"Crowdsourcing" Your Logo Design: Should You Do It? (99designs Review)

Crowdsourcing your logo design (99designs review)When it comes to getting a logo designed, you have a lot of choices. Should you hire someone you know personally? Someone another company recommended? Or should you try a site where you can offer a logo “contest” and pay the winner for a logo?

I’ve used several different options to get logos throughout the years:

  1. I’ve designed a logo myself.
  2. I’ve hired a designer I knew personally.
  3. I’ve hired a logo design company.
  4. And, most recently, I’ve outsourced logo creation through both 99designs and Design Outpost.

In this post, I will run through each of the above four options in detail, and suggest the best course of action for getting you a great logo design at a low price–based on my own experience.

Option #1: Design It Yourself

Doing logo design yourself is cheapest, but good logo design is difficult, and your result will usually be sub-par.

You can see some of my work at the top of this page–I designed the logo for erica.biz. Though I like it, I’ll probably have it professionally redesigned at some point.

Example logo I created myself:

erica.biz, 2007.

Option #2: Hire Someone You Know

Hiring someone you know personally is great, especially if you are already familiar with his or her work. If you have seen the designer’s portfolio and spot several logos you love in it, this might be the right choice. I have done this before with a friend whose portfolio was fantastic and was 100% satisfied with the logo I received.

If you don’t like his/her portfolio, or the designer doesn’t have a portfolio, steer clear! It’s not worth the risk. The portfolio needs to have several logos in it that you fall in love with. Even if the designer comes highly recommended, if his or her “style” isn’t what you’re looking for, you won’t get a great logo.

Cons: Hiring someone who bills him/herself as a “logo designer” is frequently expensive, and if you don’t like the result, you may lose a friend as well as your money.

Example logos created by someone I knew:

Simpli Hosting, 2003. Created by friend (I think she comped this one in exchange for hosting.)

10for10.com, 2005. Created by the same friend who did the Simpli logo.

Option #3: Hire a Logo Design Company

Hiring a logo design company can be hit or miss. I hired one recently for Be The Authority–a new site I’ve been working on that I will unveil later this year. The company is well-known online and has several logo designers working at their location. I paid $395.00 for a logo with their “entry level” logo design package–a fair price.

Unfortunately, the designer who was assigned to me was terrible. She didn’t get the concept I wanted. I finally escalated it to a manager and had her removed from the project. The second designer was great and got me an excellent logo within a few days.

So, with reservations, I say this is a reasonable route, and will probably get you a nice logo. Just don’t be afraid to have the logo design company “fire” your designer if you get the short straw and your logo isn’t what you want!

Example logos created by design companies:

Be The Authority, 2009. Created by logo design company for $395. Most expensive logo I’ve bought to date.

Revamped Simpli.biz logo, 2006. Created by a design company–we won a “worst web hosting website” contest (yes, seriously!) and this was part of the prize!

Option #4: Crowdsource Your Logo Design

Finally, the subject of much controversy–“crowdsourcing” your logo. I’ve done this twice–once through Design Outpost and, more recently, through 99designs. Let’s walk through the experience.

What is crowdsourcing? Crowdsourcing refers to having an open contest for your logo and letting designers compete to win your business. With both 99designs and Design Outpost, you pay up front and set the price for your logo. You then create a “brief” — a description of what you want — and sit back and wait.

In a few days, designers from around the world submit their prospective designs. It’s your job to rank each design and give feedback to each designer.

Eventually, after a set time, your contest ends, and you pick an overall winner, who then sends you the logo in either PSD (Photoshop format; suitable for Web logos) or AI format (Adobe Illustrator–better for printing.)

Why Is Crowdsourcing Controversial?

Sounds great, right? It is–for those of us who are business owners. There is a huge community of designers who hate the concept. They call it “spec work”, meaning they do the work, but only get paid if they are the winner. In fact, some designers have even banded together to create No Spec, a website “[uniting] those who support the notion that spec work devalues the potential of design and ultimately does a disservice to the client.”

They state that many designers on 99designs and other crowdsourcing sites use stock images–images created by others. The images used are not licensed to be used in logos, and you (as the company owner and recipient of the logo) are responsible for making sure your logo doesn’t use any copyrighted work or illegally licensed images.

Of course, a designer you hire could very well use stock photography illegally as well, but it’s likely that a designer who is aware of No-Spec is also aware of how to properly use stock photography in a logo.

So, is a logo design just a logo design, or is it the heart of a “brand awareness strategy” where you will need to have 8-hour intensive “strategy sessions” with a high-priced team who then presents you with reams of paper on how to grow your brand?

There is a time and a place for both, but I’m going to take the stance that unless your company is already well into 7 figures a year and pushing 8 figures, that you don’t need the latter.

What you need is to ship (as Seth Godin would say), and you can do that with a logo. And if you want a great logo, done quickly, I recommend crowdsourcing it.

Having used both 99designs and DesignOutpost, I’d recommend 99designs. I paid less for my logo on DesignOutpost, but 99designs got me far more designers and designs to choose from.

Example logos created via design contests:

Inspiring Innovators, 2008. DesignOutpost contest. $250 to the winner, plus $25 to DesignOutpost. Total $275.

And, finally, my newest logo–for my upcoming startup company:

BestBlogs.net, 2010. 99designs contest. $310 to the winner, $70 fee to 99designs. Total $380.

How Does 99designs Work?

I strongly recommend you create an account and walk through the site as if you were a logo designer to get a feel for it. In particular, you’ll want to click “browse projects” and then “logo design” on the right, then sort by the “prize” column. This gives you a feel for how much others are paying.

After looking at this, I set my logo prize to $310. This is the “eBay mentality.” I saw a bunch of people who were at $300, and noted that my logo would be right above theirs when the contests were sorted by prize. (If you want to be really catty, you can set your logo prize at $311 or $351.)

The minimum prize is $150, but I don’t recommend this, as you won’t get a lot of choices. I’d recommend staying just above $300. (Never use a prize such as $295–there are a lot of people at $300 that your logo will be buried below.)

Writing Your Title and Subtitle

Once you set your price, you will need to write a title, subtitle, and “brief” for your contest.

The key with the title and subtitle is to market your logo contest to designers. The title should attract their attention and draw them in. Don’t use titles and subtitles like “We sell blah, blah, X, Y, and Z.” Boring!!

My title was: “BestBlogs.net = Hot new Web 2.0 startup needs bold logo!”
And my subtitle: “Designers: Looking for a high-profile branding project to put in your portfolio? This is it!”

Notice how my title, and especially my subtitle, catered to the designers instead of being all about me? This was one of the keys to having my contest be a huge success.

Writing Your Brief

Your brief is the most important part of your logo design contest. All of the designers will read it. It should contain:

  • The colors you want in your logo
  • Examples of other logos you like, and what you like and dislike about those logos
  • Who your customers and target audience are (be specific!)
  • Branding requirements (capitalization, spacing, etc.)
  • What you do want (I wrote, in part: “Looking for a clean design that can easily scale down to a mobile website.”)
  • What you don’t want (I wrote: “NO: cartoons; animals; stock photos; clipart; cheesy fonts”)

If you haven’t written a brief before, read several other contest briefs and pick and choose what you like from those.

