What do you make of Concept Cupboard?

Paul Murray

Ultimate Member
Here it is...

Quality, Low-Cost Design & Marketing Services | Concept Cupboard

A while back a graduate from my course mentioned this site as a great way to get work. I took a look and frankly it just seems to be another crowdsourcing site but aimed at students.

It works pretty much the same way as any other spec site; you find a brief, upload your ideas and if the client picks it, you develop it into a final design and get paid.

The way the copy's written basically says "Hey, if you didn't win, at least you've got a piece for you portfolio!"

Also, I'm sure I read somewhere that they recommend you create a concept that's as finished as can be so the client gets a good idea of what you're aiming for, but I can't for the life of me find it now. So basically, no scamps.

It seems to me like a crowdsourcing site that's aimed at people who want a better quality of design work than they'd get from some other sites, but still don't want to pay a going rate for it.

What are people's thoughts on it? Am I just being close-minded? It does seem to be a good way to build up a portfolio through briefs, but is it really any different to the vast array of other spec sites that continually seem to crop up?
To me, it seems exactly the same as every other crowdsourcing site. Nothing different except they're exploiting students.

Something I've just seen there annoyed me "Quality, low-cost design". I wish people would learn that you get what you pay for when it comes to design and that design is an investment, not just something you get done as cheaply as possible.

Hey Paul/Tony,

I hope you don't mind me getting in touch, but I've just seen the thread you started about Concept Cupboard and wanted to reply. I'm one of the people that started Concept Cupboard.

Firstly Paul - thank you for starting the debate. We are a crowd sourcing site, but we want to be different. I left my proper job (as a Business Director in an ad agency) because i saw all of these awesome creatives coming into the agency for placements and very rarely getting full-time roles. Mainly because of the recession. So instead of sitting back I thought i would do something about it.

And that really is why we started the company.

Our point of difference is that we only allow young creatives (from the UK) to submit designs. Design contests allow us to give lots of people the chance to work on a brief. Not everyone can win, but at least people are able to show prospective employers that they have worked on real briefs. That is a massive advantage when looking for full-time work.

So moving onto your points...

In terms of price then we set extremely good rates for any project. There are lots of sites and even professional freelancers offering to work on a logo for £50 - £150. But to your point Tony, you get what you pay for. Our logo projects start at £200 and we recommend £250 as an average budget. We even had a logo design brief on for £2000 last month. So we are actually doing our bit to raise the average budget.

In terms of your comments about scamps then please know that we do allow them. But a business will go for a more polished design over a scamp any day of the week. That's just a fact. The client has the money so you need to do everything you can to impress them.

Tony. This was one of your comments and I want let you know that is the last thing we want or would ever do. At the core of our business is helping to solve the graduate unemployment problem.

So far in our first year we have helped students earn more than £75,000 through the site and we've also placed a number of students in full-time and freelance roles. We already have 2,000 creatives signed up with us and we want more. We've also held events at agencies like Fallon working on live briefs. Ou students have come along and worked alongside Creative Directors and award-winning creative teams to see what is needed to get to the top.

Tony. I see your point on this and it was changed the wording last week when we refreshed our site. It is true that we are cost-effective and we do need to attract price sensitive business customers, but you are right to point out we don't want to appear to be de-valuing design.

We have actually relaunched the site (about a week ago but after you posted this) and it expresses our personalities and what we are doing much better than before. Please take a look if you have a moment: www.conceptcupboard.com.

You guys are exactly the people we want to be helping and the last thing we want to do is alienate you, so if you have any feedback on the new site or ideas helping us to improve what we do then please get in touch. My number is on the website.

All the best,


p.s. Paul - I looked at your site. Some brilliant work on there. If you are looking for permanent roles then please get in touch.
Thanks for responding Chris, nice to see you're interested in hearing people's opinions on the site. Thanks also for the comments about my work. Flattery will get you everywhere :icon_smile:

Whilst I'm sure you make a profit from Concept Cupboard, I don't doubt your intentions and desire to help young creatives, and it's great to see that the site is actually getting young designers jobs, whilst also maintaining and promoting reasonable budgets for their experience level. Many young creatives may not have the confidence to go out and actively seek clients themselves so I think this could be a great place for them to hone their skills and gain experience without the fear of wasting a clients' time.

Whilst, I still don't fully agree with crowdscourcing, I understand that pitching ideas to clients is somewhat of a necessary evil within certain industries, and it seems that crowdsourcing as a whole, like it or not, is here to stay. If someone was planning on crowdsourcing their design work, I'd rather they did it through a site such as yours that is helping the design industry in a round-about way, rather than through some of the other amateur sites that I won't mention (I'm sure we all know which I'm referring to though).

My main concern is that students could potentially see crowdsourcing and working speculatively as 'ok', which over time could lead to spec work becoming more and more accepted within the industry. Many students on my course aren't even aware of what spec work is, or how it affects them and the industry they wish to work in.

This certainly isn't the fault of your site, or perhaps any other site, but I think sites such as Concept Cupboard could reinforce the idea that spec work is an acceptable means of working, especially as this idea is effectively being taught in design education. All live-briefs on my course (and I'm sure practically all courses) require us to develop an idea and pitch it to a client (for obvious reasons) which I personally think sends out the message that spending time creating something in the hopes that it will result in payment is bad. That's not the intention of course, but nobody from my university has yet said to me "Oh, by the way, you shouldn't do this when you graduate, it's bad for business".

Designers rely more on their ideas rather than their ability to simply create polished designs and I don't think enough people realise this. Personally I don't believe in giving ideas away since they're basically your means of earning a wage and are what separates you from the other designers.

