Design for dignity (a real 99designs review)

A real 99 Designs Review

Speculative Work & Alternatives

UPDATE 16 March: 99designs tried to censor this post due to an inexistent copyright infringement. This post is a product review and fit within the Fair Use doctrine. The contest object of this review is now private.

If you are a designer and care about your profession, please, share this post.

My clients demand +900 revisions per logotype. I work blindly because my employer doesn’t collect a proper briefing. My competitors work for peanuts. Competition is unfair and most of the times I don’t even get paid… It is not my case but it’s not fiction neither. It’s the situation of graphic designers who work at crowdsourcing platforms like 99 designs.

Sorry for revealing my biased position but please, read this post and make your own.

Why is 99designs promoting speculative work?

99designs is a crowdsourcing platform that promotes speculative work. Users post design contests while a bunch of newbie or graphic designers from poor countries compete with their colleagues until degrading limits with the promise of a non guaranteed payment. So most of their designers (sometimes all) are not paid. 

Free workforce generating income… what a bargain!!

Don’t miss this parody, it is gold!

STATS of a random 99designs contest

At 99designs landing pages you will find lots of really nice hand picked designs. But let’s choose a random case and let the numbers speak. The first project you can currently find in is a very representative case:

    1. Budget: 1,189US$ (1,000US$ + 189US$ 99Designs commission)
    2. Number of entries: 837
    3. Number of designers: 164
    4. Duration: 2 weeks
    5. Status: caution, payment not guaranteed.
    6. Briefing:
      • Logotype design for Conway Wealth Group, financial analyst.
      • It must be elegant, crisp, good looking.
      • Preferably blue color.
      • It must contain a symbol that means wealth.
      • Aimed to company managers and executives within Fortune 500.

Are 99designs contests worth?

Based on the previews stats, as a client I would wonder myself:

    1. How much time do I need to review and comment 837 logos from 164 designers?
    2. How many of those 837 proposals are really worth?
    3. With 1200US$ could I hire a top logo designer?
    4. How could I be sure my logo is unique and original?
    5. Could I trademark a logo where 164 designers are collaborative creators and only 1 was paid?
    6. I’m not a graphic design expert, how can I judge what is a good logo?

And as a graphic designer I would ask myself:

    1. How could I understand the client needs with such a short briefing?
    2. How could I put all my efforts and time in a proposal that has not a guaranteed payment?
    3. How can I be sure my designs are not used if the client cancel the contest?
    4. It is fair that other designers take advantage of my feedback proposals to submit theirs?
    5. Am I transferring the copyright of my non rewarded proposals to 99designs?

Are logo designs at 99designs good quality?

These are the 3 entries which have obtained a better feedback from 837, for a logotype that will cost around 1,200US$.

What do you think about the quality of those 99designs logos?

logo conway wealth group

Update: winner 99designs logo was replaced by this one few months later.

Is 99designs profitable for a graphic designers? Is it worth for clients?

On one hand we have 164 designers with 837 entries with a non guaranteed prize an incomplete briefing. A client that doesn’t respond to the proposals and constant complaining of plagiarism from the contestants. If we’d share the prize, each designer would receive about 6US$. At least 163 designers (maybe all of them) won’t get a dime for his work.

On the other hand, we have a client who has a more than reasonable budget of around 1,200US$ and a deadline of two weeks. And if everything goes as expected he will obtain a pretty mediocre logotype.

And in the middle we find who will get near 200US$. They claim to be generating 715,000US$ per month, if they obtained 15% benefits, they got around 107,000US$ (+ 39US$ opening fee per contest).

Alternatives to 99designs for graphic designers?

Ok buddy, you are a new to the business and need experience in order to build a good portfolio. You may think 99designs is a good option because you have a lot of free time and seems a quick shortcut for success but…

Do you know any other job where people work for free to get experience?

We all have been newbies, we have been lost and didn’t have any idea of where to start. Be creative and think it this way, if you are not able to market your own services… how the hell are you going to provide any value to your clients!?

I offer you a few more productive alternatives:

  • Work for a non-governmental organisation.
  • Look for scholarship trainee.
  • Create stock designs, tutorials, stickers, post as guest blogger
  • Blog to promote your services.
  • Create fictional projects.
  • Look for non-speculative freelancing platforms like Upwork or Toptal.
  • Offer your services to local business for a low price.

There are only 3 rules:

    1. Your payment must be guaranteed, even if it is low.
    2. You must learn to deal with real clients.
    3. You must create a good portfolio.

Are you really getting good habits at 99designs?

The only positive thing from working at 99designs is that you will experience the hell in the graphic design industry, if you survive you will become stronger. But I think this is an unnecessary evil, discouraging and not useful… even counterproductive, because of the bad habits you would acquire.

  • You must learn how to communicate with clients… at 99designs you won’t.
  • You must develop your own design process… at 99designs you won’t.
  • You must learn to understand client’s feedback… at 99designs your competitors will do most of the job.

It is smart working at 99designs?

Ok, at 99designs there are lots of clients, some of them with acceptable budgets. But your salary is not guaranteed and there are thousands of direct competitors, some of them with no work ethics.

It’s like selling low cost fruit in a low cost macro-market (with some pickpockets around)…

I think it is more intelligent to set up your own store far from competitors and focus on the quality of your product. If your product is good, in a short time clients will knock at your door. Then you’ll be really free and you will set your own rules.

Otherwise, you’ll keep selling low cost design for lifetime, you will depend on intermediaries and you will feed your competitors.

Do you need quick and easy money?

Wow! 1.000US$ for a logotype you can make in 10 minutes!!!

Sorry my friend, you’ve chosen the wrong job. In the design industry there’s nothing quick or easy. If you really want to succeed you have to set long term goals. You must improve your services over and over, promote your work forever and reinvent yourself every once in a while.

But ok, let’s suppose you want quick and easy money.

How much can you make at 99designs?

There are thousands of designers and hundreds of entries in each contest. The chances of winning are quite low even if your entry is technically the best one. Simple statistics… the client can also withdraw the contest.

Let’s pick the last 3 contest winners on and let’s check his conversion percentage:

Adisign09, Okydelarocha and Lene wining rate is around 2-11%

99designs rating

Update: 99designs deleted the amount of contest entered. Now you only can see the amount of won contests… smart move!

Is 99designs ethical and legit business?

I have to admit that I don’t check designers code of ethics very often. My decisions are based on common sense but it is always good to have a frame of reference and I agree 100% with its contents.

Let’s see what the AGDA code of Ethic says about contests:

  • AGDA discourages members from predatory pricing practices such as free pitching, loss leading and other pricing below break-even. Members should be aware that such practices will damage the economic viability of their business.
  • AGDA is unequivocally opposed to the unfair manipulation of designers with the aim of garnering unpaid work (commonly known as ‘free pitching’). Client practices which do damage to a member’s business are those that award projects or commissions on the basis of the commissioner’s acceptance of unpaid design submissions (eg. unpaid competitive tendering or speculative work).
  • A Member shall not take part in any design competition if the terms of the competition are not approved by AGDA. AGDA bases its assessments on the International Competition Guidelines published by ICOGRADA (International Council of Graphic Design Associations). A Member or organiser of a competition can contact AGDA to review a competition’s terms and provide recommendations and/or approval.

This said, crowdsourcing websites like 99designs break all ethical principles of our profession once and again. They sell lots and lots of low cost design. And in the meantime, they are filling their pockets at the expense of your future expectations.

Now it is your choice…

Sergio Ordoñez Suanez
[email protected]

Hi there, I'm webmaster, designer and digital content creator of everything you see at SOSFactory. I love sharing my limited knowledge as more experienced designers did when I was a newbie.

  • manu
    Posted at 15:23h, 10 November

    Greetings from Argentina! This website made me define what I wanted to study, Graphic Design, which I will start next year. Thanks Sergio!

    • Sergio Ordonez
      Posted at 15:25h, 10 November

      I´m glad for you, remember creating a very good portfolio so you won´t need intermediaries!

      Good luck!

  • Darky
    Posted at 15:31h, 10 November

    Lo que yo veo es que le dedicas tiempo, trabajas sin recibir nada a cambio, muestras tu trabajo.. si ganas bien.. sino, haz mostrado tu trabajo a muchos diseñadores que no todos son honestos y que probablemente puedan usar tu logotipo, modificarlo y venderlo por otro lado.. puede pasar no creen?..

  • Skeku
    Posted at 20:19h, 10 November

    Caso 1: Supongamos que eres estudiante y que te apetece hacer trabajos ficticios.

    Caso 2: Supongamos que eres profesional, estás en paro y necesitas sacar pasta de debajo de las piedras.

    Caso 3: Supongamos que eres profesional y hay trabajos que no consideras que están bien pagados o que el riesgo de hacerlo no compensa el ponerlo en marcha.

    Bien, estos tres casos son perfectamente reales y no tendrían por qué molestarse entre sí. Uno podría pensar que el Caso 2 “molesta” al Caso 3 porque aceptaría trabajos por menos precio del que éste último ofrece. Pero eso es la oferta de la ley y la demana y es genérico, no es un problema del gremio ni de 99designs.

