Recently in my coworking space at Hub Melbourne I have witnessed more and more small businesses looking to 99designs and crowdsourcing sites for their design needs. Time and time again I have explained to people that this is not the best way to get effective design and so thought it was time to finally write up in a blog post why crowdsourcing is bad for you and how you can find and work with a REAL designer. With many of my current clients that have used 99designs in the past I have to spend a lot of time redoing or fixing their logos and designs as there are many problems with what they received. This leads to greater costs for them as they have to effectively pay twice for the logo, once to design and once to fix or redesign it. All these problems could have been avoided in the first place if they found a local designer and worked one on one with them on their design.
Below are some of the reasons that crowdsourcing is not an effective option and some of the problems that are often encountered:
Effort and time spent:
In order for a designer to make a living on a platform like 99 designs they have to be able to do many many logos for many competitions as the odds of them ‘winning’ are low. Because of this they pump out designs and spend as little time as possible on entries submitted as there is no guarantee that they will be paid. For you, yes you get many options, but the effort, research and attention to detail in those logos will not be there. The best designs come from strong original ideas which require research (e.g into competitors, the market, the target audience etc), time and thought in order to come up with that suits your business.
Time and time again I have seen people get logos 99designs they were happy with only to find that ideas and parts of the logo are direct copies of other peoples logos (rendering them unusable). Once again with designers on 99 designs spending as little time as possible on the logos they go looking at other people work and copying part of logos and designs they find online. Working with a reputable local designer you will avoid the risk of this happening and ensure you get an original design that is not plagarised.
Quality and attention to detail:
I have seen many crowdsourced logos that are poorly drawn with poor attention to the fine details of the logo. This might be fine when the logo is small or on a website but when you go to use it in other mediums or blown up bigger (e.g on a banner) it can cause problems as these rough details become apparent.
Different cultural context:
In many cases design works best when designed by someone familiar with the cultural context and business environment in which it will be used and displayed. Many designers on 99design and other crowdsourced sites are based in countries with lower cost of living (due to the low pay rates!) which means there may be language and cultural barriers involved. Of course there is argument that design should be universal but there will always be cultural factors and influences involved that impact the design outcome.
Anyone can participate in 99designs no matter their training, level of experience or knowledge of design. This means that a Highschool student or anyone with a copy of photoshop could potentially be designing your logo. These people lack skills and experience in areas such as typography (e.g vertical type, squishing letters together, bad legibility), print production (e.g incorrect specification of colors, wrong file formats) and general knowledge of the proper design process.
You may think you are saving money using a crowdsourcing platform but in the long run it can end up costing you more. From what I have seen around the Hub and through my clients they pay on average $300-500 for their crowdsourced logo. Later on when that logo needs to be fixed or they find it does not work as they wished they have to pay more to people like me to fix it or redesign it which costs them even more! For more around the $500-1000 mark you can find a young local designer or freelancer to work one on one with you and develop a bespoke, well thought out, high quality logo for you. If you consider the value added to your business from a well thought out design that speaks to YOUR customers the small additional cost will come back many times in additional income for your business.
So if moving away from crowdsourcing as an option where does this leave you?
Here is a bit of info on how to find a good designer and the process in working with them:
1) Find a freelancer/small studio locally if possible. Ask around, get referrals from people who have worked with them before. You can find their folios of work online or email them to send a PDF of their work. Additional things to consider might be; Do they deliver on time? Do they reply promptly to emails? Were they nice to deal with?…These things can make your like a whole lot easier and mean you can focus on running your business.
2) Put together a design brief to send to the designer for a quote. Here is a great list of the type of info you can put in a brief: http://justcreative.com/2008/09/26/how-to-write-an-effective-design-brief/ As with anything you can shop around and get a couple quotes from a couple designers. Just remember sometimes it can be better to pay a little more if you know (through referrals) that they are good to deal with and produce good quality work.
3) Normally once a quote is approved the designer will ask for a deposit up front (30-50%) to ensure that both parties are committed. This also assists in the cashflow for both parties which can be a killer for small businesses! If you are worried about your own cash flow ask if you can break the payments up into milestone payments (e.g on delivery of first concepts) to reduce the total lump sum payment required.
4) The designer will then work on your design and normally present several concepts to you (on which they would generally spend a decent amount of time, thought and care developing) and then work with you to determine if these designs match your objectives and how they can be improved.
5) The designer will then take that feedback and further finesse the design, working with you to develop something you are happy with and is appropriate for your business and target audience.
6) Finally they will deliver to you a logo/design in high quality formats (normally EPS, PDF, JPEG and PNG) and in CMYK color (for print), RGB color (for online) and B&W that you can use on any application needed. They will then send you an invoice for any outstanding payment (Which we LOVE love love if you pay promptly as cashflow can be tough for a freelancer!) and hopefully everyone is happy!
Design really is an iterative, conversational process involving a close trusting relationship between the designer and the client with the back and forth of ideas and input leading to design that is effective for your business.
Ask yourself is it worth skimping a couple hundred dollars now for a design that might not be as effective as an original well thought out one and which you may have to pay more for to fix in the future. Working one on one with a designer ensure that both parties get more value and are able to work effectively together. Forming a closer relationship with a designer also means that they will get to understand you and your business better so the more you work with them the better the design work will get!
If you still aren’t convinced here are a few more viewpoints on why 99designs and crowdsourced design is bad for the designer and bad for the client: