Best Design Contest Marketplace for 2015: 99Designs or DesignCrowd?


Getting design work done for my projects has always been a huge hassle for me.

I’m more of a DIY person and I will often use my limited Photoshop skills to put something together.

However, there are times when you need something better. When you need a design for your next logo or website that looks slick and professional.

Getting quality design work done can be really expensive. Most design agency prices are out of the range for small businesses with limited budgets.

Luckily, there is an option that has been growing in popularity for the past several years.

Its called a design contest marketplace and they are services that allow you to crowdsource graphical design work at an affordable price.

These types of sites give you a platform for starting your own design contest and having designers in their community compete to win a prize that you offer.


Its become a proven option for getting quality design work done for a reasonable price.

The biggest player in this space is 99Designs. I’ve used them a few times and have always been happy with their work.

But 99Designs is not the only design marketplace out there.

There are actually a handful of 99designs alternatives to pick from including DesignCrowd,, CrowdSpring, and 48hourslogo.

What I wanted to do is take a look at some of these sites to see if any are were worthy challenger to 99designs.

However, the more research I did into other sites, it became clear that there is only one real alternative to 99Designs. And that’s DesignCrowd.

DesignCrowd is the only site that can somewhat compete in terms of size and pricing as 99Designs.

The rest of the sites mentioned above are too small and don’t really offer any compelling reasons to use them.

So how does DesignCrowd compare with 99Designs?

In this post, I’m going to take a more detailed look at these two design contest platforms.

Basics of Design Contest Marketplaces

Every crowdsourced design platform pretty much follows the same basic formula.

  • Pick a design type (logo, website design, t-shirt, etc).
  • Create a design brief and choose your prize size
  • Wait for designers to submit their designs
  • Choose the best design and get it delivered to you.


You’re also protected when using any of these sites. If your design contest doesn’t generate any designs you like, then you can always get your money back.

That is, unless you choose to guarantee your contest.

Biggest Design Contest Platform?

For any design contest marketplace to work, you need both customers and designers, and lots of them.

The more customers you have, the more design contests get created. And the more contests there are, the more designers will be attracted to the platform to participate.

There is no doubt that 99Designs is the biggest design marketplace out there with the most brand awareness.

Just look at the stats. They have over 1 million designers on their platform. Alexa ranks them as the 3,193 biggest site on the web while SimilarWeb ranks them 6,231 in the world with over 4 million visitors a month.

DesignCrowd on the other-hand sits at 460k designers with a little less than 1 million visitors a month.

Just for comparison sake, and Crowdspring lag far behind with less than 170k designers on their platforms.

How Much Is It?

What makes these crowdsourcing sites so enticing is that they let you get designs for affordable prices.

The price you pay is determined by the type of design contest you select. So a logo contest for example would have lower pricing compared to a website design contest.

Both 99designs and DesignCrowd offer 4 different pricing tiers, although if you want, you can set your own price if you want.


The bigger the prize you offer the more designs you will get. Plus you will attract better quality designers as well at the higher prize points.

When you setup your contest, you will also get a chance to purchase additional upsells that do things like feature your contest (which will attract more designers) or setting up private or blind contests.

Pricing is where DesignCrowd really tries hard to compete with 99Designs.

Although it is a bit strange that DesignCrowd doesn’t make their prices more obvious upfront. You have to start a design contest to see their prices.

On DesignCrowd, the minimum prize for a logo design contest is $240 and $340 for a web site design.

Compare that to 99Designs which $299 and $540 respectively.

Curiously, DesignCrowd attaches an additional small transaction fee for launching a contest which no other marketplace does.

If you do a little digging, you can also find various promotions for the two sites. With 99Designs the promotion is usually a free Powerpack upgrade which will feature and highlight your listing and get it published on the 99designs blog.

You can find a lot of DesignCrowd promotions just by signing up to their email list.

Which happens automatically whenever you start a design contest with them.

You will find that they are quite aggressive with sending out email promotions with special sales and discount offers.

Some of these DesignCrowd discounts are quite good actually and can save you quite a bit of money on your next contest.

Launching Your Contest

Submitting a detailed design brief is very important.

A well written design brief lets the designers know what you want and makes it more likely that you will receive designs that meet your expectations.

I really like the way that 99designs handles launching your design contest.

With a logo contest for example, you will first be presented with a gallery of different logos where you can select up to 3 to determine what style of logo you like.


This is perfect for someone who might not necessarily know how to articulate in writing what kind of logo they want. Instead this allows you to visualize the type of logo you want and pick via some proven examples.

DesignCrowd has a very nice interface overall. The site does a nice job providing helpful tooltips whenever you need to input any information.

What I do like about them compared with 99Designs is that they offer you more flexible contest times.

With 99designs, the standard contest length is 7 days, and you have to pay extra for shorter deadlines.

With DesignCrowd you get the choice of 2, 5, 10 and 15 day contest times at no extra cost.

What Kind of Design Will I Get?

Every design contest is different. The results you get depends on the prize you offer, which designers decide to join your contest, how well you wrote your brief and how much time you spend giving feedback for every design you get.

But here are some examples of real-world design contests from both these two sites.




99designs Pros
  • Biggest design marketplace with over 1 million designers and growing.
  • Clear, up-front pricing.
  • Most design categories
  • Easily browse through old design contests.
  • Ready-made logo store.
  • Free Blind contests (after your first contest)
99Designs Cons
  • Not the cheapest
  • 7 day contest only (pay extra for other times)




DesignCrowd Pros
  • Nice, slick interface.
  • Cheaper prices overall.
  • Readily available discounts.
DesignCrowd Cons
  • Hidden prices
  • Additional transaction fee.
  • Smaller number of designers and contests.
  • Aggressive email promotions.

Final Thoughts

If you are feeling budget conscious and looking for the best 99designs alternative, then DesignCrowd is definitely a design contest marketplace to explore. You get the same features as 99designs at a lower price point.

However, in general I don’t feel that price should be your biggest consideration when choosing a design contest marketplace to use. In fact, smaller prize payouts means that fewer quality designers will actually join and participate in your contest.

That’s why I still think that 99Designs is the best design contest marketplace out there. It has the largest pool of quality designers by a huge margin and customers are using it every day to get quality design work done.

I’ve used to them on several projects myself, and will certainly continue to use them in the future.

Try 99Designs Now

Try DesignCrowd Now

Have you ever crowdsourced any design work? Which site did you use? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments.

  • Lisa Kubo says:

    I’d love to get some new t-shirts designed for an event I’m going to be hosting. What do you think of using 99designs for t-shirt designs Kinley?

  • farhad says:

    world’s worst online market place is designcrowd . A few days ago i took a logo from a great designer of designcrowd .But today i need him to edit that design a little . also need some file . but his account is deactivated by designcrowd . as a result i lost everything . without logo i can’t lunch my business .though i paid all payment .now i am hopeless and i don’t want to use designcrowd any more in future .

  • Marsha Kelly says:

    Good article. I like how clearly you explained the process of graphic design crowdsourcing and the alternatives to 99 designs.

  • Marsha Kelly says:

    I have used both Designcrowd and 99designs and grade DesignCrowd – B and 99designs – A, based on the number of submissions, design quality, pricing, and customer service. Check out this comparison table of 12 important features comparing 99designs to DesignCrowd – you should consider before launching your design contest. 99designs vs DesignCrowd vs CrowdSpring Review: Best?

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