Once I decided on WriteBeta as a name, I went on a spree of signing up for every social media that I possibly could with it. I set up a Facebook page and Twitter account and started following a bunch of interesting writers and editors. Then I looked back at the pages I had created and realized that the way I was represented visually on Twitter was a picture of an egg. In a frenzy to avoid having people I followed come back and wonder why an egg was following them, I tried to put a nice-looking logo together in Adobe Illustrator. After a few hours, I decided the egg was better than anything I had come up with. So much for being unblocked on having a social media presence. I realized that I needed a professional-looking logo, and pronto. Otherwise people would stop by and immediately dismiss me as some kind of spam or amateur. I also couldn’t correctly brand my site without one.
Having gone to school with a bunch of amazingly talented people, and also having worked with a lot at Microsoft, I first asked a few friends if they would be interested in helping me out. They seemed pretty excited, and I put together a mood board on pinterest in order to show the visual direction I was imagining. After a couple weeks of radio silence, I realized it was just too big of a task to ask someone to do on top of their job and their life, especially on a time crunch. I needed something NOW and wasn’t going to insist that someone use their free time to do this for me for free.
Instead, I decided to check out a site that I had heard about a while back called 99designs. The basic idea is that you run a “contest” by picking a package size and price that you will pay (e.g.: $599 for a logo, cover photo, business cards, and stationery design), and fill out details about the design direction you want. Then the community of freelance artists who are on 99designs can submit ideas for 4 days. After 4 days, you narrow it down to a maximum of 6 designers and they have 3 more days to work with you until you decide on a winner. Aside from giving me access to a lot of designers who are motivated to work on my logo, I was also interested in using the site because it has a lot of similarities to the WriteBeta concept of connecting people with freelancers.
Once I started my contest, it became an obsession. It was fascinating to see the huge variation in what people submitted. It made me realize that I needed this amount of variation to even know what I really wanted. The artists were submitting from all over the world – Indonesia, Serbia, Malaysia. I spent 4 days constantly refreshing the page, writing feedback and rating designs. At the end of the 4 days I ran a poll (a super convenient and nicely done feature on 99designs) and posted it on Facebook with my top 8 favorite designs out of the 176 total that had been submitted. 49 people voted on them and left comments. The logo that was winning the entire time was one I had thrown in as an afterthought and hadn’t even really looked at very seriously. It was so interesting to see the strong reactions that people had to the different images.
After that poll, I narrowed the contest down to 6 designers. I asked them to make one more big creative push on logos and to show me example business cards and coverphotos to demonstrate their design aesthetic in other ways. After another three days, I ran a final poll with 4 entries, 2 from one designer and 1 each from 2 others. This time 73 people voted. The results jumped around all day with some fiery comments coming in from people about things they loved and hated. Finally, the order started to stabilize, leaving my favorite design by my favorite designer at the first place position. (Sorry team 171 )
After a week of perching on the edge of my seat in anticipation, I finally have a design that I think fits WriteBeta well and I know will resonate with users. It shows a pencil that has people in it, representing writing but also the community and collaborative aspect of the idea. I worked with the designer to get the files handed over, and – with much gusto – replaced the egg picture. Again, something that I thought would be trivial ended up being much harder and more important than I imagined, but having it done is so exciting. I can’t stop thinking about printing T-shirts and other SWAG to get people as excited about WriteBeta as I am.