Logo Design Love

For graphic designers and all who love logos.

The kiddie designers of 99designs

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised about spec websites pitching 11-year-olds as an alternative to professional designers.

99designs child labor

99designs child labor

99designs child labor

99designs child labor

99designs child labor

More elsewhere:
Children designers on design contest & crowdsourcing sites?

Update: 22 January 2010
I don’t see spec websites as competition, so I don’t show this out of spite. It’s the shady practices that concern me. I’m all for kids wanting to experiment with design, and it’s good that they’re being proactive, but have you seen the comment threads on these contests? Rife with accusations, some real foul-mouthed snarks — no place for a youngster to learn how great the design profession is. In fact, it’s a quick way to turn-off the future generation of designers rather than encourage them.

Logo Design Love: A Guide to Creating Iconic Brand Identities

102 appreciated comments

  1. Brian

    I really wish this site and all of the similar spec supported companies fail miserably. Letting a child in to the Industry just because they like to make things look pretty is not ok. This should not be supported and should be enforced against strictly.

  2. makes me want to barf.

  3. 11 year old kid with photoshop ≠ designer

    also…

    Any company that seeks design work through 99 designs or similiar spec sites ≠ a serious company

  4. Good post David. It’s really pisses me off (sorry if that’s distasteful language over there) how much damage these people are doing, but as long as they get there cut who cares about the design community, right?

  5. Nik

    Oh my god thats abit sick. I’m not a fan of design competition sites, I think it really devalues design in general and to have a future generation of designers thinking that this is normal. Its sure a good way to get practice, but I’m sure there are better ways than this.

    Sites like 99designs should have a minimum age limit and I think its socially irresponsible to allow children as young as 11 to tout themselves online in such as fashion.

    11 year olds should be doing what 11 year olds do, enjoying their youth!

  6. M.

    Designers are not special. Plenty of other businesses rely on specs – like companies that respond to RFPs. It happens every day. I am a designer and fully fine with spec work as competition. Be better than the next person. The free market has every right to price our work as it sees fit.

    And please, an 11-year old designing on his/her own time to try and win a contest is equatable here to child labor? Like a third-world kid making sneakers for $4 a day? Get some perspective. Entitled designers are the worst.

  7. But how good are these kids gonna be after 10 years of unpaid work? I’m a little frightened for the future of my business.

  8. Yeah it’s sick.

    But the thing is, the only people who lose out here are the business who get false expectations of the quality of work they will get and then are disappointed when the teenagers don’t produce professional results. Any business looks for ways to cut costs and maybe they see this as a cost-effective solution.

    One month later when the sh*t hits the fan they learn their lesson and hire a real designer.

    You can’t really blame the “designers” who participate on those sites. If I was 11 and thought I might be able to make some money from my hobby I’d sign up too. If they’re happy working for nothing, then let them. Those aren’t my potential clients so it doesn’t affect me.

  9. I must admit, in my early days at University I often used 99designs to earn a quick pound or two (even though most times my designs came to nothing!). However I’ve since grown frustrated and annoyed by the site.

    It’s clear the people publishing these ‘briefs’ care nothing about true design and just want something that looks how they imagined in their head.

    In fairness I’ve come across a couple of clearly talented people on 99designs. Designers who obviously thought about the projects and put a lot of effort in. However, rarely, if ever did these people end up winning the competition. There are too many people on their (some crazy ages!) who just copy current design trends to please the ‘client’.

  10. My opinion of these crowdsourcing sites has never been good, but this goes too far. These so-called ‘design prodigies’ are not doing anyone any favors. Just because they can, doesn’t mean they should.

    Kids doing professional design work is at best a novelty and should never have been allowed to begin with. As a parent, I would never allow my child to participate on these sites, let alone post their age on their profile. Some might call this innocent and fun, but it wreaks of exploitation at its worst. This is so far from a school art show.

    As I’ve noticed with some of other kids boasting their ages on some Twitter profiles (I can think of a web designer in particular), they certainly lack the emotional maturity to handle themselves appropriately. As we’ve come to find out with the JulieK situation (http://bit.ly/h3J5v) of last year, many don’t understand the legal and ethical standards of logo and web design and aren’t able do judge right and wrong. At least not before they get themselves in a heap of trouble. In her case, it’s over before she even got started. The internet never forgets.

    Of course, there’s a flip side. You never know if they’re lying.

