How do you turn an idea in your head into a professionally designed website? If you know exactly what you want you could find a freelance web designer to implement your idea. But what if you’ve got a general concept and haven’t figured out the details yet? You’re starting with a blank slate, so how do you know what colors or artistic styles will look the best?
The answer is simple, you create a design contest. In a design contest, hundreds of designers will submit concepts to create a version of your idea that you will like. After a set period of time, you select your favorite and the winner gets paid. The concept works great because you get to see a wide variety of designs and you can provide feedback to designers during the contest to help them hone in on your desired outcome.
You can setup a design contest for any of these services and more:
- Logo design
- Web design
- Banner ads
- WordPress themes
- Print & packaging
There are many websites for design contests, but today we’re going to take a closer look at one of the largest, 99designs. In this objective review of 99designs, I’ll share my thoughts on what I like about their service and what can be improved.
Here’s what I like about 99designs
- 99designs has a very intuitive design posting process that helps you present your vision to designers in an organized fashion. Visions can be very subjective and their process helps you get a much better result than a typical graphic design job posting. Non-designers usually have no idea how to explain a concept to a graphic designer and I like the questions 99designs asks you to define your design brief. Many other crowdsourcing websites leave your design description wide-open which can lead to you not getting what you want.
- They have a money back guarantee which means you won’t have to pay for a result that doesn’t satisfy you.
- I like how you get an estimate of the expected number of submissions based on your budget.
- You have the option to run a blind contest where no one gets to see the submissions other than you.
- Because of the nature of a design contest, you are paying for a fixed bid project. You’ll never pay more than what you set upfront. If you were to hire a designer to work by the hour, you could end up with a project that took longer and cost more than you originally planned. And you might end up getting a design you don’t even like.
- If you have a smaller budget you can still get logos from their $99 pre-made logo store.
- Because they are one of the largest marketplaces you could get literally hundreds of bids on a single project.
Here are the only things I don’t like about 99designs
- I like that you can set your own price for design projects, but that statement is a little misleading because there are minimums for each design category. The minimum prices are reasonable (albeit not the lowest you can find), but when I hear “set your own price”, I interpret that to mean I should be able to set any price I want.
- You can’t review resumes, portfolios, or employer feedback and you can’t hold an interview. Yes, you can see designs a contestant has created for other contests, but if you want to dig deeper you can’t really get a good view of a designer’s background. This is fine if you are buying a single art product, but if you want to hire someone for ongoing work after the contest you may want to view qualifications and vet candidates a little more thoroughly.
- YOU may not be a good judge of quality. Everyone thinks they are an expert at judging art, but are you really? If you like a design does it mean it will do best with most consumers? If you hired a designer based on their artistic training and job experience you may end up with a better product than keeping the decision about a contest winner in your own hands.
- There’s a camp of people that believe design contests are where newbie designers go because they can’t find steady jobs yet. And there may be some truth to this, but for the most part, who cares? You still get to review all the designs and pick one you like, even if it was created by a junior designer.
- Designers who participate in contests may not get paid for their efforts if they don’t win many contests. Of course, designers know this going in, so it’s not like it’s a surprise and a contest can be a learning experience. That said, I wouldn’t mind seeing 99designs keep a few featured designers on a small retainer so that they could make some money submitting a certain number of designs each month.
Overall, you have little to lose by trying a design contest for your next graphic design project. And if you do use 99designs, here’s some great tips to manage a 99designs contest from one of my readers and other user reviews.