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May 06

Review – 99designs

99 Designs99designs – A review of my first project.

What is 99designs.com?

99designs is just one of a number of online services that allow users to post design ‘competitions’, where freelance designers (registered and working through 99designs) compete to create your idea.

As some of you may know, recently i have been building my first affiliate website at www.3dprinterprices.net. In order for me to get projects like these off the ground while holding down my day job in advertising is through outsourcing. The web has brought the world a whole lot closer together and made working together even from acrooss the globe easier than ever, and through outsourcing, these new global resources can be harnessed by any business regardless of size.

The concept starts with you as the client, selecting from a wide range of designers presenting their work to you. You then get to narrow it down to just a few of your favorites. The selected designers continue to create more ideas based on your feedback, before you finally select a ‘winner’. After final comments and tweaks, the copyright is agreed and transferred, and ‘master files’ are made available for you to download and use. All work is immediately ready to be put to use in your business and custom designs start at $299 – Bingo!

Whether you need a logo for your business or a set of business cards, or even a brochure and web design, 99designs seems a perfect service to use at first glance, but is it the turnkey solution it claims to be?

 

The process – Getting started.

First things first – you will need to get yourself an account at 99designs.com. Opening the account was pretty straightforward, with easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions. I won’t waste your time rewriting now what you will end up reading later on at the 99designs account setup page, I’ll just say it’s super easy to do and takes about 2 minutes. :)

 

Posting my first project – Let the competition begin!

Ok, so it’s not that dramatic, but it is exciting. So many of us have really great ideas for businesses, services, apps and ebooks, but most of the time they remain just that – great ideas. Posting my first project was taking a ‘committed step’ towards achieving my goal. When I say committed step, I basically mean it’s costing me money to make, so I’d better work hard to get it earning back its cost. It’s so easy when blogs cost nothing, to do nothing. When there’s cold hard cash on the line (even if only $300), you’re more likely to commit to your project and see it through.

 

 

Getting started is simple with step by step instructions.

Posting a brief.

Posting your design brief is also really easy, but it’s worth noting that the more effort and detail you put into your project brief, the more likely you are to get back designs that meet your expectations. So when I was in need of a logo design, I relayed to all the would-be designers some basic info that I wanted featured in the logo, like the name of the company. You can also add a slogan or copy line into the mix for designers to choose to use or not. Think Nike’s “Just Do It” or KFC’s “Finger Lickin’ Good” for good examples of memorable slogans.

I asked for the name “3DPrinterPrices.net” to be used and the simple slogan “Review and compare 3D printers”

Next you get to say a bit about what the company in need of the logo is like. You can describe your business and what exactly your company or service provides. You can talk about your target audience and the things that attract them, as well how you would like to been seen by your audience.

After telling the designers about your company, it’s time to talk about what you want. You will be presented with some broad styles of logos (word, pictorial, abstract, web 2.0) and asked to pick any that might be a good direction for designers to start exploring from. You can even upload images of logos that you particularly like and would want designers to take inspiration from. I strongly recommend adding a bunch of references, so that designers have a clear idea right off the bat of where you would like the look of the final design to head towards.

 

Choosing design “styles” will help to push your idea in the right direction

 

 

Let’s get personal.

In this step, you get to choose the personality of your logo. If you’re serious enough about your business to consider paying to have your logo professionally designed, then you’ll know how important the logo is for telling customers just what kind of company you are. Without a doubt, different logos have different ‘personalities’. To some, the idea of a logo having a personality may sound silly, but I can tell you from my day job of many years in the advertising industry that it makes a big difference. Portraying to people the “tone of voice” that your company has is important for a business of any size.

By tone of voice, I mean the brand or personality that is associated with your business. There’s a good reason why Merrill Lynch’s logo looks strong and serious and the McDonald’s logo looks happy and fun. Or consider Apple, whose logo portrays a cool and lighthearted company, and their biggest competitor, Microsoft, which is more business-like and earnest, yet they both essentially sell the same thing. Your company’s tone of voice could be more important than you think, which is why I hired pros to make these considerations and do the job properly.

Your logo’s characteristics – like feminine/masculine, young/mature, playful/serious – are displayed with an easy-to-use slider for each variable. Want a macho logo? Slide the balance towards a more masculine option. Want to stay neutral? Just leave it in the middle.

After noting any specific colors you want the designers to consider using and checking a few boxes to say where you intend to use your logo (print, online, ad banner, etc), you have an opportunity to add any extra comments or notes that you might have. After that, let the competition begin!

 

The first 48 hours – Don’t get scared now!

Be Patient.

