Please take note: In this post I describe an online graphic design process for a business logo we went through with 99Designs. Because businesses evolve over time, the process may now be different than what we experienced, or describe in this blog post. Please visit the 99Designs website to view their current prices and services offered.
In the development of a new small business, there comes a time when you’re ‘ready.’
When you’re fired up, sure in your understanding of your customer or client-to-be.
You might have a goal date for announcing your website or an event where you’d like to debut your product or service, or even The New You.
You also could have come across a coupon online offering significant savings,
as long as you respond before Midnight.
Whatever your motivation…
You know it’s time to create your business logo.
For us, that moment of truth came earlier than expected, nearly a year before my husband and I actually launched a business called, Working Your Retirement.
It seemed any direction we started in, whether website, ebook, live or online training program, would require us to have a visual identity or graphic symbol to complete ‘the look’ of our written or online materials.
Unfortunately, our favorite graphic artist for the past 27 years (also a Baby Boomer) was quite ill, with no idea when she’d be back at her computer and able to support us in our new business venture.
Having worked together for so long, we’d reached such a deep understanding of each other that we could usually get from concept to final draft in three takes, give or take a typo or extra space or two.
So ‘starting from scratch’ to find and hire another graphic artist we liked and who would understand us was a huge deal.
And thinking about how to communicate what we wanted to a stranger loomed even larger.
In my various professional roles as a business consultant and entrepreneur, I’ve worked with many graphic designers and printers to prepare the full range of marketing materials needed by clients (brochures, postcards, business cards, catalogs, conference guides, roadside signs, etc.) along with my own workshop manuals and visuals. I understand how important it is to communicate specifically what we want for a business logo.
This time, though, for my own newest project, all I had to go on ‘in my mind’s eye’ was color.
Which was quite unusual for me. Because typically I have a strong vision and specific ideas about what I want or don’t want in visual images. That clarity allows me to set clear direction and focus, and reduce the number of unfruitful detours.
But for this business logo, about all I was clear on was that I wanted it to work on a white background and that I ‘saw’ the secondary colors of orange, green and purple as more appropriate for the energy of our new venture than the primary colors of yellow, blue or red.
So when I ran across an online coupon for a company named ’99 Designs,’ I clicked through to check it out – mostly because they specifically stated the price of $299.00 for creating a logo.
Having a firm price for a service upfront, rather than being surprised by the number of hours a designer ‘worked’ on a design, sounded great to me.
99Designs has a community of designers from all over the world, who view the various projects posted, and choose to ‘take a chance’ on yours by creating designs for your ‘Contest’ (which is what your design projects are called). The only payment they will receive for their time developing a design for you is if they ‘win’ your contest and you select their design as the one you want.
But how do you work with designers you can’t talk with on the phone or meet with in person, and with whom you will have limited contact? Or, who may speak limited English, if they speak it at all?
Online Design Processes vs The Old School (Using One Designer)
In looking at the 99Designs website, I learned they addressed these communication questions pretty thoroughly by the stages of their process.
I was also able to view some of the currently running design ‘Contests’ as well as completed ones.
It seemed that the more specific guidance you provided to the designers, the more designers would participate (and subsequently, the more likely you’d be to get something that met your specifications).
It was such an incredibly different design process, it intrigued as well as surprised me.
In working with any one individual graphic designer you are going to receive a more narrow range of creative options, because you’re dealing with one person’s view of the world, their interpretation of what you want, their personal preferences and style.
Which is why picking that one ‘right’ designer for your business logo has always been so important.
It was essential that he or she saw the same world you did, could understand your client or customer market enough to know what would appeal to them, and most importantly ‘get you’ and what you and your business were all about.
But with 99Designs’ community of thousands of designers from around the world, there would certainly be no narrow range of creative options presented.
If a designer offered a raw image that was in ‘the ball park’, I saw I could request changes that might make it more to my liking, like asking to see the logo in different colors or fonts, or enlarging or reducing the size of various design elements.
And if I found a designer I liked or who provided the design I ultimately selected, I could continue to work with them through 99designs to create stationery, design our website etc.
This online business logo design contest began to look a lot like an audition process.
From a purely practical standpoint, what finally sold me on trying what was such a radically new approach to graphic design, was that our investment was limited to $299, and we had a way out if the process didn’t work for us or result in a logo design we wanted.
We wouldn’t be charged ‘by the hour’ for designs we didn’t want, or for inefficient work habits that can run up a bill. We had a contract to pay $299 for a completed design of our choosing. That was it.
And after receiving designs during the initial three days of the Contest, we had the option of declaring whether there would definitely be a winner or not.
This option was especially persuasive because it provided two possibilities: (1) refund of our money if none of the designs met our needs and (2) incentive for the designers who would know on the third day that we were seeing some designs we liked.
And since we were asked to give actual numerical ratings to each design and make comments as well, it becomes clear which designs the Contest Holder thinks are most on track – which provides additional focus and direction to other designers.
Designers who chose to participate in our Contest knew they would be offering designs with no assurance that they would be reimbursed for their time spent unless they were declared the Winner of our Contest, and receive the Winner’s share of the $299 fee.
Those who understood our design requirements, and were inspired to create something for us, would participate. Those who didn’t, wouldn’t.
Perhaps they entered logo designs in these contests as a way to flex their creative muscle each day, much like writers try to write every morning or artists want to paint every day.
Whatever their motivation, the process had a good feel to it: People we didn’t know yet were going to help us clarify our vision for our business.
And it was going to happen quickly.
Because in less than 24 hours after finding 99designs, we decided to go for it.
Stay tuned for Part 2.