10 MIN

99designs Contest Review: Is it worth the $899 spent?

Jessica Kramer

June 3, 2021

About The Author
Jessica Kramer
Hi my name is Jessica K and I'm a writer for Servicelist. I've been writing freelance for several years.

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What is 99designs?

“99designs by Vistaprint is the global creative platform that makes it easy for designers and clients to work together to create designs they love. From clients who need custom design, to designers who want access to quality projects, people around the world rely on the tried-and-true 99designs creative process to get great design online.”

In this article, we will be discussing one of the two ways to receive designs on 99 designs: design contests. Some people online claim that 99designs is a fraud or a waste of money. We’ve walked through the entire 99design contest process and reviewed the service for you to see if it’s true. We also have tips on how you can get the most out of this design service.

The 99designs Contest Process

Signing up for a 99designs Contest

99designs sign-up process was no-nonsense and straightforward. You can sign up to be either a designer or a client. For this review, we’re going to go through the client-side. After entering my email address and desired password, I was ready to get straight into creating a 99designs contest.

Choose a design category

99 designs has a wide range of designs that you can request. It makes sense as they have millions of designers that work as freelancers on the platform. Here’s a list of only some of the designs you can request:

While they have a great selection of designs to choose from, I was shocked after seeing their steep prices. The price of web page designs starts at $599, while email templates begin at $279. The keyword here is: from which means there’s potential for it to rise higher. 

They also have packages for logo & identity if you’re trying to cut down on some of the cost and re-do your branding. However, the prices can still be out of reach for small businesses, startups, or companies with a regular need for graphic design.

We wanted to see the diverse designs and styles of 99designs’ freelance designers, so we chose to request illustrations.

Project details:

99design prompts you to fill out a design request form. Once created, you still have the chance to go back and enter any details if you realize you left something out. 

I made up a fake company under the name “Animals and Wellness.” The illustration I requested was a girl surrounded by flowers in a room and asked that the design be specifically sized to fit on Instagram. I was a little disappointed by the lack of categories as they did not have one for Health & Wellness.

Choose a 99designs contest package

A 99designs contest offers multiple design packages. For illustrations the prices were as follows: Bronze ($349), Silver ($549), Gold ($899), and Platinum ($1399). The higher the tier, the more designs you would get, and you’d get to work with designers with better skills. 

The recommended plan by 99designs was the Gold ($899) package. Here’s what is included: 

Tip: There’s also an ability to create a custom package and name your price. The price you quote must be less than the Bronze package. However, be warned, offering less than the Bronze package could be less appealing to designers on 99designs and result in fewer designs submitted.

Looking for a more affordable graphic design solution? 

Unlimited graphic design services provide a whole month of designs in a bunch of categories for less. Compare over 50 unlimited graphic design companies and find the best deals.

Your design contest is live!

After your 99designs contest is live, freelancers have up to 4 days to submit their designs. After that, you can regularly check through the dashboard for designs submitted and receive email updates every time a new design is added.

During that time you can organize the designs by assigning stars to them. They’ll be organized into categories which you can look through: Unrated, 1-2 stars, 3-5 stars, and trash (designs withdrawn by the designer go here).

Over the 4 days, there’s a lot you can do while waiting for all the designs to be sent it. You can communicate with designers individually or send a message to all of them by using the message tab. Also, you can start requesting any revisions in three ways. First click on the design you want to be revised then:

  1. Make notes directly on the design
  2. Draw or make marks on the design
  3. Send a private comment

If you think you have one design in particular that stands above the rest, you can prematurely award a winner.

Tip: Not enough time or designs received?

99designs lets you extend your contest for an additional $60 per day.

Selecting Finalists

At this point, you have four days to review all designs that were submitted and choose which six designers you’d like to continue working with.


Be careful because once you select your six finalists, your contest becomes guaranteed, and you can’t receive a refund if you’re unsatisfied with the final design. So, if you don’t like the submitted designs for any reason, you should avoid selecting finalists and request a refund.

Final Round

In the final round, your chosen six designers will work on refining the design to be closer to your vision. This goes on for four days, after which you have 14 days to choose the winner. 

Tip: Need extra help choosing a winner?

99designs has a unique feature in which you can create a poll to share with others to make the designer selection process easier.

Once the winner is chosen, they’ll finalize the design files and transfer the files and full copyright to you.

My Review of 99designs contests

By the end of the four-day period in which designers could submit their designs, I received 27 designs minus duplicates. I felt as though I hadn't received my money's worth—the lowest package (Bronze package), which cost $349, promised up to 30 designs. Meanwhile, the Gold package I purchased was over double the cost, priced at $899, and promised up to 50 designs. While 99designs did not promise 50 designs, it felt as though I was cut short. 

As for the quality of the designs I received, I was confused about how 99designs classifies its designers as middle to top designers. A few of the designs neglected to follow the instructions to include a record player. However, there were a few designs that did stand out and meet my expectations.

What is great about 99designs contests?

What is not so great about 99designs contests?

Final thoughts on 99designs contests

99designs contests can be unpredictable. Whether or not you get value back from this design marketplace depends on whether capable designers or many designers choose to work on your project. 99designs contests are also pricey especially for only one design. Essentially, you’re paying for great design ideas at the sacrifice of the number of designs you could be receiving at more affordable design services such as unlimited graphic design services. Overall though, the platform does have capable designers and is not a fraud like some people are claiming or are worried about.

If you're interested in signing up for 99designs, be sure to check out our thorough analysis and review of 99design's contest vs hiring.

Who do we recommend 99designs contests for?