Again, I think it's good that students have a means of potentially earning money from doing what they love whilst still in education, and I wish you success with the site (I'm sure there will be some copy-cats cropping up before too long) but I still believe that crowdsourcing design, spec work, and encouraging students to partake in it, all has a negative impact on the industry as a whole.
Hi Paul.

Totally agree with your points and concerns. You give a really balanced argument and obviously know your industry. As you say we do encourage spec work on Concept Cupboard but it will take a back seat on our site later in 2012.

On a positive note quite a few of our creatives have had the confidence to set themselves up as freelancers after winning projects. They do sometimes use us for lead generation if things are quiet but it is good to know that spec work can lead to more than just a quick buck.

Best of luck with your degree and keep up the great work.


Hi Chris,

It's actually good to get a side of the story from someone who's working on the other side of the fence. I'm glad you've came on here and enhanced this discussion. I think everything that I could have wanted to say has been mentioned by Paul.

It's certainly an advantage on your side that you're allowing only young UK based freelancers the opportunity, as this cuts out a lot of the really low cost bidding found on other crowdsourcing sites. Designers in the far east can afford to work for a lot cheaper than the designers here, although, they shouldn't have to, but that's a different matter entirely.

When I say 'exploiting students' what I mean is that, you're encouraging them to produce a range of design solutions on the basis that they might get paid for them. People get paid to work, designers shouldn't be any different? You can't have a mechanic fit five different exhausts to your car, and choose the one that you like best and then pay for that...so why should companies be able to do it to designers?

You say that "The client has the money so you need to do everything you can to impress them." This shouldn't be the case at all. I have a portfolio, which should impress people enough that it instills trust in me, then they can feel safe when putting their money behind me that I'll come up with the best design to suit their needs.

In regards to scamps, is there a way that you are protecting the ideas of the young talent on your site, afterall, it's the ideas that are getting paid for. Anyone could make the image up in Illustrator, so if a client gets to see 100 ideas for example, what's to stop them taking the intellectually strong concept from the ideas, and then knocking up a piece themselves? Also, you say that "people will pick a more polished concept" which I'm sure is true, but, really, in the professional design world, no designs or ideas are shown to anyone until some form of deposit/cash has passed through the hands of the designer. I feel that this is encouraging bad practice and makes us designers look two-a-penny, which, while there are many Mac-Monkeys and "designers" out there, the quality of some are to be doubted.

Speaking of quality control, is there a way that you're checking the quality of your designers at all? Or could a 14 year old kid with Photoshop sitting in his bedroom register for your site and start earning money?

As far as I'm concerned, I wish you luck with the business, afterall, somebody is going to do it and at least you've had the courtesy to come and respond to everything that's been put your way. I just think you should take real care not to devalue design (suggesting the minimum budget average for a project is a great idea, I trust you've been in touch with some professional designers about this?). Afterall, some designers go through a hell of a lot of education and tuition to get where they are, and we provide a professional service like many others.

Thanks again for replying,
Tony Hardy
Hi there Chris,

Welcome to the forum and it's brilliant that you've actually taken the time to come and discuss this. I havn't seen anyone else do that.

As a designer that graduated from university a year and a half ago, I can certainly see the advantages of what it is that you're offering. Opportunities for young designers, who really are still learning their craft, and giving them chances to work on real projects, though not one on one. Lets be honest, nobody is going to pay a student a decent price for work, if they've no experience, or having no portfolio to show them. Way to risky for any client.

Whilst at university we rarely had live briefs to work on. I think in the 3 years, we had a total of 4 or 5 people come in and ask us to work on a project. That was great, at the time, but then we realised they were getting 20 student's ideas, concepts, final designs, for nothing. But there was nothing we could do about it. We were getting graded on the work we did so we had to give it our all either way.

My problem is that it gives students the impression that working in this way is fine. That working for low sums, or even free is fine. Whilst what you're offering is a good opportunity for them, it really is a slap in the face for every other designer who'se worked their ass off after university. Because companies know there are places to go, like yours, that they can get work done on the cheap. They couldn't give 2 hoots that every designer, bar the winner will not get a penny. They're just happy they've got what they need, and at a very cheap price.

Whilst your site is offering a more to the winner, it still doesn't hide the fact that all of the 'losers' get nothing. In the time it takes to work on a bunch of projects like these, then wait for a winner to be picked, then wait to be paid, a student would be much better off, working on a bunch of fake projects they've made up, then looking for work on their own.

I did work on these sites for a bit a couple of years ago whilst at university. Before it became a massive issue like it is now. I must have worked on 40/50 odd projects. I won 2 or 3 and probably earned a total of £600. Whilst that £600 quid was great, the amount of time wasted on the rest of them was mindblowing. It's an even bigger kick in the teeth when I couldn't explain my designs, my ideas to the clients then seeing them pick what can only be described as a 'clipart' logo as the winner.

Graphic design is skill. Like any other, drawing, cooking, writing, selling bank shares. It takes time to learn it and craft it. But once you've been through that process, we should be paid properly for it. Crowdsourcing sites in general are giving companies a way out of paying professional fees that are well earned. Whilst I'm sure some designers out there take little time to work on a logo, I can guarantee 90% will take the time to read up on a client, research their brand, their needs, their competitors, what they want out of the logo etc.. then produce something that fits the bill.

I've got a lot more respect for you simply because you've come out and explained what it is you're trying to do. And whilst your explanations are better than every other crowdsourcing site, I still think it's the wrong way to be going about things.