Crowdfunding has completely changed the way that many hardware startups approach their business plans and create their products, and similarly allowing crowdsourcing product designs are also available now too. Thanks to crowdfunding, we’ve seen the emergence of whole new product categories and industries. Were it not for Kickstarter, VR may never have captured the public’s imagination in the way that it was able to with Oculus. While today it’s possible for a small team, or even an individual, to get funding for an obscure idea, and not even have to give away any equity in return; crowdsourcing is also just as important.
While crowdfunding allows you to benefit of the wealth of the masses, crowdsourcing lets you draw on their knowledge, expertise and opinions. More precisely, you’re gaining direct access to the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ – and that makes even more sense when you realize they’re probably the ones you’re going to be selling to.
In fact, you can even recruit the crowd when it comes down to designing the fine details of your products. One way to do this is to go around asking people what they think of your sketch. Of course, that’s not exactly efficient though, which is why in the digital age we prefer to use a host of powerful software tools instead. Here are some exciting options for crowdsourcing product designs…
CrowdSpring is a site that lets you find designers for projects for as little as $7. You tell the site what you need, people submit ideas, and you ultimately pick your favorite and pay for just that one. This is similar to the site 99Designs, except targeting product design specifically rather than graphic design. The platform is geared toward small businesses and entrepreneurs, and has given life to designs such as ‘Diet Wizard Wristband’ for Bluenova.
While 99Designs doesn’t specifically offer product design, it does offer brand design, logo design, website design, and even packaging design- all of which might be useful for hardware startups. Interestingly, there’s also an option for ‘other designs’, so you may find you can get people to offer product designs choosing that category.
Tim Ferriss famously used 99Designs when designing the cover of his book ‘The 4Hour Body’, which later went on to become a bestseller. You can even still see the listing!
Cad Crowd is a similar site that helps you specifically when hiring CAD (Computer Aided Design) modelers. As with some of the others on this list, it lets you run design contests but it also allows for more traditional models if you just want to hire someone or pay by the hour.
While Cad Crowd isn’t as big as 99Designs or CrowdSpring, it nevertheless has thousands of designers scattered around the world so it’s worth checking out, especially if you need a quick 3D model to send a prototype to the 3D printers.
OpenIdeo lets you create a discussion and exchange ideas regarding a project, help other projects and even organize meetups to help get ideas off the ground. The site leans mostly toward philanthropic products, and aims to design solutions for ‘the world’s biggest challenges’. If that describes what your startup does, then this might be a good one to check out.
What if you have an idea, but literally no concept for going about it? That’s where Idea Bounty comes in handy. You simply post your brief, telling people what it is you need, and then wait for the ideas to come pouring in. As with 99Designs and CrowdSpring, you then just select the best idea and produce and go from there.
Big names have used IdeaBounty, including the likes of BMW, Peperami, and even TopGear! Top Gear used the site to get ideas for covermounts to add to their UK magazine, you can see the listing here.
Using Idea Bounty to come up with the idea, Cad Crowd to create the design and a 3D printer to manufacture the product, you don’t actually have to do anything yourself anymore!
You don’t necessarily need to join any crowdsourcing platform though to find creative solutions from the crowd. Another way to get help from the web when it comes to designing a product is to let your website readers submit their suggestions, designs and ideas. You can do this simply through a survey, or you can add some more advanced features to allow the uploading of images etc.
A great example of this comes from Fiat. Fiat crowdsourced the design of the Fiat Mio by letting visitors to the website submit their ideas. They received more than 10,000 suggestions coming from 160 countries. They sorted through these with the help of the design team Agencia Click, and the result was not only a unique looking car but also a pretty good bit of marketing for the automobile manufacturer. Check it out here.
Right now, there still isn’t a massive selection of tools for crowdsourcing designs available for startups and entrepreneurs. With the success of 99Designs and CrowdSpring though, and the general move toward the ‘sharing economy’, you can expect more and more to start popping up. This is very likely to be the future of product design, so why not get on board?
At the moment, the best option for traditional product design is CrowdSpring. If you have a product idea but you aren’t confident in the design, this is a great option for coming up with new ideas and getting help from the experts. Best of all is that you’ll be able to choose from a wide selection of suggestions and will only ultimately pay for one design. And if you don’t like any? You don’t pay for anything.
The others can be fun to check out too, and as there’s nothing to lose, we highly recommend having a perusal. Or perhaps you’re a designer who can lend their skills to someone else’s big project?
Can you share any experiences with crowdsourcing for hardware startups? Have you used any of the platforms mentioned in this blog post, and what was your opinion of them? Let us know in the comments & sign up for our free newsletter for the latest updates in product design and crowdsourcing.