March 31st, 2013
Designing a website, writing down some content, setting up a Twitter account are some of the activities most startups nowadays have to do, while chasing investors and coding our magic (more about that in our technology section). We even have ordered some visit cards, God have mercy of our souls.
All those things have one thing in common: we need something that identifies our company. We don’t know much about graphic design, but enough to be aware of our limitations: logos, like so many things in life, look and work much better when designed by professionals. However, we are running a lean startup, so many designers are out of our reach (for now; come back in a few months).
99designs works as follows: you write a ‘brief’ describing what you want to represent, the style you like and what you will be using the design for, and a design contest is organized. Designers from the world order submit their ideas, the customer rates them and gives some feedback, until the customer picks up a few finalists, they refine their designs a little bit more, and finally a winner is chosen and paid.
So there we went! We wrote a brief, which wasn’t easy: the TSM we are building is a quite abstract idea using a technology not too well known by civilians, and we waited for submissions. It didn’t take long, and they kept coming: 136 designers submitted 460 designs! Just giving feedback to most of them, removing the ones we didn’t like at all and some interaction with the designers took several hours every day.
There was of course huge variation in terms of quality, although soon we were able to pick some designs we could live with, nominating them as “finalists” for the following round. Knowing that the prize was close, the finalists polished their entries and we were able to focus more on them, giving more frequent feedback. We also set up a poll so our friends could vote among the five final entries.
The winner, JS Design, designed and improved the nice logo you can see at the top left corner. The final steps were more mechanical and boring, but necessary: making sure that the logo came in usable formats: full color (with gradients), solid color, black-on-white and white-on-black monochrome versions and a business card template we can edit whenever we welcome someone to the team. All in all, a quite rewarding experience. As I expected, it involved a lot of effort on our side, since a designer cannot operate in a vacuum, needing input and guidance from the client, but that would have happened as well had we gone to the trendiest design shop in New York City.
And now we have a nice corporate identity! No, I am not going to show the “preliminary” one I had made in twenty minutes…