    Este tipo de webs que ofertan el famoso crowdsourcing hay que verlas como lo que son, una opción más para determinados tipos de clientes y determinados tipos de diseñadores o situaciones. Nada más. Porque por esta regla de tres, deberían eliminar todos (TODOS) los bancos de imágenes de stock porque joden a los fotógrafos, los bancos de iconos y recursos vecotriales porque joden a los diseñadores, los bancos de plantillas de motion graphics porque joden a los animadores y “pospo”.

    Lo que dice Darky es complentamente posible. Puedes hacer un logo y que otro lo coja y lo venda como que lo ha hecho él. Pero también lo pueden hacer si lo ven en tu portfolio, ¿o no?

    Intentemos olvidarnos de estas discusiones y sigamos creciendo como profesionales. Intrusismo, clientes aprovechados y proyectos mal pagados los hay en todas partes.

    Un saludote Sergio. Te sigo desde hace un montón y no me extrañaría que hayamos colaborado en algún proyecto sin saberlo 😉

  • Sergio Ordonez
    Posted at 21:24h, 10 November

    [lang_en]Hi Skeku, thanks a lot for contributing with a different point of view.

    I would´t like this being just a conversation between me and the rest, so I will wait a little bit for others users, in some days I will give you some arguments against yours one by one.

    [lang_es]Hola Skeku, muchas gracias por aportar un punto de vista diferente. No me gustaría acaparar el debate, por eso esperaré unos días para dar la oportunidad de rebatirlos a otros usuarios.


  • Luis Lopez
    Posted at 23:10h, 11 November

    Creo que ese tipo de paginas estan hechas para diseñadores que:

    No tienen ningun trabajo. Estudiantes queriendo probarse. Recien egresados sin portafolio. etc.. no para diseñadores profesionales.
    Si eres un buen diseñador no necesitaras ese tipo de sitios y ya.

    Esos sitios son libres de existir “como lo decia el señor @skeku” asi como lo son, los sitios de fotos, vectores, iconos etc… los cuales hasta las agencias los usan.

    Creo que tambien seria una buena prueba ver algun dia a uno de los grandes diseñadores del tipo de jacob cass, David Airey o Sergio Ordoñes “aunque tu estilo es diferente” arriesgandose a participar en un diseño de logo como cualquier otro.
    Sabiendo que los clientes de este tipo de sitios no son personas que valoren el buen diseño seguramente perderian, creo yo.
    Igual muy bueno tu articulo y punto de vista

  • Roberto Fanti
    Posted at 18:48h, 12 November

    Now are over 900 works that partecipated into that contest.
    From the high rated ones, the only one that looks good, in my opinion, is the white one you posted on here.
    I was searching in the other pages and I saw many useless works because they used ideas from freebies, like.. mountains and sun?? or a giant W that reminds me to WordPress.. 😐
    And more on: some of them looks like they made it while sleeping.. and I’m sure I can make better things while I’m sleepy.
    With 1000$ I believe someone can hire a single designer and make it work for a simple but optimized work.

  • Diana
    Posted at 21:10h, 12 November

    Y en el peor de los casos, empresas grandes como Gap o la revista Esquire hacen concursos de logos

    si lo hacen ellos no me sorprende que negocios pequeños-medianos hagan lo mismo, tanto como los “diseñadores”.

    Confieso que yo utilicé 99designs màs por curiosidad 🙂 casi gano un concurso, y ¿què creen? Alguien me plagió y salio ganando. Es una pérdida de tiempo,es lo peor, en todo caso Elance o similares son “menos peores” que este sitio si es que buscas dinero “rápido”

    Por cierto, $1200 por esas propuestas? Por algo que debió llevarle al diseñador un par de horas en Photoshop?


  • Nicolás
    Posted at 00:32h, 13 November

    Opino igual que un comentario mas arriba. Este tipo de sitios son mas para diseñadores con poca experiencia como en mi caso. Yo intente hacer algunas cosas para sitios asi, aunque no logre ganar en ningun concurso.

    Algo de experiencia sume, aunque no mucho portfolio porque no participe en mas concursos. El sitio que yo conozco es este:

    Aca los premios no son una gran suma, pero es un sitio humilde y tiene una gran calidad en cuanto a sus diseñadores, las propuestas que veo son de muy buen nivel, por eso deje de participar porque no puedo competir contra ellos.

    Volviendo al tema, para principiantes como yo estos sitios pueden resultar un poco utiles por la plata que podes llegar a conseguir. En mi caso una suma como esa me vendria muy bien y a mi portfolio tambien.

