Paul L. Wilson

How to Effectively Crowdsource Your Design

For years I successfully ran a “one man shop” web development company with only knowing the basics in web design and development. However, what I didn’t know in design and programming I made up by thoroughly knowing outsourcing, crowdsourcing, and project management.

I am often asked to teach these business methods to others, and over the years I have developed a series of lessons to help facilitate these requests. I have been meaning to publish these lessons, but with all that is currently going on in my life I don’t see it happening any time soon. So, instead of waiting for that someday to come I have decided to publish the lesson that is most requested—crowdsourcing.

Basically, crowdsourcing is utilizing the masses to do a task. For example, uses a community of designers for each of their t-shirts. The designer who has a design selected from the crowd receives royalties from Threadless when the t-shirt is made and sold.

When I had my development company I used (and still use) crowdsourcing for designing logos, websites, and marketing materials. Not only can you get a great design this way, but, if you look in the right places, you can get it inexpensively.

Below, I have published my design lessons, in their entirety (homework and all). I give step-by-step on how to do it, and I share my secret of the best place to do it.

My hope is that these lessons will help those who just don’t have the capital to waste on designs that are too expensive to help a small business! Please let me know if you need further clarification on any of the points or have any questions. ~Paul


Now that you have your domain it is time to design it. This is actually a very valuable skill that I am about to teach you. I designed and developed websites for three years without knowing any intensive programming language, like php or java, or being able to design. What I did know was how to project manage. I worked closely with the client to discover their website needs and then passed this information on to programmers and designers around the world to create exactly what the client wanted.

You cannot be an expert in everything, but generally hiring an expert (not to mention a lot of experts) costs you a lot of pesos. In order to compete you need to maximize your results by minimizing your expenses. Understanding this, you will shortly see why outsourcing and offshoring will be one of the most essential elements of you having a successful web company.

When I first started offshoring in 2004 and 2005 I used website like or If you have used these services before you know that you are not really getting good prices. Most of the international companies on these sites are big corporations that have the same pricing as the U.S. companies.

It wasn’t until 2006 that I realized I needed to find freelancers in other countries, and not the big companies, in order to get the pricing I needed to compete. That is a lot easier said than done, but I was able to find a few freelance web designers through friends of friends, and started working with them exclusively for a while.

I soon learned though, that having one designer isn’t always a good idea. He or she may be able to provide a good design the first time but may not be able to do this every time. I also learned that each time I worked with a designer or programmer exclusively that over time they would raise their prices on me, and I would be back to the original problem of paying high prices and not being competitive.

Luckily, in 2007 I stumbled across a forum you have already become familiar with in lesson one–DigitalPoint (DP). DP introduced me to the concept of crowdsourcing, which was relatively new in 2007. The general concept behind crowdsourcing is that the masses help create the best product at a reasonable price.

This is done by providing a project to a large group of individuals who have talents specific to your project. The crowd works on this project by each individual presenting his or her final product for your review. You give feedback of what you like or dislike on each of the submissions given. This goes on until one of the individuals creates a submission that you like. You then pay this person and close the project. So, even though you may have received hundreds of submission with lots of revisions you only have to pay for the one you like the best.

The great thing about crowdsourcing is that the best ideas come forth without having to pay for all the other bad ideas. Contrast this to the traditional way of doing design here in the United States. You contact a design firm and tell them what you want a logo. They return back a week or two later with a couple logos generally created by one designer. You chose from your small selection the logo you like best. You are allowed to ask the designer to make a few changes to the selected logo (most companies only allow you three free revisions). The design firm charges you $650.

With DP you get 20 to 30 logos to choose from. You are permitted to ask the artist to make unlimited revisions. You only pay $15 to $25 for the one logo you absolutely love. This whole process generally takes a day or two. So, you can see how this method is more desirable to an entrepreneur who doesn’t have money to blow on a simple logo for his website.

What I find fascinating is that the crowd sourcing done on DP is still unknown to many people. I think the reason for this is that DP doesn’t call this whole process crowdsourcing, but rather a contest. If you go to DP design contests you will find a whole thread dedicated to design contests. You can get anything designed from a logo, marketing material, or an entire website.

However, in order to create your own contest in the contest thread you need to have posted 25 comments and have at least two weeks of membership on DP. Wait, you already did this for lesson one (yes, I am Mr. Miyagi teaching you to wax on, wax off for a reason =) ). So, now that you have already done these prerequisites I can show you how to setup a contest that will get you results.

