These tips will help you if you do a logo design contest on 99Designs.

A new logo was part of the Domain Name Wire redesign released last month. I designed the original logo myself back in 2005, and only had it refreshed a few years later by a designer.

To refresh your memory, here’s what it looked like:

I looked into a number of logo design services and ultimately decided I’d try crowd sourced design service 99Designs.com. I was familiar with the company, as it spun out of the same group that runs Flippa. I visited their offices in Melbourne last year.

The basic premise of 99Designs is that designers compete by creating logo designs from which you can select your new logo. You select the winner and he or she gets paid.

Here are 9 things I learned about redesigning a logo and using 99Designs.

1. It’s not $99, but it’s cheap.

Apparently the 99 in 99Designs refers to the number of contest entries people received when 99Designs was born from contests on the SitePoint forums. Actual pricing for a logo contest starts at $299, which is much less than what a typical logo designer will charge you.

I opted for the $499 silver package. The sales pitch is that this package will result in more designers and designs. The designers get paid more, so the better ones will be attracted to your contest. 99Designs suggests you’ll get 30 designs with the $299 package and 60 with the $499 package. There’s also a $799 Gold package. 99Designs pitches that as giving you access to the best designers and a dedicated account manager.

2. You can be too limiting in your design brief.

The first step to launching a design contest is to complete a design brief. This is where you tell designers what you’re looking for, how the logo will be used, general styles you like, etc.

I made a mistake with my design brief by making it too limiting. I told designers that, ideally, the new logo would play off of the circle in my original logo. As a result, most submissions were basically a small tweak to my original design or focused too much on the circle and not enough on the rest of the logo.

I later removed this from my design brief, but it may have been too late.

3. If you create the contest, the designers will come. (Just be patient!)

It takes about 24-48 hours before you get your first entries. For anyone used to submitting a request on Amazon Turk, or used to the instant responses to questions on Quora or Twitter, this can seem like a long time to wait. You have to remember that people are designing logos, not just typing in a response.

4. You can get more contest entries if you put in a little elbow grease.

While you wait for those first entries to come in, you can drastically increase the number of designers working on submissions by reaching out to them.

Search prior contests to find logos you like, and then send a message to the designers inviting them to your contest.

I sent a somewhat customized note to each designer to get them interested.

5. 99Designs will bend over backwards to please its paying customers.

You’re likely to receive an email and/or call from 99Designs after submitting your contest. Their support is hellbent on making sure their paying customers are happy.

I imagine this can drive designers crazy. In my case, 99Designs extended the deadline for the contest and made it blind (see #6), all in an effort to make sure I got a logo I was happy with.

6. You really want a blind contest.

A typical logo design contest on 99Designs is open, meaning that every designer can see what other designers submitted.

There’s also an option for a blind contest in which designers only see their own submissions. You really want a blind contest, because it prevents designers from participating in a form of “group think” where they all design similar logos based on what you’ve rated so far (see #7).

For some reason your first contest on 99Designs must be open. But you can ask support to make it closed instead.

7. Don’t rate designs too high early on.

As designs start rolling in, you can rate them from 1-5 stars. A rating of even 1 star means the logo “has potential”.

If you start rating designs with three or more stars early on, a couple things will happen.

First, in an open contest, all of the other designers will start to just play off of the designs you rate highly. You won’t get many more original ideas.

Second, I suspect some designers won’t touch your contest because they think you’ve already found your winner.

8. Get ready for the Paradox of Choice.

113 designers created 489 different logos for me.

Frankly, that’s too many. It was hard to know where to start, let alone whittle down the 10 or so I wanted to consider. With all of those choices it’s harder to select a winner than if a designer just presented you with three good designs to choose from.

9. Some people will hate your logo.

I did manage to eliminate most of the designs and come up with 13 I was considering. That’s when I asked Domain Name Wire readers to weigh in.

People submitted 75 comments. When I tallied them up most people voted for the logo I’m using now. But it was also high on the list of logos people hated.

The truth is, you’re not going to please everybody.

One thing that people pointed out – and are doing even more so now – is that the logo can look more like DNN than DNW. I was somewhat blind to this since I knew it was DNW. I’ve come up with a couple ways to alter the logo to make the W more prominent and might work on that.

And, as one reader pointed out to me: it’s just the logo. It’s not the most important thing on your site.

© DomainNameWire.com 2013. This is copyrighted content. Do not republish.

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