My name is Ismael Chang Ghalimi. I build the STOIC platform. I am a stoic, and this blog is my agora.

We just upgraded the STOIC logo displayed at the top left of the user interface from the monochromatic version to the 3D version. It adds a bit of depth to the UI, and it gives us a visual cue to detect that some instances have not been upgraded to the latest version of our code…

Ardigo is awesome

Ardigo Yada (aka ardigo) designed our backup logo, which I’m going to use in a slightly modified version for this blog. Much like ludibes, his technical skills are flawless, and he is highly professional. He lives in Indonesia and is available for contract work, with competitive rates.

Now that our logo design contest is over, I asked ardigo whether we could keep his previous entries on our blog for reference purposes, even though we do not own the copyright for them (we own the copyright only for the entry that we selected as winner). Not only did he agree, but he also gave us all the files for his previous design, which I thought was very gracious. I very much look forward to working with him again for future projects. And so should you.

Winners

After hours of deliberations, we selected our winners: ludibes and ardigo. We’re likely to use ludibes’ design, but we felt that ardigo’s deserved to win as well. We also need to continue working with ludibes in order to improve the 2D rendering, which does not look so great when scaled down. We expect to have a final design within a few days. In the meantime, you can see the two winning entries here and there. Earlier posts featuring designs from other designers have been removed in order to respect their copyrights. Earlier entries from ludibes and ardigo have been kept for reference purposes, but we do not own the copyrights for them.

Coincidentally, our choice perfectly matched the results of our poll, where ludibes received a 3.9/5 rating and ardigo 3.2. ichsany finished at 3.1, and Ifulmo got 2.9. Interestingly, a vast majority of designers voted for ludibes, while many readers of our blog rooteed for ichsany’s unique design.

Ultimately, our selection favored the most original design, as can be witnessed by the comments made by members of the 99designs community on our poll (comments aren’t publicly visible). Also, ludibes (and ardigo) demonstrated perfect technical execution, and an extreme level of professionalism, which is something that we valued a lot in our final decision.

As mentioned earlier, many readers of this blog have voted for a different design, especially our most ardent followers. For example, Thorsten Claus had the same fondness that I had for Ifulmo’s 2D rendering, and Jason was lyrical in describing his affection for ichsany’s design. Ultimately, many readers who know me well might be surprised by my choice of ludibes’ design, and many aspiring stoics might feel uncomfortable with its rather bold (if not aggressive) curves. To them, I’ll just say this: trust the designers who made their choice very clear, and give it some time, for a good logo is usually an acquired taste.

Over the next few days, we will put the final touches to our design and incorporate it into our new website. The latter should be released sometime next week, and if everything goes as planned, we should have a nice surprise for you then.

In the meantime, I thank you for your help in selecting our logo. It was a ton of fun!

Poll for logo design contest

All four designs have been submitted, and we started a poll to gather some feedback from you. The results of this poll might not decide the winner, but they will certainly influence our design. Please make sure to cast your vote!

Finalists

We have selected four finalists for our logo design contest:

Three of them (ardigoIfulmoludibes) have fairly similar designs, while the fourth one (ichsany) is investigating a totally different direction. For clarity sake, we will refer to the first group’s design as “Single S” (#165#263#289), and to ichsany’s as “Double S” (#253).

For an entry to win, it must include 6 versions of the same design (3 renderings x 2 backgrounds). All 6 versions should be combined on a single entry, using a template similar to the one designed by ludibes for #263. We would very much appreciate if one of the designers could provide a template that could be used by the others, for it would facilitate our decision process. We have quickly sketched what such a template could you like, including a “simplify” frame that will be used for marketing purposes later on.

Renderings:

  • 3D with blue orb, in full colors
  • 3D without blue orb, in full colors
  • 2D monochromatic

Backgrounds:

  • Light background
  • Dark background

Single S design
The Single S design is our primary option. We could be happy with designs as they stand, for they’re all very well executed and almost complete (we’re just missing ardigo’s 2D rendering). Nevertheless, each design has a few elements that we really like, and in a perfect world, the winning design would be some kind of mashup between all three. Of course, this mashup has to make sense from a graphical standpoint, hence we might end up with something that sill favors a particular design over the other two.