There is a massive stash of great logos at logopond.com; go there, find at least 5 logos you like, and copy and paste each logo’s web address into your brief.

Should You Pay 99designs to “Promote” Your Logo Design?

Next, you get to choose some optional “promotion” methods that 99designs charges for, like making your listing bold. I didn’t choose any of these options and my contest still came out well, so I can’t say I recommend any of them.

Finally, pay your money to 99designs.

You’re all set at this point! Your contest is running.

Tips for After You’ve Submitted Your Logo

There is one thing you want to do at this point, and that’s to promote your logo contest to your fans and customers. I posted about mine several times on Twitter, for instance. Email your customers, Tweet about it, blog it, and let people know.

Guaranteeing Your Contest

Once you have received 10 logo designs, you can guarantee your contest. That means that you can no longer request a refund from 99designs, and that the winner will receive payment. This will greatly increase the number of logo designs you receive. If you have even a couple of decent logos submitted, you will definitely want to do this.

I did this when I had about 20 logos in, and 150 more logos poured in after I did it…so guaranteeing your contest is definitely effective.

Rating Designers’ Logos

Within a day or two, you will start to get logo submissions from designers, and then you can rate them. At the time my contest ended, my contest had 179 entries. Holy cow! I wasn’t expecting that many, and rating and giving feedback to each one takes time. Make sure to set aside some time each day to go through and give feedback–probably 20 minutes or so.

If you’re not sure how to rate logos, take a look at some logo design tips. Smashing Magazine has a good article on effective logo design. Also–ask your customers and potential customers. (If you have friends who aren’t potential customers, ask them, too, but weigh your decision heavily in favor of those who are or will be your customers.)

Ultimately, it’s up to you to pick a logo that looks decent and that others like, as well. Here’s my contest. Out of several logos I rated 5 stars, I ultimately picked the one I did because it was simple, straightforward, and scaled down to a mobile website easily. Your criteria may be different. (Remember, if you plan to use it in print, you probably don’t want it to have more than 2 colors plus black–make sure to specify this in your brief.)

Correspond with the designer whose logo you like most via the private message function at 99designs. Designers are required to state whether their logo violates any copyrights or uses any unlicensed stock art. If the designer says that his or her logo is original, go for it. Congratulations–your business has a logo!


In my opinion, 99designs and other “crowdsourcing” sites will give you a logo that is cheaper than a typical “logo designer” would charge that will be of similar quality.

It is also my strong opinion that a full-on “brand strategy” is much better saved for when you have already hit the $1 million mark. If you are running a small business, spend your money on something that will directly increase your bottom line and/or give you more time–hiring someone to do “time sink” work is a good choice, as is spending on equipment and direct marketing/sales.

Finally, a word of caution: don’t be cheap. Make the decision to invest at least $350-$400 in your logo. If you can’t afford that, it might be wisest to go without a logo for a few months. Then, make it a priority once your budget opens up a bit.

Try out 99designs for your next logo design.

Recommended Reading:

Note: When I wrote this post, 99designs didn’t offer an affiliate program, so I wrote this post without expectation of return. More recently, 99designs offered an affiliate program, so I signed up for it. Now, if you start a new logo design contest and use the link above to try 99designs, you will also be helping to support erica.biz. Thank you!

  • estrahon

    You’re right about the controversy. As a web designer, even though I don’t do logos, I feel that crowdsourcing cheapens the design industry. I see business people on there offering $20 prizes for a logo, and they might think they’re getting a good deal, but it’s not right.

    Don’t hire one of those $99 logo companies either because they tend to use clipart. I’d personally hire a professional freelancer, not the wannabe next door, but someone who will take the time to get to know your business and do your logo right to your specifications.

    • http://www.erica.biz/ Erica Douglass

      Hi! I’m not sure which “there” you’re talking about–99designs has a minimum prize of $150 for a logo design.


  • http://99designs.com Jason Aiken

    Really great advice Erica – and thanks for using 99designs.com!


  • http://website-in-a-weekend.net/ Dave Doolin

    I can see both sides of the crowdsourcing issue.

    Your best advice – to me – is to go with a full on branding effort once you have the revenue where it makes sense. This has a futher advantage of building connections with designers that have other high dollar clients.

    • http://www.erica.biz/ Erica Douglass

      Hi Dave,

      I agree. I think where I think it makes sense and where other people think it makes sense is different, however.

      I see startups spending some of their first $50K on branding–and that I don’t agree with. I built a 7-figure business and didn’t focus on branding at all until it was way up in the 6-figure area ($750K+ in annual revenue.)

      In short, I see two different problems:
      1) Startups that are so cheap that they don’t even get a logo…this is acceptable for the first 6 months or so, but after that, you need a logo

      And, on the other end…
      2) Startups that will drop $20K+ on a “branding strategy” consultation when they have little or no revenue to speak of.

      Both of those companies should be focused on acquiring and retaining customers as a priority. A “branding strategy” may not help as much as a simple direct mail effort or other cheap, effective advertising.

      I realize this view is controversial. :)


  • http://FrankMidgley.com Frank Midgley

    This is great content Erica!

    I’m still in the “start up” phase and it hasn’t even occurred to me to start thinking about a logo yet.

    I’ve found this post very helpful and interesting.

    Thank you!

  • estrahon

    I was talking about crowdsourcing sites in general, I may have exaggerated on the $20 though. My comment is merely a caution to designers undervaluing their work and businesses who run the risk of “getting what they pay for”. You’ve obviously covered what those risks are. I still found this to be a good article as my own business needs a logo, however I wouldn’t consider crowdsourcing it.

  • http://magicalpenny.com Adam

    Hi Erica.
    Thanks for the fascinating article. I went through a similar thought process myself and decided to make a start on my blog with a logo I designed myself. After all, I reasoned, why put up another barrier to get my vision made into a reality?

    Perhaps I’ll follow your footsteps and get a designer in when my blog gets bigger and a more complete and consistant brand strategy is needed. Until then, I’m living by the “ready, fire, aim” mind-set, and loving it!

    (BTW my blog launched on Monday so thanks so much for your brilliant free guide that you offer to new subscribers. It made sure sure that I am on the right track from the get-go.)

  • http://cashdoodle.com Dexter Hartley

    I have to say I’m disappointed with this post.

    As a designer, I feel that crowdsourcing seriously devalues the work that designers do. Not only that but it’s hugely disrespectful to the needs of clients too. There’s usually little or no interaction between designer and client, and the client ends up with a design that merely looks pretty.

    I appreciate that you recommend setting a reasonable fee. Unfortunately the majority of clients using these services expect to pay the very lowest threshold, which only designers in developing countries are prepared to work for, which is harming your local economy.

