Does Crowdsourcing Graphic Design Make Sense for Small Businesses?

Does freelance graphic design and crowdsourcing really add up? Or is it going to cost more than you think?

The theory behind crowdsourcing,” says Kate Jones at the Sydney Morning Herald, “is that many hands make light work.” Crowdsourcing, as it pertains to graphic design, puts thousands of designs at your fingertips, allowing you to pick and choose which one is going to be best for your brand.

But what about your bottom line? Does freelance graphic design and crowdsourcing really add up? Or is it going to cost more than you think?


Crowdsourcing Your Bottom Line

Crowdsourcing allows you to set your own graphic design budget, meaning you can kickstart a design project for as little as $100, more or less; and the simplicity of the model also means there’s no hidden fees or surprises.

Setting your own graphic design budget, for marketing purposes, gives you incredible flexibility to stay in control of your bottom line. Meanwhile, the lower costs associated with crowdsourcing also means that you have access to more quality graphic designs at a fraction of what it would cost to get the same options from a single designer or agency.

As Sydney Morning Herald writer, Katy Jones further reports: “‘Tapping into a pool of talented global workers for a cut-price cost makes crowdsourcing perfect for start-ups or low-budget businesses’ says Ben Lilley, chief executive of advertising agency McCann World Group. ‘Obviously it can be a cost-effective solution, particularly for small businesses or start-ups that are starting from scratch.'”


What Does Crowdsourcing Really Mean?

There is always a required time period for any graphic design project, but the benefit here is that crowdsourcing is faster: you can upload a short brief in a matter of minutes and have around 50-100 designs or more (give or take) sent to you within a week.

How long it will take to work through the designs, and choose a winner, depends on your project and your eye – but for unconvinced business owners, I urge you to compare this to the time you’d invest in a traditional graphic designer or creative agency, where countless back-and-forth meetings take place to produce one design. In the end, you might not even end up with what you really need, despite the fact that you’ve likely committed to the work.


Is Crowdsourcing Quality Going to Cost Me?

Despite the bottom line savings of crowdsourcing graphic design work, many entrepreneurs still think they will compromise on quality or efficiency of design. Ben Lilley, chief executive of advertising agency McCann World Group, goes on to say that “crowdsourcing doesn’t always provide a tailored solution, particularly for companies that have an established brand and are trying to build on the work they’ve already done”.

While James Archer, CEO at Forty.com outright claims that “the crowdsourcing model is based on the “monkeys with typewriters” principle: it’s the hope that if you have enough options, you’ll find a diamond in there somewhere. It’s the misconception that you’ll increase value by increasing the number of options.”

Yet there’s no overwhelming evidence to suggest crowdsourcing produces nothing but low quality work or that having design options is actually a bad thing. And if you do end up with a lot of graphic designs in hand, what’s to say that all of them won’t be valuable?

For example, take a look at these high quality designs created for a funky pet grooming company called, Jazzy Paws, or the moving designs produced by this Unicef Banner Ad Contest.

Photo: DesignCrowd.com; Source: Courtesy Photo
Photo: DesignCrowd.com; Source: Courtesy Photo

Similarly, these webpage designs for Tom Tom offer incredible quality, with amberegg’s design selected as the winner.

Photo: DesignCrowd.com; Source: Courtesy Photo
Photo: DesignCrowd.com; Source: Courtesy Photo


If, on the rare chance, low quality designs do end up in your project mix, there’s nothing forcing you to choose them – and the crowdsourcing model allows you to walk away without choosing anything if you’re not happy. It’s wonderfully low risk, especially when compared to the amount of dollars you might invest in an agency.

“In the old world, you try to find a single designer that understands you and what you’re hoping to achieve,” said James Allworth, after crowdsourcing his logo for Harvard Business School, “… and you just have to hope they’ll get your work right as well.”

Photo Source: DesignCrowd.com
Photo Source: DesignCrowd.com


The mark of major brands making use of freelance design also proves that quality is consistently present: these cool t-shirt designs for Virgin HealthMiles and the TV show Dexter and these nifty icon designs for sports brand Hi-Tec are all clear examples of the fact that crowdsourcing can result in top quality designs that are capable of matching big brand expectations.





This article has been edited and condensed.

Clancy Clarke is the Organic Search manager at DesignCrowd, a design crowdsourcing platform making crowdsourcing more accessible for small business. Clancy has over 7 years of online marketing experience, a passion for analytics and a degree in Petroleum Engineering from the University of New South Wales. Connect with @designcrowd on Twitter.


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