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If you’ve recently launched your own blog or website, running a design contest to come up with an killer logo design may not be high on your do list.
But at some point, it probably will be.
Let’s imagine you’re really love reading crime dramas. You walk into your local book store one day, and there on the shelf is the greatest crime drama in a generation. Another Godfather.
But it’s got this plain grey cover with a thin, barely visible heading.
It’s likely you’d walk right past it.
It’s your blog’s content that really matters, but there’s no denying that attractive branding can help to get eyes on your content.
The decision to start outsourcing certain things on your site is a tough one, especially if you’ve bought inexpensive hosting, and you’re trying to keep costs low until your blog becomes “profitable”.
But any business, at some point, needs to consider focusing on what they do best, and outsourcing the things other people can do best.
I’ve tried some of the free logo makers, but the experience reminded me of when I’d try to trim my daughter’s hair. After an hour of frustration, I’d take her to a shop and pay someone to correct my mistakes and get it done right.
99 Designs is one of the more popular companies specializing in logo creation and branding solutions. I recently gave it a try, and came away with 7 tips that’ll help you to get the most out of the process.
Here's how the process works:
When you click to launch your 99 Designs contest, you’ll be guided to write a short brief describing the type of logo you’re looking for.
Your brief will then be made available to their pool of designers. Designers each have a rating of entry level, middle, or top level.
Any designer can read your brief and submit a few ideas based on it, but they have a 4-day window of time to submit it to you.
This 4-day period is called the Qualifying Round. Typically, you’ll receive a dozen or more designs during that 4-day period.
When the four-day Qualifying Round expires, you’ll be asked to choose finalists from all the designers’ submissions. You can choose a maximum of six finalists.
After you choose finalists, 99 Designs considers your design contest “guaranteed”. This means you do intend to go ahead, so you’ll no longer be entitled to a refund.
Being a finalist in a guaranteed design contest is important to the designer because during the qualifying round, they’re submitting designs to you free of charge. Being picked as a finalist means they now have a chance to be paid.
The Final round lasts for 3 days. During this round, you’ll ask the finalists for whatever revisions you want. On the third day, you’ll pick the winning design.
7 Tips to get your best 99 Designs logo
Overall, the 99 Designs contest is a pretty simple process, but taking on anything new can leave you feeling like you could have done better if you were just a little more familiar with it.
If you’re considering a logo design, or if you’re just tossing around some branding logo ideas, these 7 tips will help to get your best results.
1. Create a brief before you begin your campaign
When you launch your design contest, you’ll be asked to write a short brief about your site that potential designers will read. They’ll use your brief to get an idea of how best to portray your site in their logo design.
As soon as I began my design brief, it was apparent that I should have thought more about this before clicking Start.
Using a logo design app seems simple enough, but when you’re trying to convey what you want to someone who knows nothing about your business, all kinds of questions come to mind.
For instance, if you write a fitness blog, does it cater to 30-45 year old women who don’t have time for a gym and are looking for at home activities? Or maybe middle-aged men looking for a combination of weightlifting and diet tips?
To give designers a clear idea of the type of logo design you’re looking for, try to describe these characteristics of your site:
- Your brand and the type of business – just a couple sentences.
- Your target audience – for instance, owners of border collies, or people growing succulents at home, or breast feeding moms.
- The values you want your design to communicate – What feelings or messages should the reader get by your logo? Casual, Confident, Warm, Trusting, etc.
- Style preferences – Is there a certain visual style you like? Secure and comforting, bold and colorful, clean and minimal, retro or vintage? Are there other logos you like?
- Colors – Do you already have brand colors? What are their hex codes? You can also select the option for “let designers make suggestions”. I was surprised that my designer had detailed explanations about why he chose certain colors. He knew exactly what feelings certain colors evoke.
- Example images – Like they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. If there are other logos you admire, you can upload images and comment on why you like certain designs. You can also create a Pinterest board of logos you admire and link to it.
Spending the time to write down exactly who you’re writing to, and how you want to convey your message will result in a great design brief.
And that will attract more responses from experienced designers.
2. Browse multiple designers sample logos and invite the ones you like
if you were throwing a party you wouldn’t just put a sign outside right? You’d send invites to the people you want to spend time with.
It’s the same here.
When you launch your design contest, your brief is available to designers of all levels, and any of them can submit their ideas for your logo. But you can also invite specific designers to submit their ideas.
I’d say 75% of the logo designs I received during the 4-day qualifying round were submitted by entry-level designers. In the last day or two I did receive two or three designs from mid-level designers.
You’ll get better results by spending a little time browsing through their designers sample logos before you launch your campaign.
There are two ways you can do this:
I just started browsing one by one, and looking at their logo designs. Some, I eliminated right away because their designs just didn’t match my taste. Others were really impressive and I got lots of good ideas.
You can also use the Designer Search utility which lets you filter designers on things like category, experience level, or specific search terms.
Just click Designers, then Find New Designers on the top menu.
Fill in your filters and when you see the results, click to view more of their portfolio. If you like what you see, click to invite them, and they’ll receive a copy of your brief.
There’s no guarantee they’ll accept your invite, but hey you’ve gotta ask for what you want right?
Whichever method you use to invite specific designers, you’ll be given space to include a note to them. It’ll help if you mention why you’re inviting them.
Were there a few designs that caught your eye? Which ones, and what is it you like about them?
3. You Have the Option of Extending Your Qualifying Round
The objective of 99 Designs is to match you up with a designer who can deliver exactly what you want. But sometimes, for whatever reason, it’s possible to reach the end of the 4-day qualifying round without a logo design that grabs you enough to develop it further.
I’m not sure how often this happens, but for me it did.
