As is usual with any high-profile spec work or crowdsourcing ‘event,’ Guy Kawasaki’s recent contest for the cover design of his upcoming book Enchanted raised an internet firestorm with graphic designers claiming that he was “selling out” the design profession. Kawasaki pushed back, claiming that Crowsourcing was the route to go for creativity and choice, gave unknown designers an opportunity, and that designers opposed to crowdsourcing best ‘deal with it’.
As Guy Kawaski himself points out, I have no beef with him (used to read a lot by him, and about him in MacWorld and similar Macintosh evangelist magazines). Should point this out – I don’t consider myself a book cover designer. despite having designed quite a few, during one of my previous lives as a magazine art director, and usually the result of a project that started off with “yo, graphics guy – design a cover for this book.” While most of the titles are now out of print, a few of them sat on bestseller lists for a while. Despite this, I always felt that book covers were left up to people who specialize in, well, book covers as it’s a niche part of the graphic design profession, with an entire subset of rules, techniques and considerations. That’s why, when Kawasaki announced his contest, I followed the conversations about it, and even had a few back and forths about his opinions about spec work and crowdsourcing. I think it’s safe to say he’s pretty much in the pro camp.
For the purposes of this post, we’re going to accept all of Guy’s claims at face value. We’ll grant (if only temporarily) that crowdsourcing and design contests offer unknown and upcoming designers a way to get their foot in the door, and an ‘opportunity’ to design a bestselling book cover for a world famous author. And that crowdsourcing does offer lots of choice, creativity and inspiration for the client (we’re not even going to get into the fairness, exploitation or even pricing debate – other than tell you that Kawasaki offered $1000 for the winning designer).
Hard to argue with the numbers with 240 designers entering. Between them, they produced over 750 entries for the Enchantment cover contest (though I expected more, considering Kawasaki’s high profile – a similar contest for Mega-church preacher Rick Warren‘s now ‘postponed’ The Hope You Need netted him over 3,000 entries). Once the selections were whittled down to 5, Kawasaki opened up voting, and encouraged people through his Twitter account to vote for their favorites (below – winning entry is second from left).
Some of the covers produced, in my somewhat limited expertise with book cover design, were really nice. Especially the version with the heart shaped ribbon (above – second from right). That one really caught my eye (and according to the final votes, a lot of other eyes). Concept is very cool. Tied into the Enchantment theme. Yep, that’s a decent cover alright. Maybe Kawasaki is right and designers were on the wrong track with this crowdsourcing debate. Maybe these design contests were great for sourcing creativity an original ideas. Maybe anyone could design book covers after all, elitist, snooty designers be damned. Maybe. And then again, maybe not.