2 Common Problems with Graphic Design Outsourcing

Published On February 17, 2010
64 Comments Leave a Comment

Design studios, ad agencies and printing companies and, of course, web developers often make the decision to outsource their clients’ graphic design work.  The most common way to do this is to use freelance designers or third party design studios.  Often times, after making this decision, the actual outsourcing doesn’t go so well.  Typically, this difficulty can be linked back to one of two common problems (outlined below in more detail) with using freelance designers: availability and limited style.  These problematic experiences can end up making outsourcing more expensive and time-consuming than it’s worth.

Enter DesignCrowd.com’s graphic design outsourcing service.  This site attempts to solve the above problems by giving web designers/agencies the ability to use a big pool of designers (10,000+) collectively as their virtual team.  It is an innovative solution that appears to go a long way to fixing the challenges of design outsourcing.


So let’s look at the 2 common problems and how DesignCrowd tries to fix them…

Problem 1 – Availability

How often have you wanted some designs overnight but been told Dave (your designer) has a lot of other work on and can’t get to it until next week?  It happens all the time!  Your freelancer has limited capacity.  You can solve this by trying to find other good freelancers but it takes time to do this and it is inefficient to manage a pool of disparate freelance resources (call #1 freelancer, not available; then call #2 freelancer, not available; then call #3 freelancer and so on).

Problem 2 – Limited style range

You might assume that because your freelancer did a great job on the accountant landing page design and that he will do a great job creating a home page design for your indie rock band.  No necessarily!  You might even think “he did a great job on our logo, therefore I will offer him this landing page design work”.  Big mistake!  Designers often have specialties and ‘their own style’.  Again, the common workaround for this is to have a network / list of freelancers or studios that you pick and choose from when you need outsource.  Not ideal – now it’s getting complex because you’re juggling availability of your suppliers and their skillets!

The silver bullet? Wholesale crowdsourcing

Design Crowd

DesignCrowd.com is an online marketplace for graphic design that has over 10,000 registered designers (who seem to be mostly from the USA, Canada and Australia).  DesignCrowd lets you post projects on their site and rather than getting quotes back and then choosing one freelancer or studio to outsource to (like on elance.com) they invite all available designers within their pool of 10,000+ to respond via an “open brief” or design contest. Sure, there are other design contest sites out there but the difference here is a) most ‘contest sites’ are setup for small businesses to use directly and b) most contest sites are avoided by designers as being only ‘spec work’.  DesignCrowd’s platform can be ‘white labeled’ (branded) by design studios as their own and the workflow and system has basically been setup with web developers, agencies and studios in mind.  DesignCrowd has also modified the contest model so that multiple competing designers can all get paid. Unlike other ‘contest sites’ that are often criticized as offering purely speculative (spec) work – DesignCrowd contests pay $20 payments to designers that work on projects even if their designs aren’t selected.  DesignCrowd also allows 1-to-1 designer projects.

As an example, here’s how it would work if you wanted to get a logo design from DesignCrowd for your own client:

  1. Post a brief on DesignCrowd to put it out to the collective cloud / crowd of logo designers
  2. Watch as designers from the community create logo designs and upload them to the site
  3. Share all of these logos (or a select few) with your client (as your own) through a fully customizable PDF or web portal
  4. Main designer gets paid for their design, while many of the other designers get $20 payments

Benefits of this for an agency / web developer include:

  1. Always available – the nature of the projects mean if you’re in North America and you post your project tonight, by the morning you will have designs from freelance designers Australia and India
  2. Every style – with 10,000 designers you can be sure “someone will have the style we need”
  3. More efficient – there’s no need to get quotes (so you don’t need to shop around or spend time hand picking the person from a list).
  4. No complacency – because the suppliers need to submit designs

In summary, DesignCrowd goes a long way to solving the 2 problems with traditional graphic design outsourcing.

