That’s the amount of unpaid designer time donated by spec work designers to Crowdspring, according to their own statistics. That’s right. Three million, two hundred and sixteen thousand hours.

Chicago based Crowdspring sure are big on numbers, statistics and pie charts (hey, who isn’t?) In a new blog post entitled “Community Creative – how we contribute,” co-founder Mike Samson reveals some pretty interesting numbers about the Crowdspring community and their spec work participation on the site. While I suppose the Crowdspring lads think the figures are impressive, I find them utterly damning as to the futility of designers entering design contests, and routinely submitting their unpaid efforts to Crowdspring and similar sites.

Let’s break ’em down.

By the numbers

According to internal surveys conducted by Crowdspring, logo designers, web designers, print designers and illustrators spend 2.3, 3.2, 2.4 and 2.8 average hours per entry respectively. That works out to an average of 2.68 hours per entry. crowdspring-man-hours-per-entryOn Crowdspring’s home page (at time of writing), they boast a total of 1,279,680 entries and 14,937 ‘successful’ projects to date. If we subtract those ‘successful projects’ from the total entries (winning entries were paid for) we’re left with 1,264,683 that weren’t. Now, we’re going to be generous and round down our unpaid entires to 1,200,000 – some contests offer multiple awards, winning designers probably entered more than one submission and writing contests aren’t included in the survey. We multiply that figure by the average number of hours spent on each entry and we end up with a figure of 3,216,000 man hours for which nobody received a thin red dime.

At $5 per hour (often used by pro-spec folks as an acceptable level of pay for designers in developing nations, where a lion’s share of participants come from) that works out to over $16 million worth of unpaid designer time.

At $10 an hour it works out to over $30 million.

At a decent North American wage of $20 per hour, we’re talking about $64 million of time that nobody paid a penny for.

Still think crowdsourcing isn’t exploitative?


In the interest of fairness, Crowdspring’s Mike Samson had this to say about this article (via Twitter)crowdspring-article-response-on-Twitter

Update 2:

If we work the numbers a little further, we can ascertain that each project on Crowdspring uses up approximately 230 man hours, on average, per project. Hardly a model of efficiency. If designers were getting paid for their work, and for a $200 logo job, that represents just over 86 cents per hour paid by the contest holder to Crowdspring.