Earlier today I mentioned a company called 99designs to someone who was looking to get a book cover done. 99designs is a crowd sourcing company that runs “contests” to deliver on what the user wants. I’ve used their services before and was very pleased with the results. After I mentioned 99designs I received the following tweet:
— Saket Jajodia (@SaketJajodia) April 25, 2013
I responded that I’m going to have to agree to disagree and here’s why…
First, I’ll admit that within those three links are very valid points regarding copyright, etc., however most of the perspective seems to be coming from the “community”.
1. The “Community” needs a stronger argument.
In the links above, there was mention that design contests are very bad for the design community. Reason being is it doesn’t give much value to designers, and that there’s no quality in the designs delivered in the contests, etc.
Well, to be honest when I used 99Designs, I really didn’t expect to get good results. I was wrong. I got awesome designs, and it was really hard for me to choose which one I wanted.
Guess what? I’m a designer!
As a designer, would I ever participate in a contest like this? No I wouldn’t, but that’s me. When you’re a designer you have to decide for yourself if something like a contest is worth it. Yes, these designers may do something quick, some of the designs are straight garbage, but a few of them come out really nice.
If you have to participate in thousands of contests to make some money, then that’s your prerogative, but that’s not for me to judge. Everyone has to make a living, so it’s strange to me how other “agencies” or “designers” get upset or annoyed at something like crowd sourcing.
If you’re a designer trying to make a business by creating logos for clients, then you need a strong selling proposition to tell the prospect why they should spend more money with you as oppose to less money with crowd sourcing websites.
These designers don’t take time to understand the brand.
When you first sign up, you have to give a scope for your project. You are required to explain what your company is about, what message you want to convey, the styles you like, etc. Someone who is spending $299 for a logo shouldn’t expect a designer to do hours of research on the company and learn the ins and outs of the brand. The designers should be expected to design and create based off of the scope that you pre-filled.
Most small businesses aren’t even looking to go that in-depth with their logos. Mid-size to large companies may be looking for extensive research, but not small businesses. Chances are, if you interview a small mom and pop shop to get intel on their business to learn their branding, you’ll have a very short conversation.
A simple logo design is not branding
Perhaps this should’ve been the first reason listed. Let’s not get the definition of logo design twisted with notions on what branding is. A logo design is not branding. Branding is expensive. Branding is color choice, font-selection, imagery, etc. If you do any graphic work for a large company, chances are they’ll send you a book of guidelines and extensive details on how to use their brand.
Branding is very expensive and to most small business, it’s not worth it to “brand” their company. Having some type of symbol or type treatment that represents their company on business cards, letter heads, etc., is more likely what they’ll spend their money on. As a company grows, then they may grow into a branding strategy.
What does the client want?
You can spend thousands of dollars on logo design, but why? As technology and web trends change for the better, I feel like clients are also getting smarter.
For tight budgets, you have to count every dollar. Every dollar you spend is an investment in your business.
So with that said, why would small businesses and startups spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on a logo.
I think the solution that 99designs provides is right on par with their audience.
In my situation, I just wanted a nice looking logo. I’m a web designer, graphic design is a little difficult for me. I’m not rich so I don’t have tons of money to hire a single designer/agency to create a logo for me. To be honest, I didn’t even want that. I wanted to see what ideas people would come up with that would represent my company according to my scope.
I wasn’t obligated to pay the fee, in fact, I was able to get a full refund if I didn’t like any of the designs offered. However, I saw a few that I liked and I chose a winner. I got exactly what I wanted for the price I wanted.
Here’s the kicker
I’m an affiliate of 99designs, but I’m not posting the link in this article at all. Mainly because it’s not about sending people to 99designs. It’s about finding the right product for the right clients.
Maybe design contests aren’t the solution for you, maybe they are. If you don’t have a lot of money and you’re not looking for a full branding package, then do what’s best. I personally went with 99designs because it filled my needs but there are may other solutions out there.
I think I touched on everything, but if I missed something, please let me know in the comments and I’ll be happy to reply or add to this post.