The website 99 Designs allows people to post design requests for logos, print, stationary, and websites. Designers then submit their designs to a contest where the purchaser picks a winner and pays them a fee. This blog post is about our recent experience with a design project we posted on this service.
We posted a design brief to have a logo designed for another project we are working on. A design brief is a one page description of what the purchaser is looking for. It is possible to upload files to provide examples, but instead we provided links to websites that had an appealing design.
The following is a summary of our costs for the project:
|Design Contest Listing Fee||$39.00|
|Prize Money for Winning Designer||$310.00|
|Prize Handling Fee||$46.00|
|Upgrade: Promote project to designers external to 99designs||$19.00|
|Upgrade: Private Project||$39.00|
Entries came in slowly at the beginning. To encourage more submissions we increased the prize and guaranteed payment. This meant that we would payÂ out the prize whether we picked a winner or not. If we didn’t pick a winner, the money would be split among all entrants.
|Prize Money for Winning Designer||$90.00|
|Prize Handling Fee||$13.00|
In total we paid $400.00 to the winning designer and $156.00 to 99 Designs. There were other options available but $99 for a tweet to 99 Designs’ followers seemed a bit rich to us.
We received 99 design submissions, but about 50 of them were unique. Some designers would submit 4 or 5 versions of a design, often with just a colour change to distinguish them. Of the 50 that were unique, some of these were just derivatives of designs that had already been posted. We had no difficulty narrowing the contest down to the final 8 designs that we had our friends vote on. It was easy to eliminate about 50% of the designs because they were laughably bad. The remainder were eliminated because they didn’t match up well with the brand image we were trying to create.
The site offers a feature where people can be invited by email to vote on up to 8 designs. People voting in the poll can’t see existing votes so the influence of the other participants is eliminated.
Other components of the site are not as well designed. The site doesn’t do a good job of explaining how the service works and what the guidelines are. This should be part of the sign up process but instead we had to go digging through the help section to find out the basics. Communication with the designers could be made better. There is central stream where all of our comments were posted along with a few comments by contest participants. Later on, we found comments from designers that did not show up in the main stream and some of our own comments had disappeared.
If we were to hold another design contest we would make the contest blind so that designers could not see the submissions of other designers. I think this would cut down on the amount derivative work we saw. Unfortunately, this option is not available to people using the service for the first time.
There are a few caveats to using this service. You are responsible for making sure that the winning design is not ripping off someone else’s trademark. 99 Designs will only take down designs it gets complaints about. There is also a concern about whether asking designers to do “spec work” is ethical. This is a big issue in the design community which would take its own blog post to throughly explore.
Overall, this is a valuable service but it is not as easy to use as its marketing might suggest. Professionally trained designers would make up the minority of the community that submits designs to the site. It’s important to go into a contest well educated because you won’t be getting the professional advice a design firm would provide.