Tech Tip: Best Crowdsourcing Sites and Most Awesome Designs

Within seconds of handing out my business card to Joel, he pointed to our logo and uttered, “I really like that”. Yet, it threw him off-guard when I added, “I crowdsourced it”. The logo for Mojo40 — you know that delightful, conceptual smiley face that’s up in the left corner? I casually announced, “We paid $269 for it and selected it from 105 entries worldwide.”

He answered without missing a beat (as he handed his card to me), “I paid $500 for mine.” But, dear readers, his logo was utterly forgettable.

What is crowdsourcing? The best ideas, with the most light, from global talent.

Why pay for 1 designer when you can get 100 for the same price?
Even the most talented designer can have a tough time figuring out just the right design for you. Especially if you’re not sure what that design is yourself. Wouldn’t it be great if you could look at how 100 designers would do the job and just pay for the one you liked best?   That’s crowdsourcing in a nutshell.  You post a project, lots of designers give it their best shot, and then you just pay for the one you like best.

How to crowdsource a project
There are many crowdsourcing sites out there.  Some of the more popular ones are and  The most popular one, however,  and the one we use ourselves is  This is a jewel of a site for small businesses and they crowdsource much more than just designs.  They also do content writing, websites, product design, and company naming. They have thousands of creatives participating from all over the world (although you can specify US only).

If you’re thinking about crowdsourcing a project or just want to see how it works, follow the steps below.

  1. Register at (it’s free) and then take a look around to get a feel for how people describe their projects and how much they offer the winners. They have excellent FAQs,  tips on how to describe your project , and how to include samples. Read those before diving into any projects.
  2. Decide how much you want to pay. The lowest starts at $200.  The higher your award amount, the more designers will enter work for your project.
  3. Offer thoughtful and specific feedback to every  person who submits an entry. The sooner the better.  The feedback will be public so the other designers can get a better feel for what you like. Plus, this feedback may be the only psychological payment they get.
  4. Make sure that the duration of the contest goes beyond the weekend. Many freelance artists and writers work on evenings and weekends.
  5. Go into the portfolios of members, and invite them to take a look at your contest and submit something. This is especially necessary if you are offering compensation on the low end (like we did). Inviting people not only strokes their egos, but it also gets them excited about your project.
  6. As you rate entrants, keep in mind that someone who sends you a revision (or two or three) is looking for their ratings to go up. If at all possible, try to be positive and give them very specific feedback on which aspects you liked the most. Unless the revision was a slap dash effort, be nice and encourage them with a higher mark.
  7. At the end, take a few days to think on it. Select the top 4-6 entries and consult with your friends and trusted network. In our case, while there were varying opinions of what’s the favorite, one design over time definitely stood out among the others.  Thanks Janisa.

Other great crowdsourcing sites:

  1. For  great videos, check out They have incredible work. I saw that one featured cinematographer (who had won a GEICO contest)  lives close by. So I did the Mojo thing and met him for coffee. We now have a great resource for our future video projects.
  2. For more information about how to crowdsource financing, ideas, and just about everything else check out  48 Ways to Crowdsource Everything.
  3. Want to try the other side? Here’s Mashable’s 18 Ways to Make Money Crowdworking.

Mojo Moves

  • Even if you aren’t currently thinking about crowdsourcing a project, check out so you can see why it’s such a big deal
  • If you’re a small business or a blogger in need of a logo, skip the one designer route and try crowdsourcing
  • If you’re an employee, do your homework and research the right crowdsourcing site for the type of challenges your firm typically faces. Then, at the right opportunity, suggest crowdsourcing for your next video/ online project/ new product idea.

Got some other tips about crowdsourcing? Questions?  Spill below in comments.


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  • Carol

    Thanks for de-valuing the work of every professional graphic designer out there.

    • Diane Dolinsky-Pickar

      Carol, you are absolutely right, and I am not too big to admit when I am wrong. This was not the headline I had intended… I will change it, since it does NOT reflect my views. Please note, your COMMENT is well-taken… and beyond being noted, has made me take action.

  • Wendy Hanlan

    This is great info – thank you so much for passing it on! Always looking for the biggest bang for my buck. Well done!

  • Sharon O’Day

    Great to have another resource! I used 99Designs almost two years ago, and was thrilled with their work. Unfortunately for the professional graphic designer who felt devalued (comment above), that’s the side effect of having all geographic barriers removed: global competition. Like it or hate it, that’s today’s reality. Design work is now available to infinitely more people … demand increases as prices drop. Top designers will hold on to top clients … and the rest will work on volume.

  • Michael Berliner

    I believe ultimately this is bad for design, and advertising and commercial marketing writing businesses. It DOES devalue the product. While it has some uses, like a one-shot logo in your example, in my opinion crowdsourcing is not good for serving the LONG TERM goals of servicing a client’s needs. A crowd source graphic designer cares not one whit about having fiscal responsibility of the success or failure of a marketing effort for a client. He or she has no moral or even legal compact with that client to do what’s best for their business. And why should they? Clients who accept crowd sourced work over the long term deserve what they get. There used to be a degree of loyalty in this business. Agencies who actually cared about doing right by their clients. It’s what smart clients pay for, and what they deserve. Long-term, strategic, creative solutions.

    • Diane Dolinsky-Pickar

      I can see your point of view, Michael, but the interesting thing is that while we used crowdsourcing, it is not necessarily an either-or decision. For example, having identified a designer for the logo, we then started a relationship wherein she made our favicon, and we paid separately for that, and then in order to make some graphic buttons, we went back to her directly. So, it is possible that crowdsourcing can lead to loyalty and relationships!

  • Michael Berliner

    Thanks Diane. And I appreciate your response – I’m glad that it has turned into a vehicle for creating a longer term relationship.
    For the longest time, we ad folk, and agencies, have been considered “vendors” by many clients (rather than “marketing partners” which is of course how we prefer to look at things).
    It’s not easy to change that perception, and I guess that’s what I see as the downside of the crowdsource way. It can help fuel the perception that “anyone can do this” — which really isn’t true. Anyone can get lucky with a great idea- once, or even twice– the tough part is sustaining that top-notch productivity, on strategy, every time.
    There’s a famous quote which I don’t know is true or not, that someone viewing Jackson Pollock’s work said “That’s baloney. I could do that.” And the reply is, “You didn’t though. And he did.”

  • http://mojo40 Mark

    Didn’t know this. Good info.

  • Kim

    Well, 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,,, 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 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.

  • jp

    I am a creative, and marvel at artists who denounce crowdsourcing as a threat to quality, long-term effects/relationships, “artistic ethics”….

    It’s the same kind of narrow, non-evolved thinking that ironically, has gotten some of the largest mass media congloms into deep trouble. Examples:

    1. Blockbuster, who to their peril, ignored evolution and left the door wide open for entrepreneurs. Enter Reed Hastings.

    2. Borders. Again, in ignoring the digital revolution, Borders’ seeds of destruction were inherent and only a matter of time. By the time they limped intot he pot by offering e-readers, it was like being in the fourth quarter and down by 12 with 10 seconds left.

    3. Tower Records. They are perhaps the classic example of ignorance and a refusal to evolve. Result? Obliteration.

    4. AOL/Time-Warner. Here we had an online juggernaut and the largest traditional media conglom at the time hooking up. From the very beginning, it was a bad marriage.
    Years of decline/devaluation and yet Dick Parsons maintained his job for a long time. How? Beats me….

    5. The poster child for “not getting it” is Yahoo. Anyone old enough to remember when Yahoo was THE Net company? They were perfectly positioned. BUT then, a fatal error that would cement their future; they hired Terry Semel. (look him up). Yahoo didn’t evolve, and in a familiar pattern left the door open for entrepreneurs, and voila, in walked a company that didn’t need “star” CEOs but instead concentrated on innovating — THE KEY to success in the digital age. The company, of course, is Google.

    Creatives today are in a new dawn. Those who fail to OPEN THEIR MINDS and evolve will in probability be the dinosaurs, destined for the tar pits of conservatism.

    For more:

  • Karen

    So basically, 104 people could have been off doing something more productive with their time had the client just taken a little more of their own time to find the artist that was the right fit.

    104 people not compensated for their time and one person poorly compensated, most likely (depending on expended time). In what world can that be good for the economy.

    • observer

      Well put, Karen.

  • jstamo03

    This is great info – thank you so much for passing it on!

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