Friday, 21 February 2014

Design Beauty Contest

In the last week, I've been invited on two occasions to give my opinion in a "design contest" hosted by 99designs . One contest was for a logo design, the other for a book cover design. The "clients" had whittled down the entries to 5 or 6 designs and had asked their friends and contacts to vote.

99designs is big business, one of the fastest growing crowd-sourcing outfits today. They currently boast a community of 282,249 designers  (although one does wonder exactly how much of a community this is, as they are all in competition with each other.) As a client, you can buy a package starting from €229 for your design project, which will already give you dozens of designs. In addition to logos and book covers, you can have anything else from T-shirts to illustrations to web pages to mobile apps.

This development from what was a somewhat elite industry based on personal connections and contacts to an internet-based democratic platform is an inevitable one, and has obvious parallels with publishing and the book business.

But is the development welcome? Well, there are clear positives. For clients, especially freelancers and small businesses, there are huge advantages. Not to mention all those self-published authors. It's also cheering to think that 99designs may be offering people a chance or a foot in the door - a single mother in a developing country, or a housebound young person in an inaccessible village. However, I would like to know more about how much the designers themselves are getting out of it. I haven't done the sums but if you're pitching against at least 30 others each time, your chances of winning are pretty slim. And you'll only ever be as good as your last pitch.

The emphasis on the website is more on quantity - how many designs you'll have to choose from. I don't know - as a client I'd rather choose from three stunning ideas than thirty so-so ones. And to get a stunning idea, I think that the designer needs to know my brand or my book or whatever it is pretty well, which comes in part from building up a relationship, face-to-face if possible.

Don't get me wrong: I'm pleased that this exists and might even be tempted to give it a go one day.

But you won't catch me signing up for the next step which is called 99strategies.

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