A designers insight: why design contests work.

This article was written by Connie Taylor, a designer who participates on Hatchwise under the username “borzoid“. Connie approached me a week or so ago about writing a post on the subject, which I thought was an awesome idea, and the completed article has some great tips and ideas. Enjoy.
– George

Design contests (and the sites that host them) have offered a new and exciting way for business owners and designers to network.  The benefits to the contest holder are more than obvious.  They get a myriad of designs and designers to choose from for an end cost that is generally lower than many graphic design companies require.

But what about the benefits contests offer to the designer?  Sure there can be the occasional win, but contests can give a budding designer so much more. They can teach you how to design.

I began entering contests about 5 years ago.  Without them I would never have learned what it takes to not only win contests but to successfully draw related freelance work.  I have learned how to identify what the contest holder may want through the terminology they use and the type of business they own.  I have learned what font styles suit different design needs, and I have learned through the process of emulation a great many things that can be achieved in my graphics software.  To date I have won many contests and about 25% of those wins have brought me additional freelance work.   Even contests that I’ve lost have brought me income when contest holders change their mind after a contest closes.

Contests teach the designer that logo design is much more than just opening up Photoshop and drawing a few shapes next to some text. You have to:

1. understand what “style” the client wants
2. understand the methods of achieving that style
3. be willing to learn new methods and points of view to achieve the perfect end result

Looking back at some of my early submissions I know I should never have submitted some of those designs but for me the journey of learning logo design would never have been successful if I hadn’t entered the contests. Here are a few ways that entering contests can help you become a better logo designer.

Practice Makes Perfect.
Entering contests, even if you are only doing it for the money forces you to practice and perfect your craft. I never consider the prize amount when entering a contest; for me each contest is a chance to craft something that hasn’t been done before and possibly even learn something in the process. The more contests you enter, the better you get at manipulating whatever graphics software you use. The better you get at that the more time you have for learning the other facets of logo design. Sometime when I have time on my hands,  I play with gradients, effects and shapes and of course save every one of them for possible future use.

Seeing What Wins.
Whether you win or lose a contest is not always as important as what you can learn from it. What do clients consider a particular style to look like? I’ve seen many contests where the CH asked for ‘web2.0’ or ‘corporate’ styles but highest ranking and winning designs did not “fit” with my knowledge of the style asked for. Note to self: web2.0 doesn’t always have to have gradients, rounded fonts or reflections.
Every entry in a contest, how it is ranked and if it wins can tell you what clients are looking for and in the end – knowing the client is going to earn you more wins than fancy effects.

Learning From The Masters. In looking at “all” of the entries my curiosity was often piqued: How did they achieve that affect …… what color of metallic gold actually looks good on a white background …… wow that is a cool font.  Don’t be afraid to contact other entrants to ask about fonts, colors and such (just be polite and not use them in the same contest).  And take time to recreate effects (not entire logos) and make your own effects in the process.  There are thousands of tutorials on the web for logo design. I have often seen entries that came verbatim directly from a tutorial. But in all honest I have learned much more from trying to emulate effects I’ve seen in other contest entries than I ever learned from a tutorial.  Entering and watching contests can help you expand your graphics knowledge immensely, and, if you take the message of “what wins” to heart – may win a few contests yourself.

The Biggest Lesson I’ve Learned.
In the hundreds of contests I’ve entered, observing what ranks highest and what wins, I have to say the single most important thing I’ve learned is to Keep It Simple.  While some contest holders want a lot of effects, most of them want something clean, crisp and easy to use in print and in small sizes.  Always keep that in mind when working on designs.

I hope this helps to guide potential designers to look at their contests in a new way and hope that what you see brings you knowledge, skill and contest winnings.

Introducing: Brandstorming Sessions

Hello and Greetings from Hatchwise,
One of the reasons I love being a part of Hatchwise is because out of all the different projects and companies that I have been involved with, Hatchwise is the one that I am able to recommend to people that I like.

You know what I mean, you work somewhere, you sell something, but when your Dad needs to buy whatever it is that you’re selling, you say “oh yeah, we sell that, but if you want the real deal, go check out this other company, don’t buy it through us, they’re a much better choice”. With Hatchwise I am always confident that the services we provide are the best. Period.

And the new product that we’re unveiling today is no exception. It’s something I’ll be using. It’s something I would tell my Grandma to use. It’s a wonderful, beautiful thing. Keep reading below to find out more.

Sincerely,

George Ryan

Hatchwise

Introducing: Brandstorming Sessions

You know those times when you are starting a new company, and you just can’t for the life of you think of a name for your new business, or website or product?  Or have you tried looking for hours on end for an unregistered domain name that you can use to build your new business on, and you have completely run out of ideas?

