purposes of this discussion, let’s take Samson’s main argument against designer exploitation, that they maintain property rights to their work, at face value. Swell. A hundred designers with an unused book cover design for ‘The Chaos Scenario.” All peachy I suppose, when someone else publishes another book by that title ’cause I’m sure they’ll be just thrilled to buy one of these ‘custom’ designs, the fact that they’re second-hand and recycled notwithstanding. Having said all that, I’m still not sure how this negates the ‘exploitation’ criticism.
SAMSON: We give them the opportunity to create.
More than a little bit of hubris there. Before Crowdspring came along, no-one could ‘create’? Hardly. People could always create. Crowdsourcing sites have only given designers, most of them painfully unaware of the realities of these platforms, the opportunity to submit their creations, to free-for-all contests, while the site charges contest holders a non-refundable listing fee for the privilege of ‘leveraging’ all this lovely free talent. Nothing more. Nothing less. Actually, with the lack ofprotections in place for participating designers, often a lot less.
BOB GARFIELD: Okay, schnooks like me have used crowdSPRING, and I guess a lot of mom and pops, but others who are not mom and pops have also used platforms like yours. I’m talking about Random House, Barilla Pasta, Epic Records, the metal band Judas Priest. Doesn’t that kind of confirm the worst fears of the established design community?

MIKE SAMSON: Well, yes and no. Big companies do come in and post their project with us. Now, the reason they do so isn’t just to get the artwork or the written content. They’re trying to learn how they can leverage this platform and this process to engage audiences. Judas Priest, frankly, they’ve got plenty of designers who could have designed that tour poster for them. Epic Records has lots of designers on staff who do this every day. But what you can’t do with an in-house design department is you can’t engage the fan base in a way that makes them want to buy merchandise and want to be associated with the band. So when Epic Records posted that project for Judas Priest, they put the word out to the fan clubs and the fan sites, and the fans flocked in to participate.
We touched on this inour Crowdspecking articlea while back. This allboils down to intent. When major companies employ design contests, they’re generally of the ‘fire-and-forget’ variety. As Samson correctly points out, large companies have lots of designers on staff, but theyuse contests to engage their fan base. Getting cheap design stuff isn’t even part of the equation, and participants enter because of their love of the product, service or in this case, rock band. Even then, a major risk of crowdsourcing – plagiarized entries – can raise its ugly head (witness theCadbury Chocolate label contest, where the winning entry turned out to be knocked off). See, conflating this kind of ‘social media marketing’ with spec work and crowdsourcing (where designers complete projects through revision steps, and even when selected as winner, and awarded the vaunted prize, aren’t finished complying with contest holder revision requests) is to be charitable, apples and oranges. Crowdsourcing, in its current incarnation, is marketed to small business as getting lots of stuff cheap. And I’m left wondering if thoseJudas Priestfans are still counted as part of Crowdspring’s ‘community’ numbers, cause I got a nickels to donut bet that sez they ain’t hanging around to design pet food logos on Crowdspring.
BOB GARFIELD: You know, it’s funny how a person’s reactions can be different based on whose ox is being gored. What were vague ethical qualms I had when doing my book cover suddenly have me in a full-blown panic, because I can see very clearly that the amount of money that I can fetch for the kind of writing I do, just by virtue of the law of supply and demand, has to go down.
So ethic ‘qualms’ about exploiting the unpaid efforts of others only raises its inconvenient head when it applies to Garfield’s own industry, namely writing? That’s swell, though to be fair, a hat tip to Bob for realizing it. This argument has been used by designers for years now (“As an [insert profession here] would you do work on spec? No? Then why would you expect designers to?”). Trouble is, designers are guilty of the same kind of ethical hypocrisy, largely ignoring the pleas of photographers a few years back, when micro-stock services hammered the professional photography industry. Alas, it’s an easy trap to fall into.
BOB GARFIELD: Them’s pretty words, Mike Samson. They have not, however, been all that soothing to the people on what is called the “no-spec movement,” a group of design schools and businesses and individuals who themselves refuse to produce work on spec and are trying to rally the rest of the crowd to follow the same ground rules. Are they a threat to you?

