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The Motivation of the Designer

The Motivation of the Designer

In an international study, the 12Designer platform has tried to determine the key motivating factors for designers who participate in design competitions.

Competitions for current designers abound - even the German railway has already become a customer. The 12Designer platform, launched in 2009, has firmly established itself within a component of design we call crowdsourcing, which is doing quite well in Germany in the competitive genre. Some examples include design platforms such as 12Designer  and Jovoto that seek similar customers. 4,000 contests have already been completed in the two-year history of 12Designer and almost 10,000 drafts have been submitted by the most active designers on the platform.


Eva Missling, Founder of 12Designer

Choosing the winner just makes everyone else the losers. This is the common creed regarding contests and sweepstakes. For a single shot, no problem, but if you want to permanently keep a community happy, the “winner takes all” principle leads quickly to affect the commitment of the members and potentially diminish the creativity of the platform. Perhaps it is precisely this approach that is driving good designers to join 12Designer competitions. Here, the winner wins grand prize money.

It is precisely these subtleties in the motivational construct of members that Eva Missling wanted to find. The founder of 12Designer sampled 700 of the most active members after reviewing the structure of their workday and a number of motivating factors. "Why a logo competition with € 1,000 in prize money attracts 881 proposals from 182 designers, while getting much higher prize competitions do not resonate as much," asks the Berliner by choice, who was already active in leading creative agencies like Framfab and Opus5.

Missling admits to a prejudice. "The perception is that platforms like ours are used primarily by students and young designers. While this is true, it is also true that 40% of users have more than six years experience, and 25% have even more than 10 years. "

In fact, many designers find the competition itself a challenge: "Over 55% of our creative people indicated that the improvement of their design skills can be regarded as a highly motivating factor," said Missling.

Among the other motivating factors is the amount of prize money although this is not the primary motivator. More important is a price guarantee for the designers. 67% of respondents cited this as a decision criterion in the selection of competitions to enter. Also, the client and the project itself have a similar importance to the financial reward. "Financial service providers must spend more to have the same impact as the organizer of a rock concert."  The amount of prize money depends of course, on the design to be created. In fact, 43% of designers participate for less than € 250. 

During the course of a particular project, good communication with the client is at the top. "Nothing is more frustrating than too little feedback," says Missling. Sigrid Ruppert, translator on the Clickworker platform, agrees: "in the briefing we learn too little about the client and the project." In addition, there are competitive pressures that affect the competition. Too many participants can also be a reason to stay away from a contest.

Yet, an extremely positive contrast is that half of all the competition winners have later worked directly with the principals. "Even if it bypasses our platform, it shows that crowdsourcing can also give prominence to the designer for a lasting effect."

Missling draws four lessons from the survey:

  • Crowdsourcing participants are older than we thought.
  • Only half of participants are motivated by money.
  • Customer feedback is very important to the participants.
  • The networking between client and the creative work extends beyond the platform.

The 12Designer founder concludes: "I think we have just completed the first phase of the development of a crowdsourcing business. Now is the time to understand what exactly motivates the individual members of a crowd to work, and what their expectations and experiences are. Based on these results, the crowdsourcing sector will be optimized and further developed.”


Click here for article in German.


By Frank Puscher


Frank has worked as a freelance journalist for online business since 1994. He writes for all major German publications like InternetWorld Business, Internet Magazine, Page, Ct or Webselling. Additionally Puscher is managing partner of Freigeist, a Hamburg based consulting company for strategic online marketing. 


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  • Jeff Howe Jeff Howe Jul 15, 2011 08:37 pm GMT

    Great stuff, Frank, thanks. It reminds me of the research into iStockPhoto contributors conduced by Daren C. Brabham (see link below.) It mostly backs up my anecdotal research for the crowdsourcing book as well, which we could sum up by saying that the motivation is highly complex, even within individual contributors, much less within whole *groups* of contributors. Again and again what we've seen is that money is certainly an incentive, and usually at the top of the list, but it hardly forms the only, or even the most important incentive. I'd love to collect stories from individual contributors. Sometimes anecdotes are even more powerful than data (though I like to have both in tandem.)

    Link to Brabham's study:

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