Well we have just launched the perfect solution for you: Brandstorming Sessions.

When you run a Brandstorming Session on Hatchwise, you tell our community of 3500+ designers what it is that your new project is all about, and give them some direction as to what kind of a brand you are looking to build. You can provide as much or as little information as you wish.

From there the designers take over. They will brainstorm up some awesome brand names for you, complete with logos, and you get to choose from many, many completely original brands, all custom made just for you.

Sound cool? It gets better. If you are want your brand to be built around an available domain name, you simply select the appropriate options when starting a Brandstorming Session and the designers will make sure that each brand comes with a matching, available domain name (that you’ll have to register yourself. if you select the brand as the winner.)

There are a couple of special rules for Brandstorming Sessions:
1. There is a minimum prize of $200.
2. The prize does need to be prepaid, and you do have to select a winner.
3. Brandstorming Session are blind. Which means that all designs and suggestions are hidden from everyone but the contest holder until the contest holder selects a winner, so that the contest holder is able to pick a name without worrying about anyone “stealing” it.

Sounds cool, doesn’t it! Plus, the first few people to start a Brandstorming Session are going to get their Session featured on our main page and directly in front of the designers FREE to achieve the maximum exposure for them.

To start a Brandstorming Session simply log into your account.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Hello from the freezing state of New York! Seriously, it’s cold here, really cold. It was -7 degrees out the other day. Here at Hatchwise we’re actually hoping that Santa leaves coal in our stockings so that we can burn it and cut down on the heating bill.

Seriously, though, we’ve had a GREAT year. We’ve seen our community triple in size, had hundreds of awesome design contests held on the site, changed our name, moved to a faster server, and done many other really cool things, all of which are not possible (or indeed necessary) without your help and support.

We want to wish everyone a very special Christmas, or if you do not celebrate Christmas then a very special Friday.

May the New Year bring you much success, we’re sure excited about where it’s going to take us!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

How payouts work and why you may not have been paid

Every month we get dozens of emails from designers upset because “they have not been paid yet”.  The payment schedule is posted literally all over the site, as well as in all of the emails you get when you win a contest, but people somehow overlook that (even to the point of responding to the email telling them when they will get paid with the question “when will I get paid”).
Now, there is only so much time in the day and if we were to spend it all responding to questions that have already been answered we wouldn’t get anything else done (obviously).  So I am going to post a detailed explanation of the payout process and will henceforth just email the link to this post to everyone that has questions about it.

Question 1: When do I get paid?

Answer: Here is the payout schedule (as posted all over the site and in the emails you got when you won the contest): “Payout occur on the 1st and 14th of each month (or the first business day following if the date falls on a weekend or US National Holiday).”

Question 2: It’s the 15th (or 2nd or some day after the payout date) and I have not gotten paid yet!

Answer: 99% of the time this is because (as stated above) the payout date occurs on a weekend or US holiday, it will go out on the next business day.

Question 3: It’s 9:00 AM and today is the payout day! Where is my payment!

Answer: A day is 24 hours long.  It lasts until midnight.

Question 4:  It’s the 15th (or 2nd etc..) and payout hasn’t happened yet!

If it is really the day after the payout was supposed to go out and you did not get paid yet (and your payment info is correct etc.. as is discussed below) then either something has gone horribly wrong (such as a superflu wiping out all of the people running Hatchwise, in which case we will make a post on the site letting you know that payout will be delayed) or (as is MUCH more likely) you are not in our time zone. We are based in New York, in the United States, and the time zone we are in is Eastern Standard Time.

Question 5: Why is the status of the contest I won still “Artwork Delivered – Pending Account Crediting”?

Answer: Payments are credited several minutes before they go out, if your payment says this you are fine and can relax and wait for payout.

Question 6:  The status of a contest I won says: “Credited” and the payout date is already past but I didn’t get paid.

Answer:  This generally means that there was a problem paying you, go to the “My Prizes” section of your account and look at the most recent update to it, chances are either that PayPal denied the payment (in which case you need to contact PayPal and find out why) or you didn’t provide any PayPal email address when you signed up, in which case you need to go to your “My Information” page and update your payment info, and then send a PM to Hatchwise staff letting us know and then WAIT PATIENTLY.

Question 7:  You said that PayPal “denied payment” when you tried to pay me, why?

Answer: We have no idea, although you should check to make sure that you are allowed to receive money via PayPal, once you have figured it out, send a PM to Hatchwise staff requesting that payment be released and then WAIT PATIENTLY.