What we like about ardigo’s design:

  • The metal’s color, texture, and lighting
  • The orb’s color, texture, and lighting
  • The dropped shadow (with light background)

What we like about Ifulmo’s design:

  • The 2D monochromatic rendering

What we like about ludibes’ design:

  • The font
  • The originality of the S shape

Double S design
The Double S design is our secondary option. It follows a completely different direction, but could potentially lead to something totally original and very elegant. Nevertheless, it needs to be refined in order to reach the right level of graphical execution:

  • Start from #253, not #226 (to keep things simple)
  • Keep the logotype (text) monochromatic (no gradient)
  • Experiment with the font introduced by ludibes
  • Use the metal color and texture of #58 (by ardigo)
  • Radically simplify the 2D rendering’s design

3D rendering with blue orb
This rendering is the most complex and will be used for special needs, such as flash screens on user interfaces or the backside of our business cards. Paradoxically, it’s also the easiest to execute, for the combination of a grey metal frame and a blue transparent orb create a solid contrast on both light and dark backgrounds. Designs by ardigo and ludibes are essentially perfect as they stand for this rendering. Ifulmo’s is too complex and will need to be re-drawn following the benchmark set by ardigo’s #58. ichsany’s should be re-drawn once the 3D rendering without blue orb is finalized.

3D rendering without blue orb
This rendering is made difficult because of contrast issues, as can be seen on ardigo’s #166, for which the metal blends with the background at the 2:30 and 8:30 points. This problem was solved by ludibes with #263 by using slightly darker colors. Another challenge is to make the S shape readable and elegant. Here, ardigo (#166) and ludibes (#263) do the best job, both because their designs are the most expressive and because the color, texture, and lighting they used are highly effective. On this front, Ifulmo has a massive challenge to solve, for what makes his design gorgeously elegant with the 2D rendering (#277) makes it too bland and flat for the 3D rendering without blue orb (#289). Getting out of this conundrum might be the key to our contest. And it is imperative that we get this rendering right, for it will be used by default, especially on our website’s home page and most marketing materials we end up producing.

2D rendering
This rendering, while very flat and simple, might end up becoming our standard corporate logo. We will use it sparingly initially, on the front of our business cards, as favicon for our website, and as end-of-article symbol. It needs to be elegant, distinctive, and sufficiently remote from the overused Yin and Yang symbol from which it drew its inspiration. On this front, Ifulmo got it right with #277. Ludibes did a great job of flattening his design (#263) by only keeping the most important lines, but the resulting outline might still be slightly too complex. Ichsany’s (#272) needs to be simplified dramatically. Finally, I am very curious to see what ardigo will come up with, for it might have the same elegance as Ifulmo’s, but I can’t yet visualize it.

Selection criteria

  • Originality of the design
  • Perfection of the execution
  • Solidity of the 3D design (with and without blue orb)
  • Simplicity and elegance of the derived 2D design
  • Effectiveness on both light and dark backgrounds
  • Professionalism of the designer’s interactions with us

Additional feedback will be sent to designers individually.

Logo design qualifying round

The qualifying round for our logo design contest is over now. We received a total of 309 entries from 60 designers who got 296 feedback messages from us. Through this first round, we learned a lot about the collaborative creation process that 99designs enables if you spend enough time giving precise feedback to designers. We also learned that coming up with an original design is a massive challenge. What follows are some notes about our experience.

We started our contest with a very open brief that gave total freedom to designers. After a couple dozen entries, we sent our first open comment that gave them a pretty specific direction, inspired by an iconic design created for a now-defunct company. This allowed us to explore many options without going in too many directions at once. Very clearly, the quality of the submissions we received after this first comment improved dramatically.

As many designers on 99designs and readers on this blog have indicated to us, our original design idea (S metal shape wrapped around a glowing blue orb) was neither original nor simple. Nevertheless, we liked the idea very much, and it gave our designers a clear sense of direction, which proved to be very useful. Very early in the process, a gifted designer (ludibes) suggested that we take another direction and make a simpler design without the orb (#25). Quite frankly, I did not really understand his idea at first, and I pretty much ignored it for a day and a half. We focused instead on developing our original concept.

Once the direction had been set, many entries were added, and another gifted designer (ardigo) lead the pack with his perfect execution, especially with #58. This entry quickly became the benchmark against which we started to evaluate all the other entries we received. In parallel, ludibes kept improving his design, even though he seriously considered dropping out of the contest at some point, feeling that we were going in a direction that he did not fully believe in, mostly because of its lack of originality.

After a while, we started to grow tired of the overused blue orb ourselves, and realized that removing it might give new life to the contest. We asked ardigo to try it out on his latest iteration (#165), which borrowed the font and sharp edge used by ludibes’ latest entry at the time (#114). This gave us #166, which clearly demonstrated the potential of an orb-less design.

