If you’ve taken a look at our list of the top graphic design services online, you’ve probably seen Design Shifu up there. They promise low prices, quick delivery, and a “Faster, Smarter, Better” unlimited graphic design experience.
Full disclosure, I didn’t write that list. But I’ve reviewed plenty of graphic design services, and now it’s time to see if Design Shifu is up to the task. This is our Design Shifu review.
What is Design Shifu?
In case you didn’t know, “shifu” is a Mandarin word for “master” or “teacher.” In martial arts, it’s equivalent to the Japanese “sensei.”
This might make you think that Design Shifu is a Chinese brand, but they were actually founded in Little Rock, Arkansas in 2018. Founded by Hadeel Abu Elhaija, the service advertises itself as a partner, helping businesses scale with their convenient unlimited graphic design.
How unlimited is Design Shifu? (Scope, limits, turnaround time) - 4/5
It’s the first thing you’ll see when you check out the Design Shifu homepage: unlimited designs, unlimited revisions, same-day delivery. But when it comes to services, “unlimited” doesn’t always mean the same thing.
What graphic designs does Design Shifu offer?
These are the categories of designs you can choose from with Design Shifu:
- Digital and web graphics
- Print collaterals
- Merchandise and signage
- Photo editing
- Motion graphics
Motion graphics, presentations, illustrations and website graphics aren’t included on the basic Unlimited plan.
How long does a design take?
Design Shifu advertises same-day delivery, and in my experience, it’s mostly true. If you’re based in North or South America, you likely won’t get your designs until the next day, since Design Shifu designers work from about 11:30pm-9:00am ET.
Still, that means they receive your request at the start of their work day and deliver it before they leave—same-day delivery. You may expect longer wait times for more in-depth requests, but for my logo designs, I was surprised by how much they sent me in such a short time.
Are there any other limits on Design Shifu’s service?
Design Shifu’s $399/mo lower tier isn’t just limited in what designs they’ll create. Their pricing is based on how many requests you want worked on at a time, with starting prices for 1 and plans increasing with each additional project, up to 5 projects at a time for $1995+/mo.
Another limitation is integrations. Design Shifu advertises their integrations with Slack, Canva, Google Drive and more on their homepage, but these are actually paid add-ons costing up to $99/mo. Their video revision tool, GRAB, is also listed as a $9/mo add-on.
Overall, Design Shifu has great turnaround time and a solid scope of services, even at their lowest tier. But arbitrary restrictions keep them from achieving a perfect score.
Design Shifu value (pricing, design package, refunds) - 3/5
As mentioned above, Design Shifu’s pricing can get a little complicated. But basically, they offer three plans:
- Unlimited (starts at $399/mo): Unlimited designs, revisions, brands, and team members. Does not include custom illustrations, GIFs, motion graphics, presentations, or landing pages.
- Unlimited Plus (starts at $599/mo): Includes all graphic designs except for motion graphics.
- Unlimited Pro (starts at $1499/mo): Includes motion graphics.
Unlimited and Unlimited Plus plans can be upgraded to include multiple designs at a time—up to 5—for an additional cost.
Design Shifu also has a number of paid add-ons, mostly integrations:
- Canva integration - $9/mo
- GRAB revision tool - $9/mo
- Slack integration - $99/mo
- Zapier integration (Asana, Clickup) - $99/mo
They also advertise integrations with Trello and Google Drive, which I couldn’t seem to find. I won’t speculate on the cost, but a customer service representative indicated that most integrations are $99/mo.
What’s included in a Design Shifu design?
Like most graphic design services, Design Shifu lets you pick out which file type(s) you want for your designs—but you can only choose from a checklist of options. I’m not sure why you’d need a different file type, but most services don’t place this type of limit.
How many designs can you expect for a Design Shifu request? They don’t make any specific claims, since it likely varies from project to project. But in my experience, they actually deliver quite a lot.
I received four different designs for my first request—a logo design—and my revisions came with as many as 6 files. Again, these were all delivered within 24 hours of my request, making for a seriously impressive design package.
On the other hand, while they claim that source files are included with each design, they’re not delivered alongside your designs and have to be separately requested.
Does Design Shifu offer refunds?
…Sort of. Like many design services, Design Shifu proudly advertises their “14 days 100% money-back guarantee on all plans.” In reality, “guarantee” might not be the right word for it.
As pictured above, Design Shifu only offers a refund under specific circumstances. The only way to get a full refund is by creating at least 1 request and making at least 2 revisions on it. You can lose your chance to get this refund if you approve any designs or request any source files, and past the 14-day mark, no refunds are offered under any circumstances.