Question 8: I fixed all the issues with my account and sent you a request to release payment but have heard nothing from you.

Answer: Payment issues are dealt with twice a month, on the payout days. You will hear from us then.

If you have a question that wasn’t answered above please ask in the comments below.

Hatchwise is now like a million times faster! Hurray for us!

Ever since we launched in the spring of 2008, Hatchwise has been gaining popularity and visitors, which is a good thing. The downside to this was that as use of the site increased, so did the time it took to load just about any page on the site, and people were stuck in front of their monitors for hours (literally, apparently it took 127 seconds to load the main page if you had a 14.4k connection, which it seems some people still do) trying to use the site, and we were getting frustrated emails from people on a daily basis.

We tried many things to speed the site up, including moving to a new server last summer, all to no avail as the site grew slower, and slower.

Finally, yesterday, we started ripping the site out by the roots to get to the bottom of the problem. After pretty much working through the night, we figured out what the problem was.

It was a really, really, simple programming error, so simple that we’re not even going to tell anyone what it was, as those of you that are programmers would just laugh at us, and we’re not huge fans of being laughed at.

Suffice it to say that the site is now faster. Much, much faster. Like, Nascar fast. Bullet train fast. It’s truly spectacular.

Thank you so much to everyone that stuck with us through thick and thin, you’re the best!

Thanks again for all your support!

George, for the rest of the Hatchwise team.

There’s a new sheriff in town – Design Court is now in session

 I’m happy to announce that the loonnnggg awaited Design Court feature is now live.  Extensive testing has been done on it but bugs are sure to pop up as it is a fairly complicated feature. If you notice any bugs/problems with the reporting part of the process or with the actual Design Court itself please report it here, as a comment on this blog post, not in the forum, and not as a PM.

A Message To “The Cheaters”:

Plagiarism and cheating have been running rampant for quite a while, but our very strict and detailed rules have been in place longer than that.  Each and every design submitted to the site has been submitted AFTER you (the designer) read the following rules:

——————-

Any entry you submit must be:

Completely, 100% your own creation. No exceptions. If you did not design it yourself you can’t submit it.

NOTE: We regularly monitor Google Images, iStockPhoto, popular Logo Design Portfolios and anywhere else you may be thinking of lifting a design from. If you submit work that is not your own we WILL find out about it.

.

It must NOT (read carefully):

1.

Contain clipart of any sort (licensed or not)

2.

Be a copy or “rip” of a logo already submitted to this contest by another designer.

3.

Use or incorporate any prexisting image, logo, photo, graphic design or trademark.

4.

Be anything other than a design YOU came up with.

 

A MESSAGE FROM HatchWise STAFF: We think that the above instructions are very clear. If you have a question about them please ask us before submitting any artwork. We reserve the right (and will probably exercise it) to permananently ban any designer who submits a design that violates the above rules. We’re naturally good natured people but we tend to get upset about plagiarism.

 

————–

 

Now, I paste that there before I state the following: The reporting feature is RETROACTIVE, which means that any design you submitted to a contest before can be reported by any designer who still has access to that contest (anyone who participated in it with you). I don’t want to hear any complaints about this. You had PLENTY of warnings. Every time you submitted a design there was a warning. If your past actions get you banned now, so be it.

 

If you have never cheated (as the majority of you haven’t) than please disregard the above.

 

Now, on to how the system works:

 

1. You can’t vote in Design Court unless you have previously won a contest.

2. Any registered designer can report an entry, but unless you have previously won a contest you can only have two open cases at a time.

3. If one of your designs is found “guilty”, it is withdrawn and you are issued a warning point.  If you accumulate a total of three warning points you are permanently banned and any pending winnings are frozen indefinitely.

4. If you report a design and it is found “not guilty” YOU are issued a warning point. If you accumulate a total of three warning points you are permanently banned and any pending winnings are frozen indefinitely. The warning points for submitting a design without reason are not the same as the warning points in #3, they accumulate separately.

5. Withdrawing a design that has been reported is a nice gesture, but does not stop the Court Case, or the warning point if you are found guilty.

6. There are 11 votes taken on each case, each designer can only vote once, you cannot vote on your own case. The majority wins.

7. The decision by the crowd is not negotiable. Do not email us complaining about it.

8. If you are banned because of repeat offenses then that is it. There is no arguing or pleading with staff over it, so please don’t even try.

 

So that’s it. To report a design simply log into your account and click the red exclamation point next to the entry you want to report on the contest detail page.

 

Many thanks to all of you who have waited so long and so patiently for this. Please leave your comments, suggestions and criticisms in the comments below.