As you look around the contest thread on DP you will see that there are some contests that have a lot of submissions and some that have no submissions. The reason for this is that a lot of contests break some very important unsaid rules on this thread. If you make these mistakes, doing contests will be a large waste of your time.

So, to get started let me help you overcome these mistakes by walking you through the steps of setting up a successful logo contest:

1.  Go to the Contest Thread and click on “Post New Thread” found in the top left hand corner under the site’s navigation.

2.  You will be taken to a page that has a recaptcha (the image verification where you prove you are not a spammer) and a text field for writing. Select the check mark box that states: “I believe Contests is the BEST section for this topic.”

3.  Under the check box is a drop down menu with the options: WTS, WTB, WTT. These stand for “Want To Sell,” “Want To Buy,” and “Want To Trade.” You can select WTB if you want, but I usually don’t select anything.

4.  You have the title next. My formula for the title is to have an adjective, like “Quick” or “Easy,” to describe the contest with the amount the winner will win, and how long the contest will run. For example, here is a title for an actual contest I ran: “Easy $25 Logo Contest (48 Hours).” However, often I will drop the adjective so that the first thing the artist reads is how much I am going to pay. Here is another contest I ran last year: “$20 Logo Design (48 hours).” Also, don’t worry about figuring out if the time frame is too long or short. I always put the 48 hours into the title to create a sense of urgency, but I rarely adhere to it.

5.  The final part of creating your contest thread is the body of the contest. Obviously, this is quite important. Here you will lay out all the things you need and the rules of your contest. Below are the different parts of the body:

  • Share what your logo is for (example: an educational site).
  • Share your guidelines (example: you want your domain name in the design, a certain slogan, color scheme, or image)
  • The format you want the design in. I generally provide this sentence in my contest: “The winner will need to provide the logo in psd or vector (preferably both, but not required).” If you are planning to use your design in print (like a flyer or something), than you want the designer to provide you a vector. However, a lot of designers who participate in DP contests only do psd (photoshop) designs and you won’t get as many submissions.
  • Tell your participants that you will not accept any private message (PM) submissions. This is extremely important since many of your artist don’t want other artist to see their design, but you want all designs to be public because it improves everybody’s submissions. I generally will bold and put in red this line: “All questions and submissions must be submitted through the thread. I will not take any PM-ed designs or questions.”
  • You will then set the time of the contest. As stated earlier this isn’t as important, but if you forget to add it to your post you will be asked by all the artist how long the contest is. I put this sentence: “The contest is for 48 hours or until a clear winner is decided on. Please let me know in the thread if you have any questions.
  • Finally, if you have any images or old logos you want the artist to see I have links at the bottom of the post that take them to these images. You cannot add images through DP, so you will want to create an account to host your images.
  • Sometimes I will also provide examples of other logos I would like my logo to look like.

6.  Once you go through all these steps you will scroll to the top of the page and fill out the Image Verification at the top, and then scroll to the bottom and click on “Submit New Thread.”

7.  Now that you have posted your contest you need to send invitations out to artists to join your contest. This step is rarely done by contest holders and is why a lot of contests don’t get many submissions. At the bottom of this email I have added a list of the designers I always invite to my contests. It is actually not an easy process to invite designers. I know DP has an easier way, but you have to wait a long time before you can set it up and the process I am about to show you lets you invite designers right now. If you want to learn how to do the second process of waiting to create a large list of designers than let me know. However, right now, we are going to focus on how to get designers to your contest right away.

