Over the last year or so I’ve run a number of contests on 99Designs. In case you don’t know the site here’s a summary: as a project creator, you post a project for graphic design work and create a brief. The work can range from logo design to brochures or printed materials all the way to full custom WordPress themes.
After setting an award amount for the project it basically becomes a contest and 99Designs opens up the contest to their vast network of designers – the other users of the site. The name 99Designs comes from the fact that as a contest holder you’ll receive a large number of submissions. It may be called 99Designs but my average on the site is about 178 per project.
I’ve used various graphic design resources before ranging from freelancers or overseas shops on elance.com to Mega Brand Advertising Agencies of Record. In my experience, 99Designs is much closer to the teams at Big NYC Advertising Agencies. Note: I’ve only used 99D for new start-up or personal work – never did a direct comparison of the same brief between 99D and those Agencies.
It’s evident after the first 24 hours of your contest that the designers you’re getting access to are not shy about presenting work. On the average first day I’ve received about 12-20 different designs from various designers. After the first day is also a great time to see if the brief you created was developed enough to get designs in the right direction, or if the designers were even paying attention.
At that point you can further develop the brief, and use the commenting features to elaborate on specifics that have come to mind now that you’re seeing actual work. The tricky part here is not to get too swayed by the initial ideas you’re seeing and steer the rest of the new designers away from original work.
As the contest progresses it’s a game of comment, rate and guide so you can eventually end up with something that you like. When the contests over you work with the lead designer to get the final version you want, in your needed format, and with full copyright.
Even after numerous contests, I’m still amazed at the creativeness of the designers, how many ideas come in and at the skill with which they’re refined. It seems as though the aspects of rating, incentive, and community attract and bubble up some great creative talent.
All of this and my favorite part of the 99Designs site is the price with which you’re able to get all of these benefits. You get to decide how much you award in the contests and with the guidance they provide it’s easy to get what you want for a fraction of a fraction at what you’d pay at a major shop.
99Designs may not be for every design situation (major legacy brand, global redesign) and the big shops usually come with tons of research vital to starting with a great brief, but for 99% of the other situations it’s a perfect fit.