  • Sergio Ordonez
    Posted at 11:44h, 13 November

    [lang_es]Muchas gracias a todos por aportar argumentos a favor y en contra 🙂

    Sigan así, en breve publicaré un nuevo post recogiendo todos los argumentos y rebatiendo algunos.[/lang_es]

    [lang_en]Thanks a lot guys for commenting pros and cons.

    Please, keep it up, I will post a new article with a summary of these comments and debating about some of them. [/lang_en]

  • zedkin
    Posted at 20:50h, 14 November

    Hola, estoy bastante de acuerdo con @Skeku….esta clase de sitios tienen el publico que necesitan. Tanto las empresas como los diseñadores saben de que se trata por lo que ambos saben con que se pueden encontrar.

    Personalmente también conozco … y recuerdo haber participado en un par de concursos sin exito. Y como dice @Diana, el nivel ahí dentro es bastante bueno. Aunque por supuesto, se ve de todo. He visto propuestas que me darían vergüenza mostrar si fueran mías.

    Pero repito, no estoy en desacuerdo con que estos lugares existan, ya que generalmente son un buen lugar de practica para diseñadores novatos, para conocer mejor las reglas del juego y aprender a lidiar con todo tipo de clientes (desde malos briefings, los ausentes que nunca responden preguntas, los que pagan poco, etc).

    Si eres un buen diseñador, y te promocionas lo necesario, no debería faltarte trabajo.

    Saludos desde Uruguay.

  • superDUPER
    Posted at 08:33h, 16 November

    Business is Business… superpost Sergio Ordonez

  • Nathan Monte
    Posted at 21:57h, 17 November

    That’s not right, qualified people are wasting space for the disabled.

    What good is a cheap service, if not of good quality?

  • Nathan Monte
    Posted at 22:00h, 17 November

    Sergio, you should do mascots for Brazilian blogs.

    A guy who has learned here and earn good money with this.

    Is Felipe Alves.

    Anything in contact by msn:
    [email protected]

  • Sergio Ordonez
    Posted at 01:07h, 18 November

    [lang_en]Hi guys, I already created a new post about this issue, it´s being translated right now. In the mean time I suggest reading this article:

    @Nathan I´m focused in the USA and European market, it´s more profitable but I actually work for companies all around the world.

    Hola chicos, el nuevo post sobre este asunto está siendo traducido ahora mismo. Mientras tanto os sugiero este artículo:

    @Nathan trabajó para todo el mundo pero estoy centrado en el mercado Estadounidense y Europeo ya que es más rentable.


  • Andrey
    Posted at 12:25h, 18 November

    Hi Sergio,

    I can say that I’ve spent pretty solid amount of time on 99designs, won 8 web design contests and entered many more, but I can say that many things on 99designs are wrong. Maybe I will write a post about it in my blog, maybe not. You brought good points yourself here.

    The fact is that many contest holders don’t know what they are getting into there, as well as designers. The site is just playing on peoples feelings in a very similar way like lottery, only on 99designs people are made to believe they really can earn much if they work hard enough. People need to be educated. So the best thing we can do is to write about and let the people know what’s really going on there.

  • Daniel
    Posted at 22:57h, 19 November

    Hey, Sergio

    I believe that you made your point in your first paragraph, your own experience speaks for itself. 99designs serves its own purpose, and as long as it does and people play along with it, it’s fine.

    What really matters here is how experienced and talented artists like yourself experience. Competition in the low levels of design might be fierce, no doubt, but when it starts affecting the higher levels, that’s something that makes me uneasy.

    So… is it really that bad?



  • Sergio Ordonez
    Posted at 00:43h, 20 November

    @Andrey: exactly, that is the point!. This is not about fear or egoism, actually for me would be more profitable telling just the opposite: “participate in contest designs, so you will be broke in less than a year and I will save a competitor”. This is about education, learn to love our job, appreciate your work yourself, be an honest competitor that push me to improve… but don´t trash your work… this is sad.

    @Daniel: this is not about me, the first paragraph is a fictitious situation as I state later, I have an stable clientele that appreciate my work. But my work is quite special because not every designer can illustrate and vice-versa so I just have a few competitors, and actually I don´t need hundred of clients.

    The issue is what newcomers are promoting by entering on free pitching contests and all the consequences of working on spec for themselves and the designers coming behind.

  • Dmitry
    Posted at 00:20h, 14 December

    Good evening, Sergio. I’m from Russia, sorry for my English 🙂
    About logo that cost 1.200US$. We have some slang words for this design: “hueta”, “huynya” or “uebanskiy logotype”. These words are very vulgar and in that case means undistinguished :).
    Cost of same logo in our country – 20-100US$ maximum!
    Don’t worry, I hope sites like 99designs are turn up one’s toes very fast.
    You are better!
    The modern design keeps on by such people as you.

