20 ICON fall 2015 | The Magazine of The aMerican socie Ty of in Terior designers
• drives down fees for
interior design services.
• devalues interior design.
• gives designers too little
information to develop
• doesn’t provide design-ers with an opportunity
to visit the sites they are
• allows situations where
designers might not
know local codes and
regulations (build-ing, zoning, safety) or
might not be licensed
• Might lead to designers
losing their distinctive
brand or style as they
conform over time to
the aesthetic promoted
by the crowdsourcing
• Might encourage cheat-ing by college students
who “outsource” their
academic studio proj-ects to a crowdsourcing
Table 1. CrowdsourCing Companies for in Terior design
name est. founders place philosophy/description of services fee structure
client establishes award
($250 minimum); award
is shared among top
three designers. arcbazar
receives a service fee
(reported as 10 or 15 per-
cent) from the client.
customer selects cate-gory and package, which
determine fee. cocontest
charges 25 percent of the
contest fee. average cost
is $750, although this
depends on the currency
company offers hourly
professional help at one
flat fee of $75 per hour
or the customer may
choose a package deal,
starting at $345.
customer pays for the
concept. fee structure
apparently hasn’t been
“arcbazar was designed as a vehicle for architects and designers to be involved
in small projects for clients who would typically not seek design services.”
The average project gets about nine responses. More than half of the
projects are small-scale renovations or additions to houses, also interior design,
commercial space, and landscape design.
“democratization is a key benefit of crowdsourcing as designers have a chance
to sign up with a platform that acts as a level playing field to compete for
customers. on the other hand, clients get a chance to collaborate with experts
to ensure that their visions are actualized.”
cocontest has “exceeded the threshold of 20,000 registered architects, not
only from europe but from over 90 different countries.”
note: This company is a startup and is operating on startup money.
at press time, it had completed fewer than 400 contests. as of June 2015,
there have been reports of efforts to close the site.
company motto is “helping People to Live in Beauty and comfort.”
Projects are mainly residential or furniture-related.
a “one-stop, on-line platform for anything interior design.”
according to the company, “We believe that an inspired and well motivated
individual provides the best ideas…it is a virtual workplace where teams and
colleagues share a common space but in different locations, thus being defined
as the ‘design studio of the future.’”
note: This is a new company and we’re unsure if it’ll be active by press time.
Crowdsourcing has the potential to harness
proposals that might otherwise cost a company
thousands of dollars in research and development.
But, as with any new concept, crowdsourcing
comes with its own flaws. See Table 2 for a list of
strengths and weaknesses that designers and clients
have identified. In a recent interview, designer Lisa
Henry, CEO of Greenway Group and an advisor
to ICON, offered her views on crowdsourcing’s
potential for interior designers.
As an experiment, Henry logged into Arcbazar
and submitted criteria for the design of a
hypothetical 25,000-square-foot office space. She
was curious to see just how far she could get into
the website and how much information she could
ascertain before committing any dollars. (See her
first-hand account in the sidebar on p. 18.) “What
was most useful,” she says, “was that the process
gave me a feeling for the broad scope of services
available and the associated fees.”
It was rather sobering, however, to see rock-
bottom prices paid for designs on
Arcbazar. For example, a client from
Massachusetts named Julien was
thrilled to collect “about 15 really
impressive designs” for an attic
remodel. For this service, Julien paid
only $550. Designer Ken Howder
received $750 for his winning entry
for a remodeled kitchen in Scottsdale,
Ariz. (Visit the Arcbazar website for
photos and details.)
Some designers in other fields
who have used crowdsourcing love it. “There are
new, innovative, cutting edge designs by a lot of
upcoming, fresh designers,” says graphic designer
Ray Wcisel, writing in a response to “Crowdsourced
Design Is a Risky Business” on wired.co.uk. Another
designer, responding to the same article, notes:
“I’ve made over $20,000 last year at logo design
crowdsource websites. There’s good and bad with
crowdsourcing but I’ll take that kind of money
And, interior designer Christine Martin writes:
“Once Decorilla asked me to join the founding team,
to help develop an idea I believed in, I jumped on
board knowing the risk, but embracing the journey.
I’ve never regretted it!”
Others, like Richard Grefé, executive director of
AIGA, have their doubts: “The buyer immediately
relegates his or her choices to those who are least
likely to be experienced [and] knowledgeable.” They
do so in lieu of going to an established office and
hiring those “who are in demand among clients and
Table 2. CrowdsourCing pros and Cons
• Lowers cost.
• enables new designers
to gain experience and
• addresses design prob-lems in underdeveloped
countries or underserved
• democratizes design
because it is “for the
crowd, by the crowd.”
• encourages potential cli-
ents who might never
walk into a design office
to get professional advice.
• allows designers to publi-cize their work, company,
• facilitates global collab-oration among designers
and between designer
• enables clients to see
multiple proposals, thus
eliminating fear of choos-ing the “wrong” designer.
• generally involves small
projects that well-estab-lished designers or firms
would not undertake.
• May raise public aware-ness of the interior design
profession and its value to
• facilitates a fast and effi-cient process.
• it is international.
sobering to see
For designs on