What’s more, their claim that the refund is offered “on all plans” may not be true, as the terms & conditions don’t state that you can receive a refund on the Unlimited Pro plan.
While Design Shifu’s starting price is affordable and useful, they place arbitrary barriers on source files and refunds that other services don’t. They deliver a robust package of designs, but with limits on what file types you can request and a roundabout way to get source files.
And again, I just don’t think you can reasonably call their refund policy a “money back guarantee.”
Design Shifu user experience (signing up, platform, requests) - 3/5
How do you sign up for Design Shifu?
The Design Shifu sign-up process is fairly typical, asking for personal details before inviting you to choose a plan and sending a confirmation email. But it’s a little… off. I mean, literally. The sign-up screen pictured above was off-center on both my laptop and my phone.
It also asks for a few unusual details like your phone number and billing address along the way. After a previous experience, I tried to make clear that I didn’t want to be called, so I can’t say whether or not they typically do phone calls.
The Design Shifu web app
Once you sign up for Design Shifu, you’ll be greeted with a walkthrough of their platform. One slight problem: as you’ll see above, the button to go to the next step of the tour always says “Start Tour.”
The web app itself is similarly not-quite-there. It’s perfectly functional, but has slight design issues that aren’t a great look for a design service.
Rather than a logo, “Design Shifu” appears in the corner in plain text. The default profile image appears to be a photo of some random guy. The icon for the “Marketplace” tab looks more like a settings icon.
But how easy is it to use? The left-hand menu offers ten tabs:
- Design Requests
- My Team
- Manage Subscription
- Billing History
- My Profile
Here’s a breakdown of some of the most important features.
This simple homepage includes a feed of active design requests, request drafts, and suggestions for new designs you could create. You’ll notice some slight design hiccups—the copy for the design types is a bit wonky—but it’s a fairly effective dashboard.
This is where you’ll find a more in-depth feed of your design requests, including active ones, drafts, and previously completed ones. Drafts have to be saved manually, which I didn’t realize when I tried to access my first half-started request.
This menu is similar to the Design Requests menu, with tabs for active and archived brands. You can input colors, fonts, logos, and other key information for an unlimited number of brands.
This is where those paid add-ons come into play. I would’ve expected them to be part of the plan selection menu, but they weren’t too hard to find. As you can see, the Canva and GRAB add-ons are $9/mo, while the Slack and Zapier integrations are $99/mo.
Each add-on comes with a 30-day free trial. Oddly enough, this menu includes a tab for free add-ons, but no such offerings exist.
Where many graphic design services put you in direct contact with customer support, Design Shifu adopts a less personal approach. You create support “tickets” yourself, addressed by an anonymous representative within 24 hours.
Overall, Design Shifu’s web app isn’t the prettiest, but it’s deceptively usable. I can’t give them the highest marks because web app design is especially important for a design service. But their features, standard as they may be, are useful and easy to find.
Design Shifu communication (talking to designers, customer support, cancellation) - 2/5
This is where Design Shifu doesn’t quite excel. While I ended up pretty satisfied with the service, they didn’t do a great job of leaving a first impression.
The chat client on their website isn’t really dedicated to answering questions. Rather, it prompts you to leave your full name, company name, email address, AND phone number to later be contacted with answers.
I would expect these details to be important for the sign-up process, but when you’re just trying to get a question answered in chat, it’s overwhelming. Especially since you have to start the process over again each time you try to use the chat.
The rest of my customer service interactions were brief but pleasant. I would only complain somewhat about some clunky language and grammar errors in their customer service emails.
They don’t overwhelm you with emails, and they never called me (perhaps due to my insistence that they didn’t). But Design Shifu’s impersonal attitude towards customer service is an odd choice. Every interaction I had was with an anonymous sales team member—I never even knew my designer’s name.
Communicating with designers
Design Shifu’s design request form is pretty intuitive. You can select from a broad range of templates (some of which you can’t access on the basic plan). I’m not sure if there are any differences between the templates except for the dimension options.
After you choose your dimensions, you get space to describe your request and type out any copy you need, plus select a file type, a brand, and upload resources. Of all the odd features on this platform, one of the weirdest is that the space for uploading files and the space for sharing files by link are on separate pages.
Like customer service representatives, designers appear nameless as simply “Team Design Shifu.” I don’t know if one or multiple designers worked on my projects, or if the same designer(s) who created the first drafts did the revisions. I also never got any responses to my feedback, just revised files the next day.