64 replies on “2 Common Problems with Graphic Design Outsourcing”

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As a quick article writer outsourcing has its place. The part that stuns me is that it lowers the profit margins way to much. I remember the days when I could get $15 -$20 for an article but now its like $2.50 – $5. That is a huge price change because to many want to gouge to make money…

I agree that this would be a good way to go if you aren’t fully skilled to do logos, especially if you’re just web designer or developer. It may be a good way to add additional products to what you already offer as a company. But, what about the cons to outsourcing?

I love the idea of working from home, perhaps just for a few days a week. The main concern that I’d have is that I’d struggle to work after lunch. I’m always productive in the mornings and then after lunch I just never seem to be able to get going to the same extent, I begin to wind down

this topics is very useful for those people who are eager to build their career as freelancer specially on graphics design because this sector increase her demand day by day.Thanks for sharing is very informative post.

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Thanks DesignCrowd.com..
The modern world is filled with designs which many of us may not know of. In all the aspects of our lives, right from waking up in the morning down to going home to close the day, we see graphics all around us.

agree with the problems noted. outsourcing graphics design with option for clients to choose the right styles and artist/designer to do the job for him is really the way to do business today. this way offers more value to business in the long run.

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This may be true to a certain extent but I think maybe you just haven’t found the right designer. It’s always best to shop around and find that one, true designer that won’t charge you every time you have a creative thought and is also efficient enough to create and produce quality work in a reasonable timeframe.

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Great post! I know so many people who have been unsatisfied with outsourcing efforts, which is why I learned from their mistakes! It’s hard to find good quality people who meet or exceed your standards of work and success. Thanks for your enlightening post!

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I think one of the most difficult things about working with designers is that they don’t speak the same language as customers. The same is true for a lot of internet marketing related fields like PPC or SEO.

Designers that take time to speak the language of clients will be a lot more successful than those that ignore this principle.

I totally agree. To be able to successfully outsource graphic design you should always be brief and exact with what you wanted to expect with the results. I myself won’t have to blame the kind of output I’m going to be seeing if I failed to put in what I really wanted in the first place.

Hey, Excellent article! Very well worded and straight to the point. I am borrowing some of this information in my own blog as a reference, I hope you don’t mind.

Hi, Fantastic article! Very well written and right to the point. I am referencing some of this information in my own articles as a reference, I hope you don’t mind.

These problems are not inherent to outsourcing in general. The solution is to partner with BPO companies with dedicated and experienced graphic designers. Selecting the right BPO provider is the key to successful outsourcing.

“I think the primary difficulty for this would be the disparity of ideas between the Client and the Outsource.” I agree with you, it is really a difficult problom, and until now, there isn’t a good way for solving it!

I think the primary difficulty for this would be the disparity of ideas between the Client and the Outsource. Every once on a while, what the client want will not necessarily match with how the outsource understand it. Avoiding this would mean constant communication between the two parties. Provided that you have time to check in your outsource’s work every now and then, would be feasible.

I would never outsource. I am trying to make it in this field not only to support myself financially, but because I enjoy it. If a company needs to outsource, it tells me they do not want to hire in house help to maintain control.

Getting more options and variety of designs is good, but I’m not sure if designers will put their 100% when they know they are competing with each other, that focus is lost in the competition, may be otherwise, not sure.

Good post!

Graphic Design is way more complex than aesthetic. Its about understanding your clients business and problem solving. If you ask me this website is fine for a ‘fix’ but if you’re seriously going to use a different graphic designer for each job unless you have brand guides you’re asking for trouble. If we have to adopt designers work we have to check it over thoroughly to ensure quality which takes time. If you communicate with your designer and you have realistic deadlines and timescales then you should avoid running in to these problems. Good clear communication is all you need. Good luck tho!

Jimmy Reply

“DesignCrowd.com is an online marketplace for graphic design that has over 10,000 registered designers (who seem to be mostly from the USA, Canada and Australia).” Great, not too many foreigners then.

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