User Experience Design · Marketplaces

What do designers think about 99designs and what are other options?


August 23rd, 2015

I've heard that many designers feel like 99designs is free spec work? Curious to hear if this is true and if there are better options for entrepreneurs to test a designer out without making them feel like that?

Dan Maccarone Co-Founder/CEO at Charming Robot

August 23rd, 2015

The problem with 99Designs is that it cheapens the value and actual thinking that goes into successful design work. It's like throwing spaghetti at the wall. I've seen 99Designs used successfully when very specific and smart direction was given but most people don't give that kind of direction and as a result a lot of the work ends up being totally wrong (through no fault of the designer often). But I also think it's a matter of you get what you pay for. If you want to test out a designer start with a small project for a fixed fee. And make sure to you don't is it look at their portfolio but understand what they actually did as art of those design projects so you can see where their skill level is. Did the designer come up with the idea? Did he or she art direct it or was there someone else acting as then AD or CD? What was the strategy or direction given? A good freelancer values a long term client and so testing with a small project is usually a great start for both of you. After all, you're not just testing them out, they are testing you out to make sure you're a good client.

David DeMember Co-Founder at Toi

August 23rd, 2015

Good designers don't do spec work, only mega agencies still do pitch work. If you want to keep budget down, I'd suggest looking at designers on dribbble from second world countries, find a style you like and hire them for a project. As a previous comment states, art direction is extremely important. You can also use dribble to find designs you like and put together a "mood board."

Never forget, you'll get what you pay for.

Sent from my iPhone

Didier Depireux Faculty, Institute for Systems Research; co-founder, Otomagnetics

August 24th, 2015

Used them 3 times and couldn't have been happier. You do have to have an idea of what you want, but once you do, you get very professional people who can make your idea or rough sketch into something that looks polished and professional. 

Tom Maiaroto Full Stack Consultant

August 23rd, 2015

That is true and yes it does cheapen the value of design. I went to college for graphic design (print) and switched to the web because it was hard making good money in print design where everyone thought the price of printing included design =) Web design is also headed that way due to all the free templates and places like 99Designs. Everything just looks cookie-cutter and people begin to forget that there's real work involved. The same thing was true for photography too ("oh well, anyone can push a button").

Just remember design is a process. It takes time.

Fortunately, hiring a designer (like a programmer) is actually pretty easy if you know what you're looking for. They carry with them a portfolio (like programmers should). So you should be able to see their previous work. You may consider finding someone with design knowledge to review said portfolio if you're not comfortable yourself (much like you would have a technical person review another programmer's work).

Hiring someone is a great way to test them out and yes there's a risk when you hire someone, but that's just part of business.

Paul Gibbins Co-founder at Twyla

August 24th, 2015

I've used 99Designs for a number of things.  Creating a contest is frustrating because you inevitably get more bad designs than good.  I complained to 99Designs when I bought a "Platinum" contest that the designs I was seeing were awful and the Platinum package came with the promise of superior designers.

You may get better designers tempted by a higher prize, but you're also going to incentivise the poorer designers to produce more and more iterations, the net result being that good designs are lost in the noise and you're spending your life sifting through them.

David's advice above is applicable to 99Designs too.  I've used it more effectively on a number of occassions by browsing previous work by artists and approaching a number of them privately for projects.

Also, it's much better for logo and brand design than interface design, that's for sure

Shams LARBI Manager

August 24th, 2015

I have used 99Designs a couple of times when looking for professional website designs or logos. I found it a bit expensive but the process is really good.

For low budget logo design I use and for cheaper website design I use Elance, Upwork or (I got very good deals some times)

Good luck

Deb Zell Customer Experience, UX, Techie

August 24th, 2015

Depending on the type of design work you want done, whether user experience(UX) or visual (or both - all good software starts with solid ux design before you make anything visually beautiful), your designer should have a portfolio of work, references and a willingness to sit down and whiteboard with you. As a designer and researcher, I find the whiteboard brainstorm sessions especially helpful to make sure I'm on the same page as the people I'm doing any work for. Maybe even give them a small design challenge in that whiteboard session: how would you design for x? What's your process? Etc.

Stephen Riley GCD/CD at Wire Stone

August 24th, 2015

Like most things, you get what you pay for. And in this case, you wont get a designer who will think strategically about your project, or really think at all. Would you put much effort into something you may not get paid for, and even if you did, not nearly enough to do it well?


August 24th, 2015

Hire a designer for a small project first to see if they're a good fit. That's especially important if you're hiring someone on odesk/rework. 

Ian Kleinfeld User Experience Designer at aWhere, Inc.

August 24th, 2015

Yes, that's basically what I feel as a designer. I mean, as someone looking for design, it's a great deal, but as someone in an ecosystem, it's bad news for everyone. Especially since 90% of the designers doing the 99designs are going to be overseas. Additionally, for you as a business owner, it's often better to have someone local that you can work with for accountability, communication, and having an actual business relationship. ----------------- Ian Kleinfeld Evil Genius Creative 919.357.6004