logo design contest

I Ran a Logo Design Contest for My Indie Game and It Was a Disaster

Your indie game needs a logo, but you’re not a designer. What do you do?

Realistically, your options are:

  • Design a logo yourself
  • Use a logo maker
  • Hire a designer
  • Run a logo design contest

I Ran a Logo Design Contest

I researched all options before deciding to run a logo design contest. It seemed like the safest option because you get to review designs from many designers and pick the one you want. It seemed too risky to select a single designer and be stuck paying for whatever they produce even if you don’t like it.

The process is straightforward. You create your contest, pick some logo styles that you like, and write a description of what you’re looking for. Designers will see the open contest and create logos they think you’ll like. At the end of the contest you pick your favorite and the winning designer gets paid.

There are several prominent websites that provide these contest services. The industry leader is 99designs which charges $299 for the cheapest logo option.

If you’re an indie developer, you just shit your pants at the thought of spending $300 on a logo.

That’s why I used a competitor to  make my logo. I’m aware of DesignCrowd ($59 + contest prize), CrowdSpring ($199+), and 48HoursLogo ($29 + $99). After researching them all, I chose 48HoursLogo and it was a bad decision.

In the end, I got a new logo for my game that I’m satisfied with. It’s not amazing, but it’s functional and better than I can make. Here’s the design I chose:

Thru-Hiker's Journey Logo

It’s related to my game’s theme and has some fun, little details. The designer submitted multiple items so I was able to combine features I liked and iterate a little bit. It was very similar to what the process would have been if I just hired a designer straight away. But I didn’t have to look through hours of designer portfolios and negotiate on price.

For comparison, here’s a peek at the other logos I could have chosen:

other logos

Some of them really aren’t bad, but none of them are great. Also, keep in mind these are the better logos…there were some laughably bad designs submitted as well.

Where it went wrong

48HoursLogo was a disaster. 8 hours after I submitted my contest, the website went down for 2.5 days…the entire length of my contest. I checked their Facebook page to see if they had posted anything about the outage (they hadn’t). What I did find was dozens of other people in the last several months complaining that the site was down.

I had to submit a payment challenge on PayPal to get the owner of the website to respond to me. It was really a headache. He ended up giving my campaign a free 7 day extension, but it left a bad taste in my mouth. I can’t recommend using that site and it really turned me off to contests in general.

Pros & Cons of Logo Design Contests

If you’re thinking about running a contest, this is the part you really need to read.

Pros

  • Hands off process. Since we’re not designers, that seems like a good thing.
  • Many designers. Sure sounds better than one, right?
  • Professionally designed logo. It may not be the highest quality, but it’s better than we can make ourselves.
  • Often refundable. If you don’t like any of the designs, you can sometimes get your prize money back (but not the posting fee).

Cons

  • Low quality designs. No offense to anyone, but these artists aren’t working full time. And the best designers won’t even bother for the low prize money an indie offers. So you get 30 designs from artists who can’t figure out how to get paid more.
  • Still a lot of money. I signed up under the idea that it was cost effective, but I still ended up $150 in the hole. I’m confident I could find a better logo designer myself for the same amount of money.
  • The low cost competition is low cost for a reason. 48HoursLogo is obviously cheaper to draw in the people that scoff at $299. Which is fine for market positioning, but you still need infrastructure to support it.

If I could do it again

I’d make a quick and dirty logo on one of the many online logo makers and pay the $20ish to be done with it. I would have been better off putting the extra $130 toward advertising experiments.

No one makes a purchasing decision based on a logo. You just need something “professional enough” to not get laughed at. To accomplish that, all you need is a cool font and a little vector object next to it.

There are a thousand articles online disagreeing with me. “The logo is your most important asset!” That might be true for industry giants, but it’s not true for the small game studio. If anything is your most important art asset, it’s your app store icon, your Steam Greenlight avatar, or your release trailer.