Monday, March 09, 2009

Creative as a commodity: Design outside the box

Much is made of the role creative plays in digital and traditional design. 

In traditional agencies, creative is even a noun, usually synonomous with an entire group of people, organized in a box...on a chart.

In much of the digital world, creative is more an adjective, used to describe the manner in which people approach something...these people may be technical, client service, analytic or image + word focussed among others. 

Inevitably, there is a role--and a need--for both definitions. It's often the tension between the interpretation of terms like 'creative' that makes for the most interesting reading. Especially when the digital domain becomes a channel for selling 'creative'. Like wants to make graphic design and creative a commodity. Done on spec. 

Here's how it works: you need something designed. A website, a logo, a tshirt (an ad campaign?!). You lay out the specs, what you are willing to pay, and run a competition. Anyone...credentialled or otherwise...who wants to submit a design can. You pick the winner, you get the design, the designer gets the dough.

In some ways it's like submitting a bid, but with the spec creative attached. Of course noone wants to do spec work, but there are more than 12,000 designers registered with the site, a sure sign that there are many who are willing.

So What?

Three possible implications jump out (I'm, sure there are many others...please append as you see fit):

1. With increasing competition and a show-me-what-I'm-paying-for approach to bidding, downward pressure on design rates would seem inevitable through sites like crowdspring and others (e.g.,,

2. With increasing competition, perhaps agencies will resort to spec work to keep their creative departments engaged? It might be effective in retaining current clients or in the hopes of turning a project into an account with a new prospect.

3. When creative is commoditized, attributes like customer service and value adds may become the table stakes of differentiation (now there's a bundle of buzzwords!).

Surely there will be legitimate hue and cry about quality and credentials from entrenched interests in the creative-as-a-noun club (see prior post here). And while some large companies have signed up and used CrowdSpring and similar sites, noone expects large scale creative work to be bid on spec...yet. Then again, many have been slow to realize the online impact on offline business...notable among the late adopters are the creative-as-a-noun agencies.

In the digital space, like the free market at large, a little creative destruction can go a long way toward encouraging out of the box thinking.

No comments:

Post a Comment