F@#k Contests: A Guide to Crowdsourcing Creativity

Posted by Aaron Perry-Zucker

Crowdsourcing has come to represent everything unethical about working with creative people. It is almost always synonymous with spec-work, or contests where everyone is making work for free hoping to be named the winner and receive the fabulous prize. Sadly, by design, 99 percent of the entrants will be labeled losers and the contest organizer will get to chose from a big pool of work that they didn’t have to pay for.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. It is possible to ethically work with a big, group of creative people. I’d like to talk about how and why to do this.

Let’s start with the why. If your goal is to to get the most art for the least amount of money, then please stop reading now. This guide is for people who want to build and serve communities; people who understand that well-organized groups of creative people can make things that are bigger and better than anyone could by themselves. Your job isn’t to find the single winner, but to make everyone a winner by spreading rewards, valuing diversity and bringing the voices of those on the edges to the center. The best work will naturally rise to the top but a rising tide floats all boats.

Some principals and guidelines on the how:

Extend a personal invitation

  • You should approach online organizing as you would approach organizing a potluck dinner. Be a human, ask people nicely, tell them what they need to accomplish to make it a success.
  • Forget email lists—send a personal email. Be a real human, be friendly and welcoming.
  • Communicate a goal and how participation helps to accomplish it.

Build creative constraints

Many for-profit companies that crowdsource are too restrictive (the logo has to be this big, always here, use only this language, etc.) while many nonprofit organizations are too general (tell your story with a video, song, poem, story, photo, etc.). It’s true that constraints make it easier to be more creative (a blank page is really daunting), but too many constraints can become restrictive. What can you decide to make the job of the artist more interesting and the collection coherent?

  • Deadlines are very important, as is leaving enough time for work to travel and work to be made.
  • Standardizing things like size or color palette are good places to start.
  • Set the tone you wish the work to have.

F@#k contests. Find ways to spread the love

This is the most important rule. Everyone has to win, just by participating and being a part of something larger than themselves. Rather than selecting several entries to be honored, honor everyone’s contribution.

Don’t over-curate. Diversity can be very beautiful. Gallery shows, publications, and press-exposure are good ways of showcasing large amounts of work. Always credit everyone.

Happy organizing!

This post was originally published on The Creative Action Network

Abstract image via Shutterstock.