Outsourcing Design (aka Looking Good on a Budget)

Jan 19, 2015 | Business

As you may have noticed, Moraware recently adopted a new logo and new business cards. We’re happy with the improvement – and very happy to report that it was cheaper and easier than you might think.

Maybe you’ve lived through a painful design project, one that used this old time-honored process:

  1. Research graphic designers / design firms.
  2. Interview a few of them.
  3. Pick one or two of them.
  4. Cross your fingers, hope you like the designs & pay the bill regardless of the results.

Want to make the process less time-consuming, cheaper and less risky?  Meet 99designs.com

Design Competition

99 Designs functions like a competition. You create a contest, specifying the type of project (logo, website, advertisement, etc.) and the prize (they will recommend a range). You also need to provide guidance on the project and context on your brand & customers. For instance, if you’re designing a logo and your target audience is professional females age 30-45, specify that in the contest requirements. If you have a specific trademark color for your business, include the exact color (either RGB value, pantone color, etc.) otherwise you’ll get lots of interpretations of “dark blue”.

Be specific in your requests and try to avoid jargon, as many designers are based in Asia or Europe and for some English is a second language. My two favorite designers on our project were not native English speakers, so it’s not a big deal. Just something to consider as you write your guidelines.

You can choose to guarantee the contest prize, meaning you commit to awarding one of the designers at the end of the contest. If you do not guarantee the prize, you won’t attract the better caliber of designers, and they won’t invest time making variations on designs you like. So definitely consider guaranteeing the prize – it’s a fraction of what you’d have paid a dedicated designer anyway.

Choosing the best

Once you kick off your contest, the design concepts will begin to trickle, and then flood in! As you view each design, you can choose to eliminate it or grade (1-5 stars). More importantly, you can provide feedback on the design concepts you like, such as increase font size or “make it less pointy.” You don’t have to use design lingo, but as you provide this kind of feedback, the designers will provide concepts that are closer to your taste.

At the end of the contest period (which you specify – typically a week), you pick up to five designers to work with. You have them refine the logos and ultimately select the winner. Once a winner is selected, you’ll be able to download your new design files and the prize money is released from escrow to the winning designer.

And if you ever have any questions or problems, I found 99designs customer support to be excellent – nearly as good as Moraware support!

Here are some lessons we learned:

  • We paid $500 for our design. We are happy with the quality of the submissions we received, but perhaps it would have been better to offer a bit less. The sheer quantity of logo designs was at times overwhelming, with 759 designs from 265 different designers!
  • Become ruthless in eliminating designs. If your gut reaction is “meh,” eliminate it. You don’t have to have a specific reason.
  • Require the winning designer to provide the final images in multiple formats, including high resolution, web resolution and other sizes you will need.
  • Once you do a contest and identify a few designers you really enjoy working with, make sure you save their information. If you need a designer for help with another project in the future, you can choose to negotiate a project directly with one or two of your favorite designers instead of managing another contest.

Overall my experience with 99designs was excellent. It’s tempting to over-think these things, but we’re happy with the result. It’s uniquely Moraware.