My first experience with crowd-sourced design was four years ago. I sponsored a contest to design a new logo for my blog. I paid $200 and received 280 entries in seven days. I am still using that design to this day, albeit tweaked a bit since the original.
Since then, I have sponsored three design contests:
- A logo for my Get Noticed! Theme for WordPress
- A logo for my new publishing company (more about that at a another time)
A cover for my upcoming ebook, The Virtual Assistant Solution.
I don’t use design contests for every project. In fact, I use traditional designers for most. But when I am stuck or need something fast, I am increasingly turning to crowd-sourced design.
This happened a few weeks ago in the design of my new ebook. I worked with three traditional designers over an eight-week period. The designers did their best, but I just wasn’t happy with the results.
So, with the publication deadline looming, I decided to create a contest on 99Designs. I am so glad I did. I had a terrific experience.
I would heartily recommend 99Designs to anyone needing a book cover, logo, or other project designed. Here are four reasons why:
- It’s efficient. Because crowdsourcing relies on a crowd of designers, it must be efficient to work. Companies like 99Designs require you to submit a “design brief,” which forces you to get clear on what you want—and what the designer must do to meet your expectations.
Designers submit their work publicly for everyone to see, including fellow designers. Though there are strict rules about copying ideas, this visibility, I believe, stimulates creativity. It also helps you get clear on what you like and don’t like.
For example, I had forty-one designers submit 382 designs over the course of my book cover design contest. This happened in less than a week. I saw ideas I would have never considered. I eliminated most in the first round, but I was still left with lots of designs with potential.
- It’s inexpensive. In my thirty-plus years in book publishing, I was involved in the design of thousands of book covers. I was always surprised at how much we paid for design. It wasn’t unusual to spend $5,000 (or more) on a book jacket.
This was in part because it was hard to find great designers. The experienced ones didn’t have a lot of competition, so they could command high fees. Crowdsourcing changes all that. (I realize that traditional designers hate this. More about that here.)
Through the power of networking and the free market, costs come down fast. No one is forced to participate, of course. It’s a voluntary system. But you can get a decent book cover design for $400–500.
- It’s fast. The design process is usually fairly slow. You tell a designer what you need. You go back and forth a few times to make sure you are clear on expectations and deliverables and then you wait for the first few “comps.”
You might then discuss the designs with your team and then share your input with the designer. The designer then revises and resubmits. You will likely go through this process several times. It can easily take 2–4 weeks.
With crowdsourcing, the entire process is much faster. I don’t know if it is the power of competition or the use of technology, but it usually takes just seven days from start to finish.
- It’s social. 99Designs has polling built in. This means you can select up to eight designs and ask your family, friends, or followers for their input. They can rate each design and leave a comment as well.
I got 2,876 votes on my book cover design project. Such a bountiful response gave me a clear winner. Obviously, I have a lot of followers, but the results didn’t change much after about two hundred votes.
The comments were hugely helpful. They helped me fine tune the design still further, including a critical change to the subtitle. This is the closet thing you can get to focus group testing before you launch.
If you need a design for a new business or project, I encourage you to give 99Designs a try. Not only is the process efficient, inexpensive, fast, and social, it’s just plain fun. I love the back and forth with the designers and the joy of collaborating with other people in seeing my vision come to life.