Looking professional with 99designs

by Scott Austin April 05, 2012

Disclaimer – I am not associated with products/services that I discuss on this blog.  I’m not getting paid/compensated in any way.  It’s just me sharing my opinion.

I'm a big believer in making your startup company look as professional as possible.  And in today's world, it's pretty easy to do just that.  I've already talked about naming your company and how that will help your company's image.  The next step then is for a company logo.  I used the crowdsourcing site 99designs.  On this site, you can get professionals (and some not so professional) design work done.  Common projects include logos, website design, print materials, t-shirts, etc.

Here you can see the project and the final logo. Here is how my logo project went.

First thing is the price.  There is a minimum price for each type of project that is defined by 99 designs.  That price for a logo is $295.  So it is very affordable for a company.  But probably too expensive for personal projects (or at least my personal projects).  99 designs takes your money into escrow from your credit card when you start.  You can cancel the project at any time and get the money returned if you wish.  So there is minimal risk there.

Your project becomes a competition with people from around the world submitting ideas.  You will be getting submissions, questions and updates 24/7 as people enter their working hours around the globe.  And if your project gets a lot of attention, you will have a high volume of correspondence for the project.  So be prepared to actively manage the project for the duration.  The process took me many iterations to get finished.  To make that work make sure you're not on vacation or doing something that will consume all of your time.  I was constantly managing my project to keep it moving forward.

As people come from around the world, you'll run into language issues.  So you need to be very specific in your instructions on what you want and don't want.  For example, if you are set on orange as a color that must be included and just as adamant that purple should not be, then state that in your design doc.  Still, I found some of the artists were unable to follow directions or act on feedback.

You'll probably get a lot of submissions.  My project had 230 designs from 22 designers.  So the first thing you want to do is weed out the bad designers (or ones whose design sense does not appeal to you). I had some horrible designs/designers. Don't give them a second or third chance. The site easily allows you to say no to a design or a designer.  Use that feature liberally so you can focus on designs you like.  One way to get better designers is to guarantee your project.  This is basically you giving up your right to cancel the project and get a refund of your money.  So some of the better designers wait for a project to be guaranteed before they enter the competition.  Because someone is going to get the money on a guaranteed project. I also think that another reason for designers to wait is so they can see the direction the competition is going and iterate on the best ideas.  So, once you are confident that your project has attracted designers that can deliver you a winner, guarantee the project.

Check your designer out.  You can see a portfolio of their 99 designs work and if they have won any designs in the past.

I found my designers to be very poor on communication.  I would provide feedback or ask questions.  Rarely did I get a response.  Though they would submit updated designs.  I think the main reason for this was language. One of the things that got designers communicating was to complain about other designers stealing their ideas.  My observation was that no-one was flat out stealing designs.  But there was a that of evolution and iteration.  I choose to ignore the bickering and that seemed to help quiet it down.  Back to the iteration though.  My designers lacked innovation or new ideas.  I was even asking for folks to try something completely different.  Very few took the challenge.

99designs has survey tools that you can use throughout the process.  I ran a number of surveys during my project.  I wanted to get broader feedback on designs.  It was a great tool for me.  Though my social network grew weary of my surveys.  Engagement dropped off for each subsequent survey.  So you may want to have just a couple at important milestones.

When I finally picked the winner, I got the original files (.ai) for the logo and legal rights to it.  That process was very smooth.  And it allowed me to change a couple of details which I did. So the net for me is:

  • The 99 designs service works very well.  They have thought the process through and made it as simple as possible.
  • The designers are good.  Definitely not great.  But you get what you pay for.
  • I'd definitely use them again.
Scott Austin
Scott Austin