Get Your Logos (And Everything Else) Here! If You Can Afford It.
99designs is based in Melbourne, Australia, and is home to a large, though currently unspecified, number of designers.
Simply put, they do design. Now, you can get just about anything designed, from signage to marketing emails, but in this review, we’re going to focus on the logos. There are no non-design-related services like printing; you get design, and that’s it. Well, and there’s an API so you can integrate their design services into your own custom app or website if you swing that way.
It’s available in a variety of languages including (but not limited to) English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, several other European languages, and Japanese. I do not currently have a full list, as there isn’t one on the website. You can theoretically use any language in your logo that you can input into a text field, if the designers on the other end have the right fonts installed.
Where it gets really interesting is when the time comes to pay for everything. By “interesting,” I mean “comparatively expensive.” The packages and plans are generous enough, and the higher-priced options come with lots of personal attention, but you’ve got to have enough cash under your mattress.
A lot of other logo design services, such as DesignCrowd, will give you more or less the same service, but for cheaper. And of course, you could always just hire a designer on Fiverr for as little as $5.
So why would you pick 99designs? Is the experience worth the extra money? Are the logos just that good? Well, I decided to invest some cash and run a logo design contest as part of my quest to find the best new logo for Website Planet. Read all about my experience below.
All They Do Is Design (That’s Not a Bad Thing)
When so many of these crowd-sourced design services want to do everything for you, from design to printing, web hosting, social media marketing, to dog walking and cat bathing (not really, no one wants to bathe cats), it’s actually refreshing to find a tightly-focused experience. 99designs offers two primary services for design clients: contests and individual hiring.
We went with the contest, of course, so we could gauge the design skills of multiple designers in a short amount of time.
With a large number of designers on the website, you’re going to end up with a fair bit of variety with your submissions. It also depends, of course, on the plan you pay for, with higher tiers providing a higher number of submissions for you to browse.
It generally takes around a week to complete your design, that is, if you stay on top of your contest and don’t ask for too many revisions in the final round (which lasts three days for a logo contest). During that final round, you can basically ask for as many revisions that your designers can/are willing to handle.
After the final round, the designer may be willing to perform a few small adjustments for free. Drastic adjustments will cost you more, as they should. The key, as usual, is to ask nicely. And that’s easy enough, as you can contact designers directly from a general messaging center (more on that later), and from the screen where you process and rate contest entries.
Once you choose the perfect logo for your company that makes gloves for bathing cats (yes, that actually exists and yes, we brought up bathing cats again), you can expect to receive your logo in the following formats: AI (Adobe Illustrator), EPS (an infinitely scalable format), JPG, PNG, and PDF.
There is, of course, a way to provide feedback and testimonials about designers and you can browse designer profiles with all of their ratings, past work, the aforementioned testimonials, and a list of all the distinct design services they provide. There are also stats on how many contests they’ve won, how many they’ve almost won, how many one-to-one projects they’ve had, how many repeat clients they’ve had, and how often they respond within 24 hours.
All in all, they’ve got all the features you need and they’re all well-built and easy to use. I can’t actually think of a feature that I personally missed.
You Can Get Just About Anything Designed
Speaking (however briefly) of distinct design services, it should be noted that 99designs offers a lot more than just logos. You can get websites and apps, all kinds of packaging, book and magazine covers, clothing, and pretty much anything else you can imagine. If it can be designed, someone here will design it for you.
They Have Decent Add-Ons
You have to pay a bit extra, of course, but you can pay to keep your contest private and away from the big search engines. So yeah, no one needs to know you hired 60 people to make you a logo with gloves holding a distressed and soaking wet cat if you don’t want to. You can also pay for extras like a brand guide to go with your new logo, social media graphics, and so on.
They Have an Active Community Forum
The big draw of crowd-sourced services is the community that makes it all possible. Part of keeping that community alive is the 99designs forum, where you can get community-powered support, check out the latest 99designs news, or just talk about design stuff.
Keep in mind that the forum does seem to be mostly aimed at designers, but clients are welcome too. If you use 99designs regularly, checking out the forum could be a valuable use of your time.
You Can Have Have 99designs Find a Designer for You
Now according to the marketing, this feature (which is called “Pro”) is for agencies that need to get a good designer, fast. Basically, 99designs will speak with you, find out exactly what you need, and find a designer to work with you as soon as possible. But as long as you have the budget, you don’t need to be an agency to buy this service.
Yes, I checked. They could make this clearer on the page where they advertise this service, but oh well.
How Does 99designs Work? Here’s My Experience
Note: As I write these reviews, I have been tasked with getting a whole bunch of different logo options for Website Planet, one of which will probably become the new logo for the whole website.