    David, thanks for bringing this to light.

  11. @ M. – What do you mean we aren’t special? Maybe not the way you do it, but my mom told me I was special, and I hold to that. lol. :D Kidding.

    But seriously, “Be better than the next person. The free market has every right to price our work as it sees fit. ” It doesn’t matter if you are better than the next person, when the contest is closed without a winner and the company takes all the ideas generated and gets them done elsewhere, so that statement doesn’t fit too much. And the free market doesn’t set the pricing for anything else, the manufacturer’s and retailers determine the price of their products. And just as every other service provider sets the price of their services, why shouldn’t we be the ones to determine what our services are worth?

    “And please, an 11-year old designing on his/her own time to try and win a contest is equatable here to child labor?” Actually, in cases like these, it is the principle that you need to look at. This is the acceptable forms of child labor for the US. The beginning of the slope. Warning, things get slippery ahead. (at least that’s the way I see it, entitlement or no) And besides, kids need to be kids and not be worried about trying to make a buck. Why encourage them to prematurely enter the workforce? Anyway, my two cents.

  12. Adam

    I think that 99designs is aimed at a totally different market, any savvy business owner will know the difference between a professionally designed logo, branding package or website and they will be willing to pay.

    We often get clients that have started their business and used 99designs to get a quick logo and maybe some stationary but when they get to a stage where they need a full corporate identity and branding package they come to us.

    It is a double edged sword, yes you may lose some business because the clients will go there and it cheaper and with more options, but is that really the client that you want? And quite often it will make the client realise the value of customer service and the reason why they should deal with a professional.

    Are you also saying that McDonalds should fail because they are producing low quality food on mass for a cheap price (personally I say yes, but thats another matter…lol) or that affordable houusing should be banned because it is undercutting architects and reducing the quality of housing?

    There is room in the market for everyone.

  13. RG

    Coming from an asian perspective, winning (if that’s even possible) one of those “contests” could actually equate to a month’s salary for some of us. However much I disagree with these kind of sites, it does actually come in handy during “low” months. As for kids doing it, well, it does buy them an iPod/PS3/(insert your fave gadget here)… IF they win, that is. Cheers.

  14. Alex

    This looks and smells like a frame-up, especially considering the logo itself executed quite well.

    Also this – 99designs is keeping costs down through the use of unpaid child designers – is tabloid way of presenting facts, not classy. Not classy at all.

  15. When I was a kid I would have LOVED the opportunity to have had my work used in this way, totally without payment. If these profiles are real, their work is pretty great for their age.

    There’s nothing wrong with eager kids building up a portfolio. I don’t think you should be putting work out to them but the kids participating isn’t a problem at all from where I’m standing. Not letting kids take part in activities like these is more ethically dubious IMHO.

    I remember being a kid and being told what I “couldn’t” do – good on these ones.

  16. How Shocking! As a non graphic designer, your rants on these crowd sourced design sites, really bug me. So now it’s evil for kids who are interested in graphic design to build their skills using real world briefs!

    What we should do to stamp out this evil evil practice out is approach every parliament of every country and lobby that the only people who may practice graphic design are “qualified experts”, who have studied at the most prestigious art schools known to man.

    Lets get a grip, it’s graphic design, and I know it’s your chosen industry, but basic fact is anyone can be a graphic designer (results may vary), and lots of people are going to give it a go, so there is going to be a lot of competition, and there is nothing wrong with that, because graphic design is a visual medium, there is no actual right and wrong, it is subjective, and competition is usually good.

    The best designers will continue to rise to the top, and the biggest, most lucrative companies are going to continue to commission the best designers.

    So how about you get off your elitist high chair, and stop hating on people who are trying to get their foot in the graphic design door, and stop hating on small startup companies that don’t have the budget to commission top shelf expensive designers.

  17. @ M.

    You have a screw loose.

    No reasonable and good person will deal directly with children for the purpose of exploiting them, no matter if it’s US, UK, or some third-world backwater. Your line of reasoning is ultimately similar to that of unscrupulous business people, from time immemorial who said “what’s the harm” in hiring kids, which is a slippery slope that leads right to the kid in the third-world sweat shop making $4 a day for products no one in 500 miles of his home will ever be able to afford. Your relativism has the stench of self-servitude.

