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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Prova taps graphic talent online

By Robbie Dingeman

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

The cover of the Grassroot Institute's report was designed through an online "contest" run by Prova. The winning designer was paid $250.


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Employees: Five, including owner David Gash

How long in business: Since Halloween 2008

Describe your business: Prova is an advertising agency using social networks and crowd-sourcing to help businesses get better-targeted design work for their advertisements ó postcards, logos, magazine ads, Web sites.

Work philosophy: "One of the things I love doing is solving problems and helping people," Gash said.

Business survival tip: "Start sooner: Ready, fire, aim. Don't wait forever to start your business. Launch it, refine it and launch it again."

Fun fact: The pastor of a church in Madera, Calif., used Prova to design a door hanger for his church. He selected from 49 entries.

Big new thing: Owner David Gash thinks Prova is the world's first crowd-sourced ad agency.

On the Web: www.ProvaAdvertising.com

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Honolulu entrepreneur David Gash created a graphic design/advertising business that taps the Web and social networking to solicit a variety of designs for clients at an affordable price.

Then Gash moved to San Diego to run it, although he's still working with clients here and trying to get back to the Islands at least once a month.

Gash, 29, explains the process this way: A business tells his company what design it wants for a logo, Web site or other project. Prova solicits designs; and the business pays one set price and picks the design from an average of 30 that usually come in that best suits the client.

Would-be designers check the Web site to see what clients are looking for and then submit ideas. The price that will be paid to the design selected is listed on the site, so designers decide how much time and energy to devote to each "contest."

As of yesterday, most of the contests were for logos and other designs at a price around $250, although there was a $600 contest for Web site design.

For the clients, Gash said, this approach provides more variety at a set price, compared to the more traditional method of hiring an agency at a price, then receiving an average of three designs to consider. In that model, you could end up with three designs you're not happy with but still have to pay the bill.

"As an entrepreneur, I hated graphic design work," said Gash, owner of Prova. "I knew there had to be an easier way for business owners to incorporate design into their business plan."

Here in Honolulu, the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii hired Prova to design the cover of the nonprofit's just-released report.

The institute's Jamie Story said Prova's $250 contest for the report cover design went so well that they went back again for a logo design.

Story said the organization had looked into hiring a traditional designer and found the cost prohibitive.

"This kind of allowed for us to get the best of the best without paying for it," Story said. "Well, we're paying for it, but it's much less."

For the report cover design, the award went to Colorado-based designer Lori Tiedge, who received her degree in design last year.

Another interesting project contest was commissioned by Stephen Mayu of Black Light Poetry. He held a contest to design the best poster for his spoken-word organization in central California.

You can view the 61 poster ideas Mayu received at www.prova.fm/c/64. The first design is the one he chose and you can scroll down to see the progression of entries.

Gash said getting the word out to quality designers has been easy. Sometimes, it's harder to find clients because the concept is a new one and he needs to persuade people that they get agency-quality design work at a good price.

In using the Web to solicit designers, Gash said he's been impressed with the number of designs and the high quality of the work.

"It's mostly professional designers. Some even run an agency," he said, but non-professionals do well, too.

He refined his business recently when some of his clients realized they were having a hard time picking the final winner.

Prova started using crowd-sourcing, which involves asking the general public for feedback, whether it's about news they witnessed or products or businesses.

"We find we're getting between 30 and 70 design options," Gash said. And customers were getting too many designs they liked and found it hard to make a decision.

With crowd-sourcing, Gash shows them how to ask their target market, customers, blog readers, etc., to vote on which one they like best.

The client still makes the final pick but hears from their target market first.