We’re often told that crowdsourcing and design contests aren’t about the money. It’s all about the glory of the ‘little guy’ designing stuff for high profile companies and people that they otherwise wouldn’t have the ‘opportunity’. Hard sentiment to argue against. If it’s true.

Remember the dust-up about Guy Kawasaki’s cover design contest for his new book Enchanted? Sure you do. Happened last August when Kawasaki announced his was holding a cover design contest for the (then) upcoming, sure to be a best-seller, Enchanted, on crowdsourcing platform Crowdspring. As if often the case with spec work and design contests, many designers were none-too-happy at the turn of events and implored Guy to reconsider. Guy’s response to dissenters was a variation of ‘get bent’, espousing the value, benefits and joys of crowdsourcing.
guy-kawasaki-crowdsourcingMaybe Kawasaki has a point. After all, Guy did receive over 700 entries into his contest. That’s the choice part. It wasn’t about the prize money we were told (though I’m sure that was a factor for some of the participating designers). It was about the glory of designing the cover of a sure-to-be best selling book, penned by a best-selling author. And the bragging rights that went with that high-profile portfolio piece.
kawasaki book cover contest winner
Hard to argue with the sentiments. And he did end up with an decent cover (in my humble opinion), albeit with a stock photo that allowed me to take the liberties with the image at the top of this page (yeah, I paid for the rights). Fair enough. Though now that Enchanted has been released, I noticed a few itsy-bitsy changes to the artwork.guy-kawasaki-enchanted-cover-design
Now, that’s a nice cover. But it ain’t anything like the cover that won Kawasaki’s contest.


Kawasaki tells the story of his cover in a blog post entitled “How It Took 260 People to Make Enchantment’s Cover.”

“During the contest, many designers attacked me for the heinous exploitation of their colleague’s creativity. The math is that 250 people entered and only one won, so I’ve exploited the other 249. The crime is called “spec work” because it’s speculative and without a guarantee of compensation. Hello? Life is spec work: no guts, then no glory, no visibility, no experience, and no prize. I didn’t force anyone to enter, and this was a chance to make $1,000 and gain visibility.

That’s 260 people. Two of which got paid. Why did he ditch the winning entry?”

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately as you will learn), the design didn’t go over well with the editor, publicist, publisher, and assistant publisher. “Too New Age.” “Too feminine—no man would be caught reading a red book with a butterfly on the cover.” “Too self-help, too touchy-feely, too…” you get the picture. And the most damning of all was, “The sales force hates it.”

Who designed the new cover?

“Enter Sarah Brody on a white horse. You are familiar with her work because she was the design force behind much of Apple’s software applications.”

Let’s recap. The guy that won his design contest didn’t get no glory. The other people didn’t get any glory. Or any dough.

Not gonna say “I told ya so.”