Creative + Co-Pilot

What I've Learned From Teaching as an Adjunct Professor This Year

Crowd-Sourcing and Payment in Polo Shirts

As Bonnaroo Music Festival rolls around I think back to 2006 when I ventured off to Manchester, TN with some friends from school to sweat, drink and dance for a long weekend of music. I had gotten settled in at Watkins College of Art and Design in Nashville and had just finished my first semester of still-life drawings and painting flat complimentary color wheel swatches. <----(F***ing Nightmare!)

I had entered a "Design Competition" to "get some exposure" and to "strengthen my portfolio" in hopes of gaining the ultimate prize, free Bonaroo tickets and maybe a little clout amongst my peers.  Bonnaroo holds these crowd-sourced contests as a way to receive thousands of concepts and art files that they can re-appropriate and use as they see fit without having to pay a professional adequate rates to create the work. They then apply the artwork to t-shirts, posters, bags etc. You name it. They make a killing on it. Think if one shirt design sold 100 times at $30 a pop (that's $3000 for all you mathematicians out there). My work was chosen and mass produced, and I can say without a doubt it was shit and sure as hell did not get me any "exposure" or produce me a piece I would still showcase in my portfolio. But then of course....I was a young, naive, garbage artist.

I've recently had folks bring to my attention a logo contest for a newly founded Louisville, KY semi-professional soccer team. Friends and family members know my sunday morning church service is in an English pub, with pints in hand, singing and watching my team Tottenham Hotspur. So to them it all makes sense! I am a graphic designer who is in love with soccer. This will be so good for my portfolio! It's a win/win scenario!

Actually its a lose/lose scenario. As a professional, I am not willing to gamble my time away for "the possibility" of $650 and a couple Polo shirts. That compensation is not even guaranteed. The work you spend time creating still has to be voted upon and chosen. The last thing I want is some asshole who doesn't value design enough to purchase it determining the fate of the work I have created. You can read AIGA's (The Professional Association of Graphic Designers) stance on crowdsourcing in detail here if you want to get into the details of why this is bad or just try paying your bills with a fucking Polo shirt!

Instead designers should be picking better clients, filter the types of folks you want to work with and make sure the clients you choose value design. I refuse to work with anyone who doesn't understand the role and importance of creative in running or starting a business. Make sure you are asking the right initial questions to predetermine whether it will be a good working experience for you both. 

The method of crowd-sourcing design is not just bad for the design profession, it's extremely bad for the organization or business holding the competition. You remove your chances of addressing your audience, solving a problem and branding yourself for the long haul across multiple mediums effectively. It commoditizes design. 

As a Kentucky boy and designer I am very fond of Louisville. It is an astounding city, but this contest is just another instance of organizations de-valuing creative work and young designers following suit. The last bit that rubs me the wrong way is that Louisville has some of the best design talent in the nation readily available to help build brands that citizens are proud to represent. Louisville City F.C. and their Mayor are setting a poor example and shitting where they eat by not utilizing and paying local talent. I appreciate the heads up about the contest folks, but that's some shit I just cannot get down with.





Stephen Jones