99Designs Review: Why You Should Crowdsource Your Next Design

99designs-300x80 As a small business owner, your brand cannot be overlooked. It’s the first impression that you will make on your potential customers, so it’s important that you get it right.

Unfortunately, coming up with the right image for your brand is hard.

Especially if you lack the creativity or the skill to come up with your company’s branding yourself. And as a small business, it’s unlikely that you have the resources to have an in-house designer that can create something for you.

So what can you do?

99Designs Review

First Published on: Nov 11, 2014
Last updated: Sept 7, 2015

tl;dr Summary
99Designs is the largest crowdsourcing design marketplace for getting any type of graphic design work done. What we like most is the amount of options it gives us before picking our favorite design.

You could do some research and try to hire your own design company that can create a brand identity for you. With so many choices though, how can you pick a good one without working with them first?

Getting a great design done can be a very expensive proposition, and it’s easy to be left disappointed.

Luckily, there are some alternatives in the form of starting your own design contest on a site like 99Designs, DesignCrowd or crowdSpring. Each of these sites offers you a way to tap into their own community of designers who will compete to win your project.

It’s an excellent, affordable way to to generate a wide variety of design concepts to pick from, and in the end, get a design you are happy with.

Out of all these sites, 99Designs is pretty much the dominant player in the market. It’s the biggest and most popular of these crowdsourcing design marketplaces by quite a bit.

I actually first learned about them a few years ago, back before 99Designs really took off.

I was looking to get a new logo designed and I remember searching around for 99designs reviews and getting excited by this post (since updated) that was published by my friend Josh Kotsay about it. So I tried it out and was really happy with the results I got from my very first logo contest.

Nowadays though, everyone uses 99designs.

Tim Ferris has used them to design the cover of one of his books.

Docker used the site to crowdsource their logo.

Here are some other examples of the type of designs you can expect to see.

99Designs-ContestWinner2

99Designs-ContestWinner3

99Designs-ContestWinner4

How It Works

To get started with 99designs, you first should know what kind of design you need.

Fortunately, there are a wide variety of design categories to pick from, each with different price points such as:

  • Logo Design – Starting from $299
  • Business Cards – Starting from $199
  • Website – Starting from $599
  • Banner Ads – Starting from $199
  • Product Packaging – Starting from $399

The starting prices listed above are for the lowest tiered Bronze package.

You can also opt to go with Silver, Gold or Platinum packages at higher price points.

The better the package, the higher the prize money for the winning designer which will in turn attract more people to participating in your contest.

The next step is launch your contest and go through the design brief wizard. This is important as it gives prospective designers a more clear idea of your requirements.

What I like is that 99Designs has really improved and refined this process to really make this process simpler.

As a non-designer, it’s often not easy to articulate in writing exactly the kind of design you want.

So 99designs has made this easier by making everything more visual.

When you launch a logo design contest, you are first asked to select 3 logos from a gallery of existing logo designs to give your designers an idea of the style you want.

99Designs-PickLogoDesignStyle

The next 2 steps allow you to describe your brand’s style via interactive sliders and then pick a color scheme you like.

99Designs-BrandStyleAndColors

Finally, you fill out what name you want for your logo and give a brief description of what your company or product does.

If you have any examples of similar designs you want people to reference you can upload them as well.

The last step is to pick the design package you want. If you don’t like the 4 available price points, you can actually name your price as well if you want, although even design type has a minimum price point. (ie. $299)

99designs-design-packages

Standard contest length is 7 days, but you can pay more to have shorter turnaround times if you want.

Once your contest is live, you will start getting designers submitting there designs as early as the next day, depending on how complicated your requirements are.

The key to a a successful design contest is to leave feedback for every submitted design. This gives designers an idea if they are on the right track or not and encourages them to keep improving their designs. You can rate each individual design and leave a comment.

Eventually as your design contest winds to an end, there will be a few designs that will probably become your favorites. Picking a winner is the fun (and hard) part. If you are having a hard time deciding you can take advantage of the poll tool to invte your friends to vote on their favorite designs to help you out.

Finally, once you have your winner, the designer will transfer the design’s rights over to you and 99designs will pay the designer the prize money. You will then be able to download your design and start using it!

Don’t want to launch your own design contest…?

