Above you see my logo that represents my business of helping wool industry businesses with their online and social media communications. Do you like it?
I had this logo developed through the online platform called 99designs and was very happy with the whole process and outcome. In this blog post, I want to share with you my experience and inspire you to try 99designs for the next design job you need to accomplish.
What is 99designs?
99designs is world’s largest online graphic design marketplace where people like you and me can get access to a large number of graphic designers. In simple terms: You post your graphic design briefing on 99designs, thousands of graphic designers see it and if interested submit their ideas via the platform of which you choose your favourite one.
How does 99designs work exactly?
At 99designs you can have a large variety of designs be developed for you. Starting from a logo and brand identity to websites, clothes, books and magazines, business cards, invitations, packaging etc. Once you know what kind of design you need you can start the process. In my case, I wanted a logo designed for my business along with some social media headers. Here are the steps you go through.
Write a briefing
The first step of launching your design project on 99designs is to register to the site and start writing a little design brief with the help of questions provided by 99designs. You need to define what kind of design you need such as a logo, a business card, a flyer etc. You also tell them about your business and give them an idea of what kind of style you prefer by liking different existing logos shown to you.
Choose a design package
The second step is to choose one of the four so called design package. In other words, you define how much you are willing to pay for the design. Design packages are defined as Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. The cheapest package starts at US$ 299 and the most expensive package is at US$ 1,299. The difference in the packages is the number of designs you can expect as well as the quality of designs. More experienced designers will only contribute designs to higher priced packages. I chose the Gold package at US$ 799 because I love good design and wanted to have access to high-quality designers and a larger number of designs to choose from.
Launch your contest
Once you have set everything up, you launch your design contest. This means that your briefing will be made available to the 99designs community around the world. According to the 99designs website, there are around 1.1 million designers signed up to take part in contests. Every designer who is interested in your briefing and pricing package will then start to develop design ideas for you based on your briefing.
Review first results and give feedback
Designers will submit their designs daily, therefore you need to be available to log into your 99designs account daily to review the submissions. By indicating which designs you like you give designers a chance to either adapt their already submitted designs or to create new ones based on your feedback. You can also send direct messages to designers to help them shape their ideas according to your needs and preferences. The more time you invest in the beginning the better your final result will be.
Update your briefing if needed
Once you see the first designs coming in you might realise that many designs have a similar feature that you actually don’t like. This means that you should adapt your briefing accordingly.
In my original design briefing, I had defined my preferred colours of navy blue and orange. Once I saw the designs using those colours I realised that I did not actually like those two colours at least not for my logo. So I adapted the briefing accordingly and then started to receive logo designs in grey, white and mint which felt spot on for me.
Commit your budget
All 99designs packages offer a money back guarantee, which means if you don’t like anything you don’t need to pay. However, there is also the option to commit your budget. This means that you are committing to chose a final design and that you will pay. Once you see that the designs submitted go into the right direction and you get the feeling that you will be able to find the right design for you, then I recommend committing your budget. Once you commit your budget you will most likely receive even more designs being submitted as well as higher quality of designs coming in. Many top level designers only participate in design competitions if the money is guaranteed.
Ask friends for their favourites
99designs also offers the possibility to give access to your submitted designs to your colleagues and friends so that they can tell you which designs they like. Always good to get a second, third and fourth opinion as not every design resonates with people in the same way.
Choose your final design
After 7 days your design contest comes to an end and it is time to choose your final design. At first, you choose the best 6 designs and ask these designers for minor changes if needed and give the designers a chance to refine their work if they wish. Once that step is completed you then choose your winner.
Get your final design
Once you have your winner you are put in touch with the designer directly. You can discuss minor changes if needed but in general, the designer creates the different formats of your design as needed and makes them available to you for download on the 99designs platform. In my case, I took the package of a logo and social media headers. The process was smooth and quick. Once the designer gives you the download files and you approve everything the designer gets paid automatically through the platform.
What are the benefits of 99designs?
I had a very positive experience having my logo designed through 99designs. I find there are several advantages of using this platform.
The price you pay for receiving a good design that you like is low and you know that this is the price you really end up with. Often when you work with one agency the price offer can be low at first, but as you go through the process additional costs may occur. Here you can budget the amount of the package you wish to choose and there is no need for a buffer.
