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Graphic designers split over crowd-sourcing sites

By Erika Engle

LAST UPDATED: 1:51 a.m. HST, Apr 4, 2011

At least two websites with Hawaii ties have joined the explosion of sites that crowd-source for graphic design work.

Clients of such websites generally pay the site owners to post their requests and specifications for design work and then award a sum of money to the creator who submits the design they like best. Others who have contributed their work “on spec” or speculation, as a sort of tryout, get nothing for their effort., launched by former Hawaii resident David Prova, staged a contest for a Hawaii theme for flat-rate shipping boxes for the Hawaii district of the U.S. Postal Serv­ice last year. was launched in mid-February by Hono­lulu-based Crowd Source Creatives LLC, led by Kimberly Dey. The company is an affiliate of Hono­lulu marketing company Number Eight LLC and its high-definition video production house Liquid Planet Studios.

The pay for graphic design work through such crowd-sourcing sites is often a few hundred dollars, versus the much larger fee a professional graphic designer would be paid.

Rates vary, but logo development starts at $1,500 at dfi design, led by Chris Magpoc, who also serves as a local chapter president of a national graphic artists organization. His company was paid $5,000 for the Outrigger Reef logo.

AdTournament was based on “a business model … that our owner felt had value,” said Mia Nogu­chi, Number Eight chief communications officer. It “allows for worldwide access to designers and friendly competition among them. Secondly, it provides an opportunity for companies that have modest budgets to be able to work with professional designers.”

The company feels crowd-sourcing creates more opportunities for communication and work between businesses and designers, that it helps designers hone their craft and that it will help build a stronger design community as newer designers and those with more experience can “learn from each other,” Nogu­chi said.

That a local marketing company would launch a crowd-sourcing site puts it squarely at odds with members of the local professional design community with which it might otherwise work.

Speaking as president of AIGA Hono­lulu, Magpoc said, “We do not support crowd-sourcing at all.”

“We would like to educate the public more about the importance of a designer’s skill in communication.”

AIGA Honolulu is the local chapter of the nationwide AIGA, formerly the American Institute of Graphic Arts, which has trumpeted its opposition to crowd-sourcing design sites for the last few years.AIGA’s position is that professional designers should be compensated fairly for the value of their work and should negotiate the ownership or use rights of their intellectual and creative property through engagement with clients. While acknowledging that spec work happens, the organization “strongly encourages designers to enter into proj­ects with full engagement to continue to show the value of their creative endeavor,” according to a position statement on its website.

“Young designers should not support crowd-sourcing,” Magpoc said, “because it will only hinder the design community as a whole, in the value of design.”

AdTournament officials learned of AIGA’s opposition post-launch, “after seeing some Twitter comments from designers,” Nogu­chi said. “However, we realize that crowd-sourcing is not for everyone but believe it does hold great value.”


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Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Advertiser. Reach her by e-mail at

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