Crowd source design: can a crowd design a garden or landscape


crowd source design

What is crowd source design on the web?

A brief summary of a website that offers crowd source design is detailed below (99Designs )

where individuals and small businesses can post graphic work that they need done. ….within hours of a project being posted, designers from all around the world compete by uploading fully completed concept designs, which are than reviewed and rated by the project poster. At the end of the project period, a winning design is chosen and paid out the prize money


Can crowd source design work ?

Garden Beet used 99 designs for its logo and two graphic templates for its main website.

For those who are not familiar with web design: The graphic templates are the static designs or skins applied to the site architecture. They act as the intereface between the webuser and the code that sits behind the graphics. The graphics are sent to the web developer who then applies code to make all the buttons work.  The two templates are shown here  garden art and  copper flowers.

In under a week we had graphical images ready to use!

We were thrilled with the work produced by 99 designs. We had access to some great design ideas and were able to hone the design very quickly. Most of the designers responded to our comments with great agility and speed.

So yes the design process worked for Garden Beet.


Are all customers suited to using crowd sourcing for a design project?

It appears that the success of crowd source design is very reliant on a customer’s (the competition holder) ability to articulate what they need.

Throughout the logo and web competition for Garden Beet I did wonder how an individual without a design background would get on with the crowd source design process. This issue is of particular concern given the time frames are very tight and there is limited opportunity for discussion. Signficant issues may not be identified (let alone  resolved).


Can crowd source design work for gardens and landscapes ?

My feeling is no. Why?

Well I would assume that the customer wants a garden not a graphic. A graphic designer can supply a finished product over the web (eg logo) but a landscape designer can not. Yeah sure a landscape designer can supply drawings but a built landscape – NO.

Of course there is benefit in receiving a series of landscape concepts for your back garden but I suspect most people will be a tad dissapointed to learn that they only get a ‘design idea’.  Design ideas are great but many ideas are simply unworkable.

Is the designer (or the customer) going to really know if the design idea will work?

Who is going to undertake the site analysis. Surely the site needs to be surveyed, existing vegetation recorded, soils, view lines etc – all the normal site analysis stuff?

Perhaps all these issues can be overcome – perhaps contestants become educated on the site analysis process . Yep could work..maybe.


Landscape Crowd – will this group make crowd sourcing work for gardens and landscape?

Landscape crowd (a new crowd sourcing outfit) was tweeting ‘Still looking for landscape designers looking for freelance work’.

I was very curious how they were going to run this operation so I jumped at the idea and began the process of registering my interest.

I entered a built project to demonstrate my landscape design skills. I chose a recent design and assumed that would demonstrate my ability to build design ideas.

When reveiwing the other entrants I was suprised to only see drawings and 3 d models. I gave the website the benefit of the doubt. Surely they wanted to attract people with built experience.

To my total surprise I was informed that photos of built works were not allowed. I was then informed

Typically if someone were to ask for a landscape design to sic [it]  would be assumed that it would be delivered as a drawing, sketch or model.

Oh! Really? To me  ‘landscape design’ infers a ‘landscape’ that has been ‘designed’ – not a drawing of a ‘landscape’ that represents ‘design ideas’.

This is lesson number one for those new to holding a design competition. You need to write a clear brief – people will be annoyed if they spend time on your project only to be informed of the rules at some later stage.

I was also accused of sending in photographs of finished works to promote products that I sold. That was unintentional.  I am sorry you misinterpreted my actions. Perhaps some rules are needed?


If you buy a crowd sourced landscape design don’t you need to know that it can be built?

The whole idea of the site is for people to get their design projects online and this first contest is to show  prospective users the quality of design that would be entered into their contest.

Oh dear what is the intention of this website ?

I get the point that Landscape Crowd wants to show competition holders the type of work that will be submitted – hence the preference for drawings or models – but if they really wanted to serve prospective customers well  – surely they would want the customer to feel confident that a designer who is preparing their landscape concept design can get their ideas built?

I would be issuing caution to anyone who engaged landscape design services without adequate built experience (unless it is a highly discounted service – which maybe Landscape Crowd’s market ).


Can a design prepared by a crowd be useful?

As mentioned earlier a fully resolved logo or web landing page can be passed over at the end of a crowd sourcing competition but I doubt whether a fully documented well resolved landscape design can be handed over at the end of play.

What are the customers really getting?

I love crowd source design but gardens and landscapes are a tad more complicated to resolve than a 2 dimensional drawing. There is little time for the designer to educate the client – and there is no alternative for the designer to do anything but deliver what the client requests. This may spell disaster for sites that require more sensitive design solutions (ie gardens next to native wildlife corridors etc).


Do designers like crowd sourcing?

Crowd sourcing is great for designers who have excellent graphical representation skills and are able to translate ideas into images quickly. The process is not great for those who work slower, prefer to develop rapport with their client or believe in a more rigorous design approach.

Some designers are against the concept. It is argued that it denigrates the design profession and undervalues the study, time and commitment required to be a good designer. One industrial designer friend argues strongly that it is a form of exploitation.

For a summary of the debate take a look at