    On top of that, even if you pay your winning designer a decent fee, there are say 20 or 30 other designers that have spent the time to create $300 worth of work that they won’t be paid for. That’s assuming you aren’t one of the less scrupulous clients who close contests without selecting a winner – no prizes for guessing what happens next.

    You also need to consider that often what the client chooses for a logo is based on their own personal taste, and this isn’t always the right choice for their business. A logo needs to resonate with your target market, the fact that you might prefer a blue handwritten font is irrelevant. A meaningful consultation (a two-way dialogue, not a form filling exercise) with a competent designer will ensure all these issues are addressed.

    As for sub $1M businesses not requiring a brand strategy, well good luck to anyone who intends to develop a business without considering how they will engage their target market and communicate why they are worth doing business with. I agree, you don’t need to spend 20k on a branding strategy consultation, but unless you know the right way to attract your audience’s attention, a cheap direct mail effort suddenly looks very expensive when it delivers zero returns.

    Before anyone gets involved with crowdsourcing I strongly recommend you check out @SpecWatch on Twitter.

    • http://www.thinkbigthinkmoney.com/ Ken Siew

      Dexter, I can resonate with you on your thoughts about a client not knowing what logo is best for their businesses. It’d be great if a tailor-made logo is used for a business, but in many cases a client just doesn’t have the budget to do it. Also, I don’t think all the clients who close contest without selecting a winner is any less scrupulous if it is true that the designs submitted do not meet the minimum requirements. But again, I’d have to agree that it is a very subjective thing. Appreciate your insights, and I really like the design of your site cause it’s so minimalistic.

    • http://www.erica.biz/ Erica Douglass

      This reply is to Dexter, Justin, Bekka, and any other designers who wish to comment on this post.

      re: “spec work.” No, I don’t believe in the whole hours-for-dollars paradigm. If I did, I would work a job.

      Here’s what I mean. I spent about 5 hours researching and writing this post, including finding all of the old logos I used and resizing them, writing over 2200 words, putting together the image at the top with several of my old logos in it, finding other articles I’d written previously and adding them as “Recommended Reading”, editing the whole thing, and (finally!) hitting Publish.

      There are NO links that make me any money whatsoever in this post.

      Should I be paid for my time?

      Now, I know what some of you are saying. “But Erica…you get a lot from this post. You get more traffic, more subscribers…”

      And to that, I say: “Exactly.”

      I get a lot of tiny benefits from writing. Each post attracts new readers. Many of them rank well in search engines. Other people retweet them and find my blog. A fraction of those new readers will subscribe. A fraction (1% or so) of those subscribers will eventually buy a product from me.

      And eventually…probably this year…I’ll make enough money from that fraction of a fraction that this blog will become the foundation of a 6-figure business.

      The logo designers on 99designs get a lot of benefits from doing logo designs.

      1) They quickly learn what clients like and don’t like.
      2) They gain experience that they can put in their portfolio.
      3) They may land a small prize and a bigger benefit–working with the client again in the future.

      Of all these, I think #1 is probably the biggest. You get to learn what others like and don’t like. Just like when I write posts on this blog–I know what works and what doesn’t by the feedback I get.

      If I had the same mentality that No Spec and some designers have, you wouldn’t even be able to comment on this blog post…because it wouldn’t be here…because I wouldn’t write a blog that takes 5-10 hours a week of my time and pays out very little for the first 12-24 months of its existence.

      If I had that attitude, I’d have a job. I don’t want a job. I want to be rewarded in proportion to the value I create. I acknowledge that this is a harder path. It’s much easier to say, “But I worked 5 hours…I should get paid for that!”

      99designs may not be right for you, but in my opinion, it’s great for both business owners and budding designers.


  • http://www.thinkbigthinkmoney.com/ Ken Siew

    Hey Erica, thanks for the timely post! I’m actually running my own 99design contest and it’s going to end in less than 24 hours. There’s one thing I’d like to add for running a contest. You tend to get a lot of similar designs, if you don’t pay for the privacy feature, because some designers might just copy somebody else’s idea and come up with similar designs. It kills the creativity in a way.

    On the other hand, I’ve also tried designing my own logo but all I could come up with was the fonts in my blog right now. As much as I love to be able to design great stuffs, I just don’t have the luxury to do it now. I figured the best way to do it is to get a real designer, and it actually saves me a lot of time (including the Photoshop learning curve).

    Thanks for a good post!

  • http://www.palmer-stone.ca/ Taunja

    Although I am in the market for a logo, as a freelancer I can’t support the business model of 99 designs.

    There are similar sites out there for writing and I don’t do work for them. I expect to get paid for the writing I do and in turn I pay for the work I outsource to other freelancers. Although the designer that “won” the contest got paid, the 150 other designers didn’t (or however many participated). That just doesn’t seem reasonable to me.

  • http://www.moneycrush.com Jackie

    I used 99designs for my MoneyCrush logo and was really pleased with both the process and the results as an end user. As a former web designer though, I can see the “no spec” point of view. I don’t think I would personally work on spec like that unless I was just trying to build up a portfolio.

    It’s not all bad for the designers who choose to go that route though, especially if they are from an area of the world where the chances of winning a $200 or $300 fee is the equivalent to having a pretty good shot at earning a month’s income for a few hours work. (Especially if there is the possibility of getting additional, non-spec work later from the deal.

  • Justin


    I am a graphic designer. I typically stay away from design contests because you are asking designers to work for free. Designers have alot invested in education, computer equipment and software, and even though alot of us can work from home, we have business expenses and payrolls to meet and sub contractors to pay like any other business. Designers are also experts in color, composition, paper, printing procedures and web design so when you pay for design services your not paying for pretty pictures you are paying for that designers experience and expert knowledge.

  • Jen

    Thanks for this article, Erica! I was thinking about this very subject when I woke up this morning. Very information and helpful.

  • fabian

    Very informative article. I went on the site and i was impressed by some of the work the designers had up there. And just to see if $300 was the lucky number i checked several offers below $300 and most of them weren’t guaranteed yet or had limited designers. but for the contest prizes over $300 they had tons of designer submissions.
    Right on Erica, i will definitely be using these guys in the near future.

  • http://www.Escapingthe9to5.com Maren Kate

    I really like 99designs & logotournament when I get things designed for my blogs or business, because you have so many options to chose from and they will gladly tweak things for you. Its super affordable and I find the ‘contest’ part kind of fun :)


  • Bekka

    As a designer, I can tell you why crowdsourcing is frowned upon, and I believe, completely disrespectful to the industry.

    Spec work is essentially asking many designers to spend tens to hundreds of hours working on a design and then only paying the designer of the logo you like best. There are designers that do spec work, but it cheapens the entire industry for those that choose to do quality work and only work when paid.

    Erica, as a very savvy business women, I’m sure you can understand why we find it ridiculous to do work that we are not even sure we will get paid for.

    Many designers work very hard to educate people on the downfalls of crowdsourcing, and I would hope that your readers think twice about using these services in the future.

  • Bekka

    I think what you do with your blog is completely different from spec work, and I’m not trying to rouse up an argument in your comments, I just feel that I should do something to educate people on the downfalls of spec work.

    Here’s the difference between your blog and spec work.

    Your blog:
    Is a marketing outlet (intended or not).
    Is not commissioned by another party, on the chance you might get paid, you choose to do it for yourself and for the benefit of others.
    Is an outlet for you to share your ideas, you aren’t giving away your product here for free, and it’s not the essence of what you do.

    Spec work:
    Is commissioned (people should get paid for doing work they are asked to do).
    Is a product, I don’t go to the grocery store, eat 6 apples and pay only for the one that tasted good to me, designing logos is the essence of a logo designers business.

    Also, the argument that spec work helps a portfolio and self-promotion is fine, but if I am going to do that, I would just approach a non-profit or other business I respect and offer to do their logo as a donation.

    • http://addingvaluewhereyouare.blogspot.com/ Lee

      As a communication consultant, I help a variety of people and organizations convey a clear and credible message about themselves. While I may choose to offer my services for free to friends or for legitimate pro-bono work, I would not want to do ‘spec’ work just on the outside chance someone will like my analysis the best. Bekka, you did a very good job at distinguishing Erica’s blog, vs. spec work in a person’s main income-stream. Thanks!

  • Justin


    I appreciate your comments and I am glad you had a positive experience with 99 designs. I am also glad that you have found a business model that works for you. Thanks also for posting the no spec link. There is alot of valauble information there.

    This is why most professional expereinced and seasoned designers won’t do spec work. Look at it this way…can you go to five different restaraunts order five different meals and only pay for the one you liked? Or go to a shoe store take a dozen pairs of shoes wear them for a week and then take eleven pairs bac and pay for the ones you like?

    I’ve done spec work early in my career and it has been a negative experience for me. I choose not to do it.

  • VAL


    Another great, useful post.

    I have been using 99designs for the past 4 years (Originally as SitePoint Marketplace) for logos, web design (When I owned a Web Marketing company), business opportunities, and a number of other things.

    Most important, through the site, I was able to locate and access a good pool of talent and have developed a number of relationships with various designers whom I have hired for other projects over the years.

    Although the model is not for everyone (Designers who prefer not to work on spec), really, I cannot say enough good things about 99designs as a business owner in need of such creative services.

  • Justin


    I agree with Bekka. I am to the point in my career where I cannot give creative services away anymore, and I have learned the hard way.

    I realize start ups don’t have alot of capital to spend on logos and branding strategy. What 99designs offers is fast and afforable logos, and there is a market for that.

    I’m not trying to stir things up here either, just offering a perspective from the desinger side of things.

  • http://www.wyattbrand.com David Wyatt

    Everything Dexter wrote +

    With an admitted bias as someone whose business does branding (including affordable logo mark and logo type development), I have to respectfully disagree with the notions that a) companies don’t need thoughtful, professional, thoroughly researched branding until they are making a million+ and b) the $300 logos presented are good enough. But it does depend on your market and goals. I’m sure an inexpensive, non-custom logo is fine for many, casual uses. Still, I submit that really good design isn’t just to impress really good designers, it is reflective of you and your promise to your customer (and their emotional connection to what you do) as is your choice in clothing, words, materials, employees, or storefronts. Going cheap on those will have the same result. I believe the average, modern non-designer has a strong sense when they see crumby templates, stock photos, crowd-sourced logos, and default type – and on an instinctual level, they understand what it means about the business that choice.

    But I also accept that people looking to spend $300 on a logo are not people we want as clients—and probably wouldn’t be receptive to any rationale to the value of research, understanding your market, or developing a relationship with a designer. Thanks for the discourse!

  • http://www.thecynicalcustomer.com the Cynical Customer

    Great post, Erica !

    Now, if I want a logo I know how to ‘approach’ it. Of course, my first choice is my wife :), but she is not a professional designer.

  • http://kgshriram.ning.com kozhalmannam shriram

    Thanks for the insightful article. I have thankfully been able to find the right person for logos I wanted designed. But this is a good option and price is reasonable considering the range you get to choose from and the ease of the decision making!

  • Susan

    This is an interesting post covering areas in a new light, and I appreciated it.

    However, I don’t really understand the benefit of crowdsourcing except to get a lot of options for cheap. Except for the case of a new designer who needs clients and has to start somewhere, I find it demoralizing. What you’re doing here is not posting on spec. You are building a cohesive brand of your own thoughts, not posting stuff for someone else, catering to their thoughts, and hoping you’ll get picked and get paid.

    There appears to be no interaction or relationship with the design process in crowdsourcing. I don’t really respect a company that would use such a ‘detached’ and… well.. amateur method to essentially brand themselves, and not value their business enough to pay for a logo and ensure the integrity of their vision is met. I guess never say never, maybe I would think differently depending on the kind of company doing it and people involved. To each their own. But I’ve never really seen any design all that inspiring or original come from crowdsourcing.

  • http://www.girlstartup.com Girl Startup

    I don’t know why it seems it’s ok for designers to do free specs. Do you ask a plumber to try do a trial and see how it goes? No. Do you ask 10 plumbers to do a free trial and see which one is the best? No.

    I wish people would stop justifying this sort of behavior just for the fact that they’re getting something cheaper and with more options. If you somehow can justify all this in your mind then well…fantastic!

  • http://patchworkposse.com becky

    I had my logo designed by an Etsy graphic artist. I do love it and she gave me 4 choices at the beginning and a couple of changes before it was finished. I loved having that choice and it was very reasonable at $100 too!

  • Gab

    well, girl startup and others, designers who do free specs do it because they want to do it. and that is why it is ok – because they want to. people are not stupid, and people know what is good for them, including designers.

  • http://www.robchild.net Rob Child


    Timely post, I have been wondering which way to go as far as logo design formy newly launched web video marketing site. Thanks for the insightful information

  • http://blog.easycalapp.com kareem

    hey erica,

    thanks for the post. i think the “spec work” controversy is overblown. it assumes that designers only work for $$. there’s a fascinating interview with the 99designs founder here:


    in it, he talks about how the idea started out in the sitepoint.com forums where bored designers would try and out-design each other on a boring friday night. designers were gaining status amongst their peers, practicing their skills, experimenting with new techniques, etc. might as well have the potential to get paid for their work on a site like 99 designs. to your point earlier about spending 5h on this post, you’re building credibility for “free” that will eventually pay off – this doesn’t seem different to me.

    and for designer commenters like bekka and justin, well, the site’s not for everybody. and that’s fine.

    btw – i used 99designs for my new company’s logo (www.easycalapp.com) and wrote about my positive experience here:


    i’d for sure use them again.



  • John

    Funny to read all these designers that are stuck in an old business model that no longer works. The internet has made it possible to get their work from someone in a third world country who will do it for far less. Adapt and compete, quit whining.

    • estrahon

      Actually, these “designers” are not our competition. We get plenty of business just fine from clients who know what real design is worth.

      And the purpose to this debate is not that we refuse to work for less, but that we refuse to work for FREE. I don’t see how this business model helps designers in third world countries. You’d have to be saying that these people should give their services for free in the slight chance that they might win?

      There’s no need to adapt and compete here.

  • http://www.businesscards.com Mike

    As a freelancer, I won’t do spec work. As a freelancer who needs a logo, crowdsourcing sounds like a great idea.

  • TR

    It’s just not smart if you want quality. 90% of the logos that come from sites like this are crap, and if you look at it economically, it makes sense. If I’m a designer, I’m spending a lot of time working on logos that won’t make me any money. I have to compensate for this by churning out logos as quickly as possible. This is why most logos from sites are generic, bland, and amateurish. Valuable logos are memorable. That takes an understanding of the company, the consumer, and a little bit of creativity. None of the logos above fit the bill. All you get is a mediocre logo that’s barely better than no logo at all.

    • http://www.erica.biz/ Erica Douglass

      Doh! Some of those logos above were created by professional design companies. 😉


    • TR

      That’s true, but they’re still not very good. There’s a huge difference between budget “logo design companies”, which tend to churn out bland, generic logos, and real design firms. Any company billing itself as a “logo design company” is not likely to give you much more than a pretty picture. The reason is their business model is to sell you a logo for a flat rate (as a commodity) instead of charging you for graphic design as a service.

  • Bill


    I think you may have missed something very important in your discussions with some of the graphic designers who have posted in opposition of the so-called “spec” sites such as 99designs. You see Erica, there is no use in arguing with a brick wall.

    For a graphic designer who is starting out and looking to make a name for himself, a spec site such as 99designs makes perfect sense not only for the reasons you have given but also for the reason that, if successful at such a site, the new designer will soon put together a portfolio of sold designs. Gee, a successful resume!

    For the entrepreneur who is just starting out, such a site makes sense because we simply do not have the money to pay a well established graphic designer! Of course, if we are successful, we will one day need an established graphic designer an so will turn to those who are in that area of the field, some of whom may have started out on a spec site.

    You see Erica, this is not a difficult concept to understand, so if certain members of your clientele are having difficulty understanding the concept, perhaps you need to refer back to my opening statement about brick walls and such.

    Thanks for another great article!

  • Jusitn

    Not a brick wall, just experience.

    Design is not a tangible item like food or funriture or metal fasteners.

    We can not whole sale creativity. We can not make up design time on volume. The only thing a desinger can sell are ideas and the time it takes to execute those ideas. And in most cases we are selling something that ahs not been created yet.

    Logo and idenity design involves more than coming up with pretty pictures, and every company is different witha different set of goals and challenges.

    Clients do not see the behines the scenes thigns that go on in log creation like research not only on the clients company and market but also thier competitors. After itnerviews with the client, it may take severl renditions of sketches , refinement and tightened comps to come up with the 5 or 5 final designs we presnt to client.

    A clear design direction needs to be established and I’ve never had a client ahnd me a check and tell me to go crazy and do my own thing.

    Design also must serve purpose…colors and iamgery are chosen carefully to meet the clients goals. Not just because “I like Blue” or “I want a puppy in my logo”

    As I mentioned early when you engage a designer for servise you are not paying for creativity and a cool looking logo, you are paying for expert advcie in subjects like color theory, marketing and strategy, technical knowledge on printing and alot of other things.

    • Bill

      Certainly you are correct as to why an experienced designer charges more, and I agree. The more experience you have and the better your portfoilio, the more money you should command! What it seems to me you are missing is that most people who work out of a spec site are not experienced! Instead they are entrepreneur designers who are starting out and cannot afford to charge like an experienced designer.

      When someone like me is starting their own business and has little precious capital to invest in the designing of a logo, they have no choice but to do it on the cheap. Before the web and sites like 99designs, you would go to a local college and speak to the professor of some graphic design course and he would recommend his “brightest star” to you. You got one shot of a decent design with your capital, and that was it. Pull the trigger and hope the hammer falls on a winner.

      With the advent of spec sites, an entrepreneur can get several new designers who are trying to break into the field to give it a shot. This way there is a good chance that the hammer will fall on a winner for both the designer and the entrepreneur.

      Now as you have pointed out, there may be a few idiotic entrepreneurs out there who want “blue puppies” in their logos because they think blue puppies look “really neat.” If that’s the case, these people shouldn’t be in business for themselves, and frankly they probably won’t ever bother to complete the brief and submit it because they’ll be too busy watching the latest episode of “Dancing with the Used-to be Stars” or some other equally inane television show. Starting your own business, like choosing your own stocks, is not for those unequal to the task of sorting laundry!


  • Jusitn


    I’m thinking big picture as most desingers do. So you pay 300 bucks and get a logo, but what about business cards, letter head signage, or perhaps a graphic for your truck or van or t-shirts? Once the logo is desinged all these other things have to be designed and printed and fabricated as well.

    A printer, t-shirt silk screener or sign fabricator is not going to produce a job for you in the hope you like it and will award them the contract.

    Design is a business , not a hobby and alot of times we have to educate our clients on that.

    I have done spec work in the past an have regretted it.

    Its not just a matter of commanding high fees for services…designers have expeneses to meet and need to make a profit and grow just like other businesses.

    • Bill

      Yes, and in time I may need some of that stuff. But not now. Now what I need is a decent looking logo that I can put on my letterhead, business cards, and website so I can actually START looking for business. In a year or three I of course hope to be making money and thus will want to have other items like T-shirts, fully designed letterhead, and maybe even signage.

      And of course you have expenses to meet, and profit to generate, and that’s exactly why, at the moment, I as a new entrepreneur cannot afford you! Believe me, I WISH I could, but if I were to blow what little capital I have on your services, then I would have a bunch of great looking stuff that will look no better than the spec stuff when it gets thrown out in the trash during the bankruptcy proceedings!

      Instead of fighting this phenomenon, it seems to me that well versed Graphic Design house would come up with a competitive alternative. I am sure you have a “new guy” or a intern working for you, hire him (or her) out for three or four hundred dollars to do simple logo designs. The experienced designers would be there to step in and assist when needed, and you would have the product on hand when the start up company has grown up a bit and needs the more expensive stuff done.


    • http://www.gdloft.com Chris

      As a designer AND business owner I think everyone here forgot that a professional designer will also work on your budget. Not only will you get an experienced designer, in some cases, you will get prices that fit your budget.

      And if you don’t, move on and find another designer.

      My rates may not fit every client but every now and then, I do see a potential client who fits the bill.

      And with crowdsourcing, here’s the thing some people forgot to point out. A good number of those designers are on there because they are building a portfolio, some are there because they lack education on these topics.


  • Jusitn


    I understand all that. Anyone can have a decent looking logo. Looks are a small part of a much bigger picture. We (designers) also recognize that there are always budget concerns to deal with.

    But does that logo represent your business properly? Does that logo project the company image you want to your potential customers? Is the log soemthing that will hold up over time or will it need to be redone in a couple years? I understand a start up may not have need for vehicle graphics t-shirts and signage right a way, but as a designer we have to think ahead for when you are ready for those applications.

