Posted on October 14, 2009 · Posted in Personal

I wrote a blog post a little while ago about crowdsourcing the OpenPress logo. That was before we’d actually finished the process and I just wanted to take a quick moment to reflect. This post is long overdue so I’ll keep it short and just hit the highlights. For the record, you’ll find a ton of people for and a ton of people against crowdsourcing, if you want a logo, its an option and the better you manage the process the better your result will be (paying more also helps).

The experience of crowdsourcing the logo on 99Designs was interesting, fun and ultimately quite exhausting. For the record, we are happy with the logo that we have and, as we’re moving forward with the project, here is the logo for your viewing pleasure:


As with anything design-related there are always going to be opinions so it will be interesting to hear what other people think of the logo. We had a total of 140 designers submit 840 different designs. Some extremely good, some incredibly bad. We prepayed a prize of $500 and, as soon as we had a number of logos we felt we could live with we, guaranteed the prize.

Prepaying and guaranteeing a prize are incentives for designers to participate in your competition. We felt that guaranteeing the prize about half-way through the competition would be a strong, positive indication that the designs we had not yet eliminated were serious candidates.

The fact that design is very subjective is a key thing to bear in mind when using a crowdsourcing tool like 99Designs. That is not to say there are aren’t some well established guidelines for design. We found this list of 45 Rules of Great Logo Design to contain a number of good basic checks even though we broke a few. I’d recommend looking through that list (or any list for that matter as there are many) and then making as specific a specification for your logo as possible before launching your competition.

To get the most out of 99Designs do:

  • realise that not every designer who will submit a design is really a designer (an amateur with MSPaint can still sign up)
  • specify your constraints very clearly including things you’re not sure about (they need to know what parameters they have to play with)
  • provide regular feedback (to guarantee convergence)
  • be consistent in your treatment of logos
  • update your specification early on if you want to stop trends developing
  • eliminate designs that you don’t like in a timely manner
  • make a checklist of basic things and stick to them, things like:
    • must work in B&W
    • must scale well
    • etc.
  • prepay your prize

and definitely don’t:

  • don’t spend the first day refreshing your browser, we were really excited by the first 20 designs discussing them all in detail but when you’re going to get 840 its not worth getting too bogged down early
  • get involved in any offline discussions with designers about their designs
  • consider designs not submitted through the 99Designs site
  • try to provide a detailed response to everyone
  • get too excited in the first day

If you provide regular feedback that is consistent and you make it available to all the designers by keeping it in the competition you are more likely to get something you like as well as keep the designers interested and keep frustration levels down. If you oscillate and are inconsistent designers will get irritated and move on. The designers definitely feed off each other and the whole contest becomes a dynamic system you get to prod and with many designers tweaking/riffing off each other tempers can flare-up. As long as you’re consistent and following the rules it should converge.

If you do embark on a crowdsourcing experience brace yourself for a busy week and have a look at this post on bad logos to keep your humour up.

About the Author

Mark Horner is the CEO of Siyavula Education, a social enterprise working in the school sector in South Africa. While working as the Shuttleworth Foundation Fellow for Open and Collaborative Resources, Mark was able to transform the Free High School Science Texts (FHSST) project, which he co-founded, into Siyavula Education. In this process, openly-licensed, collaboratively authored textbooks have been printed and distributed nationally in South Africa. Working at the intersection of community, openness and technology; Mark intends to leverage this success to make Siyavula an innovative, technology provider in education that works effectively as part of the education community to ensure better learning opportunities for all. A recent notable event being the delivery of Siyavula's textbooks over Mxit, the most popular mobile chat solution in South Africa. Mark has a PhD in physics from the University of Cape Town and conducted his research at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California on the results from the STAR experiment at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York. His work is carried out in the belief that the liberation of information and support of education in South Africa will lead to a peaceful and prosperous future for all South Africans.