Grabcad circumventing the design industry

I’m not sure if people know about this, or if it’s just me who has a problem with it. I just want to get people’s opinions.

I received an email from grabcad, a community of cad users who submit content and allow others to download it. A useful resource for those who need to add a macbook pro or ipad to a render. That’s cool. You model an iphone, I’ll use it in my visuals.

However, in the email it was championing the winners of one of their latest “challenges”. A challenge is basically a community design project in which a company has the community design for them on the cheap (usually about $1000 first prize or 6 month software subscription), thus bypassing the need to employ a freelance designer or expensive consultants.

Or as grabcad put it: “Use the power of our global online community to apply thousands of engineering minds to your design problem for less than the price of one” and “You own the Intellectual Property rights to the entries awarded”.

To me, this just seems like another cheapening of our industry. Maybe I should get 100 people with stethoscopes in a room and the one who cures me gets paid, or 100 average joes with a calculator and tax software doing my tax return and the one who gets me the biggest return gets paid.

So Grabcad’s idea is that anyone who has a pirated copy of solidworks or inventor can be a real life designer. No $20,000 degree and years of study and dedication, missed birthdays and ramen diet required. Just give it a go! You can be the next Karim Rashid today!

F.U. Grabcad.

Very cheesy, but doesn’t seem like a new practice (unfortunately). Grabcad, I am disappoint.

Took a look at the current challenges, just for reference:

I can see something like this being more acceptable if it is for non-profit missions – e.g. design a public bus stop or system that is safer at night – or for a completely abstract, open ended case that would lead to good thinking but nothing directly usable by a company.

When I was in school, we got an email from our department about a similar design “challenge” for a local for-profit company. I was tempted to send a politely-written flame letter email (with a clear link to and was a heartbeat away from sending it. It turned out someone I knew was involved in this challenge (and not as a contestant). I was glad I didn’t send it, but now I think it couldn’t have hurt.

You get what you pay for:

I’ve used GrabCAD like you have, but apart from a few standouts, most of the models are quite terrible.

Honestly the GrabCad challenges don’t make me nearly as nauseous as stuff like elance.

GC challenges aren’t very “serious.” In the end, the company gets a CAD model and zero development after that. No engineering, no refinements for manufacturability, no ongoing design iteration.

Also the existing range of challenges weren’t exactly heavyweight. Sort of boring mini-projects.

If designers aren’t careful, they are easily taken advantage of through challenges like this. It’s good to be aware how much work can go into an assignment that gives almost no financial or publicity rewards. On the other hand, such challenges can be good to serve as small design exercises that you can do to develop your creative abilities. Many designers probably sketch and doodle in their spare time anyway, so now you can gear it to these little assignments that often give you a lot of freedom. So I don’t mind such small challenges for such purposes. And since the client company does not put a lot of money in, most of what they will get is absolute rubbish. At most perhaps some inspirational ideas to serve for further development. Often the small client companies have little experience working with designers, and this way they can learn that next time, they just need to step to a professional agency. So I don’t mind these small challenges that are mostly geared around generating ideas. But I do think that companies most of the time get too much value for what they are offering in return, and need to be much more generous. What is more of a shame is when (often bigger) companies try to crowdsource more serious work and give the winners no IP and only some pocket money. There are probably a lot of young naive designers around the world who feel like they can become famous through such competitions and in return put in a lot of their time. So these designers need to be more aware of this kind of parasitism and become ‘harder to get’. I have also often worked for too little money, because you don’t realize how desirable and valuable your unique insights and skillset is and feel like you have a lot of competition. But in reality, if you act professionally, you should also simply ask professional rates.