I’ve been hearing a lot about 99designs over the last year or so. I’ve found it difficult to give feedback on the recurring questions I’ve been getting about it so thought I really should give it a go.

As you may know we’ve got a new product up and running called Rusic. Rusic has been an interesting exercise in general, as we’ve tried to outsource the project as much as possible. We wanted it to feel like a startup. It’s difficult to help startups if you can’t sympathise (or empathise even). So this has been a great experience all round (although possibly a separate blog post!).

When it came to branding we decided that this might be a good time to try out the 99designs service. We didn’t know what we wanted and we didn’t want to spend much money. So for $295 we decided to give it a go.

The basic premise is this:

  • Give some details about your business/product
  • Start a competition for a period of time
  • Wait for people to submit their designs
  • You eliminate and feedback on the designs
  • The time runs out and you choose a winner

It actually works well. To me the most interesting part of the service is the way that they get you to express how you want your finished design to the designers.

You choose three of your favourite logo “types” from a selection and you choose various attributes from sliding scales. It’s very simple and feels intuitive. I actually started off with a very feminine, playful set of values and then changed halfway through as I felt that actually I wasn’t getting the results that I wanted. Designs rapidly started to change.

Once you’ve set all of your information that you want to pass on to the “designers” you can set the project running.

At first we had three or four designs within 12 hours. We were chuffed but not impressed. Then within 48 hours things were starting to hot up. By the end of it we had over 130 designs to choose from. Some designers submitting multiple revisions of their designs.

Actually eliminating designs at first made me feel a little guilty but after a while it’s just fun as you start to get left with a succinct pool of reasonable quality entries. The ones eliminated would somehow find there way back with new variations in style or colour. At every stage it’s possible to ask for these changes manually,  if you fancy designer X’s logo but in red.

Once the time finally runs out you have to choose. This was the only tricky bit. The designer delivers the files and then you agree to release the money from 99designs. In our case the designer gave us a JPG. We then asked for the file as a vector. He then supplied it as an EPS with a JPG in it, etc… This took a few friendly communications from us to the designer and ultimately to the very helpful support until we finally got a proper EPS file. I think this was just a language issue as the designer is from the Phillipines.

You can see the finished design at Rusic.com we’re pretty happy with it. It will evolve I’m sure, but for the budget, time and manual input that we wanted to give ,it worked well.

Having said that I would not recommend this for client work. It’s just too hit and miss and obviously still takes up time and more than likely you will need to embelish the result (as we did). For a bootstrapped startup on the other hand it is a fantastic service, well thought out, easy to use and efficient. I suspect like most things, the more you put in the more you’ll get out.

If you’d like to discuss your startup or project, get in touch with Simpleweb today.

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