  • En0_0hensem
    Posted at 09:30h, 26 January

    even im not participate in the contest but i just feel sumthing was wrong when i came into the side such as crowdspring. now ur just explained it. thanks.

  • Brian Tom
    Posted at 14:19h, 27 January

    i work under the alias of Hoshimo. look me up on 99Designs. ive won almost 100 contests, was the first showcased designer in their newsletters, and even worked for them for a little while (they have a place in san francisco). and yet…

    i could not agree more with what youve said in this post.
    i stopped designing for their contests over a year ago (for the most part)
    when working for them, and also as a contest participant for a couple years, i constantly advised them to change the system. they needed moderators, and more commitment from the clients.

    i wish you could have seen 99D back when it was a friendly community of quality designers who supported each other with positive feedback and fun competition.

  • Vikash Kumar
    Posted at 06:29h, 26 February

    Hey it was really a helpful post.
    thanks for sharing with us.

  • Eric Larson
    Posted at 06:46h, 28 February

    Looks like a designer riped off a cadalic symbol and then another designer thought he could do it better…the third one is way better..but i don think its rediculous about the 800+ designers with no cost guaranteed..only way i would even think about getting in this contest is if i was bored as fuhhhh haha. good post man.

  • Sergio Ordonez
    Posted at 00:51h, 17 March

    Stay tunned, 99designs just contacted me claiming that I’m infringing their copyright by posting the images in this review… 0_0

  • Eyenod
    Posted at 21:46h, 21 March

    I used to compete on 99 designs and its a very tough market there are a lot of “clients” who just post contests to take ideas and proposals and then leave without paying the money to the winning design or they make fake account and declare a sub par design the winner. Websites like 99designs sadly diminish the value of design and make the prize line of design drop due to starving designers or people who are willing to work for peanuts. There are designers who make a living off 99designs and they are good, the problem is that necessity makes unqualified designers think that’s working a logo in “MS word” is graphic design.

    • greg
      Posted at 03:58h, 24 February

      working a logo in “MS word” is graphic design.
      This is what i call epic win lol

  • VincentVisser
    Posted at 08:24h, 13 May

    I have not used them before and don’t see the need to. I wonder how long those 186 designers spent on making those designs? If they had spent that time promoting themselves they would maybe have gotten a client that would turn out to be long term user of there services and in fact make them more money in the long run.

    People need to stop thinking about quick rich payments and think about the long run. Try and get a good number of clients that you can communicate with well understands your design style and also understands you and how you work. This takes time but it means you will have a steady client base that will always use you for a project if your skill and style is what they are looking for.

    I cant believe people are putting forward designs for no pay…. What are you doing? Do they not undstand by not getting payed that they are free labour…. Would you take on any job if you where garenteed not being payed… I would not touch a company that does that.

    By what I have seen on the 99 site it looks like allot of companies just dont know what they want and want you to come up with ideas for them.. I have worked with clients like this before and they never happy.

  • Laurazarbcousin
    Posted at 20:05h, 30 May

    Hi I took part in this contest and I won it…. they were always sending me emails, so I really don’t know what ur talking about.  The 1st 2 designs are mine, but those didn’t win… I know they aren’t good but like I said….I arranged the logo for how the client wanted.

    But I stopped taking part in 99 designs, as sometimes,they dont choose a winning design and I found it unfair and a waste of time.

    • Sergio Ordonez
      Posted at 12:00h, 03 June

      Hi Laura, this post is not against you or the company that hired you. It’s about a unfair way of making money, the only one that really win is 99 designs.

  • Anonymous
    Posted at 03:49h, 19 June

    They are all
    goddamn ugly.

  • Ceruleano
    Posted at 03:19h, 07 August

    Most awesome post ever!!:)

  • Dan
    Posted at 18:16h, 07 August

    I ran a contest on 99designs. I guaranteed to award the prize of $1000, so I got over 850 entries. Here’s my breakdown: 

    450 entries were junk. Clip art and unimaginative crap.
    350 entries were OK. Not great, but not bad, some level of design skills
    50 entries were good. All of these showed imagination, insight and skill.

    I provided some feedback to every designer. This took many hours, but I felt it was only fair. Most of the 450 junk entries received feedback like, “Does not convey any of our 5 key values, please reread the spec.” When a designer submitted new or revised entries that were better, we gave more detailed feedback.

    We would have been happy with any of the top 5 designs, but the winner was truly excellent. She captured our concept, and conveyed 3 of our key values in her design. It was clear that she had read the spec and thought about it. 

    We are now working with her on a web site design.

    • Sergio Ordonez
      Posted at 15:26h, 09 August

      The question is… do you really need to review 850 entries to find a designer you like? 
      You have a decent budget… no need crowd sourcing sites.