MIKE SAMSON: No, we don’t think so. We have a community of about 64,000 designers and writers. About 50 percent of those are U.S. based. The membership of the AIGA, which is the leading professional organization of graphic designers in the United States, has a membership that’s a fraction of that size. And that’s nothing against the AIGA as a professional organization, but what it says is there is a need and a hunger out there.
Ah, the numbers game. But hey, if we’re going to throw around stats and percentages, let’s take a look at all the numbers. And all the percentages. See, here’s the thing – aswe detailed here, the vast majority of people who sign up for sites like Crowdspring do so without ever entering a single contest. Not a single one. See, it’s free. And you have to sign up to view the ‘community’ forums. At present there are 65,000 ‘creatives’ claimed, yet according to their own stats, over 30,000 registrants have never entered a single ‘project’. Nor, judging by their ‘last seen date’ will they ever. The number of ‘creatives’ that have entered 1, 2 or three contests is similarly in the tens of thousands (Judas Priest fans I guess). The vast majority of designers that do register as participants bail shortly after, so It’s safe to say that most spec and crowdsourcing sites are supported by a fraction of the numbers claimed. The numbers trotted out equal registrants and people who’ve clicked a check box that states they’ll act as ‘creatives’ on the site. For the record (and while I’ve never been a big fan ofAIGAor a big believer in trotting out statistics for the reasons I just illustrated) the AIGA claims 22,000 members. Those are paid-up, participating members by the way, so Crowdspring’s ‘our dick is bigger than their dick’ claim is a tad silly. And doesn’t really mean jack.
BOB GARFIELD: Their claim is that not only does a user of spec material prey on an exploited class of labor, it also generates inferior results. However, the Wright Brothers were bicycle mechanics. Do you have to be a professional designer to create professional designs?

MIKE SAMSON: No, you don’t, frankly. The Nike logo was produced by a student who reportedly received about 20 dollars in payment. I understand she did get some Nike stock which paid off over time. But I think that history is rife with examples like those of, quote, unquote, “amateurs” producing phenomenal work.
You would think that after trotting the Nike logo chestnut out for the umpteenth time, Mike would at least start getting the story right. TheNike Swooshlogo was created in 1971 by graphic design studentCarolyn Davidson, who was hired for the job and billed $35.00, based on a rate of $2.00 per hour (around minimum wage at the time – I was making $2.35 an hour for my first job five years later, the result of mandated minimum wage increases). Using this price tag, from the seventies, to somehow justify design contests in 2010, is an often employed tactic, though ludicrous at first blush. And as Samson points out, Davidson did get more of a payday from the athletic company in 1983 whenNikegave Davidson a gold Swoosh gold ring and an envelope filled with an undisclosed amount of Nike stock to express their gratitude. See Mike, it’s not about ‘amateur’ vs. ‘professional’. It’s not even about whether work designed through crowdsourcing is ‘inferior’ or not (that’s another argument entirely, but directly tied into my next sentence). It’s about paying people for their work.
Up to now, a fairly basic principle in supposedly civilized societies.

Read more:

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

CrowdSpring Customer (Dis)Service

Even @CNBC knows CrowdSpring has terrible Customer Service its advertised with their new show called Customer (dis)service!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Monday, January 2, 2012

We support the NO!SPEC movement against crowdSpring

Read more great stuff about why you should be boycotting crowdSpring at

crowdSpring Exec puts head in sand

Rather than open a discussion, discuss concerns or change their unethical behavior crowdSpring executive Mike Samson has decided to put his head in the sand and block us on twitter.

A classy move if you ask us. What's the best way to deal with a growing movement upset with your unethical business practices? Block them, ignore them, continue making poor choices.

You can contact @mike_samson and let him know that blocking concerned stakeholders is not a responsible way to handle customer satisfaction, doesn't help their marketing efforts and helps to fuel the public's concern with crowdSpring.

We believe this is emblematic of the cavalier way they run crowdSpring, mistreat customers and another reason anyone reading this should boycott!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Crowdspring - Raw numbers. Updated.

