Home crowdSPRING: Creative Solutions Platform or ‘Spec Work’ Enabler?

crowdSPRING: Creative Solutions Platform or ‘Spec Work’ Enabler?

It’s too often that we read about a startup with an intriguing idea only to be completely turned off by the bland-looking design of their website. Granted, we don’t all have the Jedi-like abilities it takes to create a snazzy logo or website, so when we need something designed, we outsource it to a graphic designer – and there are tons to choose from.

In most cases, the company in need will look over a selection of designers, review portfolios, and pick one to come up with a design. But why only choose to employ the abilities of one designer when you can crowdsource the project and pick from an unlimited number of submissions from a vast community of designers?

The controversial but still successful crowdSPRING does just that.

Founded in 2008, the Chicago-based company is an online marketplace for creative services that connects small business in need of graphic design with freelance designers. The business creates a project, outlines the details and requirements of the design, sets a deadline and places a cash reward for the potential winner. Then designers submit their entries and once the deadline is reached, the company picks a winning design.

CrowdSPRING has recently been at the center of heated debates in the design community as some denounce the site for promoting “spec work” – a term used to describe work done without any guarantee of compensation. Sites like Spec Watch and NO!SPEC are attempting to raise awareness about spec work, pinpointing sites like crowdSPRING as unethical businesses.

“There is a certain irony in spec work,” writes Elisabetta Bruno on NO!SPEC. “A prospect requesting it is ultimately saying, ‘My project isn’t important enough to hire a professional who will take the time to understand my situation and goals and invest the time needed to create a suitable solution’.”

For providing their platform, crowdSPRING takes a 15% cut on all deals made through the site, but offers a money-back guarantee if a project receives less than 25 entires. If your project passes this number, you better be satisfied with the designs because you’re then “promising to pick a winner,” the site says.

Regardless of these criticisms, crowdSPRING has continued to grow, claiming that over 47,000 designers use the site in over 150 countries, and that more than 6,000 contests have been completed.

The company has even attracted large brands like Italian pasta company Barilla, which has created a contest calling for a unique new pasta shape with three $1,000 payouts.

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