I recently ran a design contest at 99Designs.com and was really impressed with the results and the process so I thought I would write a review of my experience. Go figure
If you don’t know what 99designs is, it’s a crowdsourcing service that let’s you run design contests for specific things. In my case, I wanted a logo for the new Ecommerce store I am working on so I started a Logo Design contest. There are different levels of prizes and the way they pitch it is, the more money you offer (the higher the level) the more exposure you get and the more experienced and successful designers will jump in to try to win.
At first glance, I don’t think their home page did a particularly good job of telling you what their site or service was about. You have to either read more on other pages or watch the video to get a good sense of how it works. I found that to be a bit annoying but I already had a basic understanding so it wasn’t too much of an inconvenience. I mainly wanted to find what the pricing was before hitting the “get started now” button and had to look for a link in the footer of the site to find that info. It’s a bit unusual to have to navigate via the footer to find important bits of info but I found it and all was made clear.
I am starting this store on a pretty small budget and really struggled with what level to come in at for this design contest. There are few things more important to your businesses long term success than your ability to build a brand and your logo is an important part of that. I didn’t want to be cheap in this area but every single dollar counts right now so I didn’t want to spend a penny more than I had to. That’s when I noticed that the designs are guaranteed. That’s right, if you run a design contest and don’t like any of the submissions, you don’t have to award a prize and can request a refund. So, I decided to start with the lowest tier, the Bronze package, and if I didn’t get any logo’s that wowed me, I would request a refund and try it again with a bigger prize.
I know, that may seem unfair to those designers that are working hard at submitting designs but I am certainly not going to settle on something as important as a logo. Luckily I got a ton of submissions. Some weren’t very good but a bunch were great. Once the first “great” one came in I guaranteed the contest which means I guaranteed I would pick one of the entries as the winner so someone would get paid. It was a relief to see so many designers interested in coming up with a logo for my new store, especially since I didn’t have a good idea on what I really wanted.
I really liked the process that they use. They do the contest in stages. In the first stage, designers submit designs an you rate them and provide them with feedback. It took some time to go through the submissions but I am convinced the reason I was so happy with the end result was because I took the time to rate and give the designers feedback so they would tweak and submit new designs. After the first 4 days, you narrow down the results and just pick your top favorites and send them on to the final round. They have another 3 days to submit designs to you and get your feedback before the contest is over and you need to pick a winner.
I ended up with not only a really great logo but with a graphic designer I intend to use for my future needs. I haven’t had a ton of experience with 99designs but I was very happy with the experience I did have and highly recommend them if you are looking for design ideas. I used them for my logo but they have contests for plenty of other design projects like web site design, product packaging, book cover design and more. Check them out at 99designs and start a contest of your own.