When you’re looking to get design work done online, where do you go? Among other broader choices, for strictly design-oriented sites you’re left with DesignCrowd vs 99designs by Vistaprint. At first glance, these design services may look similar, but there’s a lot going on under the surface. Unless you dig a little deeper, you may end up with a final product that’s underwhelming or overpriced.
There’s a lot of different factors at play—designer skill and design quality, design contests vs hiring a freelancer directly—so I thought I’d lay it all out and let you decide which one is best for you.
99designs vs DesignCrowd: Who’s who
99designs and DesignCrowd are both Australian-based crowdsourcing services for graphic design work that were founded in 2008… So what’s the difference?
Not just the bigger of the two, 99designs is the biggest creative platform for professional designers to find and do work online. By the numbers, it has:
- 1.4 million registered designers in its community
- $200 million paid out to designers to date
Its size allows it to specialize in a diverse range of design products, from the standards like web and logo design, to more distinct fields like musical album covers or 3D designs like product prototypes and wearables. It’s also a global community, with clients and designers from Argentina to Zimbabwe, ensuring that a multitude of languages and cultural styles are covered within their reach.
DesignCrowd is not as big as 99designs, but that offers its own advantages as well. By the numbers, it has:
- 640,000 designers in its community
- $47 million revenue to date
Like 99designs, DesignCrowd also maintains a global presence across 165 countries, although their numbers limit their reach compared to 99designs. The difference in size of the two companies leads to differences in their business models, both good and bad.
Design contests and one-on-one projects
On paper, 99designs and DesignCrowd seem to connect clients with designers in the same way. However, their approaches vary, specifically in how easy or difficult it is for clients to hire designers directly or commission a design contest, where various designers submit samples of design work based on the client’s description, and the client chooses the one they like best.
Although they both offer direct hiring on projects, DesignCrowd really focuses mainly on design contests and optimizes its services less around directly working with designers. 99designs, though, aims to be the go-to source whenever you need a design, no matter what your preferred approach is; it’s optimized equally well for direct hiring and design contests.
Design contest pricing
Comparing prices between the two is a little hazy. Although both quote prices by project categories and offer different tiered packages, you need to take a closer look at the results you can expect with each before you make a choice. Let’s compare logo design contests:
Logo design contest pricing at 99designs:
Logo design contest pricing at DesignCrowd:
At DesignCrowd it’s generally cheaper to get a logo designed. Both DesignCrowd and 99designs let you choose packages at different price points and charge additional fees for extra features, like keeping your project out of search engines (and out of the hands of competitors) or fast-tracking your project. But there are some important considerations to keep in mind when reviewing the two pricing charts.
The main difference here is what you get for your money. The more you pay at DesignCrowd the more design submissions you can expect to get, regardless of the designers’ skill level. At 99designs, choosing a more expensive package means that more high-level designers will participate in your contest and you can expect to get more top-notch submissions.
DesignCrowd estimates that their plan for $719 delivers over 150 designs based on averages from previous projects, while 99designs’ Gold package at $799 brings in approximately 90 designs. If you upgrade to the Platinum package, however, you can expect to get only 60 designs. Why is that?
Clearly, it’s not just about the number of designs, there’s a lot to be said about the quality of the designs you receive. With DesignCrowd, you receive more designs, but you won’t know the skill of the designers those designs come from. When you pick the Gold package at 99designs, you’ll receive submissions from Mid- or Top-Level designers only (and the Platinum package gives you submissions from Top-Level designers only). This brings us to our next point…
What you’re paying extra for with 99designs is a better rank of designer. That’s not to say the designers on DesignCrowd are bad—far from it, many are noticeably quite talented—but both the size of 99designs’ community and its process for sorting its members delivers better quality designers with more consistency.
For starters, DesignCrowd organizes their designers using only the user rating of five stars. This user rating is the sole metric for determining their rank, so if clients fail to rate the designer, they essentially fall outside the system. In fact, of the 600,000+ designers on their site, only around 42,000 of them have ratings at all. Using actual ratings, they only rank 7%.
99designs uses a more involved treatment, including personal assessment by the 99designs staff. In addition to a 5-star user rating (plus written customer reviews, which DesignCrowd lacks), a designer’s bio includes full stats on their repeat clients, response time and contest wins. They also include the designer’s category specializations, such as logo, brochure and app design, so clients can find a designer suited for their project. All these factors, plus individual evaluation from the 99designs team, determine whether the designer is classified as Entry, Mid or Top Level.
On top of that, 99designs’ pool of designers is more than twice as big. That means more specialists in individual fields, particularly the less common ones like restaurant menus or car decals. When it comes to crowdsourcing, bigger “crowds” mean better results.
Design contest process
The process of conducting a design contest is mostly the same with 99designs vs DesignCrowd. Both have clients fill out a design brief to explain what they want. Both have designers present their design concepts, with an option to invite specific designers to join. Both give you time at the end of the contest to give feedback to your selected designers and fine-tune their work before completion. Both offer a money-back satisfaction guarantee.
There are some notable differences, though. For one thing, 99designs’ briefing process is more in-depth. DesignCrowd offers a standard, one-page textual briefing where clients write out what they’re looking for.
But 99designs goes deeper in trying to understand the client’s style preferences and, in the case with logo design, brand identity.
Designers rely on accurate input to give clients what they want, but clients aren’t always the best communicators. The extra inclusions from 99designs—one of which is choosing other companies’ logos they like to gauge their style—give designers the data they need for more effective results.
Finding and hiring designers one-on-one
As I mentioned above, DesignCrowd focuses more on design contests than one-on-one projects. In fact, they don’t even advertise the “One Designer Service Project” as they call it—I had to look through the FAQs before finding the link I needed.
To hire a designer one-on-one, you must first find a designer you like by browsing their Freelance Designer page. This page is designed to invite particular designers to join your contest, and is not helpful in hiring them for one-on-one work. Once you find a designer you like, you can click on their bio, where they list their one-on-one services and their fees at the bottom of the page.
99designs is a completely different story. Starting on the home page, the entire site is built to help you pick the right option for your needs, be it finding a designer for a one-on-one project or starting a design contest. Also, categorizing designers by their specializations, contest records and proficiency level is inherently attuned to user searches, making it easy to match the right designers with clients, no matter what their needs are.
Moreover, 99designs’ Find a Designer search tool offers a variety of filters so clients can truly hone in on designers that meet their criteria:
- Categories. Which fields the designer specializes in, both general (“web & app design”) and specific (“icon or button” design).
- Industries. Which industries the designer works in most, with 42 options like “medical & pharmaceutical,” “physical fitness” or “wedding services.”
- Last activity. When the designer was online at 99designs last, including an “online now” option.
- Languages. Designer’s language fluencies, with 11 choices.
- Designer level. Search specifically for Entry, Mid or Top Level designers.
Plus, you can always use the search bar for specific keywords, like “funny,” “cute” or “psychedelic.”
99designs vs DesignCrowd: Final verdict
Now that I’ve broken down all the differences, here’ my final verdict: It’s actually quite simple. If your main concerns are price and expenses, go with DesignCrowd. If you’re prioritizing design quality and netting a better caliber of designer, go with 99designs. That seems to be the way each site has set themselves up: DesignCrowd built its pricing model around undercutting 99designs’ cost, while 99designs puts emphasis on getting the best results possible thanks to optimized processes and first-class designers. For your next design project, it’s just a question of affordability vs quality.