Outsourcing Design

Good designers are hard to come by—it can be a costly process to find the right candidate, and you may end up paying for work you aren't satisfied with. Now that we basically all live on the internet, meeting in person with design teams to hammer out a design brief no longer seems like an appropriate option. Websites like Dribbble have virtualized the means of prospecting and working with designers, creating an open ecosystem to connect with the world's top talent.
Having gone the bootstrapping route before, I ended up teaching myself the fundamentals of what makes design enticing since the transition from skeuomorphic to flat. I began with Adobe CS5's Fireworks and Illustrator, to using Figma, and also deconstructed websites like Airbnb, Zillow, and YouTube to understand how to build effective user interfaces. 
If there's one resource I could recommend, it would have to be RefactoringUI. Their design tips are a culmination of what creates visually striking UI, from the perspective of a web developer.
I decided to experiment with a PropTech muse, so I sought out crowdsourcing to see what designers could come up with.
Enter 99Designs.
99Designs is a marketplace for crowdsourced graphic design, founded by Matt Mickiewicz, who is a successful serial entrepreneur that started his first business at 14. 
"You don't have to work with designers individually, negotiate contracts, go to meetings, or review proposals. You create a brief, name your price, and then get dozens of options to choose from with a one hundred percent satisfaction guarantee. That's unheard of." – Matt Mickiewicz
I have used the service a couple of times in the past but always ended up asking for a refund. Instead, this time I decided to use 99Design's option of guaranteeing a contest. A payment of $399 is required upfront, and at least one designer will take home the prize. You can purchase additional submissions for $299 each.

I was pleasantly surprised at the speed and quality of the designers over the course of the contest. It was incredibly easy to review dozens of designs from around 17 participants, and fine-tune it the way you want. To start, you must be as specific as you can in a very well-structured design brief—a series of questions and options for pinning down your visual style.

In the design brief, I approached it not only how I wanted a logo designed, but with my general philosophy behind a great real estate brand: clean, modern, classy, immediately recognizable, and trustworthy. Here is a summary of what I included for the contest:

Describe what your organization or product does and its target audience (e.g. Age, gender, location, education, interests, lifestyle, behaviour, values)
Modern and trusted solutions for valuing residential real estate. Machine learning and artificial intelligence for lenders, realtors, appraisers, and homeowners.
Select your industry
Real Estate & Mortgage

Visual style
I was always drawn to neutral, cool, blue/midnight blue/slate-type colours. They are modern, have great contrast, and fit well with a flat UI design.

Any other specific colour requirements?
Flat UI, meaning muted, neutral, soft colours.

Style Attributes
Real estate is of course the world's largest asset class, and brands in the vertical typically fall under the category of modern, mature, sophisticated, luxurious, geometric, and literal.

Design Inspiration
These were designs suggested by other designers on 99Designs and were a good starting point to communicate simplicity.

For references, I uploaded logos from some of the coolest real estate and educational companies, that I thought would best represent the style I was going for.

In the final round, six designers were selected to iterate on their best logo. There were so many brilliant submissions, but I wanted to make sure the design represented technology, transparency, and geography. The designer modified Gotham's typeface, which I thought added a futuristic vibe to it. I did mention Cyberpunk—one of my favourite genres for its neo-noir style.

Using UBI CERB proceeds to fund up-and-coming designers feels somewhat gratifying. It keeps the startup spirit alive when you have a vision that materializes into its digital form. 

Experimentation has always been a form of therapy, to keep the mind busy and not drawn into negative thought patterns. The fact that you can make something from nothing, and have that support a fulfilling lifestyle, means no one can take that away from you.
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