Holding a Successful Graphic Design Contest

How to Run a Graphic Design Contest

Starting a graphic design contest is as easy as starting a thread at a design contest forum specifying what you want. Before you start your graphic design contest, there are a few things you should think about:

Let's take a look at these questions and how to answer them.

The Prize

The old adage "you get what you pay for" rings true for graphic design contests the same as it does everywhere else. In general, the more you are willing to pay, the more concepts you will receive, the more likely designers are to spend extra time on revisions to your liking, and the more likely you are to attract the most talented designers.

Most contest sites publish minimum prize amounts that you will need to follow. Browsing through completed contests will allow you to get a handle on the current market prices and what sort of entries certain prize amounts attract.

The Description

The description of what you want is the most important part of your design contest thread. Be as clear as possible in your description of what you want. For example, if you are holding a contest for a website template, be sure to specify things like how many navigation elements you need, what sort of content areas you need, if you need spot for advertisements, what colors you would like, etc. Further, be sure to upload or link to any files that might be helpful for the contestants-such as a high quality version of your logo to use on a website template.

The Length

It is recommended that you allow at least 10-14 days for a contest in order to allow enough entries and revisions to satisfy your needs. It is probably not a good idea to run a contest for more than 4 weeks. Long, drawn-out contests tend to get stale and entries start to stagnate. This can be frustrating for both designers and the contest holder.

If you run your contest for 14 days, and after that time there aren't any entries that suit your needs or you are still waiting for submissions or revisions from a few designers, it is usually acceptable to extend the deadline of your contest a few extra days.

File Formats

It is important that you make sure you specify which in file formats you would like the winning entry to be delivered. It is a good idea to request PSD files with the layers intact, so that you can easily make edits in the future, and it is also a good idea to request that logo work is delivered in a vector format so that it will scale to all sizes without losing quality. You should also specify if you want coding to be done. Many website designs are delivered as graphic files, not in fully rendered HTML markup. If you want the markup for the design done as well you need to specify this.

Copyright Transfer

You should always have the winning entrant sign a copyright release form transferring ownership of the winning design work to you. FindLegalForms.com has cheaply available copyright assignment agreements.

Giving Feedback on Entries

Giving regular feedback to designers on their entries is an integral part of the design contest system. While this can prove to be a bit more time consuming than hiring a traditional design firm, it also ensures that you get revisions and designs specific to your needs. You should be diligent about providing consistent feedback on all entries. Take time at least once per day to go through the new entries and give constructive criticisms. If you don't like a design, be honest with the designer and say so. If you do like a design, let the designer know he or she is on the right track and give advice and suggestions on what to change or in what direction you might like the design to go.


Most designers will allow you to pay them via an online payment processor like PayPal or Moneybookers. Some will ask for a check, money order, or Western Union transfer. The type of payments you will allow is something you can specify in your original contest terms.

The interest of protecting yourself and the designer, it is a good idea to consider the services of Escrow.com. Escrow.com will hold your money in escrow and not release it to the designer until you receive the designs and are satisfied with the transaction.


Graphic design contests are an excellent way to get high quality design work done without straining your budget. They can also be an excellent way for web designers to outsource certain design tasks and are often used with great effect in that capacity.