I recently indulged my iconography hobby by entering a contest on 99Designs, the crowdsourcing design website. I like to engage in these competitions for a few reasons: the short timeframe forces me to hone my conceptualization and visual design skills, I get to work with people I wouldn’t otherwise get a chance to, and I get to try on something new. The prospect of a decent cash prize doesn’t hurt.
99Designs’s contests make it easy for me to do all of this, without the hassle of vetting freelance clients. All I need is for someone to post a project, and participation is just a matter of judging the design brief, uploading a few files, and checking on the contest holder’s feedback and ratings.
The contest I recently participated in was for 3 application icons. Instead of just diving into the work, I approached the problem from a more methodical standpoint. I started with a word brainstorm, followed by a validation card sort, lots and lots of sketching, and final design with the promise of future A/B testing. Certainly this approach is only scratching the surface of what constitutes interaction design but, nonetheless, the resulting icons were an immediate hit. I came away with a win and a great reference.
A snapshot of my process for a recent 99Designs contest
It’s important for visual designers to approach projects with an interaction design mindset, especially when the product will be the whole of, or part of, a website, application or interactive piece. Sometimes, though, designers either are afraid that these methods will take too much time, or they just don’t have the experience with a user-centered approach. Yet there’s a growing need for designers with hybrid interaction & visual design skills, so we need to find a way to make the process more approachable to them.
99Designs is well poised to make this happen. As of this writing, there are more than 60,000 designers registered on the site,
and, at any given time, there are nearly 200 web, UI or related interactive contests running.
If 99Designs just tweaks their contest structure to support a process of discovery, sketching and validation, they could educate these designers and add lasting value to the work they produce.