As a sidenote, this variation exposed an interesting aspect of the collaborative design process I mentioned above: borrowing the font selected by another designer was our request, while borrowing a design attribute (the edge on the central metal shape) was the designer’s decision. I am convinced that both are totally acceptable from an ethical standpoint, but they imply that all designers acknowledge that ideas will be mashed up in a pretty deliberate fashion, and that it’s all part of the game. But there is a very fine line between borrowing a design element and stealing a design outright, and we experienced that latter as well.

While we started to distance ourselves from the orb design, we noticed that a simple 2D design derived from a complex 3D one could be very elegant. The best illustration of that came from Ifulmo with #180. While Ifulmo does not have yet the mastery of ardigo or ludibes, especially with respect to the texture of the blue orb, he/she is a talented designer who demonstrated an exceptional ability to listen to our feedback and a real commitment to the contest. And while he/she refined her 3D designs, the 2D version kept standing out. You can see it better with #277. The exquisite elegance of its curves made us realize that we could come up with something very simple by starting from something much more complex, then refining it iteratively.

Ultimately, we reached the final conclusion of this qualifying round, which is that we want three different families for our logo, from the very sophisticated to the very simple, and the latter should be the natural evolution of the former. These families should be:

  • 3D with blue orb, in full colors
  • 3D without blue orb, in full colors
  • 2D monochromatic

Furthermore, we want two versions for each family, one for light backgrounds and the other for dark backgrounds. This will give us six different designs, which will be put together on a single entry using a standard template similar to what ludibes designed for #263.

Within a couple of days, we will select 5 to 6 finalists who will have 3 days to perfect their designs. The selection of the finalists will be done by our team, while the selection of the winner will be done with the input of our community, by using a poll powered by 99designs (more details soon). The selection criteria will be:

  • Originality of the design
  • Perfection of the execution
  • Solidity of the 3D design (with and without blue orb)
  • Simplicity and elegance of the derived 2D design
  • Effectiveness on both light and dark backgrounds
  • Professionalism of the designer’s interactions with us

Based on current entries, we know that we will end up with something very solid, all for a very limited budget of $499. Nevertheless, this number is a little bit misleading, for a couple of reasons. First, to be fair to some of the designers who made significant contributions to the process, we might award this sum to more than one designer. Ideally, 99designs should make that easier by adding the ability of giving smaller awards to a few contributing designers, at two levels (25% and 50%). For example, in our current contest, for a $500 award to the winner, I would have liked to award $250 to a couple others, and $125 to four others. The total budget would be $1,500, which is still very low compared to the cost of hiring a professional agency, and its distribution would more fairly compensate the input of all designers involved.

Through this qualifying round, we also learned that managing such a contest can quickly become a full time job for the contest holder (CH, as friendly markserion taught me). At several times during the round, we received entries faster than I could write proper feedback for. Yet we clearly noticed that the more feedback we gave and the quicker we gave it, the better future entries became and the more engaged designers were. As a result, the true cost of a 99designs contest goes far beyond the cash value of the award if you include the cost of dedicating a skilled contest holder for a few days (count two weeks to be safe).

As a result, if the contest holder is an executive in your company (the CEO in our case), the true cost of the contest can quickly reach or surpass the cost of hiring a creative agency. But stopping there would be totally misleading, for the creative process enabled by a collective of designers gathering on 99designs is very different from the one use by a creative agency. During the early stages of the process, the former will create many more valid directions than the latter, especially if the contest holder has some level of creative artistic talent — a requirement for providing meaningful feedback for designers.

For someone like me who can tell a good design from a poor one but can’t really make one from scratch (I would need years of practice for my Illustrator skills to get close to ardigo’s or ludibes’), this creative process is positively amazing. I can come up with ideas and get an army of designers (60 in our case) try them out in real time, while I get their creative input in response. Over the course of four days, dozens of directions can be investigated and refined, quickly leading to multiple valid options that can be evaluated against each other at a later stage. Quite frankly, I can’t think of a better way to come up with a truly original design and execute it to perfection.

Another very interesting aspect of the process is the ability to identify prior art quickly. Because so many designers are exposed to the contest (either by participating or by simply watching), and evaluate designs against all the other designs they’ve seen in the past, similar designs are referenced instantly, allowing us to make quick course corrections before it’s too late.

So here we are: we have 309 designs to play with and we met 60 designers, most of them highly talented and extremely professional. Next week, our finalists will refine their designs, and the week after we will select the winner. Without a doubt, we will end up with a great logo. But most importantly, we will have met great designers along the way. And the relationships we will have established with them are worth every dollar and every minute that we will have spent.

This is simply awesome!