My Opinion on Design Contest Sites – AKA 99Designs is a suck hole to garbage town ;)

April 23, 2016


My opinion is design contest sites (like 99Designs) are insulting, predatory and deceitful. I am not writing this to be sensational. Here’s why feel so strongly:


99 designs isn’t a marketplace. They don’t sell products or services. They sell “contests”. A contest sounds fun, right?

Well here is how a contest works… You pay ~$400-1000 for a logo (or any number of things) and hundreds (or thousands) of designers around the world get to work on your project contest! At the end of the contest you pick a design (or don’t – they have a money back guarantee) and the winner gets paid. The rest get nothing.

Here is an example contest so you can see what I am talking about. Someone setup a Gap logo redesign contest (just to be clear Gap was not affiliated or involved). To start the contest they paid $708. For their payment they received 4,660 submissions. Of those 4K+ submissions two winners were selected. Let me repeat that… they chose two from a pool of 4,660! That means 4,658 people did work and didn’t get paid. Sounds like a pretty fun “contest”, right?


LogoDesignLove noticed that they allow children to enter contests. Pretty classy.


They offer hope to subpar designers. These designers are either new or desperate. Because they are subpar they work on project after project for free. They do so because they are deluding themselves. They work in vain hoping that they will eventually win a contest. If they never win they delude themselves that these contests are helping them to actively practicing improve their design skills. The sad reality is most never improve because they aren’t working on real projects and getting real feedback. They are working in a vacuum and their designs often get only a split second glance from their potential employer contest holder.

Deceitful (or smart marketers)

Going back to my example Gap logo contest. Here are some smart/deceitful things 99 designs is doing to hide poor quality submissions. Remember this contest had 4,600 submissions, right? Well here are a few ways they are hiding all but the top designs from view:

  1. Many are hidden because they were “withdrawn” by the designer. The reason for that is 99Designs doesn’t want you to see the bad submissions. To do that they request that anyone paying for designs stay very active and quickly rate submissions when they are received. They also request that you give low ratings to submissions that you view as having no chance. That means these submissions get withdrawn very quickly and are often never seen. Here is an example Gap logo that was eliminated:Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 9.44.47 PM
  2. They show the winners first. You can click to view another page with all entries.
  3. Next they show the top rated options. The default view on this page is “active” entries (134) that are sorted by highest rated first. The sad thing is, even though these submissions are aggressively sorted, some of these submissions are really bad. I feel the top rated design (after the winners) is surprisingly weak. I won’t get into why, just take a look for yourself. Here is the third best submission.

Please think twice before using a design contest site. I know I will never use one.

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