I need to design a logo, a business card, and website for an idea I'm developing. I want to use one of the "Design Contest" websites. But I'm not sure which one. Seems like there are some differences between them. One of the major differences I found is that some of them are "blind" while others allow all design contest participants to see the all the designs submitted.
The main ones I have found are:
We've used 99designs for logos (Project Dirigible and Ironclad ) and toolbar button icons, and had great results. The important thing we've found is to give lots of feedback; every day during the contest, we log on to the site and rate all of the new entries, and leave comments saying what we like and don't like. I suspect that would be equally important whichever site you choose to use.
If you've prepared a full brief, and you're prepared to invest time providing feedback, the leading sites are all going to work well for you if you're offering a reasonable prize. I like the 99designs simplicity, but I've heard good (and bad) of all of them.
If you're actually looking to work with a designer, and just want to manage the process and its cost, there are ways to leverage (most of) these platforms, and you also open up other communities such as deviantart, to find individual talented designers.
Open vs private for contests - I'd go for private, which helps weed out the clip artists.
I love these sites. And I try and remember they're numbers games. If I get 100 submissions, 99 designers have done work for nothing. 80 of those were just dashed off, but that still leaves 19 who tried. So if I want something pretty turnkey, everyone wins. But if I want people to engage with my brand, I'll try and have an initial contest 'concepts only', to select 1-3 designers to get the full, detailed brief. Then a closed contest with a handful of entrants, who have better odds and a fairer reward if they give their best work.
We tried turning our sales website into a 3 page brochure through 99Designs, and I was not impressed by the work. It all was something I could do in 2 hours myself, and I don't have much design talent. I haven't tried any of the others, but here is a great interview with the founder of CrowdSpring on why it is a better service. You can read the raw transcript if you like.
I've only used Crowdspring and 48hourslogo, and both are hit and miss. You'll probably get a lot of poor submissions but a few really good ones, and that's all it takes. Take a look at which sites work process and cost structure suits you best. Whichever one you use, make sure you give quick feedback on all submissions so that creatives can better understand what you want and do additional submissions.
If you have an idea of how design should look and feel of your company then go to any of that, mostly 99designs.com and then just look which are similar to your idea.