    Your logo and identity are your first contact with your customers.
    A logo has to do more than “look good” it has to be instantly recognizable and reperesent your company.

    Logo design cannot be approached with a bang it out mentality. Each company is different with different markets and objectives. Even though I do several logos a year, what I do for one client is going to be totally different for antother.

    A good designer will want to help your business grow and expand, and thats what we are here for. Not to make pretty pictures. Designers want to see there clietns be sucessful, so thats why we invest the time in getting to know the companies we work for and get alot of information we need to do the job right for you. A good designer will also give you good value for what your paying for.

    A student or intern can do a logo for you, but students don’t have a buiness mindest yet and won’t consider your busienss objectives. Students minds are on getting a portfolio piece and getting a check, not about helping your business achieve its marketing and communication goals which design is a big part of.

    • Bill

      “But does that logo represent your business properly? Does that logo project the company image you want to your potential customers?”

      Well gee, that’s a good question… and since I will only have a reasonable idea as to who those customers might be, spending a lot of money developing an image for a particular group might be a bit premature.

      “Is the log something that will hold up over time or will it need to be redone in a couple years?”

      Well, I HOPE it will need to be redone in a couple of years! That’s the whole point of getting started and finding my perfect market.

      “A student or intern can do a logo for you, but students don’t have a business mindset yet and won’t consider your business objectives. Students minds are on getting a portfolio piece and getting a check, not about helping your business achieve its marketing and communication goals which design is a big part of.”

      Hello! This is pretty much what I want! I want a good looking logo because when starting out, I AM my company and its image.

      When Coca Cola started out, they didn’t hire Raymond Loewy to design its bottles or its logo. In fact, the logo was designed by one Frank Mason Robinson, book keeper to Coca Cola inventor John Pemberton, and the bottle was designed by bottle designer Earl R. Dean of the Root Glass Company. It wasn’t until the 1950’s the Mr. Loewy got the job of reshaping the bottle, and the logo has remained the same since Mr. Robinson first came up with the script in 1885. As the Coca Cola “wave,” as the tail of the script is known, has been ranked as the second most know symbol in the world, I’m guessing Mr. Robinson did a pretty good job!

      Of course, as Coca Cola was now a very successful company, they had Mr. Loewy go on to design their fountain dispensers, refrigerated vending machines, delivery truck bodies, and bottle cap removers.

      Sources for my information were Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coca-Cola) and Designboom.com (http://www.designboom.com/portrait/loewy.html) Information regarding the Coca Cola Wave being the second most recognized symbol in the world comes from memory, and I do not recall the source. I do recall that, at the time, the first most recognized symbol was the Christian Cross.


  • http://experimentsinpassiveincome.com Moon Hussain

    Whoa, interesting and somewhat controversial subject there! I used 99Designs a few months ago and ended up with a very solid design.

    The huge point that these designers are missing is that these designers are designing willingly; if you’re not happy with that, focus on a different market and don’t take part in these crowdsourcing competitions.

    To each, their own. I personally can’t afford a few grand for branding right now, and I know many others can’t, so these are some good & solid alternatives.

    • http://www.gdloft.com Chris

      I don’t think designers missed that point. I for one don’t care if other designers crowdsource for experience. Personally, I don’t think they gain much doing it. But again, it’s their preference. But truthfully, I also don’t deal with clients who 1.) I get a bad vibe from and 2.) crowdsource work. Trust me, they are not worth it.

      Here’s what a lot of people are missing, prices very from designer to designer based on experience. So while you think it’s going to cost you a few grand, you should probably talk to a designer to see what options you have budget-wise with them before making the assumption that you’ll be spending a couple grand. Some very experienced designers have done work on the cheap IF it benefits them. Sometimes a good business comes along that’s worth it.


  • Jusitn


    Thats my point…you need think about who your customers are, marketing which your logo is a part of cannot be shotgunned and hope you hit a market. Also, you shouldn’t have to redesign your logo in couple years when you’re successful if it is designed right in the first place.

    I’m just saying business owners need to think beyond fast, cheap logos that look good and as a temporary thing. This is your identity that the cusotmers, market, and world will see. I’m not saying you have to spend thousands of dollars for a good identity…even if you spend a 100 bucks on a logo, you need to consider the marketing questions I mentioned earlier.

    I’m trying to get across that there is alot more involved to logo design than present 3 or for ideas, and have the client pick one.

  • http://businessrenegade.co.uk Mark Salmon

    Hi Erica,

    Interesting discussion on design ‘spec work’. Having viewed the logos you cover in your post, I think the one you designed for yourself for Erica.biz is the best – exactly conveying what your blog is about. Have you considered a career change?



  • http://www.myshingle.com Carolyn Elefant

    Hey Erica,

    Let me ask you this – Would you work on spec? That’s why I can’t abide crowdsourcing – http://www.myshingle.com/2010/02/articles/marketing-making-money/would-you-work-on-spec-why-should-your-logo-designer/

    Caroly Elefant

  • Laura

    I had just read http://www.erica.biz/2010/arent-buying/ before this topic caught my eye. I see that these two posts both combine and collide. What your readers in the design industry are saying is that it not only doesn’t pay for their time (and efforts) but devalues the work. The use of these sites have “reset the anchor”

    For the designer, this is a huge obstacle. It may be shady, but it’s not going anywhere. That is why it is important that each design business to address this topic head on with potential clients and set the value for his or her work, not the industry.

    We can whine all we want, but if we can’t change it…we need to change how we respond to it.

    Thank you,


  • Dan

    Interesting all the negative remarks from designers on crowdsourcing logo design. Sounds like they are all scared. Times are changing, and if they don’t find a way to compete they may not be designing for much longer. The more options the better, I say. Let the client decide. They get what they pay for? Exactly. So give them options and let them decide. Quit whining, designers!

  • http://www.idrawdigital.com Drezz

    Ive been a designer for over 10 years and a creative director for 5. I’ve seen companies undercut our business with rock bottom pricing, basement designers giving away hours for nothing or simply working on spec, clients going for the cheapest price because of head office mandates, expecting you to work on spec, and those who don’t see the value in identity development and its role in marketing.

    The old argument of “You expect me to design something for free, yet would you do X job from your company for free?” doesn’t really do much when a potential customer already has their mind set on what they’re willing to pay. We all do the same thing for other people’s services – we expect the cheapest price with the best quality.

    This is another example of it. Think about it this way – if a potential customer wants you to do work for no pay, do you really want them as a client anyway?

    I applaud companies like 99designs who saw an opening for creating a service that caters to cheap designed logos in a bid system and found a way to make money for themselves and designers. In the end, everyone who contributes in that system gets something.

  • Sarah

    As a designer, I’m completely against crowdsourcing. First, it’s not truly crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing is getting a group together to build upon an idea. This is nothing more than a contest with cheap prizes. The funny thing is that I don’t even think it’s legal since we have laws about contests in the US. Second, this “contest” is more about cheap labor. I predict with the recent crackdown on unpaid interns that the US will crackdown on these sites as well. Third, I like how you want your company to make millions, but I guess you don’t want designers to make any money at all. You seem to be targeting other businesses with this blog, but by cheaply outsourcing designs and other services, aren’t you devaluing and not supporting businesses other than your own? I find that pretty hypocritical. You put more value in your workshop than you do for a logo design. Does that mean as a designer my work work is not as valuable as yours?