While 99Designs seems to be all about launch design contests, there are a couple of alternative, little known ways to get a great design with them without having to go through the design contest process.

The first is the 99Designs Logo design store. 99designs has its own marketplace of thousands of ready-made logos created by their designers. Logos are searchable by category and keyword.

99Designs-ReadyMadeLogos

Find one you like? You can directly purchase the logo and have that logo’s designer add your business name and slogan to it within 24 hours.

You can also request minor changes to the logo like color changes, resizing certain elements and changing the font.

For those on a budget, you can purchase a non-exclusive license to any logo in the store for $99.

However, if you want to use one of these logos for your business I would recommend getting the exclusive license. This means only you has the right to use the logo. This will cost you $298.

You can also work with any designer on the site 1-on-1.

It’s a little known feature, that’s kind of hidden away. But it’s a pretty cool feature.

Every designer on the platform has their own profile where you can see their portfolio and browse what services they offer and price.

You also see their stats on 99designs, so you can view how many contests they’ve won, number of 1-1 projects they’ve done, and even reviews from past clients.

99Designs-DesignerProfile2

Since 99designs has the world’s largest pool of designers, this is a fantastic resource if you prefer working with a single designer.

99Designs Pros

Choice of designs – This is probably the #1 reason to go with a crowd-sourcing platform like 99designs. Instead of working with a single designer 1-1 who you may or may not like, you get a chance to evaluate a wide variety of different designs. Especially when you don’t have a clear concept of what you want in your mind. More choices makes it more likely you will be able to find a design that you are happy with.

Intuitive Design Posting Process – It’s hard to specify a visual style in words only. The 99Designs design brief process makes it simple for non-designers to specify what they want in their design. This means you get more designs in your contest that match or exceed your vision.

Huge Pool of designer talent – As the #1 design marketplace, 99designs has attracted the very best designers to its site. At the time of this writing it has over 1 million designers signed up as part of its designer community. Sure, not everyone is great but you can easily filter out the bad designs in your contest. If you go with a higher prize package, you will attract some of their best, high quality designers.

Affordable Design – 99Designs is not the cheapest option to get design work done. But cheapest is not necessarily best. High quality design is expensive. 99designs gives you flexibility by giving you different price points to pick from that will fit your current budget.

Money back guarantee – On the off chance that you don’t get any designs you like, you can always get your money back. So there really is no risk to starting your own contest.

Conclusion

Finding a good designer can be a difficult and time consuming process. So if you are looking to get any sort of graphic design work done, 99Designs should be one of the first places you try out.

Whether you want to launch a design contest, or work with a designer 1-on-1, 99Designs gives you that option, at an affordable price.

What I like most about 99Designs is that it’s easy to use, and I get a lot of designs to pick from. It makes narrowing down the eventual winner a lot easier when I can compare and contrast between different designs.

Coupled with their money back guarantee, I don’t see any real reason not to try 99Designs for your next design project.

Try 99Designs Today

  • Navneet says:

    I will not mind using such a platform that can give me a good design at an affordable price. I have worked with designers one on one and at times have also outsourced the jobs. In my experience, if person you are working with knows exactly what he is working on, he will give you a good result. Therefore, you need to be sure of what you want from your designers. Half baked ideas always generate confused results. In my opinion there is no harm in trying such platforms if you are sure of the designs you have in mind.

  • Milton says:

    99designs.com is a 100% scam site, they don’t pay you

    99designs.com stolen my winning money and suspended my account

    I won a contest at 99design, after i won the contest they said my money will credit on my account ASAP but they suspended my account and stolen my money, i think they are big scam in online. My user name is imaxqapp

    They just suspended me without paid my contest winning money

    “Your account has been suspended forever for the following reason:
    Hello, Thanks for your interest in 99designs. Unfortunately the current quality of your work does not fit our site standards. As a result, we have put your account on hold. We encourage you to improve your design skills. You can find design tutorials and inspirational work here:”

    Milton
    http://www.imaxq.com
    Website Developer & Graphics Designer

  • Good overview of 99designs site. I like all the screenshots you included and the step by step processing of ordering graphics. You are right that many well-known companies use them. My suggestion would be to allow plenty of time to design your products, since you may have fits and starts. However, I have used them on many jobs and been satisfied.

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