She went through all the stages of starting a business - finding an office, redecorating the office, redecorating the office again, having a furious row with her boyfriend about the menu bar on her new website. You know, the usual things.
She also needed a logo: "It's going to cost 4000 francs," she whinged. "And it'll take ages and waah."
4000 francs is a month's income for me. It's 182 medium Domino's pizzas. It's 400 tubs of Cookie Dough ice-cream. Too much! I had an idea: "Try a crowdsourcing website. You'll get hundreds of entries from talented designers around the world. It's cheap, fun, there's bound to be some good ones, and I can write a blog about it."
"No," she said, stamping her size 2 feet, "I'm not going to do that. Ever ever ever."
Jen (and her sister) chose Crowdspring.com instead of 99designs.com. She sat on my sofa and wrote a creative brief that was brutally germanic: "We demand the highest quality. You will obey our instructions. The solution we choose will be final."
"Okay snuggle sausage," I said, easing the laptop away from her like a cool cop coaxing a cleaver from the clutches of a clumsy kidnapper, "Maybe just tell me what you want and I'll write it in a nice way."
"The logo should be modern," she said, "but classical. Fresh, but earthy. Suffused with bold humility. Distinctive, understated, holistically integrated. It should say 'Reitsimulator Schweiz,' radically transform society's understanding of the word 'logo', and it should be horsey but not too horsey."
I converted that into something more realistic and wrote it in an approachable way. Next we had to give more info about our inspirations. Jen said she liked Roger Federer's logo and something with that kind of elegance and simplicity would be ideal.
Once the brief was complete we had to decide how much to spend. Jen said her budget was 1,000 dollars, which I thought was on the high side. The website ate a chunk, leaving about 600 dollars for the winner. That's loads! Artists are supposed to be poor. Desperation makes their work better.
Entries came pouring in almost as soon as we submitted the brief. A lot of the early ones were awful, and I started getting worried. Also, they all looked exactly like the Roger Federer logo. Gah! People are stupid. I changed the brief to stop that.
Jen looked at the first dozen logos, shrieked "NO!" and started pounding the keyboard with her tiny dwarf hands. I read a fairy tale out loud to put her to sleep, then started writing supportive, constructive feedback to the designers. This allowed them to see where they were going wrong and they could re-work their ideas and try again. When Jen woke up she saw the wisdom in what I was doing and claimed it had been her idea.
Of course, that made the process much more time-consuming, especially as there were over 200 entries by the end. But whenever we wrote something more than once, we added it to the brief so that all designers could see it.
After a couple of weeks this came in:
"But," Jen spluttered, "They've ignored everything I said! I said I didn't want a prancing horse - the simulator can't prance, gambol, or frolic. And I was quite specific that it should say 'Reitsimulator' and nothing else. Robohorse?! This logo is the exact opposite of what I want! Oh, wait. Wait wait wait. You did this, didn't you?"
Yes. It cost me 5 dollars from Fiverr.com. It's actually much better than most of the logos we got through Crowdspring. (I asked the designer to do lasers and smoke coming from the horse but he said it was too much work.)
A lot of the Crowdspring entries were dross, but the best ones were pretty good. We put them in our focus group page - it's a link where you can send 8 entries to friends and get feedback. Nice feature, but Jen (with her sister) had already chosen the one they liked.
The winning designer was very pliant in terms of making changes to fonts and colours. The runner-up was even more helpful, and Jen sent him some money for his time and effort.
Without further ado, the winning logo. See the negative space? See it?
It looks even better on Jen's website.
I'd say the crowdsourcing process was easy and interesting and I'd use it again. If it doesn't turn up a usable logo you get 100% of your money back, so there's no risk. It all happened pretty quickly, too - it was all done and dusted within 14 days. So if you're looking for something quick, cheap, or both, it's the way to go.