Here at Legal123 we’re big fans of 99designs – a great Aussie startup that’s making headlines worldwide. In case you don’t know what they do – they help businesses run online graphic design contests for logos, letterheads, icons, etc. Over the past couple of years we’ve run 10 different contests with them. So we’ve learnt a few things about graphic designers and online contests.
Here’s the story of the most important design project we gave 99designs, the rebranding of Legal123.
Legal123’s original image was too childish
The original idea behind Legal123 was an easy-to-use, easy-to-understand, inexpensive way for everyday Australians to access legal agreements and templates. We knew that lawyers scared most people – not only with high fees but also difficult to understand legal jargon. And as a result, most people went without and took the risk of not having the proper legal agreement, will, disclaimer or whatever in place.
In our enthusiasm to get our easy-to-use and easy-to-understand message across, we chose an image that turned out to be childish and a little “cartoon-ish”. Our original logo (shown here) was Facebook blue with red highlights and had a children’s TV kind of font. The logo was designed using 99designs – but the designer was only responding to our brief. We were thrilled when it was done.
But in the months after Legal123 launched we talked with multiple clients and potential clients, all with the same view. They expected lawyers to be sensible, conservative and, most importantly, professional. Our logo and website image did NOT convey that at all. So a re-design was required.
We based our re-design on a French photo
To get the brief right this time we first concentrated on getting the colour scheme right. We decided to go with blues to bring across an air of professionalism – it’s not just an “air”, we really are professional!
But we needed to convey that when visitors arrived at the website. A random photo of a hotel we’d taken while on vacation in Biarritz, France, turned out to be our inspiration. The photo was taken in Autumn, just before sundown and the blue of the sky and grey/blue of the roof just seemed – right. So that was decided. A combination of blue hues with dark greys and off-white would be our colour palette. Next we needed a theme and a designer.
We searched for a minimalist designer
If our blue colour scheme represented professional, we needed something to convey easy-to-use and easy-to-understand. The Swiss-inspired Helvetica font and minimalist design ethic seemed perfect. So we spent weeks scouring graphic design galleries, web design forums, searching for a design house (not just a single, lonely designer) who could empathise with our vision for an online legal website.
Finally, we narrowed the search down to a small firm in Amsterdam. They were minimalist purists. The European touch felt very up-market and when we interviewed them they seemed to “get us”. Their exclusive service didn’t come cheap though – they were expensive. Very expensive. We spoke to them several times over the phone, they reviewed and provided feedback on our website. Finally we decided to go with them – but in phases. Just in case it didn’t work out.
But the Dutch design felt unfriendly
Finally the “new” logo arrived. There was one version. The perfect version – so they thought – no changes necessary. This was the ultimate, legal website logo from an exclusive Dutch minimalist design house.
To us it felt cold. We felt pushed into a cookie cutter design world, with a “one design for everyone” style. They weren’t flexible and believed what they did was beautiful and stylish. We made suggestions, requested changes – all for nothing. And after a lot of time and money wasted, we decided to move on.
So we went back to 99designs
This time we decided to go back to 99designs. There we could start with a wider field of designers and gradually narrow them down. Our design brief was now comprehensive – we knew what we wanted and what we didn’t. As soon as the contest was posted the ideas started flooding in. In the end we:
- Got 128 entries!
- From 33 designers
- Left feedback on 42 designs
- Spent US$495 and guaranteed the contest
The hardest thing was keeping up with the designers – they really like feedback. It helps them adjust their designs and ultimately win the contest. They’re also very protective of their designs. If they see designers copying their ideas, they get very upset. And sometimes when running a design you have to be careful to give credit and walk a fine line between “merging” two different designs.
Our new image is professional & friendly
In the end we ended up awarding the contest to our original logo designer! We didn’t realise it until after the contest was finished and another designer pointed it out – he thought “the fix was in”. This logo fit the bill – professional AND friendly. And our online business has flourished ever since.
Your online image is important to get right. Our experience proved that a new image can make a difference. We needed help and the input of multiple designers – after all, we’re lawyers and they know graphics! And leave plenty of feedback – every time we gave feedback the designs got better and it was harder to choose, plus more designers were encouraged to participate.
So go check out 99designs.com.au.