Steve Douglas on October 4th, 2010

time invested on crowdspring

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. 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 piecharts

On 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 twitter window

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.




Related Posts

  1. The grim realities of spec work and crowdsourcing
  2. AIGA softening positon on spec and design contests?
  3. Again with the design contests
  4. The hubris of crowdsourcing
  5. Yet another anti-spec work initiative

5 Comments to “3,216,000 hours”

  1. DK says:

    Thanks for breaking it down like this, for making it specific. Just wrote a reaction to a BBC article on the subject of crowdsourcing.

    Here’s that, plus the link to the source story:

  2. I think if the designer is dumb enough to do spec work they deserve to have wasted their time. It is their choice.. and leaves the good clients that understand well thought design to us real designers.

  3. Steve says:

    In my opinion, it’s not about being a “real designer” — it’s about making a decision wether it makes sense or not. For a recent graduate who is looking to fill his portfolio, it’s an interesting way, instead of option for pro-bono work or working entirely for free.

    What about being a “real designer” full time, then filling some hours with new and experimental projects? Not for the money, but for the exploration itself. Would you also call doing personal jobs a waste of time?

    Just my two cents.

  4. Glen says:


    That is comparing apples to oranges.

    Someone else making money off your “experimental” design you did for no payment. In fact, CrowdSpring is making money by gloating off the number of entries for which they did not pay.

    If I want to do a personal, experimental project, I can use it to learn from, in order to make more money for myself — not for some random, faceless person.

  5. Wing says:

    You got to be kidding. Just a little over 2 hours to prepare a print design or even an illustration? Did they count time for research and concepting, or do many just skip these steps?