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99designs Reviews

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Skip to the conclusion and see our overview how 99designs, Crowdspring, Designcrowd, DesignBro, and DesignHill compare.


It’s come a long way

Having worked with multiple design platforms over the years, it’s only fair to say that some have come a long way. 99designs is one of them- just a couple of years ago it seemed like 99% of the designs you would get was trash (sorry- there was no better way to call it).

The platform started at solving a very simple demand- startups that had no money still needed a logo. So unless you had a designer friend, you had a problem. They filled that void successfully.


Since then they have grown to an incredible proportion, here are some stats:

99Designs boasts over:

  • 1.2 Million designers
  • 46,000 designs per day (= 1.4 million designs per month)
  • $3.5 million payout to the designers per month

The discussion on spec work / crowdsourcing design:


No matter what people will tell you, spec work is as old as the design industry itself, small agencies, large agencies, and freelancers, almost all, on occasion, do ‘spec work’ or a ‘free creative pitch’ as it’s sometimes referred to. Historically it came from the advertising agency that would put together a creative pitch to then win a huge contract, and nowadays in the design industry you can end up pitching for just the project itself.

Essentially this means that creative work has been devalued, as clients expect more for less.


The biggest difference between traditional spec work is that an agency or freelancer would typically compete against 3-6 competitors for the job, giving them a 33% – 16% chance.


With the introduction of 99Designs into the market, they kept the same model as above, but with 3 main differences:

  1. There is no limited number of designers that can compete, leaving the designer with a 1% or 2% statistical chance of winning
  2. In a 99Designs (standard) contest, all designers can see each other’s work. What happens is that when a client gives 1 design a decent score, other designer (who had nothing to do with this initial idea) flock towards the same concept. In reality the designer with the idea loses his advantage.
  3. The amount per design in a traditional pitch is multiples higher than with 99Designs. Based on the figures above, the price per design is 2.5$.


The largest issue we see is the last one. With a cost per design of 2.5$ it helps explain the complaint from multiple clients that they got a ton of designs, but only very few good ones.


The briefing process:

One thing 99Designs has really nailed down is the briefing process- they have made it dead simple to start a project:

Step 1 – Select designs you like

You select which designs you like form an elaborate list. This helps the designers ‘get on the right foot’ as it provides some inspiration & feel for what you might be going for.


Step 2 – Enter email

Enter your email- worthwhile to do, in order to save your progress- but you can skip this step if you don’t feel like receiving emails yet.


Step 3 – Adjust the style

Based on the images you selected they show you what they think your style is, you can adjust it in this step.


Step 4 – Select colors

Select the colors you would like your design to feature.


Step 5 – The brief

The brief- now we get to the important stuff:

  • Language: They would like to know which language you want to make your brief in. Our recommendation would be to always select English, as otherwise you’re likely to limit the number of designers significantly.
  • Name of your logo
  • Enter a slogan if you have one
  • Write about your company & the target audience
  • Select your industry
  • Select if you want an upgrade package (logo & website, logo & business card & letterhead, envelope & facebook cover)
  • Other- literally anything else you would like to tell the designers
  • Upload any inspiration or sketches (or anything else) you feel might help the designers.


Step 6 – Select your package

Ok- here it gets complicated.

You have a choice between bronze, silver, gold & platinum.

The difference between:

  • Bronze ($299) – The basic package
  • Silver ($499): Basically just a ‘larger designer prize’, which will likely attract more designers
  • Gold ($799): Different level of designers (Mid & top level only)
  • Platinum($1,299): Different level of designers (top level only), prioritised support, dedicated manager
Our opinion: Which logo design package is best?

In our opinion the sweet spot is the ‘Gold’ package, as you do want the better quality designers, as otherwise chances are you become target practice for inexperienced designers. The downside (yes, we say downside) is that they expect you will receive 90 designs with a gold package. The amount of work to eliminate, provide feedback & review 90 designs, is an immense job, even for someone with experience in the field.

