99Designs Review – Pros, Cons & Comparisons

There is now a wealth of choice for those looking to outsource their design projects with individual freelancers, design companies and crowdsourcing sites all competing for the same design projects. Five years ago most design work that was not done in house by a design team was outsourced to a talented freelancer found on elance.com, odesk.com or freelancer.com or a designer / design firm found through personal recommendations or online research.

Today, there is a 3rd way in the form of crowdsourcing with hiretheworld.com, crowdspring.com and 99designs.com leading the way in this growing field. Crowdsourcing your design means you start a content between designers who compete with each other by submitting their designs before being paid.

You source designs from a design crowd and only pay for the one you like best. Sounds great right? Well, it can have a lot of benefits but there are some cons you need to be aware of and it is not suitable for all projects or budgets.

This article is going to focus on one of the most popular crowdsourcing companies, 99Designs.com. It is written for those have pretty much decided crowdsourcing is the route they want to take but are unsure of the company to use. If you would like a more comprehensive overview of all the pros and cons of crowdsourcing designs in general and our best 5 crowdsourcing company recommendations, you can find it here.

 

What is 99 Designs?

99designs review

99 Designs offers you the opportunity to outsource your design projects to a group of competing designers rather than committing to give all the work to one company or individual before they have given you any draft designs.

The whole process is done via their online portal whereby you submit a project brief and a price you are willing to pay and designers then submit their draft designs in an open or private forum for you to review. You can give feedback on these designs, request changes and rule out designs several times before choosing the design you want to select and pay for.

How Does the Process Work?

First of all you need to choose the type of design content you want to start from the wide variety of categories available – click the + sign below to see the list of design contests available. As I write this there are 2,367 open contents in all the categories offered and nearly 300K designers registered who compete for work.

Click To See All Designs Offered

Logo & Identity

  • Logo design
  • Logo & business card
  • Business card
  • Stationery
  • Brand Identity Pack
  • Business & Advertising
  • Postcard, Flyer & Print
  • Leaflet
  • Poster
  • Invitation
  • Menu

Brochure

  • Pamphlet
  • Booklet

Signage

  • Banner
  • Trade Show Banner
  • Billboard
  • Car Wrap

Email

Infographic

Banner ad

Flash Banner

Other business or advertising

  • Word Template
  • PowerPoint Template
  • Resume
  • Trade Show Booth

Website

  • Website Redesign
  • Website Illustration
  • Blog
  • WordPress
  • Landing page

Graphics

  • Form
  • Pricing Table
  • App Icon
  • Website Icon
  • Website Headers
  • Favicon

Mobile app

  • iOS App
  • Android App
  • Mobile Website

Social Media pages

  • Facebook Cover
  • Twitter
  • YouTube

Books & Magazine

  • eBook Cover
  • Book layout
  • Book Illustration
  • Magazine Cover
  • Catalog Cover

Clothing or Apparel

  • Jersey
  • Baby Apparel
  • Sweatshirt & Hoodie
  • T-Shirts
  • Hats & Caps

Merchandise

  • Bag & Tote
  • Cup & Mug

Illustrations

  • Character & Mascot
  • Business Illustration
  • Book Illustration
  • Album Cover

Card or invitations

  • Greeting Card
  • Invitation
  • Wedding Invitation

Product packaging

  • Food Packaging
  • Beverage Packaging
  • Retail Packaging
  • Cosmetics Packaging

Product label

  • Beer Label
  • Beverage Label
  • Food Label
  • Wine Label

Once you have selected the design category or bundle of categories you want (i.e. branding bundle which included logo, business card, letterhead, envelope, facebook cover) you need to submit a design brief.

You then need to answer a series of simple questions to give prospective designers a better idea of what you are looking for. They have really improved this process by giving lots of examples of similar designs and multiple choice questions to ensure the designers interested in your project get the best possible understanding of what you require. The more detail you provide, the easier the design process becomes.

Once the design brief is complete, you choose a fee package. When doing so, remember that a higher the level of design package will result in a higher calibre of designers becoming interested in your design content and more designs submitted. The pricing packages offered will depend on the category of the design you request but for illustrative purposes here is the current pricing options for logo designs available:

99design prices

 

After the package selection process is done, the contest is launched and designs will start following in from various designers. You will then have the opportunity to provide feedback, giving designers the opportunity to fine tune their submissions.

After a seven day period, choose the winning design, sign a copyright agreement and get the layered copy of the winning design. You will also get the contact details of the winning designer allowing you to work with them further on your current project or in the future.

What Are the Advantages of Using 99 Designs?

Many choose to make use of 99 designs as it makes the whole process of getting a design completed in a set timeframe incredibly easy. If you don’t have preferred supplier but need a design done in the next week or so, you will be hard pressed to find a simpler or more affordable option (apart from one its crowdsourcing competitors hiretheworld.comcrowdspring.com).

It also makes design briefs much easier to do due to the quality of briefing questions – this part is often why many design projects fail. Many sites offer general questions, yet the questionnaire and graphic examples found at 99 Designs are a step above its competitors.

They also offer a money back guarantee if you aren’t satisfied with the results so don’t feel you have to accept at least one design from a bad bunch. It is also a bonus that you are offered the option to limit the viewing of submissions to only yourself – this stops other designers copying from each other and gives you more variety.

Another advantage is that using them is generally more affordable compared to using professional design companies as competition helps keep the prices down. You also don’t get project creep and will only pay what was agreed upfront.

Finally, the fact that you will get multiple designers competing for your project fee means you will get much wider variety of design options than if you just went to one company or individual. This can be a godsend when you are not quite sure what you want and need to be inspired.

What are the Drawbacks Associated with this Service?

The process tends to be relatively impersonal as you don’t establish a close relationship with the designer – this can be a big issue on important or complex projects where both parties ideally need to speak to get the best results.

It is also true that many of the best designers don’t participate in crowdsourcing as they don’t want to / need to work on creating draft designs that risk not being paid for. They are good enough to get a steady stream of clients willing to pay them upfront and work with them on an exclusive basis. Therefore, be prepared to get good designers trying to make their name and grow their business on 99 Designs but don’t expect top notch established talent.

Conclusion

As I hope this 99designs review reveals, 99 Designs will work for some, but not all. If you are don’t have a clear vision for what you are looking for and/or are not looking for the very best designers in their field crowdsourcing sites like 99 Designs can be a great option. I also thinks it is a good option for one off design projects that needs a quick turnaround on a fixed price.

For those looking for ongoing design work to be done I would suggest putting the effort in to find a talented freelancer or design company that you can work with closely as they should have the skills to translate your vision into something more impressive than a crowdsourcing site can.