99Designs Review: First Hand Experience with 99Designs
Need a new logo? A website built? Some serious graphic design work done for a reasonable price?
One of the websites you've almost certainly seen advertising these services is 99Designs. They claim a large number of graphic designers ready to provide their services for new logos, illustrations, and other designs for your next project or campaign. This 99Designs review is a first-hand account of my experience using them for a brand new company logo for my website and social media, as well as a review of the other services they have expanded to offer professionals.Get Your New Logo from 99Designs!
- The design competition offers many different quality styles to choose from for one price
- Great setup for giving designers guidance/information on designs
- Email communication about the process is top notch
- Very reasonable fixed prices
- Very good turnaround times
- Multiple design packages to choose from
- Not all designs will be top notch
- You can't see portfolio work ahead of time if you prefer the 1-on-1 professional route
- There aren't multiple sizes of the logo on delivery – mainly just the standard
- Some up-sell products you could argue should come with the base package
99Designs Brief Overview
99Design is a website focused mostly on art and graphics services. While best known for logo design, they also produce other graphics if you need a book cover, web design, or any other design project. Even beyond this you can come here for more than a graphic designer. There are also web design professionals to help develop apps, or even websites. They focus on all areas of online design. For those of us who have writing or marketing skills but aren't natural artists or designers, 99Designs offers an excellent option for getting really high quality work.
Depending on what you're looking for, you review the 99Designs website, look at the specific packages offered, and decide on what to purchase. This can be as simple as a logo and nothing more. You can also go whole hog with new logo, WordPress theme, business cards, Facebook banners, letterhead, and more.
Most people go to 99Designs for just that: a design. A logo, a design for a t-shirt, or some other type of graphics work. There are other offerings, as mentioned, but the focus here is on appearance, art, and design work.
The main service that 99Designs is based around are design contests. While you have the option to choose to work with a single professional directly, 99Designs is best known for its contents. Unless you already have a positive working relationship with one of the designers on this platform I strongly recommend going with the contest.
This plays to the strength of 99Designs: their large number of great designers. By having a contest, you get many different designs from talented graphic designers. Some of these might be along the lines of what you imagined for a logo. In all likelihood some of these designs will likely be much better. Some of the best details from our favorite logos were things we never would have thought to ask for.
Such as files including slight alterations based on season. Because for an outdoor site, that's a really cool detail. Or how to display many outdoor pieces not on our “example” logos.
You're taking advantage of an inexpensive way to get a lot of really good designs. There are very few setups you can find that give a comparative amount of value.
Where 99Designs really shines, in my opinion, is with their design competitions. This allows a buyer to see many different options even at the lowest pricing levels. You also can include a lot of information on what you want to see in the design, including adding pictures of logos you've found that you liked. This gives the designers an idea of the style, colors, and feel of the graphics you like versus those that you don't.
In a nut shell, going the design route is the best of crowd-sourcing to get better results at a reasonable price.
This doesn't mean the professional route won't make sense in certain situations. In the process of running a logo design contest for Amazing Outdoor Adventures, we saw a lot of truly good logos. We not only marked down the name of the winning designer, but of two others who impressed us, as well. Next time we need good graphic design we will have options!
If you already have a great relationship with a designer who has exceeded your expectations, then you can directly request them for a project. You also have the option of simply requesting a highly rated professional if you are more comfortable with that setup and working directly with one professional throughout the process.
The price point is going to be higher going this route as opposed to the open design competition. But you are paying for that guarantee of working with a professional you like one-on-one.
The pricing can vary widely depending on what package or service that you're looking for. Design pricing is really good on 99Designs compared to many other options, and provides a level of quality that can be hit or miss when you try going the freelancing direction.
The pricing for 99Designs is actually quite reasonable, especially compared to what the competition charges. It's not unheard of to hear of $2000 for a logo design, and a friend of mine paid a GoDaddy service over $600 for his.
