I ran a 99designs logo design contest one for my game Word Smashing which was in desperate need of some design love.

What i learned:

review early and often

The quicker your designers get review the sooner they can course correct and spent time working on what you want.

manage the variety depth/breadth

Its good to have an idea of the amount of different concepts you would want explored and how deeply

Running design contests can be a great way to generate lots of design ideas to choose from.

Working with fewer designers helps you focus on refining the concepts you know you like.

The normal process is 4 days of reviewing designs, then you have time to pick at most 3 designers to refine their designs for 3 days.

You have the option to run the contest “blind” meaning designers can’t see each others submissions which helps to ensure a lot of variation.

I didn’t run a blind contest and did notice a lot of designs sharing a similar theme (a board),

The designers responded well when i added a comment noting that other themes that where not being explored (things being smashed into pieces)

I didn’t have a color scheme in the design brief but the designers quickly converged on red, orange and black which i was happy with because it appears prominently in app stores.

I let the designers know that i had decided on a color scheme as soon as possible which helps the designers have one less thing to worry about.

Contests are extremely cost effective

The silver contest cost 500 AUDs and i received an overwhelming 190 designs from 38designers

To pick the winner I sent a design survey around and asked for feedback on what i thought where the best designs.

The winner was TastyBits who turned out to live in the same city as me (Melbourne)

I got a bit of feedback and despite not everyone liking my favourite (some refereed to it as a logo which “looks like a diner” which may not be wrong)
my mind was made up :)

After the design contest Word Smashing got launched on games.com and became a smashing success!

I made other games Multiplication Master, Big Multiplayer Chess and ReWord Game in that order.

Despite the new games being much more mobile friendly than Word Smashing was when it was launched, they have struggled to achieve the same success.

Overall it was a very hands on process involving a lot my time reviewing and giving feedback, the time i spent did help me discover what i really wanted.

The cost for the amount of designer time you get is really great and i think having a professional logo for Word Smashing paid off.

The global design community doesn’t sleep

As with many crowdsourcing models, running a design contest you’ll be working with designers all over the world working 24/7.
Work can come in at any time so remember to give review when you wake up and go to sleep.

Think through the design and where its going to be used

i picked the design with the most detail in it but i realised afterwards it looks like a scribble at 32x32 favicon size
Be clear about where your designs are going to be used e.g. does it need to stand out on an app store? work on 3 different types of shirt?

Be sure to ask for exactly what you want!

I didn’t think to ask for a completely square version without the slight drop shadow in it or an inverted color design for a darker background

I received eps and pdf files which are a bit tricky to work with, make sure you ask for editable source files .psd (Photoshop) or .ai (Illustrator)

working with a designer afterwards 1 to 1 is easy but knowing as much as you can about what you want in advance will help to keep the project on track and avoid any unexpected expenses.

I will definitely run more design contests in the future.

Its a great way to explore different design ideas and find a designer who loves designing for your business.

Final designs: