99designs Contest Tips - graphic, logo, and web design crowd sourcing

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10 tips on using 99designs for logo, graphic, and web designs

Design contests are the best way for someone to buy a design. It provides the contest holder with many options and ideas. Often the contest holder is given an option that's even better than what it has in mind. However there is a cost (contest fee and time) involve and to get the best solution you must be prepare and invest your time in getting the most out of it.

99Designs is one of the most popular contest holding sites. Recently I started my contest and was quite impressed with the entries that I got. However I did not passively sit back, I researched and tried extensive techniques to get the most out of it. Since you are investing so much time and money, as well as your brand or website will be using the product for a long time, it's worth it to do it right.

Below are the 10 tips I recommend in getting the most out of the contest.

And check out my list of top designers.

1. Contact Designers

contact designer on 5 of the 8 designers that entered my contest was from the pool of 25 designers I contacted. I spent quite a bit of time researching and contacting the right designers. My contest award was low so that deterred many designers. It was made up from my hard work. Be selective do not contact designers with designs you don't like, it wastes their time and your time.

The best way is to flatter them. Tell them how you love their style sense and how they would be perfect for your contest (that's the truth right?).

I held another contest and this time I selected the second tier prize. I ended up with a lot more entries but ultimately the top designers were from my invite.

2. Provide constant feedback, quickly!

feedback for your design project Most likely the first version submitted by a designer is not what you'll end up with. The goal is to provide as much feedback as quickly as you can, that will keep them motivated and on the ball and submit more designs. As well they might need to go 4-5 revisions so the sooner you provide feedback the more revisions you can get before the contest ends.

3. Tell them what you like

Along with providing feedback what helps is to tell everyone publicly the elements you like. You can do this at the main contest page. For example you can write "I like how #13 have the good clean layout with consistent spacing". Remember that when you write in the comment for each designer, people do not see it. When you are individually reviewing the submission you can tell the designer to match elements of other designs.

At the end there should be several solutions that look very much alike. Don't be afraid if that is the case, that is the ideal design you want.

4. Provide full supporting documents

Remember to provide your logo, pictures, and company graphic designs elements so the designers can use it in the design and to get a feel of your company. If you see a designer ask for something, attach it to the brief, you can attach as much as you like after the contest started.

Things to provide:

  • logo

  • pictures

  • fonts

  • other design elements such brush strokes or icons

  • company brochure, posters, or business cards

Elements of a web 2.0 logo

8 principles of a Web 2.0 logo

For samples and find out more details from the source: How to make Web 2.0 Logos.


5. Write full details in your description

Go in with a direction but keep your mind open.

Provide as much direction as you can but also note that you would like them to break the requirements as they see fit. I included a layout of what I envision the site to be but another designer added an element that I didn't put in my layout but looked amazing so I told every one about this and other designers changed their layout.

If there are any particular colour codes for your logo, provide it.

6. Guarantee your prize

Increase confidence and get more people to enter

guarantee prize Guaranteeing your prize will build confidence from the designers and get you more submissions. I recommend you doing this as soon as you know you will go with a particular designer. The design does not need to be perfect, usually the designer is more than eager to provide changes to make you happy.

The sooner you guarantee your prize the more time you will have with motivated designers. That's why it's important to provide as much feedback at the beginning as possible so you'll get a design you like and guarantee sooner.

7. Sort out the details as soon as you can

Think about the whole project not just this contest

It is expensive and time consuming to organize these contests so likely you would like your winning designer to more work in the future. If not then you should consider this, finding a good designer is hard and providing a consistent theme for your brand is important. I would recommend you sort out the pricing and other details as soon as you feel that the designer is right for you. For example tell him what you need, ask him about his skills, and what prices does he charges. That way you will feel confident in investing your time in coaching him along.

It is also important to make sure the communication styles match. Make sure he responds quickly and answers your question clearly. For me I look for response within 24 hours and that each point I brought up is addressed. If you find that some of your points are missed or if they do not understand you, this could be a red flag. Communication could also be your issue too, if you see that many designers are not understanding you then it's probably you and not them.

The worst is if you find someone you like then realize that you guys can't come to terms with designing additional pages to your site. As well as before you select the winner you have the negotiating advantage.

8. Show them what you want

Pick sites you like and explain why

Graphic designers are visual people it is a easier to communicate with them in pictures then in words. Before you start your contest discover what you like and compile it. You can send them links to your favourite sites. But I recommend that you browse through template sites, it has a larger variety; you can browse a lot quicker; and you'll eliminate those dreaded moments when you think, what site should I go to now.
Template Sites

When you attach the templates, note what you like about it such as the colours, how clean it is, the layout, the cool icons etc. It is important to have a direction first and show only consistent ideas. Don't pick one that is nice clean and conservative with blue and also pick a funky one with red and orange and add it. Only pick the ones where you can envision that being your site.

9. Don't forget to remind them

If you forget, they will too

When you send messages to designers some will contact you and say they will do it. When there are a few days left and if they haven't submitted a design yet, send them an email reminding them. If you have the time and or you would like more design ideas you can send a message to all the people you contacted first.

I have tried this and for me it didn't work out too well. I had 3 people who said they would submit but haven't yet so I contacted them. One told me he was busy and the other did not reply. I suspect that they saw how competitive it was and they did not have a good chance to win. Please let me know if this worked for you.

10. Prepare for the busy last 24 hours

You can expect a lot of things happening around the last 24hrs

deadline 99designs I suggest you book some time in your calendar for the last 24hours, that's when a lot of things happen. This is crunch time and many of your designers are many final changes to you, it's important that you are available to give feedback and accept revisions. While your designers can be from anywhere in the world you don't need to be there for the whole 24 hours, just make sure you check in throughout the day.

With this in mind I suggest you start your contest on Tuesday so that the last 24 hours fall on Monday. This is good for you because you will be in the office (if you have an office). As well as the designers can work on Monday to finalize it, Monday is more likely chance that they are free then on Sunday. Also recommend starting your contest earlier in the week as people get more busy later on.

List of top designers

Don't know where to start? You can check out my list of designers I hand picked.

Ask me anything about 99Design contest!

Got a question, want some personal help, ask your questions here.

  • Good information. I had my first logo designed by a contest on 99Design and wish I had read this first.
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