So starting the contest was pretty easy, all things considered. First, all you’ve got to do is choose from several different logos to establish your preferred style.
The next step is to move some sliders around, to further specify what your tastes are.
Next up, choose the colors you want your prospective designers to focus on.
And finally, before you pay anything, you have to actually write up the brief, upload any reference images, and so on.
After that, it’s a matter of choosing which contest package you want and paying for it. Normally, when reviewing a service like 99designs, we pay extra for access to the top-rated designers. We decided to run a little experiment this time around, by, well… not doing that. We went with the “Silver” plan, which is quite a bit cheaper than the next plan up and does not guarantee access to the top designers.
Now, design quality will always vary when you’re running one of these contests. That’s how this kind of service works, and this contest was no exception. Some people submitted very similar designs, as in very slight variations of the exact same design. All in all, it was definitely a mixed bag.
Anyway, within five days, we had over 40 designs to work with, and I got to work narrowing them down. With the built-in rating system, it was easy enough to narrow our number of choices down from 41 to 18, to 11, to 6.
I do feel silly now, for two reasons: One, I forgot to screenshot the final round, where I chose our winning logo. Two, I went into this contest with the objective of giving less “planet-focused” logos more consideration, and ended up giving myself a bit of analysis paralysis, since the best logos were planet-focused.
In particular, I really liked this one:
But because of my previously-stated intentions, I didn’t just go for it. I gave up on making the decisions on my own and sent a poll around the office to ask for more opinions. Of course, the logo I should have picked all along got rated the highest.
So I chose that logo, and asked the designer (Known on 99designs as Jatmiko. Nice work!) for a few simple revisions to the layout of the text:
Then I picked the actual, final winner:
After choosing the final logo, 99designs gave me some unearned compliments (how do they even know I made a “Nice Choice?” Are they spying on me?) and tried to upsell me a few things, like a brand guide, business cards, and social media assets.
All in all, I am satisfied with the experience of using 99designs. I never got lost, and things went smoothly. If you don’t have the budget for the more expensive plans, I’d tell you not to worry about it, because chances are you’ll get some pretty good logos in any case. Of course, the more specific you are with your brief, the more likely you are to get exactly what you want.
Ease of use
Well, You Almost Definitely Won’t Get Lost
99designs delivers a somewhat limited feature set (compared to other services), making the whole experience feel clear, simple, and focused. They want you to get in, find a designer, get your thing designed, and get on with your life. They do, of course, have the add-ons I previously mentioned, but they don’t offer any big alternative services, like social media marketing or in-house printing services.
Look, having those extra services isn’t bad, but sometimes I just want to click on the give me my darned logo button without scrolling past a thousand offers that will “totally supercharge your business, Dude!” (I may be paraphrasing.)
Anyway, this means that the user interface is clear and clean, and is generally intuitive. It feels fast to use even on my paltry 5Mbs Internet connection, and I never got lost. Calls to action (ie., big buy now buttons) are kept to a convenient minimum and don’t constantly get in your way.
My only complaint is this: you can’t choose your language for your website. You are always redirected to a local version of the website (99designs.com.mx, in my case), and you are then given the option of using the website in English or the local language. If you happen to be, say, a German businessperson in Spain, you are going to be stuck with English and Spanish as your language choices.
This particular sort of localization, while useful to an extent, personally drives me nuts. It’s the only reason 99designs is losing any points in this section.
You Can Save Your Projects before You Buy
If you’ve read any of my other logo design service reviews, you know what I’m about to say. If not, here’s the gist: in every review, I talk about the ability to save a contest or design project before you go through with it. It’s that important a factor. You can do it on 99designs, and they make it easy.
They Have Excellent Entry Processing Tools
If you’re running a contest and you get a lot of entries, 99designs makes it very easy to quickly rate, process, favorite or decline them, and optionally provide feedback. Other platforms have similar features, but there were times when they slowed me down. Not so with 99designs; the process was quick and even kind of pleasant.
You Can Easily Manage Existing Contacts
There’s a specific section of the website that allows you to stay in touch with designers you’ve hired in the past. It’s separate from the usual “message center,” and you can see the designers you’ve worked with, their overall rating, what projects you worked with them on, and what contests they won. You’ll never have to go hunting for a designer’s contact info or screen name.
And let’s face it, screen names can get kind of hard to remember. At least they’re not like Xbox Live screen names.
Also, you don’t even have to sign up or log in to start looking for a designer for your next project. There’s a handy designer search function that lets you sort by design category, industry, designer level, language, and designers who were recently active.