    • Jessica
      Posted at 16:02h, 30 November

      I had a similar experience with my $799 logo contest. 536 designs – about 25% were from ‘expert’ designers, the rest were non-experts meaning they were inexperienced based on their design submissions, their portfolio, and past experience in 99designs.

      The last day of the contest was pretty exciting and overwhelming — 286 designs were submitted and 55 new designers showed up at the last minute.

      I tried hard to make sure the designer who first came up with an idea was who I spent the most time giving feedback too and trying to get them to the finals vs. rewarding copycat designers.

      All in all I’ve had great experiences with 99designs for logo contests. On the flipside, I completely understand why this sucks for designers, on average we pay $1.46 per design. And when I looked back at a $299 contest we ran 6 months ago, 27% of the designers had closed their accounts, that’s a pretty high turnover.

      Here’s a review I posted on Slidshare with more about my experience: Is 99designs worth it — hopefully it’s helpful!

  • Freelancework1989
    Posted at 07:18h, 20 September

    agree with sergio

  • Fasih
    Posted at 13:52h, 28 November

    Dear SOS,
    I loved your website as well as your work, its really amazing, your work is quite similar to 
    “spork” of 99designs.
    So are you working there too?

    • Sergio Ordonez
      Posted at 00:10h, 02 December

      No, I never worked in crowd sourcing sites.

    • Sergio Ordonez
      Posted at 00:01h, 02 December

      I never will work on crowd sourcing sites, could you give me a link to his profile, please?

  • Sweetbuddy
    Posted at 08:49h, 09 February

    That Site´s are a waste of time, many ppl there like ” Iam a Designer for 10 Years ” ……. 10 minutes later i saw someone how submitted 5 Design´s for a Contest…it was full of Stock- Illustrations and Clipart…i reported him/her…30 mins later i got an email, all Design´s i repordet where removed… and the funny think is the designer postet a comment, i dont want to get in trouble and i respect the rule and this site… sorry but fuck that, and there are much more funny things i saw there like logos from some Website where u can generate Logos…. so its not serious for me , maybe there are some good people which do realy good stuff… but i dont understand why a contest holder need more then 2000 entries and picked then the most ugly logo ever….

  • Vamp2013
    Posted at 21:17h, 11 February

    For all employers 99designs is paradise on earth ! For all designers 99designs is a modern way of PLAGIARISM and a dramatical waste of time !!! It mainly works this way: Competitions are created and prepaid, designers’ ideas were caught, the competitions were closed and repaid without choosing any winner and the best handed-in concept can be redrawn. Else: I often experienced contest holders choosing kids’ stuff as the winning design (maybe their own one handed-in by signing up a different account, which can easily be done within less than 30 seconds), but only to dissemble a winner and to avoid paying designers’ work. In fact they or rather the platform pays themself ! And they got what they needed: Ideas ! Handing in them can be withdrawn, BUT once sent, the employer can save those to his/her desktop and so there’s no point in withdrawing !

    Result: Beware of nonprofessionals and scammers ! This is no time well spent !!!

  • Isis Marques
    Posted at 15:26h, 17 February

    Amazing review, I’m writting about it for my blog/portfolio, using a Brazilian website as example…And I was afraid they could censor me, or even come with legal prosecution. Good to see that we can talk about it, because is such a loose of time for the client and the designers!
    I tried to participate because the staff and the site itself seems pretty decent, but the lack of communication between designers and clients, plus the bad taste and the system based in “I ask and you’ll do” will never deliver a good quality work.
    Congratulations for the post, for your blog (I just met it yesterday), I’m really glad with the contents I’ve seen here and how personal is your approach to write. It will be a great inspiration for sure, maybe we can collaborate in the future!

    A hug and a great week! =)

  • alex
    Posted at 03:40h, 10 March

    I went on 99 designs and I found the best designer I could. He has been a user for about a year and a half. He has won 54 contests but…. he has submitted 350! I went through all of his designs and added up his winnings which came up to about 11,000ish dollars. I wrote him and asked him how long it took him to make a traditional logo and he said 4 – 10 hours… so average 6ish X 350 = 2,100ish hours of designing. I then asked him what else he did other than 99 designs and he said paint and draw. HO! LY! CRAP!

  • k Madison Moore
    Posted at 15:26h, 27 March

    Just a few weeks ago I found out that one of the designers illegally used one of my photos of one of my original paintings for a book cover contest and it was the winner. It was on 99 Designs site since last August and I had no idea until a fan told me about this. The designer won $200. and 99 got $99 for this winner.

    After contacting them they took it down immediately. Then I found out that they also sold the copyright of the cover with my work to the author that requested this project.

