How We Crowdsourced The Logo For a Multi-million Dollar Start-up

Rare Carat is now USA’s largest online marketplace for engagement rings. We power over $200 million of sales annually for folks looking for diamond rings.

But back when we started we were starting out, we simply needed a logo. Fast.

We get asked about how we went about the process from other founders, especially technical ones just starting out. This was our process:

  1. Starting from scratch

On day 1, we had started out with a simple diamond icon in the middle of our name.

A year later, as the site was taking off and getting traction, we were due for an upgrade. Something less generic. Something that stood out a bit more.

Like an eager start up, at first we wanted to do everything ourselves.

However, after a few amateur sessions in powerpoint (!), it was clear we could not do logo design ourselves. But the ideation exercise started to give us a shared vocabulary.

One example of concepts shared by our CEO:

His explanation:

  • Idea of dots = data

The critical part here was the feedback: e.g. “too much overthinking”, “dots are not visible as a small favicon”, or simply 🍇.

There were just 3 people on the business side at that stage, we were clear about feedback with each other. And the rudimentary concepts helped us figure out what we liked and didn’t like.

In parallel, we also honed in on logos from companies that we did like.

2. Creating a Brief

The next step before talking to any designers was developing a brief on what we wanted. An excerpt:

Rare Carat brings simplicity to what is a very complicated purchase. The logo should reflect this and feel uncluttered, clear and intuitive.

We are disruptors in the diamond industry. It’s exciting. We’re about to save consumers a ridiculous amount of money. Colors can be bright, cheerful and happy. It’s fun. Or they can be monochrome and simple and bold. Let the creative juices flow — we’re not afraid to be a little different. We’re a breath of fresh air, and we want the logo to convey this. You can also move away from the geometric diamond shape — we like feeling different and distinctive.

We don’t want to feel “luxury” and instead should feel like smart tech and approachable and friendly.

It was not overly prescriptive. We were open to a variety of approaches, and most importantly, we knew we did not want to look like another online jeweler trying to evoke ‘luxury’.

To clarify, design briefs are not something any of us had any experience with. We were googling and copying best practices.

We posted the brief on 99designs and opened up a contest for designers based on this brief.

Over 400 designs rolled in, and we sifted through each one. Total prize money was just over $1k. There were some we kind of liked, some we hated…

3. Nurturing the process

We rated designs throughout the contest — the good and the bad. 1 stars to 5 stars. If it was a low score due to lack of brand fit, rather than ability, we were careful to message the designer and explain that was the reason for a the low score.

We contacted contenders that seemed promising during the contest, giving feedback, while still trying to keep it open to the artist’s creativeness. For example we would add qualifiers after our comments like: “This is our initial reaction, we don’t want to constrain you if you see another path as well.”

In terms of process, we also did not vote through consensus on our end. If one of us believed enough in a design to encourage that direction, they were open to give it a high score, even if another team member did not agree. The principle here was that in a creative process we wanted to champion strong ideas that stood for something, rather than settle for making everyone a little bit happy.

There were themes that emerged. We loved the carat/carrot pun on our name. We loved simpler, clean designs. We loved whimsical designs (there was one that combined a diamond with a hot air balloon). A full list of the entries we liked is available here.

And then… just before the contest ended:

A late entrant and a clear favorite emerged.

We developed it further before the contest ended. We did a few rounds of feedback nitpicking on it — on the font, its weight, the size of the elements.

After staring at a few too many variations of it…

…we finally narrowed it down to what our logo is today:

rare carat logo reviews
rare carat logo reviews

Get in touch via twitter and hit us up if you are diamond shopping.

Chief Operating Officer of RareCarat.com