Columbus website connects clients with a sea of designers who compete to supply brand

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO
Joe Daley, owner of the online business Logo My Way, says his website has made a profit of about $240,000 a year.

July 17, 2015

Thousands of designers upload their work regularly to Logo My Way, but the site's owner, Joe Daley, can't even open Adobe Illustrator.

Daley didn't go to college, but he loves building websites and starting online businesses, something he has been doing since 1996. He has dabbled in everything from greeting-card sites to email-managing programs and anti-spyware software, but Logo My Way is the only site that has stuck.

"In 2008, when the economy tanked, I had a couple businesses where sales went way down," Daley said. "So I was reading through a magazine and they said when the economy is bad, more people start businesses. My thought was those people, the first thing they're going to think of is logos, and I wanted to be at the front part of that."

The online business pairs clients looking for a custom logo with designers willing to make one for a certain price. It's a process that works much like a contest, with customers offering specifications, reviewing submissions and then picking the one they like best. The cost to the client usually is between $200 and $1,000. Designers can enter as many contests as they want.

Logo My Way has grown 10 percent each year since 2008. What started as a site with 800 designers has grown to a network of about 20,000 working behind screens in all parts of the world.

The number of customers using the site also has increased, growing to 300 a month, up from 30 in the early days.

"I was offered $1 million for (the site) about two years ago, and I turned it down," Daley said, crediting the site with about $240,000 in annual profit. Logo My Way keeps roughly 20 percent of the cost of each logo sold.

Logo My Way generated a lot of traffic recently after hosting contests soliciting new campaign logos for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in May and June, respectively.

Daley said he started the contests after designers on the website's forum commented on how basic they thought Clinton's logo was and noted the funny possibilities for Trump's.

"They had fun with it," Daley said. "A little bit of me thought (the presidential candidates) might see something they like and what if they did get their logo through Logo My Way? Small chance it could happen, but there are some really good logos on there that I do think are better than the original(s)."

The work-for-hire model that Logo My Way uses can be beneficial for young designers looking to launch their careers. It's especially great for students who can add the work to their portfolio and resume, said Vicki Golden, associate professor at Columbus College of Art & Design.

More experienced designers, including Golden, tend to shy away from such sites. Designing one logo can take hours of work, and if the logo isn't picked by the contest holder, the designer doesn't get paid and is essentially wasting time.

Last year, the Worthington Hills Country Club decided it needed a new logo for its swim team because the existing seahorse mascot looked "wimpy." Julie Pugh, the team's parent representative, started a contest on Logo My Way.

"Seahorses usually swim backwards, and they're not very fast, so we needed something that was going to look tougher and show forward motion," she said.

It also had to be a two-color logo that would easily translate on T-shirts, hats and other materials. It was a vague description, but that's why Pugh liked Logo My Way.

"I think with a lot of people, you don't really know what you want," Pugh said. "Once I started seeing all those different types of designs, I was able to look at them and say: OK, I like this, this is what I want, and this is what I don't want."

The logo submissions came quickly and frequently, and she was able to give the designers instant feedback so they could refine their work.

Pugh knows firsthand, from her freelance marketing work, that the process would have taken longer if she'd met with a single designer in person, gave him or her vague descriptions of a logo idea and then waited for that designer to come back with a mock-up. If she didn't like the design, the process would start all over.

Shane Yates, executive director of the Ohio Society of Association Executives in Columbus, has used Logo My Way eight times since 2012. He was at a conference in Dallas and someone mentioned the business, which at the time Yates didn't know was based in Columbus.

"I didn't know what I was getting myself into, so I was cautious at first," he said.

It reminded him of a crowd-sourcing website and he was a little skeptical, but $200 seemed inexpensive for a logo and he needed a design to brand an upcoming work convention.

He was impressed with the quick results and the variety of designs he received. As his confidence increased in the site, so did the awards he gave for his other design contests. Now, Yates said he spends about $500 on logos for both personal ventures and other work conferences and projects.

Not everyone is a fan of this type of design business.

Lacey Picazo, chief creative officer at ZoCo Design in Columbus, doesn't believe such websites can replace a traditional designer or design firm that spends time researching the company, its values and its consumers.

"The products of (these sites) are never built upon strategy and are often created with haste," Picazo said in blog post on ZoCo's website. "When you think about it, if a designer has a one-in-100 shot at earning a few hundred dollars on a website, they are not going to invest the same time and effort into your brand that you would find with an agency."

Still, examples of repeat customers on Logo My Way are plentiful, Daley said.

The site takes daily management, but Daley has four employees in various time zones who help him with administrative duties, freeing him to work on new ventures.

The company's website is http://LogoMyWay.com.

khusnick@dispatch.com

@KelseyHusnick