Jon Gold

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99 Problems but Crowdsourcing Ain’t One

Ahh, crowdsourcing. Every internet-connected designer’s favourite scapegoat; I don’t see it as a threat. Why?

What is crowdsourcing, and why is the devil incarnate?

In the event that my Mum reads this article (Hi Mum), Wikipedia defines crowdsourcing as

The act of outsourcing tasks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, to a large group of people or community (a crowd), through an open call.

What’s the problem?

Designers think crowdsourcing is evil because it turns design into a commodity rather than a skilled profession, because it fills the world with mediocre design, and because everyone feels the need to moan about change.

Why don’t I care?

The thing is, there has always been a market for rubbish design.

Commoditizing design? Design is a commodity. Great design isn't, but design is. Like tomatoes vs. heirloom tomatoes

Shock horror but Web 2.0 didn’t commoditise graphic design. It exposed us to a slew of commoditised design, sure, but before the internet designers didn’t stand outside print shops watching clients pay for crap design. We’re simply more aware of the crap now because 99designs et al exist in the same sphere of the internet as the sites we frequent and so it is easier to get riled up about it. Designers are masochists.

99Designs et al exist in the same sphere of the internet as our frequented blogs do so we tend to look at them. That’s all. We’re just exposed to them.

No one is ruining design, no one is siphoning your work to India. If you previously provided cheap, shitty design then I’d be scared, because that is the design that is going to the lowest bidder. And rightly so - cheap, shitty design is cheap and shitty.

I’d hope my colleagues and friends put a bit more effort into our work than that. We still educate our clients about the value of design in the hope that they realise the error of wanting a logo for £20 and a pint, but you can only lead a horse to water.

The flip side of this is that there has always been spec work, and in some parts of the industry it is still accepted today. But I’ll wait until I run a multinational ad agency with the overheads to cover free pitching to worry about that.

For now I’m going to focus on trying to do the best work I’m capable of!


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Jon Gold

Jon Gold is a technologist, musician, and attention activist researching the long-term future of computation at Airbnb, focusing on the intersection of Artificial Intelligence & the creative process. Contact