    So, they take my copyright photo and sold it as a copyright!

    They have stated that they will supply the author with a new copyright and will also supply me with a copy of this and also the name of the designer. Yeah right….I am still waiting. They will not give me the $300. that won because of my cover and tell me I have to get it from the designer but they won’t give me the designers name so they make this impossible. His screen name and the name he uses at 99 Designs is Daliborka, tells me nothing!

    Watch out for these people, especially artists. They will steal your work and they think that is just ok. So they are making money off the backs of artists and don’t care how they do it! Total rip offs!

  • ©hris
    Posted at 03:34h, 31 August

    This is a really insightful article Sergio. I’ve been in 99designs for 1 and a half year already and I have earned around $25,000 from my 15 wins from 91 contest I entered, this amount includes follow-up projects. Though now I’m thinking if I still should continue since I know how to play the game.

    Currently in my previous win I just got a follow-up project, it’s my second project now from the contest holder so I haven’t been on 99designs lately. They are a concept company from Central Europe and I believe are pleased working with me. I’m happy with this kind of situation than doing 99designs 10 contest a month with a 75% chance of winning one contest.

    I read an article from web-strategist about “Designers: Why Spec Work Is Not Going Away- How You Should Respond.” I agree with this, and is to getting a poor, mediocre quality of design. I’m not to brag, but I see a lot around 99designs, clip-art like winning logo’s, website design-inspired-almost-look-alike what the CH gave for inspiration.

    But then again, spec work will be here as it has been long ago, and not only in the design industry. I’m from a third world country so earning me a dollar is really big for me, that’s why I jumped into the wagon. But I admit that I’m not getting what I should from doing spec works from a crowdsourcing site.

    My goal now is to earn as much as I could to start this big project which I believe will not only help me but the entire community. It’s hard to trust Venture Capitals specially if they see potential in a project and just get your idea and improve it a bit, and in the end they get all the credit. But since KickStarter only support US, Canada and UK and not Asia, I need to earn even if it’s from spec work.

    Regarsd from Philippines

  • ©hris
    Posted at 03:36h, 31 August

    What are you worth as a creative? What is your idea worth? What will
    your idea do for your client? –When you can answer these questions,
    you’ll figure out why it is important to value creativity. Even when it
    exceeds well beyond a design piece or a brand identity. The creation of
    value through the value of creativity. – Marc Rapp

  • Ghost
    Posted at 20:35h, 02 January

    11 reasons for designers to stay away from 99

    friends. In December, we decided to research crowd sourcing platform 99 designs
    for honesty, openness and competition for designers. The results obtained by us
    is staggering. If you are a designer and you want to earn extra money with you
    ideas and hard work, 99 designs pack your ideas and throw you out.

    Naked facts:

    1. You just
    registered and open profile on 99 designs. You does not have access to all
    competitions. You are given only the poor pieces from the main cake .

    2. The
    stated price competition does not coincide with the real. For example at the
    moment one African company announced a competition for the logo and corporate
    identity. You have a list price of $ 740, and if you go to the site
    unregistered you will see that the price of the competition is 1400 GBP. Not a
    bad difference! In 1000 dollars.

    3. You are
    not available for all competitions with your level. What does this mean? 99
    designs, have several levels for designers. Simple, certified designer and
    Platinum designers. How to get the platinum status, we don’t know. I think that
    its only 99 designs stuff. In this case,
    you have no right to participate even at the simplest level in all

    4. All your
    unique ideas placing in an open competition,
    will be copied by other participants and moderators don’t care.

    5. We
    participated in only guaranteed financial contests by website. What does this
    mean. The client leaves a deposit to 99 designs and if you manage to get to the
    finish line, you will get the price from 99 designs. But, actually it’s much
    worse. You develop the work and to the date of expiry of the competition, the
    client suddenly extends it, and then do not choose any designs. You will be
    left behind as a stub in the garbage. And no one responcible.

    6. 99
    design support is not responsible for your queries if you’re a designer, but if
    you’re a client, everything happens the other way round.

    7. 99
    designs to spit on you, on your rights, on the law and on the personality of
    your idea. At any time you can be blocked and usurp all your current works. The
    reasons may be different, for example, the type of your design do not comply with a 99
    Designs Code, which prohibited the copy images from clip art. We agree with
    that, but not the way how 99 designs use this rule. So it happens to us. We
    were accused, we have inserted clip art picture to our design. However, we are
    pro and knows well how to draw in vector. As a result, our picture turned out a
    lot better than the one with which, we were compared. But none of 99 design moderators
    didnt understand that our work this really our work. They sent us a similar
    picture as a reason of our blocking, and
    told us, our work is exactly this

    8. Despite
    the fact, we were accused of plagiarism, we won in this contest. And what do
    you think? Any decent website should immediately deal with the charges and at
    least suspend the contest to find out the truth, but not this resource. They
    finished the contest, the client got the design. What exactly got the customer
    copy or real unique design? It does not matter. Most important thing, as usual,
    is money.