I don’t fault 99 Designs or their designers. I probably could have written a better design brief, and I could have invited more designers.
99 Designs offers you the option of selecting a 3-day extension period so you can cast your net a bit wider. You still haven’t committed any money yet, so before you do, it’s a good option to select if you reach the end of the qualifying round and you’re not ready to go ahead yet.
4. Be aware of time zone differences
Many of the logo designers work in Europe, so there’s a good chance your designer is starting his/her day when you’re going to bed.
I’ve received emails around bedtime alerting me either that I have a new design submitted, or a designer has submitted a revision.
They’re probably waiting for your comments to know whether their design is something they might need to revise, or if it doesn’t match what you’re looking for.
You’ll help yourself by replying right away so they’ll have a chance to work while you’re sleeping.
This is especially true once you zero in on a design or two, and you’re asking for revisions. If one or two designers know they’ve made it to your final round, they’ll be anxious to get it just right so they get paid for the winning design.
The quicker you reply, the better results you’ll get.
5. Be Specific with your feedback
You’ll get notifications when a designer has either submitted a brand new design, or has made a revision to one you’ve already seen.
When you respond to a designer, try to be specific with suggestions.
- Can we try it with only the blue and white and leave out the green? or
- Can you emphasize the word ‘Fitness’ more”?
Makes the designer’s job much easier than:
- Can you make the overall design pop more?
You’re not being picky by asking for specific revisions. The designer wants to deliver a logo design you’re happy with, and having a clear idea makes his/her job easier.
6. There'll be an up-sell at the end
If you’ve already settled on a specific font and brand colors, you can request those on your brief, but just be aware that if you don’t, they’ll want you to pay for that information.
I noticed this after I picked the winning design, then sent a quick email to the designer asking to know the name of the font, and the hex codes for the colors he used.
He responded by offering me 99 Design’s “Brand Guide”. For an extra $80 they’ll supply you with a guide that details:
- Brief information about your company (from info that you supply)
- Sample Logo Usage – Tips on how and where to use your logo.
- Fonts used in your design
- Color Palette used (hexcode of the colors)
- Glossary of terms – where and how to use certain file types.
I only supplied one specific color, and asked him to accent it with a color he felt would work. And I didn’t suggest any fonts because I wanted to see what he came up with.
I didn’t buy the Brand Guide because it’s not hard to find out what font and colors were used, and I wasn’t sure the rest of it was worth $80.
Maybe if I had seen a sample Brand Guide I might have been sold, but just a heads up that you’ll see this offer after you award the winner.
7. Consider the option of guaranteeing your payment up front
I may have seen the option to “guarantee” my design contest right from the start, but I didn’t understand why I might want to select it.
When you launch your design contest, you’re not obligated to pay anything during the 4-day qualifying round. It’s not until the end of the qualifying round when you select finalists that you’ll need to guarantee payment.
At that point, you’re reasonably sure you’re going to end up with a logo design you’re satisfied with. It’s just a matter of going through some revisions and tweaking things.
But one thing I noticed, is that at the end of my qualifying round, most of the submitted logo ideas were from entry-level designers. Two or three were mid-level, but I received no logo ideas from top level designers.
Even when I sent out several invitations, only one top designer responded.
Being new to the process, it didn’t occur to me to look at the process from a designers perspective.
Top level designers are probably busy. And If he/she sees 15 new design contests, and of those, 3 are already guaranteed but the other 12 are not, they’re more likely to respond to the guaranteed campaigns.
When I sent out invitations to top level designers, I still hadn’t selected the guaranteed option, but if I had, it’s likely that more of them would have submitted logo ideas for my design contest.
8. Consider running a blind contest
By default, logo design contests on 99Designs are open, meaning all designers can see what other designers have submitted.
There’s also an option for a blind contest where designers can only see what they have submitted.
In an open contest, it’s possible for designers to be too influenced by what’s already been submitted, and by the ratings you’ve given. So you could end up with less variety and originality.
It’s also the reason why more experienced designers will often submit their design just before the qualifying round expires.
The help section states that your first contest on 99Designs must be open. But you can request they make it closed instead.
Why bother paying for a logo design?
I understand the hesitation to pay someone for a logo design when it’s possible to come up with something yourself.
But what finally moved me to consider outsourcing this, was something I heard someone say a few weeks ago that stuck with me…
“Your blog is not your business”.
She was emphasizing the fact that new bloggers often develop a “page views” mentality where their sole focus becomes qualifying for a premium ad network.
Her point being, that page views can fluctuate, and therefore should only be considered an entry point to your funnel – a platform for your business.
And if page views are a platform for your business, then what exactly is your business?
When you start to think in terms of “your business” instead of your properly key worded blog, then all sorts of questions bubble to the surface. Questions like:
- Does my business have a consistent message that resonates with my target audience?
- What are the characteristics of my brand, and how will people recognize it?
A logo may be just a tiny piece of your overall brand, but it’s the most recognizable piece. And while you’ve focused for a year or more on developing your own writing style, other people have spent that same time becoming a good designer.
At some point, any business owner needs to consider outsourcing certain tasks in order to focus on your own expertise. This is what prompted me to spend the equivalent of a month’s electric bill to finally complete something I’d been tossing around for months.
Could I have come up with a logo design myself? Sure. I can also put a new roof on my house, but it’d take me a month to do a lousy job, when someone else can do it well in a day.
If you’ve been blogging for awhile and are beginning to consider your business, rather than your collection of key worded posts, then the topic of branding will probably come to mind.
When it does, you’ll need to lay the foundation in the way of your message, and your target audience. But once you do, there are talented people that can help you to amplify it and make it recognizable.
99 Designs is one of the more popular sites to get a logo design. So if you decide to try them out, these tips should help you to come away with a logo you love.
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