The contests themselves are easy to manage, with a simple step-by-step wizard to get your contest up and running. You only need to provide a general brief, some idea of the style of logo and colors you want, and any relevant reference images.
At the very least, you should have a very general idea of what you want before you start. The process of starting a contest might actually give you some ideas, but you should probably do your research first.
Their Support Is Competent and Readily Available
If you do happen to get lost, you don’t have to stay lost until the final season when there’s like… an afterlife scene, or something. (Get it, like Lost the TV show…? Never mind. I never finished it anyway.)
There’s email support (which is a ticket system), and phone support for all of the following countries:
- Hong Kong
- United Kingdom
- United States
Note that while the email support seems to run more or less 24/7, phone support is confined to fairly standard business hours for the region you’re calling.
There’s a fairly extensive and helpful wiki / knowledge base. You can navigate straight to it, but it can also be accessed by the little Help button in the lower left corner on just about any page. You can search all of their articles right there for in-context help. That’s actually where I got a fair bit of the information I needed for this review.
There’s a blog as well, but it mostly focuses on general design and marketing advice. It’s still useful stuff, but it won’t necessarily help you navigate the website or run a contest.
Email / Ticket
Well, I actually had to contact support before I could even get started, as some years back, I signed up for 99designs as a designer. You can’t run contests with a “designer” account, so I asked support if they could change my account to a “client” account. They could, and they did.
Later on, I asked them if I could find my bill or invoice anywhere on the website, in case I lost the email. Turns out you can absolutely do that.
I called their U.S. line to ask, specifically, if the aforementioned “Pro” service could be used for non-agencies/anyone who had the money to spare. As I said above, yes you can.
Compared to hiring a big-name designer or agency, 99designs is fairly cheap. Compared to similar services on the internet, it’s… not. Their packages cost double or more than some of the competition depending on the packages, services, and add-ons. From the perspective of the designers, this is fantastic. From the perspective of clients, it’s something to think about carefully.
The cheapest contest plan offers (approximately) 30 designs, and you could get a lot more for the same money at a service like Designhill. The more expensive plans can get very pricey, but they offer access to more highly-rated designers, more designs to choose from, and more personal attention/priority support.
There are no free samples and no cheaper plan for non-commercial use. This is a premium service and that includes the prices that come with a word like “premium.”
On the one hand, it’s an overall great service–easy to use, the quality of design ranges from decent to brilliant, and there are some great business-focused features. If you have the budget and plan to hire a service like 99designs regularly, it’s probably worth the extra money to save the time and headaches other services might provoke.
On the other hand, if you’ve got a real low budget, and only need one or two logos, you can get a wider selection of comparable quality elsewhere, but you’re going to have to work a bit harder to get through their user interface. The choice comes down to this: Do you have more money than time (go for 99designs), or more time than money (check out the competition first)?
Assuming the prices haven’t already made you click on some other review, the following payment methods are accepted:
- American Express
- SOFORT (region specific)
As previously mentioned, you can get some small revisions after getting the final version of your logo, but it’s definitely up to the designer. However, if you don’t get that far, there is a money-back guarantee. Basically, if you haven’t signed up for a “Guaranteed Contest” (one where you’ve promised to pay out), and if you haven’t gone into the final round or selected a winner, you can get your money back.
That, of course forfeits all rights to use any of the logos from your contest. If you’re not happy with any of your options, but don’t want to shut the whole contest down, you can contact support to have your contest sort of… reset, and reopened. That way, you get another chance at the logo of your dreams.
As long as you’ve selected a winner, and signed the Copyright Transfer Agreement, you get full intellectual rights, distribution rights, and general “Don’t touch that, it’s mine.” rights. There’s really not much else to say on the subject. Go forth, and make money from this design that is totally yours.
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The part of your review stating "you get full intellectual rights" and “Don’t touch that, it’s mine.” is totally false because large portion of the winning designs are generic and overused. With a simple Google search you can find hundreds of exact or extremely similar designs. You owe no copyrights or any other rights in that case,
On the one hand, it’s an overall great service–easy to use, the quality of design ranges from decent to brilliant, and there are some great business-focused features. On the other hand, if you’ve got a really low budget, and only need one or two logos, you can get a wider selection of comparable quality elsewhere, but you’re going to have to work a bit harder to get through their user interface.
Bad News People
I hate to leave a negative review for an Australian company because I use to live here. Their designers are really stupid and dumb. They miss spelled my company’s name on the logo. You could of even copied and paste it from my brief? Duh? Support doesn’t want to help with back and forth useless information. Their job is too protect the stupid designers so they too must be stupid. $450 wasted for some idi0t and dumb company.