As each package comes with a money back guarantee, you have a low risk of investment. If designs are really not what you expected, you can stop the process and don’t leave any money on the table.
Large number of designs to choose from
I loved the pure number of designs I was able to choose from. In fact, for my logo design project, I had over 240 submissions. Some of them were variations of the same design, but still, that was a huge amount of choice and much more than if you would work together with one single design agency. Lots of designs also mean lots of different tastes and styles that can ensure there is also your taste and style among the designs. A large number of designs is especially helpful if you are not so sure what kind of design you are looking for, then you get closer and closer by eliminating what you don’t like and ending up with the direction you like.
Continue working with a designer you like
If you found a designer you really like there are possibilities for you to continue working with the designer through the 99designs platform as well.
Make your contest private
Generally the design competition is visible on the platform, however, if you are worried that your competition will see what you are working on then you can set your competition to private. This means designers don’t get to see what other designers are submitting and nobody but you has access to the designs.
What to watch out for when using 99designs?
Although 99designs is a very easy and smooth process to go through there are a few things to look out for.
Have a clear briefing
The designs you get are only as good as your briefing. Make sure you provide all the information you can to ensure designers don’t have to guess what you actually need and want. I, for example, included a scan of a magazine cover where I liked the combination of the colours to give an idea about the colour scheme I liked.
A sheep is not a sheep
When you need a design for a wool product or your wool industry business you might consider having a sheep in your logo. Now as you know there are over 500 sheep breeds in the world. While it is important for us working in wool that the sheep look like a wool sheep and not like a typical meat sheep, this may not be so obvious to the designer. Therefore you need to make the designers aware that any sheep used in the design needs to look a certain way. For my logo, I mentioned that the sheep should be stylised and generic in order to avoid any conflict of what type of sheep my logo represented.
The same is for wool if you have a certain image in your head of how wool should look like (raw wool, wool top, yarn, fabric etc.), let the designers know so that they can get a good start into the right direction. It saves you time as well as the designer.
Be aware of eventual copy cats
When you work in the wool industry you are aware of many logos that already exist in the industry. This is good knowledge to have as some inexperienced designers might copy existing logos and offer you a slight variation of it. For example, one designer created a logo that was using the twirl of the AWI logo. Another one offered me a design that used the sheep of the Campaign for Wool logo. Because I knew that these were rip offs I could eliminate these designers from the competition. This is just a minor issue but something to be aware of as you don’t want to end up with a design that is a copy cat of an existing logo.
Check references of the designer you like
If you have preferences for some of the designs also check out the profile of the designer who submitted it. Each designer on 99designs has his own profile page where you can see the designs they created in the past as well as how often they won design competitions on the platform. In addition, other 99designs customers may have left a review about the designer. All of this information gives you an indication of their experience and builds your own trust for the whole process.
Be clear on the formats you actually need
Within each design category, you can choose different packages. For example, in the ‘Logo & Identity’ category, you can choose between the development of a logo together with business cards, letter head and Facebook cover. Another package includes logo and social media headers or logo and website design. Depending on your needs a certain package might be more interesting to you than others. I chose the logo and social media package as I felt that I didn’t need a letterhead or business card. However, later I realised that I did not use the social media headers either as I created them myself. Looking back a logo only package would have been enough at that early stage in my business. Just think about what you really need and pick the package most suitable to you.
Allocate enough time
The whole design contest takes 7 days. During this period, you should schedule time every day to review the submissions, give feedback, indicate designs you already like etc. Some designs may also have questions for you if something in your briefing was not entirely clear. This process will ensure that the final outcome will be exactly what you are looking for. In other words, you cannot just submit your contest and leave it for 7 days to only have a look at the end because this might mean you will not get the results you are looking for.
What does a logo with 99designs cost?
As mentioned above, there are different packages available. Here is an overview of the prices as of August 2017. Please check prices on the 99designs website as they may change over time.
Bronze: EUR 259 or US$ 299
Silver: EUR 439 or US$ 499
Gold: EUR 699 or US$ 799
Platinum: EUR 1,199 or US$ 1,299
How can I get started with 99designs?
Click this link to visit the website. Create an account and start preparing your briefing. The process is really easy and self-explanatory.
If you need help in putting the briefing together or managing the process, I will be happy to assist you as well.