How to cancel your Design Shifu subscription
As previously mentioned, Design Shifu only offers refunds under certain conditions, and if you use the service for more than 14 days, you’re out of luck. While you can cancel at any time, their strict refund policy isn’t the only hurdle you’ll face.
As you can see above, you cancel your plan by clicking a button that says… “Pause Plan.” I was actually moments away from trying to cancel through the Support menu before I clicked on that—it’s really confusing!
You can choose to pause, cancel, or close your account.
- Pausing your account means you can easily restart at any time, but you have to pay $9/mo to keep it paused after the first 90 days.
- Canceling your account means you stop paying and lose all your current progress, but if you ever choose to sign up again, your old account can be restored.
- Closing your account permanently erases all your information.
To redeem my refund, I submitted a support ticket right after I canceled my account. As usual, they got back to me within 24 hours and said my refund would process in 7-14 days.
Design Shifu graphic designs - 5/5
I did something a little unorthodox this time and used a real-life brand: Forever Stoked Creative, a tabletop game studio based in Connecticut. I asked for a redesigned logo that could be used for social media and packaging with fantasy elements.
1st draft designs
In a matter of hours, I received 4 different logo designs. I was seriously impressed with the variety and quality of these logos, all of which matched the branding elements and guidelines I specified in my request.
In my feedback, I nixed the first logo and asked to see how the others looked against a lighter background. I also asked for a font changed for the F and C in the dragon logo, and for the C in the tower logo to be changed to an S.
2nd draft designs
The next day, I woke up to 6 logo variants, including 3 designs in 2 colors each. All of my requests were met for this revision—but I knew that I’d need to do another round of revisions to take advantage of the deal.
As impressed as I was with the designs, I didn’t like how the font in the dragon logo itself didn’t match the text font underneath. I also asked if it would be possible to redesign the Aztec logo so it looked like a face both upside down and right side up.
3rd draft design
The next day, they had my revisions ready once again, but the results were not quite as thorough as before. The tower design, which I didn’t ask for any revisions to, was included in my design package exactly as it was before.
I was happy with the changes to the dragon logo, but the Aztec logo, which I asked for a revision on, was also left unchanged. To be fair, I put it in the form of a question, and my request may have been too vague or challenging to complete in a single day.
The real problem, once again, is the lack of communication. I would feel much more positively about this delivery if the designer(s) told me that they were having trouble with my request. It’s where Design Shifu’s anonymous style starts to bite them.
Final thoughts on Design Shifu
What sets Design Shifu apart from other design services?
The thing that most stuck out to me about Design Shifu was the lack of personification. I never saw a name or photo from anyone on the Design Shifu team. My designs, the work of one or a few people, were credited simply to “Team Design Shifu.”
Most other design services put their people front and center, but this style might be attractive to businesses looking for an automated solution. But remember, just like automated food service, someone still has to make the food.
Who is Design Shifu best for?
If you’re looking for the most cost-effective design solution possible, Design Shifu’s $399/mo Unlimited plan might be just that. But if cost isn’t your #1 priority, I’d argue there’s better options out there.
Design Shifu pros and cons
- Quality designs
- $399 Unlimited plan
- Simple, useful features
- Mediocre web app
- Limited features on Unlimited plan
- Poor communication
How unlimited is it?: Design Shifu can do it all… for the right price. On the basic Unlimited plan, you’ll be aware of the design services you don’t have access to. While they keep integrations and revision tools behind a paywall, they still offer unlimited designs, revisions, brands, and team members. 4/5
Value: Design Shifu’s basic Unlimited plan is one of the cheapest out there and still offers a pretty decent volume of designs. You’re likely to get a solid package of quality graphic designs, but limits on refunds and file types—plus pricey premium plans—hold it back. 3/5
User experience: The Design Shifu web app leaves a lot to be desired from a design perspective, which is important when you’re a… design service. But underneath that rough exterior, it’s fairly easy to use. 3/5
Communication: There’s a cold anonymity to Design Shifu that makes communication difficult. I never got any comments from my designers, I didn’t know anybody’s name, and trying to get questions answered before you sign up is a bit of a nightmare. 2/5
Graphic designs: At the end of the day, what really counts is the designs themselves, and Design Shifu definitely shows strongly in that category. I got a wide variety of high-quality logo designs delivered in under 24 hours. Designers followed directions and showed creativity. 5/5
Overall score: 3.6/5 🖌️