The Designer-Small Biz Connection

If you want your business to be noticed, design is everything. However, a lot of startups and small businesses often don’t have the budget for an in-house design department. In an effort to facilitate the connection between freelance designers and small businesses, there’s 99designs, an online crowdsourcing contest that creates a forum for designers to showcase their work and win new clients. The Melbourne, Australia-based operation just opened up their American headquarters in San Francisco.

“The main thing that 99designs is about is choice,” says Matt Mickiewicz, the U.S. office representative for 99designs, “It’s a fantastic model that eliminates risk for small business owners and puts designers on equal footing.” Designers can be of any age, background or level of experience to post designs on the site, making the site a great lead-generator. “It doesn’t matter if you’re 15 or 60. It’s completely based on merit.” Most participants are students and freelancers, but Mickiewicz says that several designers have managed to make a living out of the site, including a designer in Romania who earned approximately $25,000 USD.

The process begins when a small business owner or entrepreneur posts a wanted listing on the site, with details of what they want designed and a budget for the project. Then designers can jump in and submit concept designs. In a recent design brief from an eCommerce pet site looking for a logo, the client asked that the product have a “clean design, a nice use of stable, yet soft colors, with professional art,” but not “tacky use of ‘Paws’ or ‘Pets.’”

Anyone can comment and give feedback to designers. Typically within a week, the owner will pick a winner. Often times, Mickiewicz says, when the client finds a winning designer, they work with them on additional projects like business cards, banner ads, etc.. Designers can use the site as lead-generation for their own careers.

Over 20,000 active designers participate on the site. 250 to 300 contests are active at any time, with $90,000 to 100,000 up for grabs each week. Site moderators say that new designs are posted to the website every 30 seconds.

The clientele is primarily small businesses, ranging from a lone entrepreneur to a company with 50 or 100 employees that typically don’t have a graphic designer in-house. Mickiewicz says that 99designs attracts a lot of work from charities and non-profits as well as startup companies in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley.

Currently, 99designs is only available in English but developers are looking to expand to additional languages in the near future. The key now is developing a community for designers and provide contests that generate inspiration and innovation. Mickiewicz affirms, “We live for the designers.”

Add New Comment

10 Comments

  • Terry Macdonald

    I have not try any logo contest or 99designs before so I'm not quite sure how the design would turn out to be. I searched on Google for affordable and fast logo design companies, and I happened to stumble upon Logo Design Station. I've used Logo Design Station for my logo and stationery and have been very happy with the results. The creative team responded quickly to my proposed changes and came up with creative designs in a short amount of time. I won't hesitate to use them again next time I need design work done.

  • Terry Macdonald

    I have not try any logo contest or 99designs before so I'm not quite sure how the design would turn out to be. I searched on Google for affordable and fast logo design companies, and I happened to stumble upon Logo Design Station (www.logodesignstation.com). I've used Logo Design Station for my logo and stationery and have been very happy with the results. The creative team responded quickly to my proposed changes and came up with creative designs in a short amount of time. I won't hesitate to use them again next time I need design work done.

  • Priyankar Mukherjee

    Logo design contests are nothing new in the crowdsourcing world. There is one more kid on the block, www.shopfordesigns.com but the difference being its now helping startups to build their brand at minimal costs. It is now offering FREE listing of logo design, website design contests, corporate identity design, banner design, wordpress theme design, twitter background design etc.

    Try out www.shopfordesigns.com

  • Priyankar Mukherjee

    Logo design contests are nothing new in the crowdsourcing world. There is one more kid on the block, www.shopfordesigns.com but the difference being its now helping startups to build their brand at minimal costs. It is now offering FREE listing of logo design, website design contests, corporate identity design, banner design, wordpress theme design, twitter background design etc.

    Try out www.shopfordesigns.com

  • Priyankar Mukherjee

    Logo design contests are nothing new in the crowdsourcing world. There is one more kid on the block, www.shopfordesigns.com but the difference being its now helping startups to build their brand at minimal costs. It is now offering FREE listing of logo design, website design contests, corporate identity design, banner design, wordpress theme design, twitter background design etc.

    Try out www.shopfordesigns.com

  • Aaron Becker

    As a business owner and someone that has tried alot of different freelance sites, 99designs does a nice job but their fee stucture is very high to just post a project. I like to use the site ShopForDesigns.com becuase it is very much similiar to 99design.com but does not charge excessive fees to list projects. ShopForDesigns.com does a great job and the prices are very reasonable for logo design, graphic design, website design, etc.

    Aaron Becker
    Founder - Edge Recruiting Solutions, Inc.

  • Asmodius Fitch

    As a designer, the trend towards crowdsourcing competition websites is a little bit troubling. Something that this article tends to gloss over. Designers spend so much time working on creative drafts for clients - and traditionally this would be fine due to the knowledge of certain payment at the end. Crowdsourcing websites prevent this from happening and many of my colleagues are adamantly against such an approach.

    However, realistically, crowd-sourcing does have a place in the modern design world. Particularly now, when redundancy makes designers "freelancers". The key, I believe, is to find a balance between protecting the designer and getting the best deal for the client. I have recently been submitting to a site called www.Designbay.com which seems to offer some of that balance. Things like base payments for the first designers to agree to submit, hidden designs to protect designer IP and certain guaranteed payment projects, mean that I am much more likely to submit to www.Designbay.com as a designer.

    All in all, I think that small businesses need to understand that offering some sort of security to designers in crowdsourcing can only give them a better outcome

  • Tyler Quinn

    David,

    You stated:

    "How can a logo, conceived outside of your business's strategy and objectives, possibly reflect the value of an organization?"

    This question assumes design contests are a random affair with designers shooting in the dark. Every contest site has some sort of a design brief which the concepts are based on. Most sites do a minimal job on this, while others like my site have detailed and insightful briefs.

    Take a look for yourself at LogoTournament.com (shameless but relevant plug). You can try it out from the homepage, and you don't have to sign up. You will see that I cover things like: Industry, Demographics, Psychographics, Communication Objectives, Word Associations (Simple VS Complex, etc.), Logo Styles, Color Association in Western Culture, Logo Styles/Forms, Uses, etc.

    The process covers off all of the bases, and I invite you browse through some of the completed client work. You will see targeted logos that reflect the communication objectives and values of my clients. All while being completed in a matter of days, with 30-100+ choices, and at a very reasonable cost.

    It is very possible to marry best practice branding concepts with the contest format. I think it works great for my clients.

    Best regards,
    Tyler Quinn
    Founder
    LogoTournament.com

  • David Kluskiewicz

    How can a logo, conceived outside of your business's strategy and objectives, possibly reflect the value of an organization?

    The process of developing a logo - researching the market, talking to customers/stakeholders, aligning visuals with actual communications objectives - is as important (maybe even more) as the final output.

    This product, and others they're modeled after (e.g. Logoworks), provides a fine commodity, but serious businesses should treat their brand and image like a asset. Otherwise, they might as well post contests online for the "most creative financial statement" or "best IT infrastructure."

  • George Ryan

    99Designs is running a great company, thanks for sharing about them. Contests are a great way to get design work done.

    We launched a similar service, eLogoContest.com, in April, we are very similar to 99Designs with one exception: we only accept logo design and corporate identity projects, focusing strongly on providing startup companies with powerful brands.

    Since we launched in April we have had over a thousand designers sign up and had over 15,000 designs submitted, the feedback from all of our users has been great and we're excited about the future.

    Kudos to 99Designs, they're doing a wonderful job and we're glad to have them as competition!

    George Ryan
    Founder
    eLogoContest