    • http://www.erica.biz/ Erica Douglass

      Hi Sarah,

      If you feel workshops would make you more money, feel free to put them on. You’re the one who sets the value of your time.


  • http://www.sheenaoosten.com sheena

    Hi Erica,

    Excellent site and great articles…and I commend you on what you have achieved in your life, especially being so young! Congratulations :)

    Just in relation to this particular post, I am a graphic/web designer who obviously doesn’t agree with doing “spec work”, but I fully understand why it’s a great idea for businesses. They get a variety of great logos to choose from and often pay less than they would had they worked with one particular design company. So in that sense they are really getting a good deal! But like another poster above mentioned, designers have to go through years of training/experience to become great at what they do, spend thoudands of dollars on specialised software and computers etc and this is why i believe most professional designers feel that they are really being ripped off and de-valued!

    Im just wondering how you would feel yourself if you offered to do a one day workshop, spent days preparing it and spent a signifiant amount of money on travel expenses….then you worked all day long helping other companies, felt everything went great and was a huge success, but you left without being paid a cent for all your hard work and time you put in? Why, because you agreed that those who attended didn’t have to pay a fee or contribute anything if they felt that they didn’t enjoy it, or personally didn’t get anything out of it (even if they did and lied about it to avoid paying)!

    You would surely feel a little hard done by right and probably wouldn’t be promoting the idea to other people in your position?

    Don’t get me wrong though, if there are designers out there who want to do spec work then by all means that’s their decision, but I don’t particularly like to see it being promoted as it devalues the design industry as a whole and could contribute to freelancers and small design companies becoming anything but successful :(

  • http://four94.wordpress.com/ Mark Richardson


    We used 99Designs for our new business Four94.
    We did take some heat from the “Creative” and “Marketing” people.
    But we were extremely happy with the results we gotten.

    If anyone is interested in seeing the results.
    Please check out our Blog at http://four94.wordpress.com/2010/07/28/and-the-winner-is/

    We would look feedback.


  • http://four94.wordpress.com/ Mark Richardson

    Hello Everyone,

    As I stated above, I have used 99Designs for a new logo we wanted.

    IMO, I really think it’s all about “Industry” that a person is in.
    As a software developers, me and my team really need something that is professional and “serviceable”.

    The software products we create and how we market them is what’s going to make us money.

    If you go to our Blog at http://four94.wordpress.com/2010/07/22/staying-lean-growing-your-company-efficiently/

    Watch the videos and see the point of view of software developers.

    Me personally, I do value design and I do value in helping people.
    The guy that created our logo.

    I personally talked to the guy through IM to find out more about who he is as a person.

    I discovered that the guy was someone who just graduated college that wanted to build his portfolio.

    Since we are a new company, I told him our budgets are small at this point, but I still wanted to be fair with the work he is putting into it.

    So we both are winners here.
    He got money for a logo that he really
    wanted something for his portfolio.

    I really think the customers that are on 99Designs are most likely “new business ventures” or they are in an industry where they don’t need all the bells and whistles in getting a logo designed.

    Good designers will ALWAYS have jobs no matter what.

    99Designs is very good for startups and entrepreneurs like myself.

    Once money comes in the door, an upgrade to the logo can be made.

    Just my thoughts.

    Stay well everyone!!!


  • http://www.smoothentrepreneur.com Steve @ Smooth Entrepreneur

    For start-ups, I always recommend that they crowdsource their creative material until they find a designer they like. Even when you find a great designer, using the power of crowds can deliver great results with projects that require a lot of creativity such as logos and marketing materials.

  • Justin

    Even if you are hiring a designs tudent to do your logos, treat it like a professional situation. Ask to see some sort of portfolio. A student may not ahve a long lsit of clients or 100 logo clients work to look at, but if thier portfolio of other work is good then you should be okay. Unfortuanately alot of businesses come to students to find “cheap” work. If all you are thinking about is the bottom line then I guess this is okay. But keep in mind a designer with expereince is thinking beyond visuals and thinking big picture for your business. Now, would you go to a “cheap doctor” for a major surgery or take your SAAB or Bentley to a “cheap” mechanic or have a “cheap lawyer” draw up your business paperwork?
    Design is a profession and it has value like other professional services, not and we take it very seriously. We are not out to make a quick buck, but we do want to be paid reasonably well for our services. If budget is the only concern, then get a quote from a student, a solo freelancer and a small design firm. Please offer to pay the studnet something and dont promise them that if they do a good job on the logo it will lead to more work. You cant go to your favorite reastaraunt aske them to give you a free meal and then say if you like it you’ll tell everbody about them. Whoever you get to design your stuff, pay them. Msot designers understand that not all business have huge budgets and are willing to work with you on that and will tell you what services you can get of x amount of dollars.
    Keep in mind also that when you hear a designers hourly rate it does not mean that all goes into thier pcoket. Even a solo designer has expenses so dont be alarmed when you haer hourly rates andywhere from 25 bucks an hour to upwaords of 75 to a hundred depnding on what market you are in. A desinger may have to cahrage 60 bucks an hour to make 30. We have bills like everbody else and legitimate expenses like phones, itnernet access, studio space, equipment and other things.

  • http://www.bubble-works.com Sabine

    I can see the point of the designers, their income is under threat. But I think the designers should also come off their high horse and offer small start-up-companies with hardly any budget an alternative. I cannot justify spending £1000 on a logo. That is my marketing, stall-fee and web-hosting budget for a whole year. If I spend it on a logo, I don’t have any money left to be able to sell my product, although my labels and company mail will now look pretty. And £1000 is not even enough, according to some designers.
    Why don’t these people start thinking about small businesses and offer something for them. A bit like private doctors do NHS work, they get paid a lot less, but they help people who cannot afford private doctors. I cannot afford a Picasso at home either, so I make-do with an Ikea Print. Does that devalue Picassos’s work or my house? No. It’s just different.
    The fact that not all designers get paid in this kind of market is not really an argument. If you are an architect and start bidding for a government project you also have to hand in a design idea and bid with 100s of other architects of which one will be chosen. If someone builds an extension to their house, they will get several quotes from different builders before deciding on which one to use. Normal business practice.
    As for me, I will be going for one of those sites and get my logo design from there. For now that is all I can afford. I am hoping to make contact with a good designer who either does this as an extra income or is at the start of their career, which means we can grow together. Once I am able to spend more on this kind of thing, the designer will also have grown and may be able to help me or point me in the right direction. So it’s a win-win situation for both of us.
    If you are worried about the fact that you could be designing for weeks and not get paid on these sites, then I would really look at what you are doing. If you are very good, you should be picking up plenty of work, if you consistently not win these kind of bids, then maybe it’s time to look at what you are doing. I have read the design-rules for logos and they do make sense, for corporate logos. If you have a creative business the ones that stand out from the crowd of “designed-by-rules” logos are the ones that you want and maybe a fresh set of eyes from a site like 99 is really what I want.