This is easily the scariest part of the process. You’ve taken the time to fill out your details and tell the world all about your awesome company, and you’ve put your money on the line. Where are all my amazing designs? Fear not! Designers work on any number of projects at one time and may well be in the final stages of another design. Sooner or later the first designs start rolling in, and the more you interact with designers, the faster the designs keep coming.

 

Initial designs and posting feedback.

When the first designs start coming in (and they will), you are lucky to find your perfect logo. Designers are not mind readers, so don’t expect the finished article straight away. The design process is exactly that – a process, and the more you engage, the more you get back.

Posting feedback is easily the best way to stir up more designs for your contest. The more feedback you give, the better the chances of ultimately getting the design you want. The more your designers are involved in the project, the better. Post group feedback for everyone to see if things are not looking as you had hoped. Group feedback is also a good place to give individual praise, as it lets others know what you’re liking and why, as well as adding to the sense of competition.

Post feedback as soon as you see that you have a new design. If you’ve just received a design, regardless of time of day (freelancers come from across the world), chances are one of your designers is awake and in “work mode”. A quick reply with some constructive feedback may earn you an extra design without having to wait another day for a response.

Some of the many design concepts I received for 3DPrinterPrices.net

 

Narrowing it down.

Sooner or later you’ll have to pick a winner, but before you do, you get to narrow down the competition to just your favorite designers (not designs!) for the next round. The second (and final) round is a chance to offer more feedback and alterations, all the time receiving new design submissions. This is good for when, like me, you receive a great design idea on the final day of round one and want to explore it further.

Be aware of how much time is left at this point. You will be allowed to make very minor changes (such as color) after choosing a winner, but your design should be pretty much final by the end of round two.

 

 

Picking a winner and transferring ownership.

One of these steps is usually really easy and the other is often very hard. Transferring ownership is as easy as clicking your mouse once you choose your winning design, and that’s where the hard part begins. This is when you realize you should have given more feedback, spent more time developing an idea, been more engaged in the competition. At least it would be, if you hadn’t already read this review! Just another reminder to take the time to be involved with your project, I promise it wil pay off.

 

 

Review.

Why I used 99designs.

Since I come from an advertising background and have studied design for many years, you’d be forgiven for asking why I chose to pay someone else to design my logo. Well, one of the biggest reasons is time. The whole reason I need the logo in the first place is to front a business that I hope will earn me back my time, so I want to be efficient. If a designer (or many designers in this case!) are working on my company logo, it means I’m free to work on other aspects of my online businesses and helps to drive the whole project forward, faster.

Another reason is simply to get a great result. I’ve studied many aspects of design and multimedia, which has given me a great tool set and overview, but have you heard the expression “Jack of all trades, master of none”? Of course we can all design our own logos, our own websites and our own business cards, but chances are the pros do it better. The foundation to any project’s success is getting the best people involved. Why make a good logo on your own, when a great logo can make all the difference?

 

Performance.

The winning 3DPrinterPrices.net logo! Really pleased!

I really enjoyed my experience on 99Designs. My contest was to design the 3DPrinterPrices.net logo and I’m really pleased with the final result. The logo is simple, fun and light, which (after a lot of feedback) was exactly what I was looking for in a logo design.

Setting up the project and posting the brief was a breeze, and interacting with the designers was simple and fun. Along with the feedback, I really liked the star rating and found it very useful in giving designers a quick look at what design concepts I was liking and which ones I wasn’t.

 

 

 

Drawbacks.

To be honest, I really didn’t find any downsides to the service. Sure, one could argue it could be cheaper, but think of how many hours the collective designers put in to try to ‘win’ your money. The only thing I would like to see added is a built-in video chat conferencing system, to allow even better communication with designers, although almost all the freelancers would be happy to talk to you outside of the site using Skype. Overall, there’s very little to complain about here – 99designs is a great service at a great price.

 

Overall.

I was really happy with my first experience with 99designs. I wanted them to take the extra work and stress off my hands, as well as ultimately give me a better end design. I was so pleased with the whole process that I have since used them to create logos for some other projects with equally great results. The website is simple and easy-to-use, as too is setting up your project. I really love how easy it is to interact with designers and give them feedback, it really makes the whole process feel very collaborative and adds to the feeling that you’re in control of your design. While you can buy predesigned logos that you can modify to fit your business, making use of the competition format has been the best way to go, at least for me. Each logo stands alone, specifically for your site and I have consistently gotten amazing results.

 

If you have design ideas, but don’t have time to put them into action, or require a skilled pro to get the job done right, these guys are a must – 99Designs.com.

For those interested in seeing my final logo design fully employed and in action, take a look at www.3DPrinterPrices.net.

 

ThirtySomething

 

 

 

 

 

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