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If you've ever needed a good logo (or ANY type of design work – whether it's for your website, book, packaging, clothing, merchandise, etc), you probably know there are a lot of good designers on the internet who can get the job done.
I've used a handful of different designers from websites like Upwork and Fiverr, but when I look back at all the design projects I've hired for over the past decade, a website called 99designs is where I've had the most success.
99designs uses a contest model to bring in several designers who will try their best to create the right design for you.
It all starts with YOU providing basic details about what you're looking for in a design (e.g. – any names or words to be included, preferred colors, other design examples, concepts you like, etc.).
Within hours of creating a new contest, dozens of designers worldwide will start competing for your business – submitting many different logo concepts for you to evaluate and provide feedback.
How 99designs Works
When you order design work through 99designs, the process starts by selecting the type of design you're looking for.
Let's say you're looking to create a new logo.
You can submit a design brief and provide the information that will help the community of designers understand what you're looking for. This includes things like:
- What words will be included in your logo?
- Are there any specific colors that should be included?
- Will the logo have a tagline with it?
- Are there other designs you like? Pick out some of your favorites and explain why you like each one!
As you can probably imagine, the more details you provide, the better options you'll have to work with.
These were some of the sample logos and color templates I liked the best…
After you provide all the required information and select your pricing package (which determines the reward the winning designer will receive), 99designs will display your design brief to its community. The designers will evaluate your information, and if they want to participate, they will start creating design concepts and submitting them to you.
Once you start getting designs, you can rate your favorite ones and leave comments about what you do or don't like about each one (or if any of the submissions are bad, you can just decline them all together and remove them from your dashboard).
It's not unusual to get several designs that are pretty good.
These are just a few of the submissions that came in for the Deal Finding Guide logo I ordered (we ordered the Silver package on this one for $499):
As you can see, many of these designs were very good, even though none of these even made it to the final round for this design.
Within the first 48 hours, you'll be strongly encouraged to leave plenty of feedback and rate each design. This feedback goes a long way in helping the designers understand whether they're hitting the mark or not.
You'll eventually be prompted to choose a few designers for your “shortlist” (when a designer has been shortlisted, it notifies them that they're in the running as a finalist, which gives them more motivation to keep working toward a final design for you).
After you make suggestions for changes to your favorite designs, you'll eventually pick the winning design.
Once you've selected a winner, you'll receive all the final files for your design work (usually, the files will come in .psd ai. png. .jpeg .swf, etc.). You can then use these finals to upload your final design to your website or deliver them to whoever will put the final design in its proper place.
Once you sign off on the final copyright agreement, 99designs will credit the designer with the award funds.
How Much Does 99designs Cost?
A few different pricing tiers are available for a design project with 99designs (with various upsells that will be offered to you as you place an order).
At this time, the lowest price is $299, and the most expensive option is $1,299 (not including any of the optional upsells).
In the past, I've hired projects at the Bronze ($299), Silver ($499), and Gold ($899) levels, and I found both the quantity and quality of design choices to be pretty much in line with the price I had to pay for each project.
With each of these pricing options, I received plenty of design submissions that were way off the mark… but when I paid more, I found a higher number of good and great designs to choose from.
Here are some of the designs I got from the various pricing levels:
In 2013, the first logo I created for REtipster.com came from 99designs. We used this logo for several years and got a lot of mileage.
I even went so far as to get a cool video made from this logo, which I've used for a lot of videos on the REtipster YouTube Channel
When I look at most startups and small companies – the $299 package is probably sufficient to find a design that looks good and will portray the right visual brand image.
The Silver package gave me PLENTY of great designs to choose from. Even from the designs I did not choose, many of them could've worked just fine.
When I ordered a design with the Gold package, it was for a revised and updated logo for REtipster.com
Of all the different businesses and brands I have right now, this is probably the most important one – because it's highly visible, and the visual identity of this logo has a ‘trickle-down' effect on several other logos and visual elements that I work with as well… so if there was ever a time to splurge, this was it.
