Bic’s Universal Typeface Experiment has garnered a lot of buzz of late. Users can upload a digital sample of their handwriting; it then becomes part of a collective, singular typeface, as the name implies. Viewers can explore results using filters such as age, gender, and country.
According to Kevin Allen, it’s a smart move on the part of Bic: “It’s totally on-brand, with a tangible product in the end.”
While I agree with Allen that it’s a smart move, my reason for this sentiment is entirely different. In fact, it’s the “tangible product” bit that could lead Bic down the already-trod path of crowd sourced disaster.
Crowd Sourcing Gone Wrong
Crowd sourcing is fun; we all want a part in the play, and the proliferation of social media and advanced desktop publishing capabilities have ushered in an era of unprecedented crowd sourcing. But a magic bullet crowd sourcing is not. Remember when Walmart sent Pitbull to Kodiak, Alaska?
That’s to say nothing of design. Yahoo tried it with its logo refresh in 2013, then left our egos smarting after the unveil when it became clear that the final product did not, and never intended to, take into account our yays and nays.
Kudos Bic: A Crowd Sourced Success Story
Bic has hit the nail on the head because, as opposed to making empty promises, the company hasn’t promised much of anything. (Bic will release the typeface to the public this month.)
That’s a pretty safe bet, considering our collective scrawl could yield a less-than-stellar result. Let’s face it: the typeface will likely be, well, average.
Takeaway: Don’t make any promises. The Universal Typeface Experiment is fun to use, with a clean interface and non-clunky interactivity. Sometimes participation is an end in itself, and a tangible product need not result.