99designs Review

99designs is one of the most popular online design contest marketplaces. It relies on the concept of crowd sourcing in bringing together a pool of designers from all over the world and small to medium-sized businesses, which needs design solutions.

If you need something designed, 99designs will probably work for you. Projects categories include logos, web design, banner ads, and even merchandise design for things like t-shirts and clothing.

99designs – How It Works

Lets say you want to get a logo designed for your new website. 99Designs offers 4 different pricing packages: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. The bronze package will cost you $299 and you can expect to get about 30 designs. If you opt for the higher prize packages, you will of course get more designs to pick from.

Specific prices for each package vary, depending on the type of design work you’re looking for. And if you don’t like one of the 4 packages, you can also name your price as well, although you can’t go lower than the Bronze package.

Here are some of the basic benefits of 99designs no matter which package you choose:

  • 100% money back guarantee. If you aren’t satisfied with any of the designs, then just cancel your contest and get your money back.
  • A pool of more than 956,024 designers and growing.
  • A wide variety of designs to choose from for each contest.
  • Option to run a regular or guaranteed contest.
  • Option to run a blind contest where no one gets to see the submissions other than you.
  • Unlimited revisions.
  • Access to tips on every aspect of running a successful contest.

Why Use 99designs?

Economical Way to Get Design Projects Accomplished. 99designs is definitely an invaluable site for anyone trying to start up their businesses. The site runs on crowd sourcing – designers compete to win your business. The amount you will end up paying for the winning design will usually be cheaper compared to the amount you will be paying for hiring a professional designer, plus you get to see way more designs than you would from a single person.

Money-Back Guarantee. This feature is available if you opted for holding a regular contest. With any regular contest, if you do not like any of the submitted designs, you have the option not to choose choose one and you get your money back.

Easy To Use. The project creation area for contest holders is very intuitive and quite simple and user-friendly. One nice feature I like is how it gives you an estimate of the expected number of submissions based on the budget you entered.

Huge Pool of Quality Designers. Crowd sourcing is not crowd sourcing without a crowd. If there is one thing particularly impressive with 99designs, it is that you get a lot of designer participation. 99designs has a HUGE pool of actively participating designers, many who are quite good. In fact, a guaranteed prize contest can have close to 100 designs to pick from. This in itself beats paying one overpriced in-house designer.

Logo Store. Starting your own design contest might not be for everyone. For example, maybe you don’t have the time to run a contest and you want a logo really quick. 99Designs also has a logo design store where you can purchase a pre-made logo design. All you need to do is add your business name. Prices start at $299 for an exclusive rights logo.

99designs Cons

Some inconsistent Quality of Submissions. Since 99designs attracts both amateur and professional designers alike, you may get submissions which aren’t so great. Still, you can easily ignore the bad submissions and focus on the good ones. Here’s a 99designs tip: if you choose the Silver or Gold packages, you will definitely get more quality submissions.

Lack of relationship. One thing I’ve noticed when using 99designs is that you never really get to establish a relationship with the winner of your contest since you’re dealing with lots of different designers during the contest. When the contest is over, you just get your final deliverables and that’s the last your hear from the person, who’s probably off winning a dozen other contests. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes it is nice to find a designer you like and work long-term with them across multiple projects.

My 99designs Experience

To test out 99designs, I decided to host my own contest to come up with a new logo for one of my friend’s new sites. Setting up my contest was very easy. I choose the Bronze package and filled out the design brief which let me describe what kind of logo I was looking for.

To get the best results, you should be as detailed as possible about what you want. Once I was happy with my design brief, I launched the contest on the site. 2 weeks and 62 designs later, I picked a really good design for the logo that really fit the site.

Overall, my friend was really happy with the whole experience and he’s now considering using 99designs for some web design work.

Since this first instance, I’ve had the opportunity to use 99designs for a few other projects.

There are a few things I learned from my 99designs experiences.

First, I can’t stress the importance of writing a good, clear design brief that has all your specific requirements listed. If you don’t then you are going to spend a lot of time telling each designer your same requirements over and over again.

Most importantly, you really need to be active during the contest. Each time you receive a new design, you need to be pro-active and leave feedback good or bad. If the design is really bad, don’t be afraid to eliminate it (and the designer) so it doesn’t clutter up your view of things.

The faster you give feedback, the more revisions you will get for each particular designs. And the more likely you will get several designs that you are happy with.

And lastly, once you start seeing some designs you like, don’t forget to guarantee payment on your contest. This has the added benefit of attracting more top designers to your contest because now they are guaranteed to get paid if you win. You should see a nice uptick in designs once you do this.

99Designs Competitors

99designs is definitely the largest crowdsourcing design platform out there, but it’s not the only one. There are several alternatives you can pick from including CrowdSpring and DesignCrowd which also offer similar services.

