7 tips for crowdsourcing designs for new products

A headshot of David Garnder.

by David Gardner

Cartoon hands reaching for a disposable cup with colourful circles around it.

Two heads are better than one, but 200 heads are even better. Crowdsourcing has produced a lot of great designs and products over the years. Crowdsourcing designs is a perfect way to get solid concepts and save resources at the same time.

This strategy combines elements of marketing by generating buzz and customer engagement. Crowd design must be executed intelligently in order to take advantage of having multiple designers and performers on the same page. If you're not careful, a crowdsourced design could end up unfinished or off-target.

Related Read: The benefits and limitations of crowdsourcing

Here are seven tips to make sure your design exceeds expectations and deadlines.

1. Generate Buzz

It's difficult to attract the best and most qualified when you aren't pushing to gain exposure for a project. You'll need to invest in your marketing efforts before attempting to crowdsource a design. This includes a strong social media presence, email lists, and advertising budget.

With your reach wide, you'll be able to be picky about who you want participating and hopefully receive a number of great participants.

2. Structure and Filter Entries

Without a clear set of rules and goals in place, crowdsourcing designs can get messy. You can also find yourself buried under an avalanche of ideas and submissions. To better handle this, set up a sort of contest structure. The audience can vote on entries to narrow down selections.

Internally, this same concept can still apply, your team would simply take a vote before running it past you. Better yet, ensure the crowdsourcing platform you're planning to use to run your challenge/ideas contest, includes a weighted scorecard for idea scoring.

A Chaordix Challenge comes equip with these important sorting and ranking tools so you never let a great idea slip and can gather crowd consensus when narrowing down options.

Crowdsourcing is all about consensus, so ultimately you want to have the most popular picks invested.

3. Field the Best Designers / Creators

Whether you crowdsource designers from social media accounts or you invite them individually, you need a starting filter. A lot of crowdsourced hiring can turn out to be lengthy affairs because of the sorting process. By directly contacting the best designers to come compete, you're increasing the value of your contest.

The buzz generated goes up exponentially for every big name designer you have on board. This increases your marketing ROI for as long as the contest is ongoing. Turn your team of extraordinary talent into a viral marketing opportunity by producing videos, articles, and podcast interviews with popular media.

4. Play a Small Part

Once you have a crowd assembled, don't just leave them to their own devices. This is your project, so you should follow along every step of the way. They need to know what your expectations are, at the least.

Try not to be too heavy-handed, of course. When you start giving away too much criticism or too much preference, it can skew the results. Competing participants will start trying to guess what you will like the most, which can stunt innovation. Instead, just stick to words of encouragement for each party, be vague, but optimistic.

5. Crowdsourcing Designs from Customers

You can either rely completely on the public for your new designs or you can simply run the top picks by them to get new ideas. A good strategy for the former is to ask your brand fans and customers to suggest ideas for a new product design. This can be for a new model or a new product entirely.

At the very least, you'll get some ideas for implementing into an existing design. This polling can also produce more valuable sales strategies for re-releases or updates on current products. Crowdsourcing designs from customers is a huge boon for retail stores.

Check Out: The LEGO Ideas story

If you go by the rule that the customer is always right, then it only makes sense to ask them what they want.

6. Run it By Peers and Colleagues

If you feel like your crowd design strategy is missing something or you need direction, go with those you trust. Sometimes even the best designers can struggle to translate ideas into working concepts. The best way to keep your work protected and get fresh ideas is to find out what your inner-circle thinks.

Check out our Innovation & Crowdsourcing page for more.

They'll likely be the most honest with you, plus you might have an epiphany while in your comfort zone. If your design doesn't immediately elicit strong reactions, then you might need to rethink it. Try to pitch your closest connections the least, you want their feedback to be as unbiased as possible.

7. Make a Contest Worthwhile

Crowdsourcing without incentives is tough to do. Unless you're a large corporation that has a platform to offer "fame", you're going to need to sweeten the pot. Throw a challenge out there for participants to compete for the opportunity.

Customers will expect some sort of prize, so either tie it into your business or make it cash/gift cards. This should already be factored into your marketing and advertising budget since most organizations are already utilizing contests. If not, consider it a necessity for crowdsourcing successfully.

A crowdsourcing contest among customers can be fun, too. It doesn't have to just be about landing a royalty deal. In fact, we encourage you to include fun stuff like vacations, high-end electronics, or sports tickets, to name a few.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, these seven tips help give a good idea as to what you should expect from a crowd design. Setting expectations high and leaving the rest in the hands of your crowd is like going all-in with a random pair of cards before the 'flop' in poker.

You'll need to do some research, size up your competition, and offer a good reason for why people should invest their time and effort in your brand.

Innovation is plentiful, there are a lot of hungry creators out there who would love the opportunity to compete for notoriety and business.

As early adopters of crowdsourcing as a brand and product innovation strategy, we've seen plenty of success stories and fan-designed products hit the shelves.

If you need help with crowdsourcing creativity and evolving your business, contact us.

We will personally analyze and come up with ways that you can crowdsource your next big move and take the competition by storm.

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