  • Scroll up to the top of any page on DP and select “Settings” found in the right hand corner (it is next to the “log out” link).
  • The Settings page shows all your private messages and subscriptions. There are actually many functions on this page, but I only use it for these two aspects. Off to the left you will see “Send New Message,” select this.
  • You are now in the message center and this is where you will send your invitations to the artists. You will want to select the link that says, “[BCC Recipients],” located above the first text field.
  • When you select this a second text field should appear. Copy the list of designers provided at the bottom of this email and add it in the BCC field (BCC stand for blind carbon copy, this makes it so your designers don’t know who else you are inviting).
  • Next you will add a title. For logos I use this title: “Logo Design Contest Invitation.” I rarely put the price of the contest in the title or body of the message. I want the artist to be curious enough to come to the contest. The only time I put the amount of the contest is if it is a large amount. I recently did a $300 contest. You better believe I put that in the title and the body.
  • For the body I invite the designer, give a link to the contest, and give them an option to opt-out of my invitation list. Here is a real example of one of my messages I sent out: “I am holding a logo design contest, and I wanted to be sure you were invited. You can visit the contest here. I hope to see you there. If you do not want to receive any more invitations please let me know. ~Paul”
  • Once you have crafted your message you will scroll to the bottom right of the page and select “Submit Message.”
  • After you try to send the message you will get an error at the top of the page that says, “Too many recipients – you are attempting to send to 66 users but you are only allowed to send to 2 users.” That’s right, you can only invite two designers at time. This is DP’s way to stop spam. So, what you need to do is go to the BCC field, copy everyone in the list but the first two designers. You will then right click or select ctrl x and cut this list out of the text field (important: don’t just delete this list, you need this list on your computer’s internal copyboard).
  • Now go to the bottom of the page and again select “Submit Message.” This time your message will go through and you will be taken to private message home page.
  • Now click on the back button to view the message you just sent. You will see the two designers you just messaged. Highlight those and right click on your mouse (or ctrl v) and paste the full list you had copied from the first message you sent. The two you just mailed will be deleted and you will notice that this list is the full list with the exception of the two designers you just emailed. You will follow the same steps of copying all the designers except the two you are mailing and cutting out the rest of the list. Then mailing the message and clicking on the back button once the message has gone through to repeat these steps over and over 33 times. It is a very long process but pays huge dividends by getting you the best designs for your contests.

8.  Now that you have sent all your messages you will have to wait a few hours (sometimes three to six hours) before you get your first submissions. If possible, you want to respond as soon as possible when someone submits a design. To get an email whenever a designer posts to your thread follow these steps:

  • Go back to your private message area (the same place you invited the artists to your contest) and on the left you can select “List Subscriptions” under “My Subscriptions.”
  • There you will be shown a list of all the threads you have created or commented on. At the end of each listing you will see on the right a check box. Select all the boxes you want to receive instant notifications on.
  • Scroll to the bottom of the page and you will see a drop down box that says, “Selected Threads,” with a an arrow pointing down. Click on this an you will be shown a box with options.
  • Click on the radio button that says, “Instantly, using email,” and select the button “Go.”

9.  The quicker you respond the better your contest will be. Designers love fast responding contest owners. It helps them finish up your design quicker, instead of having to wait hours each time you request a change.

10.  When someone does submit a design you have three options: You can tell them that you like it and will add their design to be considered once the contest is over; You can tell them exactly the changes you want them to make to the logo; or you can tell them you don’t like the design and to submit something different. You will go through this process until you get the logo you absolutely love. I recommend five things as you do this process:

  • Be nice. These designers put a lot of time into your design (most of the time). If I don’t like a design I always say something nice about the design and then share why I don’t like it. Sometimes the only thing I can say is thank you for submitting your design. However, being nice will help you build a strong following with the designers for future contests.
  • If you don’t like a design it is okay to let the designer know. Often contest holders will have the designer make changes up until they announce a winner. Don’t waste theirs or your time.
  • Don’t let designers take control of your thread. Often they will complain or try to talk about things off topic. One post is okay, but if you see people responding to the post try to redirect them back to the contest.
  • Keep an eye out for people who copy other people’s designs. It’s okay if you see a design that received inspiration from someone else design, but an almost complete knock-off will upset the contest. The original designer will forever follow you if you disqualify another designer after submitting a knock-off design.
  • Finally, I download every submission, good or bad, to my computer (right click and select save image). After the contest is over many of the designers pull down their submissions off of your thread, and often I will use a logo that didn’t win as inspiration for another logo. However, it is unfair and unethical to use these logos for websites or anything else if you have not paid for it.

11.  When you have found a winning design close the contest by announcing the winner. Something I do in every contest is announce runner-up designs and give $5 to $10 cash prizes to the runner ups. I do this for several reasons, first, I only give runner up prizes to artists that I would like to see in future contests. It shows that I value their work and time and hope to see them in future contests. Secondly, it shows the other designers that when they provide quality in my contests that they can very easily win some money even if I don’t choose their design as the winning design. I have a very strong following of artists who participate in all my contests, which is worth an extra few dollars. However, I make sure not to announce at the beginning of the contest that I will have runner-up awards. Doing it that way, makes it so I am not locked in to having runner-up prizes, and for artists that are new to my contests it is a pleasant surprise for them.