99Designs vs Crowdspring

Crowdspring is the main competitor to 99Designs. Both advertise that they are the #1 crowdsourcing marketplace. However 99designs is the definite market leader in terms of traffic and number of designers.

Price wise, 99designs has better pricing in general across the different categories. While the lowest price logo contest is $299 on both sites, a website design contest is $300 cheaper on 99designs ($599 vs $899) and $110 cheaper for t-shirt designs ($189 vs $299).

I have not personally used Crowdspring at all, but I have researched the reviews and it seems to follow the same basic model as 99designs. There doesn’t seem to be any unique features of Crowdspring that would make me want to try them over 99designs. With these types of sites, I would prefer to stick with the one that has the most and best designers as I feel this will lead to the best results.

99Designs vs DesignCrowd

I had the opportunity to run a design contest on DesignCrowd recently to do a website redesign.

Where DesignCrowd tries to compete with 99designs is on price. For example if you look at starting a logo design contest on both sites, 99designs starts at $299 while DesignCrowd starts at $240.

DesignCrowd is also very aggressive with their email marketing so if you get on their email list, they will (fairly frequently) send out additional discount promotional offers you can take advantage of.

On the surface, this lower price looks good for you the customer. But in my experience, this also has the effect of attracting a lower quality of designers to your contests. The better quality designers aren’t going to participate because they are not going to get as paid as much for doing so.

I kind of saw this first-hand with my DesignCrowd contest as I saw lots of submitted designs that made no sense, didn’t meet my requirements or were just very sloppy looking. In the end, the contest did generate a couple of designs I was happy with, but overall I felt that there is more potential to have a bad experience with DesignCrowd vs 99designs.

Final Thoughts

The big thing I personally like about 99designs is having a number of design choices to pick from. I like the ability to compare different designs, show them to other people, and figure out which is the best for me. You just don’t get that choice when hiring a regular design company.

If you need a nice design for your business, 99designs is worth a try. You pay a certain amount of money to hold a contest, and you get your design project done. Finding a good designer is hard, and if you don’t know one already, crowd-sourcing your design is definitely an excellent alternative.

There’s a plenty of quality designers on the site and with their money back guarantee, you don’t have much to lose by trying 99designs out.

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Comments

  1. Lisa K says

    As a designer, I’m a bit skeptical about signing up for a site like 99designs. I really don’t want to spend all my time joining these logo design contests and then not getting paid after spending a lot of time on a particular design.

    I suppose it really depends on your experience though. I can see new designers using 99designs as a way to get more experience and to build up their portfolio.

  2. Ron says

    My experience with 99designs was similar to what Josh wrote about. I went for the Bronze package and got some good designs along with some amateurish ones as well.

    By leaving lots of feedback for each entry though, I was able to eventually get a design that I was happy with.

    I’ve also gotten a logo from the 99designs Logo store before. Bit cheaper and i’m using it for my business card.

    • Josh says

      Thanks for stopping by Ron. I had been curious about their Logo store as well, but I hadn’t had a chance to see how it works. I’m going to give it a shot next time I need a logo.
      Josh recently posted..99designs ReviewMy Profile

  3. Allen Thomas says

    I’m not really sure how I feel about these sites like 99designs and Crowdspring. On one hand, I can see how it really benefits the consumer. On the other hand, I feel bad for all those designers that participated in your design contest and didn’t get paid.

    Reading the different 99design reviews out there, this seems to be a common theme among all the comments I’ve seen so far. I guess what you think about 99designs really depends on your perspective.

  4. Brad Kelley says

    I’ve been looking at getting some design work done, and I came across this review of 99designs. I was thinking about going with a regular logo design company, but you’ve convinced me that crowdsourcing logo design might work well for me.

    I’m one of those people that has a hard time describing what I want in terms of design, although I have a good idea about what I like once I see it. So it really appeals to me that I can create a contest on 99designs and have a ton of different options to pick from.

    Thanks again for the review Josh. It was very informative.

  5. Znos says

    Who cares about the high-end designers or low… All what I care about is that I do have a design that I Like assuring that it won’t be copied by others or that it is it was copied from others… And it is not expensive. Daa, in starting a business you basically can’t pay much for the logo..

  6. David says

    Having had an amateur and admittedly self-educated interest in design for years, “professional” design seems to be being executed for designers designing for other designers rather than for the client or public. This is a hazard of any profession moving to hermetic, inward looking practices – look at the way things like city planning and economics have gone.

    Design-by-tender by sites like 99 designs removes professional barriers to exposure to design ideas and will introduce new blood and expertise – there are some very talented non-professionals out there. Where the bigger firms win is with ongoing support and depth – but if they can’t provide that, or you simply don’t need it (like with say a new logo) you do have to begin to look askance at their value proposition.

