Inside 99designs: How to best prepare for a graphic design contest

The more effort you put into anything in life, the better the results tend to be. Running a graphic design contest on 99designs is no different.

When running a design contest you’re essentially taking on the role of Creative Director, so it’s important to be prepared to offer the direction and guidance your designers will need to do the job well – even if you’re not much of a creative person yourself. When you’re willing to engage in the contest process, dipping your feet into working with graphic designers is way easier than you might think.

The first step in getting great results in a design contest is good preparation – this will happen before you even launch the project. Following the steps below will give your contest a clear focus from the get-go. Good designers are always attracted to well-thought-out design briefs, regardless of the prize. It makes their jobs a lot easier and gives them a better chance of winning!

This guide should also save you some hassle in the long run when it comes to things like registering a domain name and trademarking a business name.

1. Settle on your business name

larrydaviduncertain

It’s important to settle on your business name well before running your contest so you can avoid the pitfall of having to change your design at a later date. (Note that you can’t ask for a business name as part of a graphic design contest!)

As an example I selected the name Peanut Golem. The business sells unique and artistic t-shirts to a small but enthusiastic fan base of cult video games. Peanut Golem has the advantage of being unique enough to be memorable while fitting my target market well – it’s a quirky take on a common fantasy monster.

You may wish to register your business name as a trademark. The process of trademarking varies from country to country. There are some great online services who can help you with this, such as Trademarkia, Trademarken (US) and Trademarkify (AU).

You can also find official country-based trademarking information quite easily via Google. Simply search for the applicable country name followed by the word “trademarking.” Here are some quick links for those of you in the USA, Australia, UK, Germany, Europe, Brazil and Japan.

2. Register a domain name

If you were planning on getting a .com business web address or a localized .au, .co.uk or other regional domain name, you’ll want to see if it’s actually available for purchase.

For simplicity’s sake, we’re showing the web’s largest domain provider, GoDaddy, as an example. There are thousands of online businesses you can purchase domain names from though, so shop around.

godaddy

In the above case, peanutgolem.com is already taken, and that’s because I registered it prior to writing this blog post. (Hot tip: register your domain before you publicize your business name!)

Domain name searches can also inform you of other businesses using the same name, so they can be really helpful when deciding on a business name.

As rule of thumb, do domain name searches on any business name that you’re seriously considering registering. Once you decide on a name, you’ll want to register the domain right away, before anyone else has the chance.

3. Create a design inspiration board to show off your style

This is easy to do online and can be a lot of fun to boot! It will help you learn more about what you want from your design so you can better communicate your goals with designers right from the start. Using inspiration boards is also a preferred method of briefing used by 99designs staff members when running contests, because it works!

pinterest

I used the image sharing network Pinterest to assemble a Peanut Golem Inspiration Board that showcases some design styles and general aesthetics I associate with the Peanut Golem brand — stuff like video game pixel art, 50s and 60s horror films, peanuts, comic book artwork and golems.

You can sign into Pinterest using Facebook or email and start making a board right away. Get design inspiration anywhere you can think of, from the logo of a company you admire to the interior decoration at your favorite cafe. Google image search is great for this, as are logo sites such as LogoMoose, Logofaves and Logopond.

Assembling an inspiration board that reflects styles you find relevant to your business will help designers tremendously. The more direction you provide in this area, the more creative the designers will get. When you provide no direction, the results tend to be more generic.

You can also use Pinterest to see what other businesses in your industry are doing, or search for different types of designs for inspiration. Try whatever pops into your head.

Check out these examples of Coffee Logos, Minimalist Food Packaging, Americana, Fitness Logos and Craft Beer Labels.

If you’re running a logo contest, 99designs has a tool that can help you add examples as you create your brief. Look out for this as a category-wide feature in the future!

inspiration

4. Prepare a brief BEFORE you launch

You can get a heads-up on what info you need to provide in your 99designs brief prior to launching a contest. Simply go through the launch process to view the different fields you’ll fill out. You don’t need to fill them out now, though if you sign up and log into the website you can save notes in the brief fields for later.

You’ll want to include a link to your inspiration board in your brief and offer a few ideas about what you want to see in the design. It’s great to come to the table with some concepts and also give the designers creative license to do what they think is best.

brief01

In the above example, I actually used the first brief field to convey the most important information the designers need to know before giving a rundown of my organization and audience. You can read the full brief here. I completed this brief over a period of a few days, adding ideas as they came.

It’s important to not rush through this process under the assumption that you’ll just see what the designers come up with. Great designers are attracted to great briefs. The less artistic direction you provide in the brief, the more generic the results tend to be.

5. Find and favorite designers

Take advantage of the 99designs Designer Directory to find designers you’d like to work with. You can create a ‘favorites’ list and invite those designers to your contest once it launches.

While I was running a logo contest for Peanut Golem, the style I wanted was illustrative, so I went ahead filtered results by the “illustration” category and favorited illustrators I liked best. You can simply click on the heart next to the designer’s name to favorite that designer.

favourites

Once you launch your contest you’ll be able to invite your favorited designers as well as any others you find through the directory.

If you’re well prepared for your design contest it will ensure you’re ready to focus on the things that matter most once it’s up and running.

Well-prepared? Make sure to check out our blog post on how to best run the contest!

Sheamus works for 99designs as an Account Manager and crowdsourced graphic design expert out of our Melbourne office. In his time off you'll find him writing freelance, taking in the city's vibrant live music scene and trawling second hand stores for old Sega games.

2 Comments

  1. Sasha

    Nice post Sheamus!

    Reply April 10, 2014 at 5:41 pm
    • Sheamus

      Cheers Sasha :D

      Reply April 10, 2014 at 7:04 pm

Or leave a comment: