When I started blogging, I looked for ways to create a decent-looking site without spending money. After all, I didn’t know if I would stick with it or if anyone would ever read what I wrote. I experimented with my theme a little, added a sidebar, and made a logo using a free service. Compared to some of the other blogs I’d read, mine looked okay.
As my blog grew in popularity, I realized I wanted to convey a more polished image. I wanted my readers to feel like they were visiting a “real” website, not something homemade or thrown together at the last minute. My father, who has always run some sort of business on the side, insisted that I consider professional logo design to help my blog “take off.” He even offered to pay for it.
A Google search led me to 99designs, a site that facilitates design contests for logos, business cards, t-shirts, brochures, and even entire websites. Basically, you tell the designers what you’re looking for, offer a cash prize, and wait for someone to create the perfect design. The winner gets the money and you get a design that belongs to you. Since my dad was paying the $295 for a logo contest, I quickly signed up and began creating my contest.
How to Create a Design Contest
The process of creating a contest is super easy. There are questions to help you determine what style you like, then you can specify colors, describe your business and its audience, and list famous logos you’ve seen and liked. For me, the hardest part was describing what I wanted – I was better at explaining what I didn’t want.
For the first 3 days of my week-long contest, I didn’t receive any entries. I freaked out a little, thinking I didn’t explain myself well enough or my concept wasn’t interesting. Maybe I should have offered more than the $295 minimum. Apparently, though, this is just part of the process. Day 4 brought a trickle of entries, followed by a flood during the remaining 3 days.
As you receive entries for your contest, you are able to rate each entry and provide feedback to the designer. This is crucial to get the logo you want. I would offer comments like “The orange you used is a little too red” or “I don’t like the font – it’s too rounded.” This feedback enabled the designers to sort through my vague description of what I was looking for and create something usable.
Once I had several entries I liked, I decided to guarantee the prize. This means I was promising that someone would get the prize money, that I wouldn’t back out and say I didn’t like any of the designs. I received tons of entries after the prize was guaranteed.
Altogether, there were 104 designs submitted to my contest. Of those, probably 30 were logos I seriously considered. I narrowed down to my top 8 and let my readers vote for their favorites, but there was one that stood out among the rest. It became my current logo (below), which I love.
Feeling Guilty – Should I Cancel the Contest?
The first comment on my contest page contained a link to a website demeaning the 99designs experience. The site’s author argued that designers are spending their time and effort to create something for which they may never receive compensation. Good logo design can take hours, and the designers who take part in contests on sites like 99designs are wasting their time if their designs aren’t chosen. I had never stopped to consider that aspect of the design contest model.
Some of the designers reworked a design 5 or 6 times to meet my specifications, yet I knew they still hadn’t created something amazing enough to win the prize. Others submitted several different designs in hopes of interpreting my vision correctly. I started feeling pretty horrible about myself, like I was taking advantage of other people’s talents. Maybe I should just cancel the contest altogether, I thought.
I talked with my dad, who reminded me that no one forces designers to participate in logo contests. They choose to submit their work knowing they may not be chosen as the contest winner. Thinking of it that way helped alleviate my guilt, though I still wished there was some way to reward everyone who made an effort.
Tips to Manage a 99designs Contest
I would definitely recommend 99designs to anyone looking for a well-designed logo. A few tips if you’re considering a design contest:
- Think about what you’re looking for ahead of time so you can be as descriptive as possible in your design brief.
- Look at other design contests to get an idea of the information you’ll need to provide, as well as the characteristics of the contests getting tons of entries.
- Don’t get upset if it takes a few days to get entries.
- Provide detailed feedback on every single entry. This will help other designers figure out what you’re looking for.
- Consider offering more than the default prize amount. Even bumping it up by $5 will increase interest in your contest. (I didn’t do this and I wish I did!)
- If you hate a particular design, let the designer know exactly what you don’t like about it so he/she can try again.
- If a designer consistently submits entries that don’t meet your requirements, you can eliminate that designer from the contest entirely.
- If you’re reasonably sure you can pick a winner based on the entries you’ve received, guarantee the prize. You’ll see a huge surge in entries.
The End Result – A Great Logo
The logo I chose was created by a design student who had never won a contest before. She was very excited to be chosen, and she even did some extra work (an avatar, logos with and without the site tagline, one with the graphic above the title, and one with no graphic) at no extra charge. I later hired her to design my business cards, which incorporated my logo and looked WAY better than anything I could have done on my own.
I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback about my logo, especially from readers who saw the old one. My site feels more professional now, which is what I wanted all along. Overall, I would say my experience with 99designs was very positive. I would definitely use the service again for future logos or anything else I need for my website.
Feel free to leave your own review of 99designs here.