Coversourcing: the winner

After over 300 entries and 20,000 votes, Hans van Brooklyn’s Ants (above) has been chosen as the UK cover for Crowdsourcing in the Coversourcing competition.
Here’s what the judges thought…

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After over 300 entries and 20,000 votes, Hans van Brooklyn’s Ants (above) has been chosen as the UK cover for Crowdsourcing in the Coversourcing competition.

Here’s what the judges thought…

Jeff Howe, author of Crowdsourcing
‘First off, I was really impressed by the quality of the submissions across the board. It was tough picking a favorite. Of all though I loved the Ants (by Hans Van Brooklyn) which struck me more than any other as a clean, clever way of communicating the concept of the book. Honorable mentions too for Amchu and Acejet both of which were great pieces of design’

Angus Hyland at Pentagram felt a little differently:
‘There were three clearly superior routes: AceJet, Yonialter, and the Ants.

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AceJet’s (above) is perhaps a bit too cool for a business book, better suited to an annual report, but really just a little too dry to have the “human” and “community” elements required both for this book and for a commercial business title in general. Still, good work.

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Yonialter’s (above) was my preferred treatment – a winner from my perspective. It’s straightforward, has some depth, is not a laboured metaphor (as most of the others are) and has been done artfully. The type could perhaps do with a little work, but the spoiler device could be an actual sticker, making it so that the cover its itself just made up of faces. The faces suggest the idea of a community unbeknown to itself, which is ideal for a title such as this. I’d perhaps reduce the size of the faces a fraction to make the features unidentifiable, but otherwise it’s very strong.

I have to say that the ants don’t work for me. It’s a little obvious – perhaps even cheesy – but most worryingly they suggest that crowdsourcing is a dehumanising movement, which I don’t think is the desired response. Also, white books can also get damaged or dirty very easily in the shops, and in this case the text and image sit at the bottom of the page, allowing them to be obscured (for example on a bookselling table) and the jacket to just appear as white. So, neither conceptually nor executionally my preferred jacket.’

Richard Ogle, CHA Art Director, Random House
‘There were two submissions that really shone for me in the top 20: Vicky Simmons and Hans van Brooklyn. And it was a tough call. Vicky’s entry perfectly illustrated the theory of ‘Crowdsourcing’ with its collaborative, interactive approach. And it proved an original design against a sea of similar submissions. However, my overall feeling was that the concept didn’t make the transition from a brilliant idea to a well-executed book cover.

Hans van Brooklyn’s Ants on the other hand delivered a more abstract concept, which also proved bold in its simplicity and eye-catching in its composition. There was a real sense of fun and movement to it – and it met the original brief of creating a sharp, iconic look which would help the book generate impact on-shelf’

Patrick Burgoyne from Creative Review:

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‘I think my favourite out of all the submissions was Vicky Simmons’ (above) as it was one of the few to embrace the idea of Crowdsourcing in the way that it was created. Perhaps it wasn’t as well art directed as it might have been but I was pushing for her to be allowed a re-shoot to take that into account.

I also really liked the AceJet cover – it was clean and strong and quite beautiful.

I seem to have seen a lot of images made up of tiny faces over the past few years so that counted against YoniAlter for me, although it was certainly an appropriate and eye-catching solution.

As for the winner, I loved the unconventional placement on the page and use of white space – will it get obscured on the shelf though? In terms of its appropriateness, I bow to Jeff’s superior knowledge of Crowdsourcing: got to respect the writer…”

Jeff Howe also had the following to say about the contest:

“I’ve spent most of the last two years researching, reporting, writing, thinking, and rewriting on the subject of crowdsourcing. So why is that I’m always surprised to see it in action? Last December Random House and Apt joined up to crowdsource the dust jacket design of the UK edition of my upcoming book. By the time they closed the “Coversourcing” competition on February 11, over 150 designs had been submitted.

I think we would have to call the contest a qualified success. On one hand it served its primary objective: Some wonderful minds produced more than a few brilliant covers for the book. I’d be pleased as punch to have my name grace any number of these covers. Not only was the overall quality high, but by opening up the design process to the crowd, we elicited a degree of visual inventiveness and originality that are rarely displayed on the shelves of Barnes & Noble (or Waterstone’s).

But there’s a saying that applies here. You can always tell the pioneers: they’re the ones with arrows in their backs. In the course of the contest Random House and Apt found itself a target for more than a few pointed barbs, and some of them were deserved. Due to legal concerns on Random House UK’s part, only entrants inside the UK and Northern Ireland could be considered in the final voting. Everyone else won … a free book! Not to diminish my own talents, but that probably came as cold comfort to anyone in Poland or Punjab who had already slaved over their design. “so much for crowdsourcing,” a user named msmetana wrote in response. I’m with you, msmetana. One of crowdsourcing’s biggest appeals is that it taps a global base of talent. To their credit, no one was less happy about this than the Coversourcing organizers themselves. If it makes a difference, I hereby offer to personally autograph every copy of Crowdsourcing being sent to entrants, irrespective of nationality.

We also received a lot of blowback about the voting. Here’s what we know about crowd voting mechanisms: They’re hard to design and can be easily gamed. At one point it seemed than one entrant (I won’t contribute to his infamy by identifying him) had managed to get an entire Israeli kibbutz to vote for his submission. “To accusations that it’s a popularity contest, we can only reply… yes, yes it is,” Peter Collingridge of Apt wrote in their Times Emit blog.

All’s fair in love, war and crowdsourcing, I guess. Such tactics aren’t unusual (social news sites like Digg and Reddit are in a perpetual war against people trying to game their systems), but neither should the blame for this be laid at the feet of the good folks at Random House UK who, after all, risked a great deal to try something very different from the publishing business as usual. So don’t pick on the pioneers. Save those arrows for the laggards bringing up the rear!”

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