The company has now published a blog, Crowdspring by the numbers, which offers further insight into the statistics of their service and that we can use the figures to fine-tune our original Crowdspring calculations.
The amount of prize money awarded:
"Since May 2008, we’ve paid nearly $2 million dollars."
The number of "completed" contests on Crowdspring.
crowdSPRING launched in May 2008. Since that time, over 4,700 projects have been completed on crowdSPRING.
As this figure has been now defined as 'completed', we can assume that this tally does not include refunded projects. That means that the average payout at a Crowdspring contest is $425.00
"370,002 entries to date"
A total of 370,002 (as of the time this post is being written) entries have been submitted to projects on crowdSPRING.
That would include logos, website design page concepts, brochure layouts, stationery packages, etc. if every contest has been awarded, and the final design is considered as the one that wins that actually wins, there were approximately 365,302 designs submitted to Crowdspring for which no financial compensation was ever received.
If, on average, each submission took 1 hour (not unreasonable once we average complete time required from reading the contest brief, developing a concept, development and sourcing, creation and uploading to the Crowdspring server) that represents a total of approximately 365,302 hours.
That is the equivalent of over 41 years of unpaid designer time.
if we account for the various differences in artwork type (ie: a website page submission may take several hours or more) that number is substantially higher. If we average out the average hourly wage down to $10 per hour (an unrealistically low figure but simple for calculation) that represents approximately $3,653,020 of unpaid man hours.
That figure is somewhere in the region of 3 and 3/4 quarter million dollars.
If we were adjust to realistic hourly rates, that figure would increase significantly. Even if we assume that every winning designer had submitted an average of 4 preliminary designs before selection, that still that represents 351,202 unpaid concepts and designs submitted to the Crowdspring server and 351,202 design entries for which no financial compensation was ever received. That equates to 351,202 unpaid man hours. At average 1 hour per design at $10 per hour, that still represents over three and a half million dollars worth of unpaid designer time.
When performing our original calculations, the average number of submissions per contest worked out to approximately 77 per 'project', roughly ten less than 99designs' 87 per contest. According to Crowdspring, that number is actually 79.
At the moment, we average 79 entries across all project categories. Some categories (such as packaging and product design average more), while others (such as illustrations) average a bit less.
"32,000 creatives"
"Nearly 32,000 creatives work on crowdSPRING. We know this because when a someone registers on our site, we ask them whether they anticipate being a buyer or creative."
We have no information on how many 'active' designers are actually entering Crowdspring "projects". However, it's highly unlikely there are 32,000 active designers and that figure seems to represent the number of user accounts that have been opened since Crowdspring's launch last year.
At that time, company management predicted a 90% annual turnover rate.
"The company expects a 90% annual turnover rate among contractors."
However, if we take their figures as fact, and If unique designers had won "completed" contests, that would mean that 27,300 designers have submitted work to Crowdspring without financial compensation of any kind. We know that some designers win multiple contests, while others never win any, so it is difficult to extract any real data.
We can, however, play with what we have.
Let's say, for sake of argument, that all winning designers have won an average of three 'projects' each. That works out to a total of 1,566 winning designers.
That would mean that 30,434 designers have spent a collective 38 years worth of design time, submitting351,202 designs and contributing labor that is very conservatively estimated as being worth over three and a half million dollars.
Without ever receiving a penny for those efforts.
"The community on crowdSPRING isn’t unlike many other communities where large groups of people, for one reason or another, elect to participate - sometimes without receiving a dime in pay.
For example, it is estimated that it would cost $10.8 billion dollars to develop the Linux distribution Fedora 9 using traditional means. Over 1,000 developers from over 100 different companies contribute to every release of the Linux operating system. Fedora 9 is estimated to have required about 60,000 person-years of development time. That’s an incredible amount of free time contributed by thousands of people."
Fedora is a free operating system that is available for anyone to use, modify and distribute.
"Fedora is a Linux-based operating system that showcases the latest in free and open source software. Fedora is always free for anyone to use, modify, and distribute. It is built by people across the globe who work together as a community: the Fedora Project. The Fedora Project is open and anyone is welcome to join. The Fedora Project is out front for you, leading the advancement of free, open software and content."
Fedora was never built for one company as a "work for hire" commercial project, nor did any crowdsourcing company charge Linux a percentage to host a Fedora contest on their website. Crowdspring charges "buyers" a 15% fee based on the "award" posted for their "project".
Crowdspring suggests that designers working on their platform, the vast majority doing so without any payment, is a "free will" issue and something that is "at the heart of a free market economy".
"16. Do you think creatives have the right to decide how they work?
Answer: Yes. We fundamentally support the notion that a person should have the right to decide for themselves how they want to work and what risk they’re prepared to take. This simple concept is at the heart of a free market economy.
Their opinion on anyone that opposes their view of "a free market economy"?
"Efforts that seek to undermine this universal freedom of choice are doomed to fail."
 Originally posted at