    9. Any your
    competitor can write denunciation on you, lie and slander you. Then you will be
    kicked from the site. Its our case. We were accused of plagiarism by our
    competitor contest. But customers love our job and did not want another. As a
    result, this lying piece of shit started spamming with denunciations 99 designs
    administration. And what happened? You think 99 designs care? Definitely not!
    The just suspend our profile.

    10. Many
    contests expose you for 1 or 2 hours before the end of that just deprives you
    of the opportunity to take a part in.

    11. The
    main reason to stay away from the resource 99 designs! Even if you win the
    contest, 99 designs does not guarantee the payment. Its simply pick up your
    prize and block you. Than they just need to ignoring you. We won the
    competition on December 22. Today is January 1, and we have not seen the money.
    I think that will not.

    This is the
    first 11 reasons why you should stay away from the resource 99 designs. The next
    11 reasons we will publish later. Dear friends, do not believe these
    fraudsters. You are just slaves for this recourse, but they forget that without
    designers such resources do not live. We will published all facts in 99 designs
    social networks profiles. Follow us.

    The Ghost
    of Designer

  • mahesh r
    Posted at 08:10h, 16 January

    mahesh r • a few seconds ago
    99designs is the most cunning and one of the best cheat sites you can meet on web. They fool designers and clients equally. A poor clients priority design gets deleted once he guarantees a contest and get forced to pick a crap design he does not even like. A designer after done all his work can get his designs deleted at any stage of his contest without even hearing him. It is a nightmare for a poor designer or a client to work with these idiots whose first priority is business and money. It is from my experience as a client and designer who have been working with these craps for some time. I quit it and i could find far better places on web where a person can earn and yield better as a client and designer. Hope others agree with me.

  • Alex Dorf
    Posted at 10:55h, 04 July

    I won the contest. no payment two month.
    they stole my money. scammers

    • Alex Dorf
      Posted at 17:58h, 06 July

      money come back.

      I was wrong.

    Posted at 15:41h, 06 January

    i m arab, i was the first with 2 others in contest !!!! whit 5 stars, and sudenly 99designs put me out !!!!!!!! they say that im noob !! lol i have diploma and i pay taxes !!!!! lol and im the first !!!!!!! how can the first be noob !!!! racistes bastards (sorry for my bad english)

  • Scott
    Posted at 14:35h, 10 August

    I hired a designer known as (**hidden name**) via the 99 Designs platform, and the whole experience from start to finish has been nothing short of disgusting.

    Their support team will leave you hung out to dry! Do not make the same mistake I did – you have been warned.

    This time I made the mistake of using 99 Designs. I had a very important project and needed it done within a few days, and since 99 Designs is a premium platform and only supposed to work with the very best 1% of designers, I decided to give it a go.


    The designer is/was so, so bad. To this day I am still fighting to get my money back. DO NOT USE YOU WILL REGRET IT.

    The designer offered to show me relevant examples of their work, it was never supplied.

    The designer tried to charge me an extra cost for putting my own logo on the design I hired him to create.

    The designer then asked ME to buy MOCKUPS for THEM to make the designs. YES!! You heard that correctly! I employed a graphic designer to make me some mockups WHO THEN asked ME to buy mockups FOR THEM to create the designs I HIRED THEM to create. Have you ever heard anything like this?

    The designer does not know how to construct an email. Emails do not start with ”hi” or ”hello” and do not sign-off with their name. To this day I still do not know the designer’s name.

    The designer then sent me very poor basic designs. Something you could make yourself of CANVA. Something a child could make. How did thsi designer reach ”Top Level” status? 99 Designers allow ANYONE to work for them. They invest a lot of money in marketing and charge very expensive rates but the work they produce is very, very poor.

    I then reached out to 99 Designs to get some support and a refund. They did not take the issue seriously, that I was being scammed by one of their ”Top Level” designers. They sent me a template reply and recommended I PAY THE DESIGNER for their work to-date!!!!!!!!!! I then asked for a complaint email along with other information under the infirmation freedom act and UK privacy law. They IGNORED MY request and refused to supply the information, which is a criminal offense.

    I am now pursuing via the Small Claims Court.

    99 DESIGNS IS A TOTAL car crash. Do not use.

    *** This comment was edited, this post is about 99designs. Promoting 99designs competitor services is not allowed.