Be Afraid. Be Just A Smidge Afraid.
Here's a tweet from a client who just paid us a lot of money to design and build a website for them:
RT@ Accel_Partner Gorgeous! RT @99designs Check out these 10 Outstanding Product Label Designs from 99designs bit.ly/oLDEGp
As you may know, 99 Designs does crowdsourced design. It's cheap, clients get lots of options to choose from, and our client Accel Partners has invested millions in them. What can we learn from this? A few things:
99 Designs, and others, don't just do logos. We've lost one client to 99 Designs already for logo work. But they are pushing into other project types.
There are some so-so things here and some pretty good, but maybe 1% of potential clients would look at these label/package examples and conclude that it'd be worth paying us 10X to get a much more limited selection of options that may be marginally better.
The irony is, Accel is paying us a lot of money to do something, but clearly they are 110% invested in the idea of crowd sourced design. So presumably they see some other value in what we do besides strictly design (with a little d to indicate a single-minded focus on traditional graphic design)
What it is is all of the stuff surrounding design - the stuff that makes it design with a capital D. A lot of it is best described as "know how". We know how to bring things to digital life. We can think about who clients are and what content they have and how to organize it and built something that works, etc. It's coming up with solutions, communicating it in a way that they can evangelize it, and building it into something that can live in the digital space.
Designers and developers need to know this unequivocally; what they do can be commoditized unless we/they can add value and context to it in some way. Dev coupled with design sensibility. Design brought to life by dev. Either one driven by a unique idea or strategy. You must have a connecting mind. And PDs and Strategists have to connect it all.
You can crowdsource some ideas, you can crowdsource some pictures. But you can't crowdsource cohesive thought. Someone has to crystallize the contributions of multiple skillsets together (whether in one brain or many) into a focused strategy and resulting tactics. Design's never going to die - there's just going to be more of it made possible and expected. But we need to stay more focused than on what separates us from the masses.