Need something designed? Crowdsource it.

April 29th, 2008
General, LinkyLoo, Web Ethics

99 designs is an interesting site. It fills a niche that I have carefully treaded in the past and have received negative feedback for (rightfully so). 99 Designs allows you to crowdsource your design needs. If an organization or an individual seeks a new design, they hold a “contest” of sorts using the tools built into 99 Designs and offer up some money for their project. Designers are then allowed to post entries for these and the contest holder is allowed to pick and choose the best design(s) and distribute the money based on the winning design. In the past designers have turned up their nose on design contests for a variety of reasons, most of which I agree with. However, the surprising thing about 99 Designs is the popularity of the site and the sheer number of designs that have been submitted for existing contest. Some of the work submitted is top notch. My question for designers is to find out whether competition has become so fierce and economic conditions so strained that contests are now fair game or have the rules changed a little? What do you think of the submitted designs on the linked site?




  1. Shane (1 comments.) says:

    NO SPEC.

  2. Cigar Inspector (6 comments.) says:

    Interesting idea. I’m currently in need of a phpLD template, might be a good idea to try it out..

  3. Tadd (89 comments.) says:

    This is pretty much the same as bidding for a job – except the design is done. What really is keeping some of these people from stealing your logo/design without paying? Some of it of course can’t be – you can’t print a logo off the web … looks like crap. HOWEVER – what about otherwise? I’ve learned usually not to do work without seeing the green first – but who knows .. maybe this is the future of freelance.

    I really hope not though.

    I may throw a few designs out there and see if I can make any extra cash.

  4. Michael Garmahis (3 comments.) says:

    The worst thing is when client (or your colleague which needs fresh look) steals your idea. Never provide mockup before any payment is made.

  5. Kaspars (5 comments.) says:

    First — No Spec and here is why!

    Secondly, there is nothing protecting the designer in case the holder of the contest decides not to announce the winning entry, or simply disappear, in which case the contest will be simply left as “ended”. Nothing.

  6. c2uk says:

    This has been around for some time, it only recently become 99designs though. Previously it was part of but the guys decided to take it one step further.

  7. Michael Martin (5 comments.) says:

    I’ve used the site before (As both as client and a designer), and I have mixed opinions on it.

    As a client, it’s a great way to get a logo done for a relatively cheap price. With that number of people having a go at it, there are always some really creative ideas! And as a design, it doesn’t take as long to knock a logo together, so if you lose the contest, it’s not as much time lost.

    But I wouldn’t use it for full web designs (Or top-notch logos, if you can afford it). For obvious reasons, people have to put less time into their designs there than they would otherwise. And designers that have built up a good portfolio/clientele don’t need to do Spec work like this, so they won’t bother. For the most part, you’re working with guys who are still looking to make that first leap (That’s why I used it once :D ).

    You can certainly get lucky, and get some great work done! But no guarantees. :(

  8. Todd Eastman (1 comments.) says:

    There are several cool things about 99Designs. It gives beginners an opportunity to practice their art and occasionally get feedback from potential buyers. It allows you to compare your work to that of others. It can help you become more creative by exposing you to different ideas and concepts. And, there is always the possibility that your design will win and you may have a new client, or at least something to add to your portfolio.

  9. ajua (19 comments.) says:

    It is interesting from the client point of view because maybe one can save a few hundred dollars with something done well and fast. From a designer’s point of view maybe they can earn extra cash doing basic/easy stuff this way.

  10. Nick Ohrn (1 comments.) says:

    I just placed a contest on last night and within 12 hours I have over 14 entries. I’d say about 60% of them are really high quality designs that I will seriously consider. Of course, this logo isn’t for my main business, or I’d probably contract with someone whose portfolio I could examine ahead of time. However, for the quick needs of a single website, I think this is a great way to go.

  11. Megapixels (12 comments.) says:

    This kind of thing always seems to work well for the right demographic. Which is customers on a budget, and designers looking for a start. It’s kind of really like a dating/introduction service. There’s some risk involved, but there also potential for a long term relationship.

  12. tartan - webdesign (1 comments.) says:

    hi, good idea, just one minus – is I were a designer I wouldn’t feel safe to pesent everyone mine design, something which takes you rather long time to prepare – too big possibility that someone will simply copy it and use without paying. that’s my oppinion

  13. drew3000 (1 comments.) says:

    I like it, and some solid designs were around there. A great way form someone who has developed the skills but still needs a portfolio to get going. As a web manager for an organization that outsources quite a bit of work, I would give this a look for some of our micro site projects.

    From a more experienced designer’s point of view I see how it could be a good exercise to stretch the creative muscles that sometimes atrophy from too many dull clients. The worst that happens is that you come up with a design that’s all your own. The best is that someone buys it. No losing.

  14. Monika says:

    beautiful… I create something and anybody can steel this…

    no money but my time, my work,

    I hate site like this one- good work-good money,

    it is the best way to work and get poorer and poorer as designer


  15. Nathan Bowers (2 comments.) says:

    99Designs and spec work in general is terrible. If you were a programmer would you build an application before agreeing on terms and payment? Would a carpenter build a house for someone on spec?

    No professional works on spec, that’s why so many spec designs look like they were generated by an algorithm.

    For more see graphicPush’s critique of 99designs.

  16. Amit Gupta (1 comments.) says:

    Its actually from the guys behind SitePoint. Earlier it existed on SitePoint marketplace as a section where you could hold contests and as it increased in popularity they branched it out under a different name as a seperate entity! :)

  17. Iflexion (3 comments.) says:

    In my view it’s really useful for web design beginners.
    But speaking about serious projects and more or less professional staff it’s not the “place-in-the-sun generator”.

  18. Nate says:

    The thing that people aren’t understanding is that with both 99designs (guaranteed contests) and crowsdspring (all contests) the money for a contest is held in escrow. The person holding the the contest has already paid before the contest is even started. One designer WILL get that money.
    The artist who competes and never wins looses time but also gets better in the process. The prices for some of the competitions are on the low side but artist can choose which contests to enter and in general the more advanced artists go for the bigger pots. This means that in general the prices rise over time because the person holding the competition wants to generate a lot of high quality submissions. Also there is no overhead for the freelancer to gain access to a client base. The cost of a design project for a design company includes the overhead a design company has to run it’s business plus the hourly rate x the estimates time involved. With CrowdSpring and 99Designs the lone designer no longer has to pay to advertise to find clients. Everybody whines and says this is undercutting the industry. I think its smart business both ways.

  19. Mart (1 comments.) says:

    Since many of the participants designers are most of them newbies, the total amount of entries (logo proposals) are not so good as you expected to be, and you end up with quite a very few decent proposals to choose from and even those may not achieve sufficient prescence, creativity or quality for your business mark as I said because of the lack of experience of the participants but for the honor of truth, there is a few talented beginners enrolled in this type of crowdsource design companies, but that´s defenitely not the rule and in little to no time those few talented beginners upon a good portfolio creation, abandon this kind of contest to start their own website or blogs, so you have to be sometimes very lucky to count with the prescence of a good logo designer in the crowd, and for me that is just to risky.

  20. Sarah (1 comments.) says:

    I think 99Designs is a great way for designers to test their skills and see how talented they really are – which is another way to find real talent out there. And it works – give them an incentive and then choose the cream of the crop for future projects.

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