And boy, did we get an earful.

picture-1To quickly recap: As a innovations unit tasked with exploring new models in communications, we needed a logo that can convey our mission and philosophy. So it made sense to try crowdsourcing to experiment first-hand with how all this might fit into our industry down the line. In the process, we hoped to find fresh talent who are marketing their skills in new ways.

A lot of people asked why would we do something like this? Don’t we have great designers in-house? Doesn’t that stuff commoditize design? Isn’t that exploitive?

That’s beside the point: the pros and cons of crowdsourcing design can be debated ’till we are blue in the face but the fact is, the model seems to work and therefore deserves our attention.

Currently, we believe it works best for small or start-up clients. But as the model evolves it has a lot potential to work for larger clients with more demanding needs.

These new technologies aren’t going away, so it’s now our duty to understand how to work with them. We can continue to insist that us trained professionals are irreplaceable by the untrained crowd (and end up like our poor friends in journalism), or we can start figuring out how to turn eggs into omelets. From our viewpoint, this isn’t about preparing for the day that creative agencies can outsource design, it’s about preparing for the day that clients can outsource creative agencies.

BBH Labs believes that in the not-too-distant future, creative agencies are going to resemble expanded networks, with core teams overseeing expansive partnerships rather than the more vertically-integrated models existing today (more to come on this topic later). We see these kinds of partnerships and platforms happening across media increasingly already.

The task now is to find out how to build these new models in a way that is fair to all involved. Crowdsourcing our logo was the first tiny step in a larger Labs process to come – the medium was the message.

(For full post click below)

And what a message: we received a whopping 1,740 submissions, a record for Crowdspring! Though we don’t confuse quantity with quality, as long as the designs were created with care and passion, we appreciated each and every one submitted.

Regarding the process, just like in the non-crowdsourcing world, we noticed a few talented leaders pushed forward the output from the rest of the crowd (the 80/20 equation was a bit closer to 90/10). Due to this, we found ourselves rating work higher or lower, not necessarily on specific merits, but in an attempt to sway overall direction. At a point, we began to contact designers we thought had potential, asking to see their portfolios and bios rather than continue to judge them on logos submitted. This allowed us a glimpse into what kinds of people are actually working on the site and to our surprise, we found a very, very interesting and eclectic group: established designers looking for opportunities to experiment with smaller clients, ambitious start-up agencies that don’t have a client base yet, promising designers in foreign countries that don’t have face-to-face networking opportunities, and more. From a designer’s perspective, there are multiple opportunities for creative exploration and relationship building and according to Ross E. Kimbarovsky, Crowdspring co-founder, 50% of work provides direct follow-up work.

Unfortunately, we can only award one designer the job, but we made some interesting contacts for the new BBH Labs family and are looking forward to working with them in the future. The designer we chose to work with on this project is named Dan Spulber and he is a academic, bicyclist, master potter from Romania. We enjoy his views on design as well as the fact that he submitted a thoroughly original sketch that seemed to absorb our mission. We will now begin working with Dan to perfect our logo and hope to share it with everyone shortly.

As discussed previously, our single biggest issue with the process is that crowdsourcing design sites resemble an open call model more than an open source model. And though this model works quite well for the client, it seems unfair to reward only one designer for work that is improved upon by many. We know that there are talented entrepreneurs like Ben Kaufman at Kluster exploring solutions to the filtering and reward issues we faced and we hope to have the opportunity to be involved in perfecting the process.

This is only the beginning. The next few years will give way to further and accelerated media decentralization as more and more individuals, companies, crowds (and mobs) come together online to experiment and improve upon each others successes. There will be no failures here.

And as for Labs, we are excited, scared, fascinated and fortunate to be a small voice in the growing crowd.