These Designs Are Not The Solutions You Are Looking For

Why sourcing design by contest is a waste of time and budget.


We’ve all witnessed a design contest, if not actively participated in one. Remember being asked to draw up a logo for your hockey team or debate club? You and your friends would submit ideas, a winner would be chosen, and someone would get to see their logo on the back of your club shirts. It may have just been a “fun” casual thing, but that was a design contest!

Design contests are not a new innovation. Since the days of office cork boards and innocuous selection committees, design contests have existed. But over the last few years they have found a home online amidst thousands of other contests offered up to the design community. Not only are they more abundant, they’re beginning to be used for more than a logo or business card, but for large scale projects like web design and app development. With only a few clicks anyone is able to start up a contest and source any marketing deliverable they desire.

Big or small, these contests all follow pretty much the same format. Mr. Business-Time has limited funds but big dreams, so he hosts a competition offering up a small prize for a winning logo or poster, or some other small deliverable. Designers, both amateur and professional, contribute their ideas to the pool. Mr. BT picks his favourite and issues the prize as soon as he gets his finished work. It sounds perfect doesn’t it? But, perfect for whom? The answer is no one.

 As a designer, I have been warned against these contests since I first stepped foot in my Typography 101 class. These competitions are nothing more than a way of getting artists to work for little or no compensation, and the work that is generated by these endeavours is usually worth about as much.

So here are 5 reasons why design contests are NOT what you need to build your business.

1. It’s about more than just design.

When it comes to the web, design is only a small piece of the puzzle. First and foremost a good website needs to reach its target audience regardless of what it looks like. The website needs to be optimized so search engines can find it ahead of competing sites. Once a user has found the site, it needs to be able to give that user what they want, while also delivering the content they need. This means content first and an elegantly designed user experience. 

Your website also needs to function properly on mobile devices considering that the number of users skipping the desktop in favour of phones or tablets is increasing at an alarming rate. Have you noticed that we’re not talking about colours or images? It is about how the site works, how users interact, and how it is found—all things that are rarely considered when a random collection of unknown designers are pumping out mockups against the competition. The designs you get from the crowd may be pretty but the considerations go beyond mere decoration.

2. Process matters.

At Top Draw, the process we go through typically involves 3-5 specialists working to bring their areas of expertise seamlessly together. There is a lot of work that happens before design even begins. Market research, content strategy and prototyping are just a few examples of work done to inform the design process. And when we do produce the visual style of the website, our jobs are far from over. Designers and developers work in tandem to build out functionality, test and iterate, and create a beautiful user experience. We’re not done yet. Our SEO team then gets involved to ensure the new site doesn’t get swallowed by the rest of the internet. It’s a complex undertaking with many steps, and each and every one is important.

3. A beautiful looking design isn’t always a good working tool.

When you’re presented with fifty designs to choose from, it can be so easy to just pick the one you think looks the best. Personal preferences aside, working with an experienced team will not only help you explore different designs, but understand why a specific one will work the best for you and your company.

4. Working relationships are worth more than you realize.

You may think that your design needs start and end with a single project but over the course of your company’s life, you’ll discover numerous needs for a talented designer and marketing company. From website development and continued updates, to stationery, advertising and brand management, you will always need design and marketing support to keep your company current and competitive. Crowd sourced designs mean less innovation, intimacy and understanding, rather than developing a strong relationship with a team who knows your brand and understands your company and its goals.

5. Your brand and website are invaluable, and they deserve priority in your budget.

There is no denying that starting and maintaining a company is expensive but cutting corners when it comes to your brand is a fast way to waste the budget you have available. Your website is one of your best communication tools you have for your business and it should be given the appropriate support and priority. An industry leading agency like Top Draw may seem out of reach, but with a proven track record of converting investments into solutions we can show you how partnering with us will let you to create something powerful. The internet dominates our lives and the way we communicate with each other, making your website a vital connection to your audience.

Websites that offer up design contests as the answer to your marketing needs may talk a good game, but in reality they offer short-sighted ideas that cause more harm than good. True value in online development comes from a genuine understanding of the client and their business goals. At Top Draw we craft solutions that are as unique as each of the clients we partner with, and we create tools that build business and drive innovation. Our designs produce results and we think that is a true thing of beauty.

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