Raw numbers - Crowdspring

Like most design contest sites, Crowdspring features some basic statistics on their home page - the number of designers (referred to as 'creatives'), current number of open contests, number of overall design submissions and the average number of submissions per 'project'. The one notable difference with most other design contest sites is that Crowdspring does not feature a running tally of 'award money'.
At the SXSW panel debate in March, a Crowdspring founder did offer this insight:
"Crowdspring, in 10 months has escrowed over a million dollars in awards, and has paid out $750,000.00 in awards."
It is impossible to extrapolate that figure up to today's date. However, like their competitor 99designs, we can perform some basic arithmetic and work out some very rudimentary statistics of our own. Figures were accurate at time of notation.
"4,444 projects to date"
Whether this figure includes refunded contests is unknown.
"341,838 entries to date"
That would include logos, website design page concepts, brochure layouts, stationery packages, etc. if every contest has been awarded, and the final design is considered as the one that wins that actually wins, there were approximately 334,394 designs submitted to Crowdspring for which no compensation was ever received.
If, on average, each submission took 1 hour (not unreasonable once we average complete time required from reading the contest brief, developing a concept, development and sourcing, creation and uploading to the Crowdspring server) that represents a total of approximately 334,394 hours.
That is the equivalent of 38 years of unpaid designer time.
if we account for the various differences in artwork type (ie: a website page submission may take several hours or more) that number is substantially higher. If we average out the average hourly wage down to $10 per hour (an unrealistically low figure but simple for calculation) that represents an amount that's close to $3,343,940 of unpaid man hours.
Yes. That figure is somewhere in the region of three million dollars.
If we were adjust to realistic hourly rates, that figure would increase significantly. Even if we assume that every winning design had 4 preliminary designs before selection, that still amounts to 319,618 design entries for which no compensation was ever received and the calculations can be reworked accordingly. Unpaid man hours 319,618. At average 1 hour per design at $10 per hour, that still represents over three million dollars worth of unpaid designer time.
The average number of submissions per contest works out to approximately 77 per 'project', roughly ten less than 99designs' 87 per contest.
"29,689 creatives"
We have no information on how many 'active' designers are actually entering Crowdspring 'projects'. If there are 29,689 active designers, that means an individual would have about a 14.9% chance of winning anything. However, it's highly unlikely there are 29,689 active designers and that figure probably represents the number of user accounts that have been opened since Crowdspring's launch last year.
If every individual designer on Crowdspring had entered and won 1 contest, that would mean that 25,245 designers have submitted work to Crowdspring without any compensation. We know that some designers win multiple contests, while others never win any, so it is difficult to extract any real data.
We can, however, play with what we have.
Let's say, for sake of argument, that all winning designers have won an average of three 'projects' each. That works out to a total of 1,481 winning designers.
That would mean that 28,208 designers have spent a collective 38 years worth of design time, submitting319,618 designs and contributing labor that is very conservatively estimated as being worth three million dollars.
Without ever receiving a penny for those efforts.
While the numbers are significantly lower than 99designs, it's worthwhile to note that Crowdspring launched in May of 2008, while 99designs has been in business for several years longer, having been formed out of Site Point design contests (and possibly conflating those statistics with their own).

Why CrowdSpring Owners Should Be Ashamed of Their Business

Originally posted at

The high-profile business magazine recently published this article: The Creativity of Crowds , which opens with the following subtitle:
“CrowdSpring aims to slash the cost of graphic design work — and democratize a snooty business .”
Now I’m all for competition, and indeed welcome it, but when there’s such a one-sided article about the validity of spec work , it’s appropriate to mention the other side of the story.
For the unaware, CrowdSpring is a design contest website, where people submit (mainly) logo designs in the hope of winning a prize. Prizes are (not always) awarded by the companies who join and host a contest.
You can read David’s full post here . David puts forward excellent thoughts and opinions on the “Design Contest Websites” and due to a huge following, the inevitable debate is often an important read.
Michael Samson, one of the owners and creators of CrowdSpring, is quoted in the article as saying,
The beauty of our site is that it doesn’t matter if you have a degree from the Rhode Island School of Design or if you’re a grandma in Tennessee with a bunch of free time and Adobe Illustrator,” says Samson. “If the client likes the grandma’s work better, then she’s going to get the job.
Dear Mr. Samson,
“A grandma in Tennessee with a bunch of free time and Adobe Illustrator”?! – in the words of the new “Saturday Night Live” feature; Samson…..REALLY?!
A grandma in Tennessee should not be designing a company’s identity, logo, website, print advertising or anything if she doesn’t have design experience, skill, knowledge, etc. Anyone can get their hands on a copy of Adobe Illustrator and call themselves a designer. I am actually quite shocked that you didn’t use “MS Paint” in place of Adobe Illustrator with your apparent knowledge of the graphic design industry.
Hey, I have a hammer and some wood, anyone need a house built? I have never built a house before but how hard can it be. I’m sure I could put something together that SOMEONE will think looks good. And if they think it looks good, then guess what, I guess I am a builder! Sweet! (just don’t come complaining to me when your house collapses after the first bit of wind.)
Mr Samson, or can I call you Michael? Ok, Michael it is, I feel like we have built up a relationship now that I can call you Michael…..or maybe Mike? Mikey….No? Ok, Michael it is.
Michael, your comment highlights everything that is wrong in the graphic design industry.

Some clients do not know what looks good and what will be successful for them

Of course the grandma in Tennessee can scribble a few things together, and someone out there may love it, but that does not mean for one second that it will be successful for that client, or that it comes anywhere close to meeting their real needs as an integral piece of their company’s identity.
As an experienced designer, clients often ask me to “do this” or “do that”, and often what they want is not what they need . They need skilled designers and marketers to help them to see what they need. Designers and marketers research their clients’ audience, and come up with an educated solution. Some clients love an animated gif of a leopard running in place to be on their website, but you and I know (well, maybe not YOU…) that this is not a good addition to their website. The client is not to blame for this, that’s why they hired the professional .
And that is where your website comes in. If you don’t want to hire a professional who values their work, does not research your company, your market, your clients’ needs, and simply knows how to draw pretty things that are meaningless, then head on over to Michael and his website.
An excellent comment on the Forbes article comes from Eric Hillerns explaining this perfectly.
A CAD program does not make me an architect and a copy of QuickBooks does not make me an accountant… And the Forbes writer? You know, the one who penned this article’s ludicrously silly subhead, was likely this year’s lucky winner of Mrs. Winters’ sixth grade journalism competition. Because why would we pay an experienced writer when anyone with Microsoft Word and e-mail can submit a story?
Congratulations, Forbes. You got exactly what you paid for. Sludge. But then again, maybe that was your point.
Eric Hillerns
Mr. Swanson, there is something extremely odd about the article that was written by this Christopher guy. I’m no journalist, but I do understand some aspects of journalism and integrity. When one writes an article about a subject matter that obviously has a strong opposition to it, to merely throw in one single quote from the contrasting side is not only displaying a gross lack of judgment, but also shows that you are an extremely amateur writer, and quite possibly Mrs. Winters’ best student in her 6th grade class. Forbes must have had to lay off the highly paid journo’s and in their place, Westbrook Catholic School got their chance.
I wonder what got rejected…….

