Design for Crowdsourcing – Can you afford not to do it?


Crowdsourcing can be a way for those of you who are new to this space to generate input and support for goods, services and experiences by bending the gang and asking them to add their thoughts and feedback. Today, we have seen a range of popular and not so successful crowd sourced promotional campaigns where audiences have offered new and established goods with names, varieties, for brand spanking. Although this technique can create audience loyalty, the concept of crowdsourcing design does not speak to it. Design of crowdsourcing is becoming an enormous problem in design practice. Ross Dawson of Living Networks Trends recently wrote a piece of writing about how Australia is becoming a global crowdsourcing platform hub.

New and re-launched businesses have improved their offer over the past 12 months to allow us all to enter a massive market of creative eager to become part of the crowdsourcing marketplace game. I’d like to see a few models mentioned here:

Quirky has been created to help designers bring ideas into the marketplace for a product, but they do not know how to begin. So, it’s a crowd sourced supply-side design…. Quirky has three main streams: Influence Goods, Send Suggestions, Shop Before you offer your goodwill and experience as a reviewer of future products, you gain both credibility in the group and a cash incentive. You’ll apply it here to be reviewed if you have a product concept. Items that are tested are more likely to be created if you are able to sign in for pre-sale. It’s a stimulating model because it theoretically converts supply-side design into output on the demand side. It would be useful to find out some statistics about this!!

Design Crowd

Design Bay was recently launched by Alec Lynch as Design Crowd, a crowd sourced design on the demand side. The kinds of jobs they may like to have planned are posted by clients with a mission. Designers then recommend various solutions to these issues and then the consumer selects the favorite/best price etc. to navigate through to completion. Where your reputation as a reviewer with Quirky is focused on building influence, with Design Crowd, your reputation rests with your ability to read consumer needs. Both are excellent examples of how designers can create expertise within the marketplace and get their computing there.


There could not be a more well-established or valued online service than Etsy for the artist/designer who either has to make some money from their work or justify doing their work by selling it. It’s like a handmade online marketplace for architecture. Etsy’s designers/craftsmen and artists range from series styles to parents who play with their specialization. The outcome is a mismatch between excellent design and goods of low quality. Although for many, Etsy appears to be a real marketplace, it also has the drawbacks that Marcia Yadkin mentioned in her recent articles on the downside of crowdsourcing to build an outstanding new business name. These include: low quality entries, deceptive popularity, emerging empty (especially if the photographs are better than the product standard) and missing the simplest talent.

This last one seems to be a perennial issue with their program. I spent hours trawling through the less talented ones to look for the kinds of items I used to try out. As an example, a Vintage Mexican Style handmade embroidered (yes, that’s right, embroidered) tent top dress tunic blouse can be a form of crochet dress and thus the first entry today…… (Disadvantage #9 for Marcia)

This may now have something to try with software optimization and keywords, but I have spent several hours performing on titles and descriptions in my research that may make the SEO types smile. However, the quest object for the #1 crochet dress is actually embroidered cotton!!! For me, the last one is extremely significant. I do social media and cultural communication analysis. For several years now, I have been working with a number of the largest museums, libraries and galleries and they have struggled (as we all have) to incorporate social media in their engagement strategy suite.

I’m also a designer who has decided over the last 3 months to assess if I can teach myself how to bring crowd sourced design into practice by setting up a shop on Etsy outside of my day job. This sounds like an extended way away from what I’m professionally neutralizing, but eventually, there’s a convergence. For a short time, I have been discussing supply side contact with cultural organizations – the demand side might be a bit more of an issue with these organizations, particularly because it challenges their authority.

With Etsy, you have a crowdsourced design platform on the face of it, but when I’m checking out, it’s far harder to pull in an audience when you’re not sure what the TV audience is there to buy for or search for. In addition, though Etsy is about to come up with all the simplest crowd sourced design features:

Allowing designers to profile their own models

Building Societies

Networking with meaning

Showcasing (curating the works of other people)



Applications for Jobs

What percentage of the audience is actually there to buy in the end? Does it take 1 or 1000 views during a sale to finish up?

The other night, I heard the CEOs of Refinery29 talk in Melbourne and one of the questions was, what is their business model? They also spend an excessive amount of their time building legitimacy through social networking and crowdsourcing, but it seems (and I hope to talk to them more about this in the future) that their key revenue sources are more conventional items like ads and events.

So, somewhere altogether, this is always a call to the current platform for examples of new crowdsourced design business models that answer the following:

– Demand-led design – Value Networking – Design Marketing

Which can turn all the wonderful work of crowdsourcing into bucks on the table for our small and medium business design companies, for the majority!

Associate Professor Angelina Russo, PhD, from a design perspective, discusses the links between culture, communication and technology. She is also a designer of handmade products and checks out ways to use social media to put together her two great interests!


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