99 Designs: Crowdsourcing that Works


ScreenshotWe’ve all heard about “crowdsourcing” – the notion that you can farm work out to a large group and cherry-pick the best results to save time and improve quality. 99Designs is one of the few sites I’ve seen that is really making this work. They’re focused on graphic design: logos, icons, and other visual work. People who need something fill out a brief about their needs, pay $39 for a listing, and specify what they’ll pay for the final product. Then designers contribute their ideas, which the potential client can rate and comment on. In the end, the deal gets done, the designer gets the money, and the client gets graphic work that strikes them as best-of-breed.

Amounts people are offering from work range from $50 to $5000 – but unless you’re a designer in desperate need of work, the payoff per hour is likely to be low simply due to the number of designers involved. For a web worker in need of a logo, though, there are bargains to be had: even $100 is enough to get some decent ideas, and $200-$300 will get you more to work with than you probably want. At those prices, it’s worth keeping this site in mind for your next product or site launch.



I have done designs for 99 Designs, the people get you to do all this work revising your submission, “Can you change this colour, change this font” Then they don’t award anyone the design and they get their money back! What a scam! Erin Gordon with Kim Law Advisors of San Francisco, California (http://www.kimlawadvisors.com) Got me to work on their logo and provide 3 different revisions, and she got 2 other designers in the same contest to do the same. Erin lets the contest close then after almost a week she decides not to award the contest to anyone and gets her money back. Thats Lawyers for you I guess, scamming the little guys trying to make a buck.


The train has left the station, guys. This is way it works now for inexpensive design. Hallelujah! Working with designers has always been such a pain in the ass. Look at what Michael Arrington went through. Who’s paying the bills, anyway. These new sites are wonderful! They put the client back in the drivers seat. Sure, for a major Web property with a higher budget, they won’t work, but many jobs are smaller and less important.


I stumbled into 99Designs, needing a website designer, not knowing who is good or bad. I have worked 1-1 with a designer that did a grea job, and several, whos 3 choices were all off he mark. 99Deisgns made it easier to select the guy I know work with almost exclusively. Good for hi, good for me, and I didn’t have to take the risk, as I ahve in the past, that my retainer would be paid, but I would not see 1 solution that was well thought out.

99Designs also allowed m the freedom to collaborate in the process. ARe the designs “Perfect”? No. Are there bad designers and bad contest holders? Sure. But it certainly gave me a way to get started with the lowest risk and highest chance of success – since I watched first hand as developers posted their revisions, and could see how well they listen, how fast they respond, how refined their mechanicla skills were.

If you’re looking to “find someone” and not just the lowest price, I think it is a good tool. The great designers and contest holders become self evident, and that is the democratic way.


I think the value here is undeniable for the winning designer and the client. The initial price may look low, but the potential instream of follow on work is enormous. A client naturally wants to develop a long term relationship with a designer who fits their budget and design style. This is just a more efficient way to get both parties together. No schlepping around presenting, meeting, quoting, reviewing, etc.


Sorry to devalue the work but I can pay $2,000 or $13,000 for the same site. The lower priced firm wants to add value in other ways, like helping me optimize and looking for additional opportunities. The high priced firm is worried about a Webby.

I’m not interested in the art school argument, that doesn’t fly here. Helping a company support a prospect’s buying decision is what its all about. Eighty percent of the CEOs out there don’t care if the logo cost $90 or $9,000 – they want to know if you can help them solve a problem. I’m not interested in the one’s that are worried about the look, they will cost too much to have as customers. They always want to the move the logo by 1 pixel every day. Does the end-buyer care – no way – give me value.


I enter quite a few contests on 99Designs… at the end of the day, it’s a lead gen tool for designers.

I might only win $200 for a logo, but then get another $2000 of work for the client doing their website, stationary, business cards or brochures.

Michael Montgomery

those of us in the upper price echelons of the freelance market need to focus on explaining why it’s worth paying for our services, rather than hoping in vain that the lower-cost alternatives will go away.

Agreed, though I didn’t see such vain hopes in this thread. (Perhaps in another discussion elsewhere on WWD…)

Personally, I haven’t found it hard to explain the value proposition for professional web design. In fact, my biggest project to date was to fix a “lower-cost alternatives”.

Mike Gunderloy

I realize that spec work is a hot topic in the design community (as it is in other freelance communities). But it’s undeniable that for some small businesses in need of low-cost, simple work such as logos, sites like 99Designs represent good value. My belief is that many of the clients of 99Designs are not the people who would be calling a professional designer if there were no spec work; they’d be doing their own logo in Paint, or doing without. And just as RentACoder and similar sites have demonstrated that a market exists for low-cost software development – with both buyers and sellers – sites like 99Designs demonstrate that there is a similar market for low-cost, spec design work.

Our audience here at WWD is wide. It includes web workers who view 99Designs as a resource, as well as others who are professional designers. I don’t mean to suggest that the latter should be contributing work to 99Designs, any more than I hunt for my own development gigs through RentACoder. But it seems to me that those of us in the upper price echelons of the freelance market need to focus on explaining why it’s worth paying for our services, rather than hoping in vain that the lower-cost alternatives will go away.


I disagree also – it’s disheartening that Web Worker Daily would sing the praises of something as deeply malignant as 99designs.com.

Spec work devalues our profession, and should be avoided.

Michael Montgomery

I also disagree.

Design (including visual design) is multidisciplinary problem-solving. It is not just decoration.

And being a designer is more than just “I can use Photoshop. A little.”

That said, the site may work well as a filter, so that clients just looking for a decorator don’t contact a professional designer and waste time.

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