12.  After you have closed the contest you need to send private message to the winner and runner-ups. This is the email I send:

  • TITLE: Instructions for Contest Winners and Runner-Ups
  • BODY: Your submission has been selected as a winner or runner-up for a [my DP username] contest. Here are the next steps you need to take: 1. PM me your paypal address. 2. After receiving payment, send jpg/png and psd/ai of your design (optional for runner-ups) to [my email address]. 3. Please provide iTrader feedback and I will do likewise. 4. If you felt the contest was fair please leave reputation points on one of my posts in the thread.  Thank you for your great designs and hard work. I hope to see you in my future contests. ~Paul

13.  There are several things in the email which you may not recognize, such as, iTrader feedback and reputation points. iTrader feedback is the feedback score you see on every post that you leave on DP. The more iTrader feedback you have the more prestigious you are considered in the DP forums. You only leave iTrader points when there is a transaction done on DP (so, only for the winners and runner-ups of your contest). To leave iTrader feedback you need to follow these steps:

  • Go to a post the winner has left in your contest and look in the right hand corner of the post. There you will see three things, “Join Date,” “Posts,” and “Feedback Score.” The Feedback Score has a number next to it that is a link. Click on the link.
  • On the next page you will see a link that says, “Submit Feedback For [name of user]. Select this link.
  • Now you have a form to fill out that is attached to the iTrader feedback. At the end of the form is a private comment that you can send to the artist, which I always add a personalized message in order to build a better relationship with the designer.

14.  Here are the steps to leave reputation points:

  • Go to any post that the an artist has in your contest thread and click on the star that is located in the bottom left hand corner.
  • A popup window will appear and you can select “I approve” and then leave a comment.

15.  You want to leave iTrader feedback and reputation points only after you have paid the designer and received his or her design. Most contest holders don’t do reputation points so doing this helps you stand out.

So, that is the long step-by-step guide to doing a design contest. These steps can work for a logo or web page design contest. Though, for a web page the rule of thumb is to charge $65 for a one page design, and $40 for every page afterwards. For this lessons, you will want to create a one page website.

However, before creating your webpages you need to have a logo. The logo sets the mood for the whole site and it makes it easier for designer to create your webpages if they have a logo. I will write another email that goes more into how to successfully do a webpage contest because they are a little harder, but overall it is not too much different from the logo design.

It is probably obvious what your homework is to create a logo contest for your website. You have 7 days to create the contest. I have given you so much time for this homework because I really want you to create the contest when you can give it a lot of attention. Once you have created the contest please email me the link to your contest and I will periodically watch as you host your first contest.

Please let me know if any part of this email was unclear or if you have further questions. Thanks. ~Paul

List of Designers
I put the list in the format DP likes it. Make sure you read step 7 of how to create a successful DP contest before using this list.

jaanFX ; katesrobyn ; Pixel Dynamics ; yugo ; Abyss ; bizzard ; neilparnham ; willhaynes ; jnjnnino ; badmasketa ; jay2xtreme2125 ; jharrvis ; shinan ; imhawk ; Ace2016 ; GreenleafElf17 ; musebay ; sheriffonline ; cottonStella ; dimitri123 ; JustRulz ; Rover.SC ; A-Q ; Anasone ; anidesign ; JMP Designs ; The-Haunted ; TightWad ; CameoAnderson ; l3fty ; Shawn Ross ; Lalas111 ; nelo ; jackieh1791 ; matafixer ; voizant ; [x[x]x] ; Itaydr ; a4hire ; colorfast_designs ; hs143no ; labela ; amir_daman ; Creations4You ; jokomamamita ; megatop ; waiz86 ; alexs464 ; Dakouten ; renderwork ; technoguy ; TheAge ; blankeyecue ; offiri0 ; plugzzzz ; ^_^DesignGuru ; leetsooc ; onlyfights ; m3l1ssh4 ; zagart ; logorice ; Erthy ; design_nikki ;  Fraz! ; stardesigns99 ; Chewysmom ; ParagonDesign ; Karimc48 ; Brainsurgeon ; wolf6 ; ing_pacz ; manhal ; jeremiahgoogly ; kristnino ; carnage0021 ; misterbadz ; scoprionagency ; spy100 ; arunefx ; accipiter ; rtek ; alex657 ;