Crowd-sourcing a logo with 99 designs

99designs.com is a crowdsourcing site for graphic design. Crowdsourcing means that designers across the globe compete for the winning design. In the process you receive dozens and possibly hundreds of designs. Several of our clients have been very successful securing a logo through 99designs, so we decided to try them ourselves.

You start by signing up for an account then answer questions about the style of logo you want. Visual examples as well as value scales are included. You can write a description of the logo you envision, and upload sample images. 99designs then asks you to choose the amount you want to pay. We decided to start with $299 and see how it went.

Each contest lasts 7 days. The first stage lasts 4 days or 96 hours. After receiving about 20 different logos in 24 hours, we were asked to “guarantee” the money to encourage more designers to participate. This meant we agreed to pay for at least one of the logos by the end of the contest, which definitely seemed fair.

Early samples of logo designs from 99designs.com

The designers who participated in our contest came from the east. The majority were located between Bulgaria and Malaysia. Most submissions came in during the night while we were sleeping in Vancouver.

99designs encourages you to look at completed contests and to invite designers whose work you like. This was extra effort but very worthwhile. I opened about 40 contests and looked for designs I liked. Most contests in the $299 range had an average of 20 designers per contest, with an average of 60 designs each.

When I saw a design I liked, I linked to the artist’s portfolio to see if I liked the other designs. In all, I contacted 31 designers and asked them to look at our project. About 15 people I did not contact also supplied designs. We felt I substantially increased the odds of getting a good design by inviting people, rather than leaving the contest to chance. $299 is at the low end of the scale for a logo design.

You can rate each design with one to five stars, but can chnge your ratings any time. I found this useful for organizing our favourites. You can also write the designer directly about each design, and give feedback or ask for small changes.

I had described us as a website development company in Kitsilano interested in symbols to do with computers, the ocean, mountains and/or trees. There were strong cultural differences in subject matter. Designs came in with palm trees, tropical sunsets and Caribbean-coloured oceans. Most of the mountains were very pointy, like volcanoes or the Himalayans. If I did it again, I would provide mainly visual samples instead of text.

Samples of final entries from among the 320 submitted

We were amazed and astounded by the talent of the participants. When you work with one designer, you might go through 10 or 20 variations before the designer gets fatigue. By crowdsourcing the logo, more than 25 designers were able to participate and to bounce off each other’s work. (Although this was a bit of a calamity when one of them would use the wrong colour scheme or a palm tree and others would copy it.)

At the end of 4 days, we had 198 entries from 25 designers – more than twice what we had anticipated. We chose 6 finalists (who together had created about half of the entries). We also chose 6 designs and posted voting contests on Facebook to get feedback from other people.

During the final three days, the 6 finalists continued to produce variations on their ideas. At this point the designs became quite similar. We ended up with 320 designs, and eventually chose one that had been created early in the contest. You can see the winning logo at the top of this page and a white version of it in the footer below. It was an excellent experience and I highly recommend 99designs if you’re looking for a logo.

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