CrowdSpring Blows Donkey Balls

Originally posted at

CrowdSpring Blows Donkey Balls

Today i’m going to rant about the horrible idea that is, (wait for it) yes, CROWDSPRING.  This so called “amazing, and innovative” site basically puts what all the rest, Guru, etc, do but in a prettier Web 2.0′ish shell.  There have been many others that have voiced their dissent much better than me (i’d just stomp around angry, punching holes in plaster walls with my Kung Fu skills, and cussing at the top of my lungs) like Brian Yikes, and Andrew Hyde.  And AIGA seems to have a solid stance against “spec” work.
The response from Mike Samson, Co-Founder of CrowdSpring, and one of his few pre-canned responses (most definitely part of a bullet point list he and his partners created prior to launch to counter the guaranteed backlash from the creative community) is that they’re encouraging and pushing creativity by giving access to creatives who normally wouldn’t have the opportunity. This is complete bullshit because there are a lot of great active creative communities out there where creatives share ideas, work, and inspiration every day without any money changing hands.  At those places it really is about creativity, not MONEY which is ultimately the bottom line for CS.  They wanted to find a way to get a cut off of desperate creatives and penny pinching, greedy corporations.  It’s about devaluing creativity and creating a precedent for clients that it is OK to pay $200 for a logo or $500 for a website. He makes the comparison to iStock and Threadless which have absolutely no bearing on CS.  First of all the production of a website has two major production cycles:  creative and development.  It takes 1 second to snap a photo, there is relatively little production cycle (color correction, photo correction) either way does not take 3-6 months to do unlike a website.  This is not to mention that the overall quality of photos on iStock is low compared to something like Getty.  If i could pump out a full functional web site in 10 seconds like it would a photo posted to iStock than the comparison would have merit.  Since that’s not the case, Mike here is full of shit, which makes sense since he’s a business entrepreneur looking to make easy money rather than a creative with years of experience.
Sadly puts out a CS cock stroking article about the wonders of the company, leading with:
CrowdSpring aims to slash the cost of graphic design work–and democratize a snooty business.
Unfortunately Forbes has no fucking clue what they’re talking about.  The “snooty business” they’re referring to are the large gi-normous holding company ad agencies on Madison Avenue.  Of which CS poses absolutely no danger to.  It’s the small, medium, and freelancer crowd that will get hurt the most by them.  Another point i should make is all these places are not necessarily always looking for flawless execution, they are rather trying to farm and buy creative IDEAS for the cheapest they can.  If they can take a great creative idea someone else has made for $200, spin it, add some changes and resell it to their client they can make a huge profit off of that.  Additionally i like to use the comparison about going to the doctor for a needed surgery.  Would you really want to trust this to someone who promises quality for $200?  It’s a bit extreme of an example but for a lot of people their freelance businesses are their life.
See i work at one of those “larger” ad agencies and i really have no danger to my work or my agency’s.  However, i’ve worked as a freelancer for many years so i understand the fury of the community and i actively support speaking out against Spec Work.  Additionally it’s easy to paint a wide swath on greedy corporations but in most cases it’s not so.  The large brands understand the value of paying the money to a professional to “do it right”.  After all the mantra of “you get what you pay for” still has merit in this industry and i’d like to think that big brands understand this.  Certainly there is something to be said for competition and having a thriving competitive community, but that needs to be fed by creatives and agencies themselves, not by a site posting $500 for a website.
I looked at the projects on CrowdSpring and honestly if you got $2500 per web site design (the most listed currently is $2300) for the small-mid no-name companies and start ups that post these jobs on there, it wouldn’t be half bad actually.  However, if you read the CrowdSpring contract it talks about “Work-For-Hire”, meaning you have to hand over all the source files, PSD, AI, etc, to the company.  So to give up all rights and source for your work for $2500 is anal rape.  I mean in almost every other industry Rights Managed involves significantly more compensation – it just seems when it comes to graphic/web design that get’s all lumped together and people get all indignant when you tell them that if they want your source code or layered PSD files, they need to pony up more cash.
To me as stated before, CrowdSpring feeds the line of bullshit about furthering creativity and all that but ultimately the bottom line is that they realized a potential money maker in creating a web site that caters to desperate creatives, and equally desperate clients.  For me the issue is not the above two groups, but rather the danger of creating a standard precedent of this type of pricing model that may eventually trickle up to larger brands.  This industry has already had to fight off marginalization in the past, supporting spec work and lowballers would inevitably deal a big blow to this industry.