The design competition packages (as of this writing) are priced:
- Bronze design package $299
- Silver design package $499
- Gold design package $899
- Platinum design package $1,299
Each clearly lays out what is offered with the package. In the case of what I needed we went with Bronze and were still utterly blown away by the number of really quality returns. Depending on your specific needs you might choose to go with a higher package.
There are add-ons that can cost more, but for the most part these are going to be unnecessary for the majority of people looking for a basic logo or design. Many of us don't need business cards, letterhead, or custom envelopes.
You also have the option of skipping the open competition and choosing to work directly with a professional designer or design team on 99Designs. These packages tend to be much more expensive but can be a good option for those website or business owners who have an idea of what they want and prefer to work with one professional as opposed to having to make choices between multiple options.
Those prices can be found in the picture here:
Other Services from 99Designs
Other services are going to be priced differently. Web page design starts at $599 and scales up depending on number of pages, functionality, and specific coding that is required based on your needs. A landing page starts at $349 while app design starts at $599.
These are opening prices and as a word of caution since these can change quite a bit in particular for these services. That's because there are so many different customized needs that you may have with a website, app, or landing page.
In-Depth Pros & Cons of 99Designs
As with any website offering services there are going to be pros and cons. This goes if you are a customer on the buying side or a provider on the selling side. Here are some of the potential positives and negatives we ran into while using 99Designs.
- You get a lot of different styles, designs, and points of view in one place for one price point. That's a pretty dang good deal. Crowdsourcing at its best.
- You can upload designs that you like to give graphic designers a sense of the style that you're looking for.
- Money back guarantee makes sense. Once you select finalists you lose this, but if you're selecting 5 finalists then you already have multiple designs you're willing to pay for.
- Accurate estimates on the number of designs you'll get for your budget.
- Great email communication and follow-up .
- Fixed price means you can budget around this project. No surprise fees.
- Very good turnaround times.
- No portfolio or design brief reviews. Personally, I like the fact your interaction with graphic designers starts with seeing their work via design contest however for those who like the old school way of reviewing resumes, work history, portfolios, there's not really an option for that.
- On the designer side if you can't win competitions, you're not going to make a lot of money.
- While reviews on the logos tend to be overwhelmingly good, there are more cases of poor or mediocre reviews when it comes to WordPress theme design, website design, or the more complex services. 99Designs might not always be the best option for these types of services depending on what you need.
- On a marketplace site you're always going to have some really bad provider work and you're going to have some very unreasonable clients. There really isn't a way around that.
- It's worth noting there were some complaints about customer support. I didn't find this to be the case personally, but this is worth noting in the interests of fairness.
- Depending what page of the website you land on finding the design contest instead of the professional prices can be needlessly difficult
- Nowadays social media sized banners for Pinterest, Facebook, and other such sites really should be included with a graphic design as opposed to extras.
Can You make Money on 99Designs?
On the flip side, can you make money on 99Designs as a service provider? In my opinion, the potential is absolutely here for making some serious money. The designer I eventually awarded with the competition win had over 500 five-star reviews. When you consider how much a graphic artist makes from winning one of these contests, that's an awful lot of money.
Likewise, some of the designs that came in as top runner ups also had hundreds of positive reviews. If you're hoping to jump in and just throw up some basic designs, then chances are you will struggle. Or you just won't get that many payments. However, the graphic artists who clearly looked at the uploaded “designs I like” and obviously did some obvious work creating a new idea using elements, instead of just rehashing one of those examples, those designers will get a lot of sales.
There is always a high demand for good art and good graphic design. These are surprisingly hard things to find. If you're looking for ways to make money as an artist, 99Designs is one of the first places to check out online.
There's no doubt there's plenty of potential for making money on 99Designs as a talented and hard-working artist or designer.
My Personal 99Designs Experience
The fact my brother and I badly needed a professionally done logo for our website/business was pretty obvious from the beginning. Our original website banner was four outdoor pictures sort of collaged together. The stand in logo was a blurry light blue square with our website name in white letters with the top of a blurry mountain peak in the background. Look, we're not graphic designers, we know how bad both options looked. It was obvious we needed a logo done.