    • http://www.gdloft.com Chris

      You are completely wrong.

      Designers (most experienced designers) WILL negotiate with your budget. Again, the more money you are willing to spend, the better the quality. And some designers might be willing to give you some leeway.

      The argument you make with architects is incorrect also. What you are referring to is the bidding between architectural firms for a commissioned job. In that scenario, a firm, with a budget usually in the millions will allocate hundreds of thousands of dollars to do work on spec. You are correct that there are probably other firms competing but NEVER single architects for this would be a very bad business model. The winning firm receives extremely high benefits (in hundred million range)

      But your reference of home remodeling is forgetting one important fact. They are giving you quotes. As a designer, I give quotes ALL the time. I have no problem with that. But I won’t sketch out a possible logo. They can view my portfolio for that which is what those people do too. You can view their references, see their results from past jobs.

      Sadly, not all designers are lucky to just get jobs because they are good. Reality is this, less than 20% of designers coming out of school get design related jobs. The other 80% don’t and most likely change careers. Do I feel sorry for them? No. This happens in other professions too. Good, savy, and sometimes business oriented designers survive. Same as good business owners.

      Let me also add this, a good designer will incorporate your ideas AND good design standards (i hate the word rules cause most can be broken if done correctly).

      Lastly, to the person who mentioned Coca-Cola. That logo is a logo-type. Very common logo style and yes it’s success has grown over time. Frank Mason used Spencerian Script, a popular typeface at the time so if you are trying to say Mr Mason was not a designer, he might of very well had artistic taste (or lucky, the Ford motor company used this typeface also but since changed and this was a VERY popular typeface at the time). The term graphic designer wasn’t even coined till maybe the 40’s and people who can be considered designers, were most likely Renaissance men because they were skilled in other professions (see Bauhaus School).

  • Justin

    Professional designers are not on a high horse. We like other business have expenses to cover like offices, payroll, sub contractors, and other things. Good design doesnt cost money it makes you money if done right.
    Some designer firms will offer a low medium and high price range. Most of us offer monthly payments on larger projects.
    Soem designers are on a high horse I have met plenty of them. My advice is to meet with several and make sure you are comforatable working with one that you can build a good realtionsi with. A good designer will ask you what your budget is and see if we can work with it. Agod designer will ask you about your business, your clients, what you want to communicate and see how we can help your business and find solutions before we even get to talking about money.

    • http://www.gdloft.com Chris

      Spot on Justin.

  • http://www.logo-design.co.nz Luke

    Hi Erica, your article is spot on. Every business has a different budget for logo design and this usually a big influence on one’s choice of whether to do the DIY or to get a compnay to design their logo. Of course there are exceptions to the rule “you get what you pay for” – however, this is generally the case.

    If people choose a reputable company they should be able to get a logo for between $500-$1000….and if it’s done right first time round with the right focus from both designer and client, the client should end up with a great logo design that lasts the life of the business and the designer ends up with a happy client that will recommend them to others too.

  • Justin

    Graphic design is about the only industry that people think is a hobby.
    What people dont understand is that designers always have software and equipment to upgrade (the latest edition of Adobe CS5 will run $1800) plus some of us have offices and staff and vendors and other expenses to pay just like a real business.

    My point is design is a legitimate business, not a hobby.

    Good designers have also invested in thier education and even with a BA or Masters, we still have to continually educate ourselves on technology, new software, and a host of other things.

    I do work with clients budgets and I do take on pro bono projects for organizations, but I cannot work on specualtion.

    Graphic design is also the only industry where we are asked constantly do do stuff for free. Try asking your mechanic not to mark up parts and not charge you for labor. Ask your realtor to not take a commission on the sale or purchase of a house. Ask a car dealer to sell you a car below thier invoice and see what happens.

    Design services have value and good design doesnt cost money it makes money. Most desingers appreciate thier clients and the opportunity to do good work for them. Some designers do ahve an attitude and snooty attitude, but most of us are good folks who are passionate about what we do and want to make a decent living and a fair profit for offering our services just like other business owners, no matter what the industry is.

  • Karen

    Thank you for such a thoughtful and informative.

    By the way, of the many logos you have, the one you designed yourself is actually my favorite. You did good work. I think it’s the most original-looking and stylish of the bunch.

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  • Ron

    Personally, I am quite on the fence regarding the use of a crowdsourcing site for a logo design. It is still a touchy issue for most designers who said that crowdsourcing is a no-no for obtaining a logo design. I have tried crowdsourcing before and I know the risks involved but it comes within the territory. But there are other no-frills logo design websites online such as http://www.logobee.com, http://www.logodesignstation.com, logoyes.com, etc. which are actually great in getting a professional logo design at a fraction of the price and minus the risks of crowdsourcing (plagiarism is one of them). Seeing that there are no consultation services, the price is significantly lower than that of conventional design firms. For instance, I have tried http://www.logodesignstation.com and the experience was indeed a positive one. I managed to get my business logo design at an affordable price and the turnaround time was great as well. Highly recommended. Although crowdsourcing for logo designs could be a bane for some, many find it to be a viable alternative to get a fast logo on the cheap. It all depends on the individual actually.

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  • Scott

    Any true professional in any field will not begin work on a project without a price agreement and a deposit in-hand. Graphic designers are contract workers… what you get at crowdsourcing sites like 99designs are desperate amateurs who lack the experience and portfolios to compete in the professional marketplace. Students, newbies, wannabes, low-ballers, etc. I seriously doubt if anyone who goes to a site like that for a logo will agree to do what they are asking these designers to do… work for free in the slim hope that a payment will come. Try going to several restaurants and ordering meals from each, but only PAYING for the one you like best. It’s bad business. The effect on skilled professionals in the field is that their work is now devalued overall. I would discourage anyone from using these contests of mediocrity.

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  • http://www.logocontestreviews.com Henry James

    I am really glad that you shared your experience here. No doubt, crowd sourcing is a controversial topic and mostly perceived as harmful for graphic/logo designers. But today with help of this post I would like to share my thoughts about crowd sourcing.

    I agree that many submitted design entries go unpaid and the winners are not awarded with the real deserving amount but at the same time crowd sourcing gives a real platform to logo designers from all round the globe. Many logo designers who are not being hired by big design companies have to work as waiters and do other odd jobs. Isn’t it better that sitting in their home they could display their skills to the world.

    Also, small business owners which cannot hire big design companies, can get a good logo at affordable price through crowd sourcing. There are so many competitive companies which are running logo design contests. You can compare their prices and pick from here:


    Pick the best one which has minimum fees and maximum number of design entries to offer. As Erica has discussed 99Designs in so much detail, so i would also like to share its review and stats with you people:


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  • Anonymous

    how do you know how much 99 designs charges you for a fee on top of the designer payout? thanks.