Global by Design

Crowdsourcing Across Continents

The story of our logo is a journey of thousands of miles traveled seamlessly across several continents over the Internet in a matter of days from concept to product.

TradeVistas pitched its brief by posting it online to the more than 1.2 million designers in 193 countries, many of them freelancers, from all around the world who are registered with 99designs. From there, designers submitted their entries over five days, an exciting process wherein notifications came in minute by minute as designers uploaded ideas, received feedback, and iterated. With our own team spread over three countries, the platform allowed each of us realtime access to consider entries and come to a quick decision.

99designs is the brainchild of serial Internet entrepreneur Matt Mickiewicz, who created his first Internet business at age 14. Born in Kraków, Poland and raised in Vancouver, Mickiewicz co-founded the Melbourne-based web business in 2000. He spun off 99designs as its own business in 2008.

Today, 99designs is the world’s largest on-demand marketplace for graphic design. According to its website, a new design is uploaded to their platform every 1.5 seconds. Each month 99designs pays out some $3.5 million to designers.

“Design doesn’t do borders”

The winner of our design is Fajar Purnama, nicknamed Jajay by her mother. From a poor area in Indonesia, Jajay says she had to drop out of school to care for her family but, “It’s the spirit of my family that inspires my designs.” Most of the cost of our $500 design went directly to Jajay. Jajay wasn’t thinking about the fact that she was a global trader. As she thanked us for designating her our winner, she said, “you have helped me feed my keluarga (family) by giving me this victory.”

But in fact, Jajay performed a “cross-border service” wherein her service was exported from Indonesia to 99designs in Australia to TradeVistas in the United States. We paid for the service using a credit card over the Internet and Jajay transferred her design files to us over the Internet to complete the transaction, a process known as e-commerce.

According to market research firm eMarketer, consumers worldwide spend around $1.7 trillion online, its growth far outpacing the growth of brick-and-mortar retail sales. Nearly 1/4 of the global population buys goods and services online and half of these “digital buyers” live in the Asia-Pacific. In fact, eMarketer reports that 95 million people in the Asia Pacific bought something online for the first time in 2015.

99designs touts the global reach of the designers they attract to the platform showcasing their success stories under the banner, “Design doesn’t do borders.”

Going Global Got a Whole Lot Easier

The opportunity for Jajay was not just to win our contest but for all the designers to showcase their work. The platform has a growing business generating larger one-on-one projects spawned by the connections made through its smaller contests. We received over 200 designs and loved the work of more than one designer so we’ll be considering these artists for future website artwork. 99designs does not preclude its designers from entering into new work off the platform, but it designers often stay because 99designs lowers their cut on follow-on work and de-risks the transaction for both the designer and the buyer.

Are there criticisms within the design industry of this type of global crowdsourcing? Sure, the platform does not facilitate relationship building between designers and their clients and because the designers hail from many different countries from Syria to Croatia to India, there are communication challenges and cultural differences that can work for or against you in articulating and expressing your brand.

As for TradeVistas, we got some wonderfully creative and diverse designs to choose from and enjoyed the opportunity to bring business to freelance designers who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to provide their services to an American think tank and a Hong Kong-based foundation.