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Cannibalizing your own business

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If your business is designing logos and websites you’re in for a shock. Dozens of sites like CrowdSpring and 99Designs are about to eat your lunch. That means us too. Companies like ours make a good deal of our revenue from providing unique and thoughtful design. If online crowd sourced sites can offer the same thing for less then there is bound to be a problem for anyone offering premium design services. Good design is being commoditized and democratized, which is great for consumers but not so great for design companies. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that design is only a fraction of the real value of a good designer. Great design is a strategic relationship. Crowd sourced designers don’t have the opportunity to really get to know the client’s business. If you’re sitting in Argentina or Croatia designing logo for a Boston based startup you’ll find it really hard to understand their real positioning.

In an attempt to understanding the difference between crowd sourcing and premium design services we decided to put them to the test. We offered a prize to the best logo design for our own company. Of the 153 designs submitted we chose 2. Those two designs met our criteria and answered the brief fairly well but still failed to meet our expectations. Our conclusion is that there seems to be a trade off between quality and quantity when using a crowd sourced service. You can get more designs but they tend to be low quality. That’s not to say we might not use them to help generate fresh ideas but we’d be very cautious not to hitch our hopes to the output.

Author Richard Banfield

As CEO, Richard leads Fresh Tilled Soil’s strategic vision. He’s a mentor at TechStars and BluePrintHealth, an advisor and lecturer at the Boston Startup School, and serves on the executive committees of TEDxBoston, the AdClub’s Edge Conference, and Boston Regional Entrepreneurship Week.

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