Why 99Designs Isn’t Good for Design

First impressions of the website 99Designs are almost always positive.  For a designer, the company offers an endless supply of potential clients and project stimulus.  For companies, the service offers hundreds of designs to choose from for the same price as working with a single designer one-on-one.  So if reading the title of this article left you questioning, I understand. 

99Designs is an online crowdsourced design service.  As I refer to it in this article, please note that I refer to it as the most popular in its class, while addressing the industry as a whole.  As I stated, companies love the concept of crowdsourced design for what they get for the cost of use.  Typically a designer will create four to six mock-ups of a design for a client to choose from.  On 99Designs, a company receives many times that.  Wondering what the catch is?


Competition sites like 99Designs pits hundreds (if not thousands) of designers against each other on one project, compared to local competition between ten to twenty firms.  Further, local competition normally reaches insofar as a client’s preference for price, culture, and industry.  Online services slash such distinctions.  This pressures a designer to create as many mock ups as fast as one can to raise chances of notice / winning.

Normal lead time on a 99Designs project is only a few days, compared to the typical week (or more) brick-and-mortar firms quote.  This adds to the pressure on designers to spit out multiple designs as fast as possible.  While speed is an attractive feature to a client, the consequence is a design that has received less consideration and tailoring to the company’s specific needs, as well as few to no drafts.

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Finally, it is important to note that a designer competing with hundreds of others on such a tight schedule, pushing out five to ten designs per competition, would have to win several a week in order to earn a living wage in the United States.  In other countries, winning one a month may suffice.  This pushes such developed countries out of the market of feasibility.

Clients deserve careful consideration and focus.  Their business / project is something they love and have worked hard for, and it should receive the same amount of respect from the designer working to visually represent it.  Please think twice before you enter your company into the crowdsourcing rat race.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Good blog! I truly love how it is easy on my eyes and the data are well written.

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