The logo design packages gave four clear options. Considering that we only needed a logo, we went with the Bronze Package. There were early questions about the colors and styles that we liked. There were even example logos we could pick to indicate the types of designs we liked the most. This was a great way to start artists out on the right page.
Most important, we were able to upload pictures of logos that we liked. This gave us a chance to find some logos from other outdoor sites or stores and use those. I highly recommend this step. I uploaded three for reference. Two were somewhat similar, but I also wanted one very different style of logo I liked to make sure we received many different styles or colors of logos. A better variety meant a better chance we would see something we like.
One or two received designs were from left field and just easy dismissals. We didn't like anything about them. One or two early ones were okay, but they were clearly barely a step or two over from one of the example logos. A low effort re-brand. Even one of those actually looked pretty good.
Then we were blown away by the sheer number of really fantastic designs. In fact, I wish I could include a screenshot of all the options – but copyright issues. There were multiple logos with completely different colors, outdoor focus, and even organization/style. They were amazing and there were any of almost a dozen designs (out of 25 total submitted) we would have been perfectly happy with had we received that as a new logo.
We had to choose five finalists. Interesting note: when you choose a finalist if they submitted more than one design, then all of those move forward. So you could have a situation where you have five finalist designers and eight or nine designs. That actually happened in this case. When the open contest was finished, we choose the finalists and had time to give some feedback, ask for minor changes, and decide on a final logo.
Eventually we narrowed it down to three with one edging out the others, assuming we can could get some minor changes done. Turns out those changes were made in less than 24 hours. We now had a logo that we loved for the website. This actually is the logo we ended up going with. It's already on the website and the social media pages.
This was way above and beyond any example we had given. The designer understood we wanted a broad outdoor logo with detail. Water, mountains, and woods with a nice sunset for a setting. Birds, deer, and the mountain lion was a brilliant touch. A couple of compass points, an oar, and an arrow add a little something extra – and the name of the website is front and center. For what we wanted, this went above and beyond. Somehow including so many pieces without being too busy.
For what we were expecting for just under $300 and some basic guidance, this blew away all expectations.
So what if (gasp) you hate this design? That's why there's a great process to show what you're looking for before the contest opens. Select favorite colors, mention what you want to see (or don't want to see), pick some sample logos or styles, and upload any logo pics you like in your niche. You'll get a design that fits your taste as well as this one fit mine.
There are a few websites that have jostled for position as the main alternative to 99Designs. If you want to see what the online design provider competition looks like, then there are a small handful of websites that often come up as the main alternatives.
Upwork and Fivver are general freelancer sites where you have a chance to review applications and pick a freelancer to work with. This usually requires strong input, and the cost (and quality) can vary greatly between designers. Toptal tends to be a premium priced version of these services for graphic design (learn more in Toptal vs Upwork).
There is also an array of sites could fairly be described as mimics of 99Designs, offering similar setups but with their own twist to the design process. Penji, DesignCrowd, and DesignHill are three examples of this although as of this review these don't have the same overall high ratings across many customer reviews that 99Designs has when comparing them.
So what's the final verdict? There's a lot to like about what 99Designs has to offer. This is especially true if you are looking for a logo. That's the area where I think that they really shine. The ability to ask for feedback on designs during competition means you can see small adjustments being made to one or multiple designs, helping you work with professional graphic designers to end up with a truly great design.Try 99 Designs Right Here!
While there are some legitimate concerns when it comes to website design or WordPress theme design, they still do their best to set up a system that is fair to both buyers and designers. This is a really outstanding option for graphic design services, especially logos.
From the design side there's a chance to make good money from dedicated freelance design agencies or talented individual graphic designers. While in some ways this is comparable to spec work, it's also the best version of it. You have many people there who are serious about making a purchase at the end of their design projects.
On the other side, as a buyer you get plenty of options. There's a money back guarantee and the communication is fantastic from 99Designs. If you are looking for an excellent design at a good price, 99Designs is a great choice.
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