  • Select the title for your project
  • Promote your contest upsell…

Yes- you read that right, you have to pay to get designers to notice your contest…

  • Prices are as follows:
    • Twitter ($99)
    • Feature ($79)
    • Highlight ($19)
    • Blog ($19)
    • Powerpack- (feature+highlight+blog) ($99)

Although it goes against our nature to pay for something that should be included, we do recommend to buy the ‘Feature’ option at $79 to make sure the ‘good’ designers actually notice your project.


  • Guaranteed

If you select this option you’re saying you would like to forfeit your money back guarantee.

We don’t advise to do it, as then there is no way back.


  • Private contest- $59

This keeps your project private from google and lets the designers agree to a level of confidentiality (NDA). We do recommend this, as you generally don’t want your website to be featured in google search results right next to a page of 99designs showing who made what & how much you paid for it. If you’re not bothered by the idea- great, then you can save yourself $59.


  • Duration

You can select to have a speedier delivery.

3 days = $39

2 days = $59

24 hours = $79


In our opinion, we understand you might be under time pressure in certain cases, but we fail to see the advantage of shortening the timespan of the contest, as you will receive less work from less designers, with less time spent on it, for more money. So our recommendation is the ‘standard 7 days’


Step 7 – Sign up

Ok, it’s time to sign up now, enter your email & pick a password. Don’t forget to agree to the terms & conditions (and read them like we all do….)


Step 8 – Your details

You get to see a summary of your order- in our case it’s $937

  • Fill in your contact details
  • Fill in their questionnaire


Step 9 – Payment

You can select to pay with credit card or PayPal

Blind Contests

A suggestion from our side is the following, we would strongly suggest to contact customer service to make your project a ‘blind contest’, as otherwise designers can see each other’s work, which can lead to them copying the designs that got positive feedback.


The start of the project

Once the project starts, the interface feels quite intuitive- it’s easy to navigate the page & give feedback to the designers.

Within the first few hours you’re likely to start receiving designs,

Our advice- try to communicate with decent designs / designers as soon as possible before the clutter starts to settle in & give star ratings to all of them (even if it’s just for yourself to keep track).


Refund Policy

99designs boasts a ‘100% money back guarantee’. In order to get this, you have to get on the phone with a call center. Nobody likes callcenters- so we assume it’s just to make the process more difficult. But that being said it’s nice to know you’re not running a (major) risk.


Our Advice

It’s really easy to start a project on 99designs, the website works well, and the support works. However, expect to receive a large number of designs, of which most are (really) not what you are looking for. Many of them will have been created in a very short period of time to maximise the designer’s chance of earning money.

99designs is not cheap when you want to do it ‘right’ (Gold package + Featured project + Private), and similarly, don’t do it as a ‘side project’ as you will need to put in a lot of time.

We have given 99designs 4/5 stars in our comparison with competitors, which gives it a good second place for it’s logo design contest service, just under DesignBro, which is our recommendation for this category.

  • Package selected
  • Only pro designers
  • Private or blind contests
    This means designers cant see each other’s work - it leads to less copying and more creativity. Some sites allow it, and others have it as a standard. Our advice? Make sure your contest is blind!
  • Estimated # of designs
    Remember 1 good design is better than 20 mediocre ones
  • Quality of designs
    We launched different contests with all platforms, and sat down with a team of design experts to judge the quality. This was our score.
"Lots of designs"
$799Logo Design
  • gold package
  • (only on gold pack)
    Only on the Gold Package & up better designers are offered
  • (but not first project)
    They only allow a blind competition once you have worked with 99Designs before
  • 90
    We felt a little overwhelmed by the number of designs that were presented, and were slightly dissapointed by the number of decent quality designs
"Great quality"
Our Choice
$479Logo Design
  • 10 designs
  • 10+
    You can eliminate designs you don't like, which means that that spot 'opens up' again for other designers. We ended up getting 15 designs for the same price.
"too many"
$429Logo Design
  • their popular package
  • (extra $150)
    Yet another upsell...
  • 90
    We felt a little overwhelmed by the number of designs that were presented, and were slightly dissapointed by the number of decent quality designs
"ok- service"
$499Logo Design
  • gold package
  • (extra $199)
    Yet another upsell...
  • (extra $49)
  • 50
"getting there"
$599Logo Design
  • executive package
  • 60

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