    To make an observation: one place for any designer to be careful in a competitive situation is ownership of IP. I’ve seen several (product) design competitions where the sponsor’s T&Cs stated that they owned rights, at their discretion alone, to ALL the designs submitted, even if they did not select them for an award or use. This would prevent an individual either developing the idea themselves or shopping it around other companies.

  7. MyTwoCents says

    @Bob & @Shaun: Totally proper comments all the way… For 3 years I used a designer only that did sites for 750-1500 and they all made money, it was simple, not difficult and really created great results… Now as I am looking to rebrand while he is busy on larger jobs everyone is quoting me 30,000-50,000 to brand and want 3 months to do it.

    Thats old school BS. 8 years ago I paid 100K for a website the designer didn’t give me the platform or ability to move and just disappeared after agreeing to ongoing help, it about broke me, and its only by this kind of risk / reward contest competition that prices can be brought down and better product brought to the table.

    I don’t need to talk to a team of 10 people, know you have 100 in your building, chances are, and I have caught others outsourcing my work and charging me insane prices. I am all for this, is it fair, yes it sure is! They signed up and we are taking advantage…

    If they paid 1.4MM in fees last month, people are winning jobs.

    My 2Cents

  8. Shaun says

    Even skilled designers are cheapened. When you go to Best Buy and demand a deal on a TV your cheapening someone’s design. When you hire a tradesman and scoff at the per hour rate your cheapening their skill. But in order to maintain marketability, they have to compensate. At the end of the day crowd sourcing knocks the pompous overpaid on their a** and forces them to reevaluate. The market is going to devalue on its own, and blaming third world countries and highschool kids is invalid. Blame the customer. Blame the client. Because running a business relies on keeping costs low. If I have $13000 to buy equipment and brand myself, I’m going to buy equipment first. I’m going to brand later because without equipment I can’t produce product or service.

    Also, crowd sourced logo design like 99designs gives me choice. I know what I’m looking for in a logo. It’s definitely the venue a small to medium business just investigate.

    The guy who uses 99designs was never going to buy from you anyway, so it’s not lost revenue.

  9. says

    99designs is interesting as using “crowdsourcing” to get unemployed and high-school students to compete with workers in India and other undeveloped countries… the pitch is “GET GREAT DESIGN DONE REALLY CHEAP!!”, and that’s exactly what it does, and it does state clearly that even the best designers are doing 500+ designs for perhaps 1-2 jobs (earning then $200-400). It really does take advantage of plethora of unemployed designers, so that when they do become good they can go out there and get a proper job. It’s like getting some work experience, and learning that in design everyone wants your creativity for almost free, because if you actually did have skills you’d probably be able to get a job… :)

  10. gerrard says

    I totally agree Bob. It’s simply a case of choice, a designer can take the risk of not getting paid or simply walk away. All this is made clear on 99designs

  11. Bob says

    Who cares if designers waste their “time” and not get paid. They know this when they accept the job at a place like 99designs. If they don’t want to take this risk, then don’t do it. The reason issue is that the high-end designers and rip-off artists are freaked out that a good design can be had at a reasonable price. People don’t need all that design fluff and branding mumbo-jumbo. Just give us something that looks good and gets things running.

  12. says

    I know some designers dont like crowd sourcing sites like 99Designs. But its the way forward. For small companies and people of low budgets its a great way to get a lot of custom designs

    Regards

    Paul
    Freelancelogo

  13. Brett says

    I’ve run a 99designs logo contest on my own. Much to my dismay, I discovered that I knew nothing about design and also did not have the free time to provide feedback to the designers. Needless to say my contest turned out lackluster at best. I did walk away with an okay logo, but I was not fully satisfied. I certainly did not use 99designs’ crowdsourcing to its fullest potential. In the near future I plan on running another logo contest, but this time I’m going to have professionals manage the contest for me, using http://www.ybrdesign.com/99designs_logoservice to get the job done. I’ve see the contests that they’ve run for others so I think I’ll give them a shot.

    Crowdsourcing is an amazing tool, but don’t end up like me wasting money on your contest because you don’t know anything about design or don’t have the free time to provide proper feedback to the designers.

  14. says

    While I agree that finding a good designer can be difficult, I don’t think that 99designs is a good way to go about it. The problem with crowd-sourcing your design is that you’ve got a bunch of folks that never get paid even though they did the work.

    I wrote a blog post on the issue that became fairly popular and attracted a lot of comments from either side of the issue. I’d suggest you give it a read and see what some other companies and designers have said about 99designs. Your own opinion is also appreciated!

    http://www.xemion.com/blog/99designscom-a-warning-to-freelancers-67.html

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