Crowdsource with many people supportingNeed a new logo, graphic, website, or business card? Overwhelmed by the process of finding a new designer, getting the end result you want, and keeping costs and time commitment down? 99designs promises the perfect solution for both clients and designers alike: post a contest to create your design, and thousands of designers compete to create the best product for you, at a cost named by you.

99designs: Brief Overview

Using the practice of “crowdsourcing,” 99designs enables clients to source skills from a whole group of people, making the process of finding a designer much more efficient and time spent on a project much more productive. Clients post a “brief” or requirements for their project on the site, and a huge community of professional designers competes to create the best design. The contest holder chooses a prize amount, provides feedback to help designers improve their work, and then chooses a winner and awards a cash prize. After payment is made, rights to the winning design are transferred from the designer to the contest holder.

All members must register, and contest holders are charged $39 to hold a competition, along with their prize payment, while designers can enter the contests for free. Contests last for a week, and winners must be chosen and prizes paid or clients will lose credibility in holding future competitions. The site is more than just talk: it has garnered 16,542 designers with 635,365 designs submitted so far for contests, and over $2 million in prize money awarded.

99designs Screenshot

99designs Screenshot

The Benefits of Using 99designs to Outsource Your Design Work

Whether you’re an individual or a business in need of timely, quality, low-cost design work, 99designs’ crowdsourcing service offers you several potential benefits:

  • Reach higher numbers of designers and increase your talent pool without spending extra time looking;
  • Save money, especially good for startups with limited capital;
  • Establish contacts;
  • Put your business name out to thousands at once; and
  • Reduce risk associated with a new business relationship by increasing pool of potential partners.

Designers can also benefit from the site by hearing feedback from clients and other designers, improving their own work, and networking with other designers at the same time.

From Around the Web: Opinions of 99designs’ Crowdsourcing Practice

Many in the design community frown upon the practice encouraged by 99designs: “speculative work,” which is the term for designers completing work without any guarantee of payment, which is how contests work. The “No Spec!” advocates who oppose the sentiment behind the site say that the contest format is bad for the design community: “This practice has become popular because many companies erroneously view it as a quick and easy way to get the best ideas from designers. Unfortunately, requesting speculative design is a poor business decision because it caters to the lowest common denominator of design. It also forces designers to engage in the poor design practice of making snap decisions.” (NO!SPEC)

Other designers, however, rave about the benefits of the site as an efficient way to make contacts, get their name out and acquire projects. Designer Richard Scott uses 99designs as a primary source of income, entering contests and establishing relationships with the businesses that post contests on the site: “I use 99designs.com as a stepping-stone to get contacts.” (SitePoint)

Businesses recommend the site as well for speeding the process of finding a good, inexpensive designer without spending a lot of time or money. “The least expensive way I’ve found to get one great design is to hold a contest (if you are going to need lots of great designs, like I do, it’s easier to find a few great designers to work with regularly, but if you just need one, the “finding” process can be overwhelming)…My favorite place to set up a contest is 99designs. Design contests are all they do, so there are many good designers already using them, making it a lot easier on you than finding designers yourself.” (Findable Blogs)

Bottom Line

99designs is the perfect outsourcing tool for anyone looking for a designer, as it saves money and time on the search and more efficiently gets the best design possible at a lower price.

Image credit: sweetym / iStockphoto

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While 99designs benefits those looking to fulfill their high-quality design needs quickly and cheaply, do you think the site — and others like it — are going to benefit the design community in the long run by perpetuating “spec work” and making the purchase of services such a public process? What do you think?

Post updates:
- November 27, 2008 at 4:00 PM ET: 99designs currently doesn’t support the execution of NDAs between buyers and sellers. According to the company, however, you can hold private contests so that only logged-in users can view your design requirements. If an NDA is important to protecting your business idea, then you might want to take a look at crowdSPRING, which requires designers to sign an NDA for projects over $1,000.