New funding enables Wikipedia to pay illustrators

December 4, 2015

The foundation that runs the online encyclopedia Wikipedia has finally agreed to pay contributors a modest fee for their work.

A project called Greenspun Illustration Project will fund contributors to develop illustrations for the site. The funding for the project has come from the $20,000 donation of Philip Greenspun, specifically for the purpose of creating and improving illustrations on Wikipedia.

Philip Greenspun, who teaches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was moved to give the money because of his experience seeing technical books he had originally published online appear in print. In comparing the Web versions to the print versions, he noticed that the publishers’ main contribution to the quality of the books was in adding professionally drawn illustrations.

Brianna Laugher, who is running the project for Wikipedia, says the plan is to create a list of articles that need illustrations and then solicit the work. Contributors will be able to sign up for an illustration and have two weeks to submit it; if it is accepted, the illustrator will be paid $40.

With this project, the foundation hopes to get illustrations that it wouldn’t otherwise have, or wouldn’t otherwise have had so quickly. It will be able to use this project as a way to encourage and launch new people into the illustrator community.

At the end of the project there might be $20,000 worth of illustrations, but the value of the content creating community will potentially be a lot higher. It is anticipated that a side benefit to this project will be the creation/finding and maintenance of good documentation for specific tasks using tools like Inkscape.


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