The final product came in both a horizontal and square format:
As you can see – it looks pretty sharp!
For each of our contests, I made liberal use of polls in our various communities to get everyone's feedback on which designs people liked the most. This was hugely helpful in deciding because even though the final choice is mine, there's only so much I can see on my own. Getting input from my audience went a long way.
Getting the Most from 99designs
If you decide to use 99designs for any logos or other design projects, I cannot stress enough the importance of giving feedback to your designers as they submit their ideas to you.
It's not just about saying “yes” or “no” to the many designs you'll get. It's about communicating what you do and don't like about the best designs that stand out to you.
This takes time, but it will play a big role in getting the best final product from each design contest.
The more feedback and direction you provide, the better your result will be.
Is There a Money-Back Guarantee?
If you're worried about getting nothing but terrible choices in your contest, don't worry. By default, you do have a money-back guarantee when you work with 99designs.
None of the designers on this website are guaranteed to be paid for their work.
However, you can forfeit your money-back guarantee when you place your order. By doing this, you're sending a message to all the designers that you will be giving the reward to someone.
If you promise NOT to pull the rug out from underneath these designers who put their time and effort into your design, it usually influences how seriously these designers take your project.
It's only reasonable to assume that the best designers will only consider working on the projects that will pay out the most money and/or will offer this kind of guarantee… so it's worth considering if you want to get the best results from your contest (I forfeited my money-back guarantee with each logo I ordered, and I didn't regret it).
I also found better quality designs when I chose the higher-priced plans… but even when committing to pay more money from the outset, there were still plenty of bad designs to sort through – so the higher-priced packages aren't a magic bullet that will guarantee 100% great designs.
Because of how 99designs works (leaving many of these designers empty-handed and unpaid at the end of each contest), I've noticed a general sense of disdain and contempt toward 99designs from other designers around the internet.
Since the website is making design work MUCH less expensive for customers like you and me and providing many more design options, I understand why a highly-paid designer who normally charges 10X more for this work would feel threatened and intimidated by this kind of competition in the market. I can't fault them for not liking 99designs (heck, if I were a designer, I'd probably hate this website).
However, from an end user's perspective, this well-managed contest website that delivers a solid end product is a HUGE value for the clients who are paying for the work.
Even though it strongly favors the customer over the designer, it's simply operating in a free market system. Designers don't have to participate in these contests if they don't want to… and yet many of them do – so even with the significantly lower odds of getting paid, there are still a lot of designers who think it's worth their while to participate.
Is 99designs Right for You?
If you're working on a shoestring budget – there are less expensive ways to get a logo (even cheaper than the $299 Bronze package with 99designs).
However, for the sheer quantity of designs you'll get in this contest, I think the value FAR exceeds the cost.
Perhaps the biggest benefit I found was in the ideation process.
I had some vague ideas of what I was looking for with most of my logos. I would've had a very hard time instructing a designer on what to create for me because I didn't have a very clear vision in my mind. I could only say “I like it” or “I don't like it” to what I saw.
If I was limited to choosing one design out of 3 or 4 concepts, it's highly unlikely I would've found an acceptable logo that way.
With 99designs, I could see dozens and dozens of different logo options with each contest, which went a long way in helping me see possibilities that never would've occurred to me if I was just working with one designer.
This gave me a new vision I couldn't have seen alone. Getting this kind of insight and inspiration from a large group of designers was a huge benefit that played a major role in getting a great logo from each contest.
Note: As you can see, I had a great experience with 99designs, but your experience may be different. All the 99designs links in this blog post are affiliate links, and at no additional cost, this website will earn a commission if you order a new logo through those links. I recommend this website because it was very helpful, not because of the small commission we will make if you decide to buy something. Please do not spend your money on this unless you feel it will help you achieve your goals.