5 Reasons Why Logo Design Contests Don’t Work – Even For 99Designs


When you are looking to design a new logo for your business, design contests can seem like a good opportunity to potentially receive first-class designs without having to pay a few grand to a professional design agency.

But can you really use any of these designs for your business?

If you run a design contest with the expectation of receiving cheap and impressive design, get ready to witness a scam. These contests involve risks of mediocrity, fraud and eventually, lawsuits.

This explains why going with reputable design agency is your best bet.

So what are design contests anyway?

If you are new to this term, design contests are where you host a contest and attract dozens of contestants from across the globe to brainstorm and create designs for your business.

After a week or so, the winner of the contest earns a big cash prize or an honor worth mentioning in their CV and you get cheap designs in return. Well, you may say, why not then? It’s a win-win!

Well, not necessarily.

It is true that companies get a selection of cheap designs to choose from, but it’s unlikely any of these logos truly represent their businesses with such mechanic and impersonal approach to design.

Factors such as poor communication, cultural barriers, managers misfit for the role and absence of honorable conduct and quality lead to the creation of ineffective design and are major hazards to your business.

So why don’t design contests work?

Reason 1: Communication is a two-way street

In order to create a compelling and effective design, it all boils down to top-notch communication and asking the questions that truly matter. By no means is that an easy task for a lot of junior designers, even for senior designers.

What makes a designer great is not the endless hours spent on sketching logo comps nor the ability to use fancy software to wireframe websites, an experienced professional designer translates a client’s needs into a well-positioned brand that resonate with the right target audience.

business meeting

To achieve this, professional designers work like business consultants: they assess the client’s business market, investigate the demographics of the target audience, understand the vision and brand identity, and most importantly, they spend time communicating with the client and other areas of expertise to provide intuitive design that best represents the business and differentiates the client from others.

Unfortunately, design contest websites offer none of that.

The time frame for such important communication is too short and limited for the designers to understand the client’s business and to craft original and engaging design accordingly.

Within the span of 7 days, especially accounting the time differences of designers and the client, it is difficult to give feedback and collaborate in time to establish a mutual understanding. Contestants are given a brief design brief and immediately run off to sketch the design in order to win this cash prize.

All of these communication issues lead to misinterpretations and companies are left with a logo that cannot truly represent its core values and vision.

Reason 2: Cultural Barriers Aplenty

The travesty of design contests is that not only do they lack the proper communication tools and time to craft an original and engaging design, the designers’ English proficiencies may not be sufficient enough to understand basic design requirements since not everyone’s first language is English.

Often times, these contestants resort to Google Translate to understand the design brief. In most cases, words are translated wrongly, leading to horrible design misunderstanding.

Here’s a hilarious example of how translation fails:
Screen Shot 2017-10-26 at 10.09.14 AM

Some contestants, even with the handy blessing of speaking good English, simply cannot identify and relate to American and Western culture and lifestyle.

As you could guess, this all spells disaster.

From tiny grammatical errors and blatant brand misspellings to misconception and politically incorrect material, foreign designers are not the best choice to design for your business.

Your local design agency best understands you need just like how only a Vancouverite can truly feel the pain of rush hour traffic, cultural innuendoes, and nuances.

Reason 3: Business Managers- Misfit For the role

These clients are often experts in their highly specialized fields, be it in the plumbing or real estate industries, they know them all.

But when it comes down choosing and judging design, they may not know which one is suitable for their business since their background is not in branding or design.

Suddenly, they adopt the role of a creative director that they are not suited for and need to make a long-lasting design decision for the company.

Artboard 2

A professional designer can guide through this process and help you select the best design for your company. So let the designer be the creative director, let them do the job and walk you through the process of branding and design.

It is the designer’s expertise to translate a client’s needs into a well-positioned brand that will resonate with the right target audience.

That’s where Coding Bull comes in. Our team is the expert in design. We will guide you, ask you the right questions and understand your expectations.

Reason 4: Design Misconceptions- All I need is X from you

Clients often come in and say all I need is a logo or all I need is brochure design, that’s it.

It is true for some businesses, but in most cases, a single element of branding is not enough for your brand to become an instant success.


Successful branding requires much more than just changing the name of the company to some fancy font for aesthetics purposes, it needs to have consistency across each element to complement marketing campaigns.


For this reason, again, design contests are insufficient to fulfill and achieve the bigger picture of branding.

Reason 5: Absence of honourable conduct and quality

The design contest business model is built on the premise of choice.

While choice is undeniable given that design contests receive numerous entries, you can’t help but realize the irony of how this choice leads right into questions on originality, aesthetic value, connection to business and effectivity.

Design is the “process of creative customization that is driven by purpose, planning, and intention.” Design contests simply can’t achieve this purpose

While all the other issues mentioned above can be bypassed, albeit with great difficulty, the fact that someone can operate Photoshop at a basic level does not make them a designer. But that won’t stop them from entering a design contest.


It is worrying that mediocre contestants can just rip off someone else’s hard work and pass it off as their own. That’s downright fraudulent and criminal.

But the part that takes the cake is that at the end of it, you’re the one footing the bill and paying for the lawsuit and damages, courtesy the contest websites’ copyright agreements.

At this point, these are worthy reasons that call for a rethink of hosting a design contest.

If not a design contest, then what else?

Design contests do not attract great designs because professional designers do not participate in design contests and design contests don’t attract great designs.

The integrity of expert designers and the logical fallacies of such contests are strong factors in their decision to not attend them.

The bottom line is that if you’re looking for designs that work for your business, you are better off hiring an experienced, reputable design agency.

A professional designer knows what he or she is doing and they love what they do so much so that they wouldn’t jeopardize a project for the sake of money.

If that sounds like music to your ears, ditch the design contest, and give a logo agency a call. Whether you just need some advice on tweaking a logo or a whole new brand, you’ll find the right answer.