Spec Work Is Evil / Why I Hate CrowdSpring

Originally posted at

Update* I get now almost daily emails describing serious ethical issues from past clients and designers from CrowdSpring, ranging from stolen work to child labor.  Stay far, far, far away!  It is not just me, you can see CrowdSpring by the numbers or Why Crowdspring Should be Ashamed of Their Business.   *Update*
Speculative work (asking someone to complete a job as an application is a loose promise to pay them if you want to) is evil. No way around it.  Check out No!Spec if you are unfamiliar with the subject.  Here is my take:
My Thoughts on Spec
If you are a company that needs a phenomenal designer / writer / developer / marketer, there are plenty out there. Take a look at their portfolio, if you like what they produce hire them.  Speculative work especially asked of designers, and some early stage designers fall for it, resulting in low quality work and experience for everyone involved.
If you need a great designer for a project, I know 20 designers that kick ass, email me.
Enter CrowdSpring
CrowdSpring is a site that attracts people with small budgets for projects ($250 for a company logo) and designers to come up with the designs, including revisions, for clients, with the chance of getting paid.  It is speculative work, almost at its worst.
Why is this such a big deal?
Design, unlike other industries is unique in that the intellectual property is put into your deliverable, and when the client asks for you everything you have to put into the project to think about purchasing.  I am a designer and this is by far the easiest way to end a friendship with me (asking me or someone else).
It is a major ethical flaw of both parties.
Let me say that again, a major ethical flaw. Some designers I have talked to have escalated this lack of ethics to be on par with some very serious crimes, while other see it as dumping oil down a rain drain.  A lot of people don’t take this lightly at all.
AIGA believes that doing speculative work seriously compromises the quality of work that clients are entitled to and also violates a tacit, long-standing ethical standard in the communication design profession worldwide. AIGA strongly discourages the practice of requesting that design work be produced and submitted on a speculative basis in order to be considered for acceptance on a project.
Rafe Needleman calls this process weasel economics.
Don’t Support It
If you see spec work happening, put an end to it, it is not the ethical thing to do. It is that simple.  Don’t be a weasel.  If someone views your ethics being this bad, they will start to actively not promote your company.  “Did you hear that CrowdSpring sucks?” etc.  Saving $2000 on your logo could cost your company a whole lot more.
But, Hey, They Can’t Be That Bad, Right?
I am fully in support of smart teams bringing disruptive practices to new markets.
Here is a response I got on twitter from the team at CrowdSpring:
Not understanding the difference between custom speculative work and selling art backs up my first thought that there is a major ethical vacuum and lack of understanding around design at CrowdSpring.
Going head to head and undermining/ underbidding an entire profession is not something to be done unless you can carry the torch for the industry in the name of good (INGdirect comes to mind).
Is There a Grey Area?
Yes, but very few. Volunteering. I do a lot of volunteer jobs that can be viewed as spec work. As a general rule I only volunteer for non profits that don’t have the energy/ time to look for a designer for a project.  I also see some grey when it comes to community contests where a professional designer is hired to take the winner and develop it to the final.
Early on in the discussion on twitter, this question was posed.
Bandwagon fallacies don’t work for a lot of things, including this.   If you are talking aboutThreadLess, they have done a very good job a) paying their designers fair market value b) involving a community in the beauty of design that traditionally would have been left out and c) making clear that the designs are done for the love of design, not for a 3rd party to profit off of.
What Is the End Game
This is a question I often ask, in 10 years, if this becomes the industry standard, what will you have.  The answer is not more happy designers, or clients.  Design as a whole will be lesser if this model is used, and that will be a real shame.
In the end this is a classic example of a problem out there with someone solving it in the wrong way.  If the problem is clients having a hard time connecting with designers (who may be just beginning and need to build portfolios), then make a site where designers can build their portfolios working on volunteer projects and showcasing their work to quality companies looking for great design.
From my short interaction with the team, I would put in a vote of no confidence that they will do the right thing.