99Designs.com Review – How it Works? Pros & Cons!

Crowd-sourced designs have become the go-to model for businesses that prefer getting solutions and ideas from a large pool of designers, rather than working one-on-one with a single designer. 99Designs.com is an online design marketplace that facilitates access to affordable custom branding options from over 1 million freelance designers. Affordability and money-back guarantee are 99Designs.com’s main selling points. The company prides itself with having facilitated the delivery of more than 2.7 million designs.

In this review of 99Designs, we are going to focus on giving you an insight into how this service works, which are the pros and cons of using it, and who and why should use this type of crowd-sourced design platform.

How this service works

On 99Designs.com you can select from different categories of services including logo and brand design, web and app design, business and advertising design, packaging and label design and many more. Whether you need a logo for your company or a cover design for your upcoming book, there are some steps that you have to follow. This service is pretty straightforward, however, for best results, you need to provide designers as much information about the desired final product as you can.

First things first

The first step of the process requires that you launch a design contest and create a design brief. This is a step that you want to take your time with. Be as specific and as detailed as you can. You can select from different design types to get your designers an idea of what you are looking for, you can select color schemes or submit a custom color scheme. It is a good idea to be as thorough as possible, to submit resources and clear specifications so you can get the best out of this crowd-sourced design experience.

Pricing tiers

The second step of getting closer to the design of your dreams it to select a design package, which is actually the applicable pricing package for your selected design. You can select from Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Each tier grants you different rights and the prices are set depending on the type of design that you need. For example, the pricing for a WordPress theme design in the Silver package is $899 for which you can expect to choose from 40 designs, while the Gold package costs $1,599 for which you can expect 50 designs, a dedicated manager and submissions from expert designers only.

99Design’s bundle options are a good way to save money if you’re looking to get a logo along with other branding materials. For example, the Logo & social media pack includes a logo, Facebook and Twitter covers and a YouTube background for a bundle price starting from $399.

Within the design contest you can invite designers to participate in your contest, or you have the option to work with a designer of your choice in 1-to-1 Projects outside the confines of a design contest.

In an earlier version of 99Designs customers could purchase ready-made-products from the Logo Store or could have some small designs works done on the fly with the Tasks service. The Logo Store was discontinued at the beginning of 2016, while the Tasks service was merged into the 1-to-1 Project service.

Submissions, feedbacks and final product

Once you’ve launched your contest, designers will submit their works and you can see which ones live up to your expectations. You can use ratings, comments and private messages to help shape designers’ ideas. In the end you can pick your favourite design, the designer is awarded the prize money, and you get full copyright on the chosen design.

Advantages and disadvantages of 99Designs.com

Here are some of the most notable pros of this crowd-sourced design service:

  • Multiple custom-made designs available from you to choose from;
  • All-encompassing design services available for businesses;
  • 100% money-back guarantee if the design does not meet your requirements (fine print: the money-back guarantee applies only to contests where a guaranteed prize was not set and if the contest did not enter into the Final round);
  • User-friendly interface and well-organized in terms of allowing customers to present their ideas to developers;
  • Several pricing tiers so you can choose the one that is within your budget;
  • Bundle packs at affordable prices;
  • Crowd-sourcing and 1-to-1 hiring both available.

The cons of this service include:

  • Designers are not properly incentivized if there is no guaranteed prize, and this can lead to fewer submissions;
  • Expert designers available only in the Gold and Platinum tiers;
  • Risk of customers ending up not liking any of the designs and have to settle with a mediocre design if they have forgone the possibility to request their money back either by setting a guaranteed prize or letting the contest enter into the final round.

Is 99Designs.com for you?

This service is certainly not for everyone. If you can communicate your ideas well, if you’re ready to put in some work as well (e.g. writing a very detailed design brief, giving feedbacks, inviting designers to participate in your contest, etc.), and you understand the nature of this product, then you’re most probably going to have a good overall experience with this service. If, however, you don’t take the time to write a good design brief and you generally don’t have a proactive approach to your project, then 99Designs may fail to live up to your expectations.

If you’re a small business and you don’t want to—or just can’t—invest too much in branding related services or other services available on this platform, then a crowd-sourced approach can help you get started.

If you opt for the contest-based service and not the 1-to-1 Project service, you can’t expect designers to go out of their way in putting in their best work. After all, their payment is not guaranteed at all, while you’re guaranteed to be delivered a product in return for your money. The higher the prize money, the more incentivized a designer is. In this sense, the lack of a guaranteed prize may lead to fewer submissions, which is not necessarily a bad thing if those submissions are coming from good designers.

The bottom line

If you feel like crowd-sourcing designs is not your cup of tea, it’s best that you opt for the 1-to-1 Project option, which allows you to pick and choose the designer you want to work with from the get-go.

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