    Leave work to adults, or to children of the right age with the right parental supervision and right remuneration in a way that does not set up a compromise between profit and education and child development.

    You are the one who sounds entitled with your “right” to do whatever you want. Knock yourself out, but keep kids out of it. M’kay?

    I’d love to see your “design portfolio” but of course you did not provide it, which was a smart move on your part. You either don’t have one, don’t have one worth showing, or dare not show your “original” work on a site like this. Prove me wrong and I’ll eat my words.

  18. @ PinballLes

    “…there is no actual right and wrong, it is subjective…”

    You sound pretty sure about that. However, I would restate this as:

    “…there is actual right and wrong, it is not subjective…”

    And so who is right? The principle at stake is just wrong and it has nothing to do with just designers, of course.

    Anyone that would solicit and accept work from a minor for free and in turn make money is doing something wrong, objectively. These types of “crowd source” design sites excel at blurring the lines and always cry “what harm is there?” It reminds me a quote from a famous book that says “the law is for the lawless…”. Indeed, but we can’t make enough laws for the lawless who seem to have limitless creativity, not in design, but for getting around common decency in many off-color ways.

  19. @ Douglas Bonneville

    The people posting the briefs are not actually soliciting the work of minors. They are simply soliciting the work of the members of the website, some who it seem, happen to be minors. Judging by the screen shots included in this post none of the submissions by minors have been selected as winning designs. It seems maybe the people seeking the design are responsible enough to not select a minors work as the winning design.

    So really where is the harm? The kids are no doubt doing something they enjoy (I doubt they are being forced at gun point), they are developing their skills, and they are keeping themselves busy. Isn’t that a good thing? Teenagers who are using their time to do something productive, rather than something destructive.

    And yeah, graphic design is subjective, and hence there is no right and wrong. It means, I could draw something, one person will like it, someone else will hate it, does that make it wrong? No.

  20. First, design is less subjective than you think. Ask a professional.

    Second, not properly vetting for age is no excuse for “not soliciting” minors for free labor. And because minors don’t know they are conned does not mean it’s right to con them. “Where is the harm…” is a question nobody can answer for you really. Some things just don’t need explaining.

  21. @PinballLes

    “And yeah, graphic design is subjective, and hence there is no right and wrong. It means, I could draw something, one person will like it, someone else will hate it, does that make it wrong? No.”

    Graphic design is not subjective, and it’s certainly not just about “drawing something”. It’s about achieving the goal for the client based on their needs using visual communication in it’s many forms. Aesthetics are not visual communication. This one sentence proves you have no idea about the industry.

    It’s competitions like this that make people like you think lesser of the design profession. You are a perfect example of the damage this does to us. Anyone who thinks design is just “making it look pretty” does not know design at all, so please, don’t tell us what our profession is about.

    You need to work with a real designer.

  22. I don’t see spec websites as competition, so I don’t voice an opinion out of spite. It’s the shady practices going on that concern me. I’m all for 11 year olds wanting to experiment with design. Absolutely. But have you seen the comment threads on many contests? Accusations are rife, some real foul-mouthed snarks — no place for a youngster to learn how great the design profession actually is. In fact, it’s a quick way to turn off the future generation of designers rather than encourage them.

    Thanks for the debate, everyone.

  23. @Anthony Short – amen.

    There’s nothing to fear from 99 Designs, mainly that they do not offer graphic design services, they offer art.

    I’d like to think that we don’t strive to work for clients who’d go on 99Designs.

  24. I’m surprised so many designers are actually upset by these sites. I would rather have wannabe designers wasting their time on this scheme than trying to compete with us in the real world.

    That really would lower the market value of design. Let them compete with each other, and let us do business.

  25. @ Marty

    Read this article:

    http://justcreativedesign.com/2008/05/22/why-logo-design-does-not-cost-5-dollars/

    These sites promote a false reality that design work is of so little value that it should be done for free. The people that participate in these schemer-sites are just hoodwinking the young and uninitiated. There are far better and more useful ways to “get in the game” or “get a portfolio” but these snake oil salesman lurk on the corners. Google “logo design” and see just how many absurd companies pop up.

  26. M.

    @ Rob Bowen – I hear you, man. Respectfully, I don’t quite agree with your slippery slope analogy that leads from an ambitious 11-year old on his folks’ iMac practicing design for fun, with any profit a fun bonus, to children that are literally working in terrible conditions for meager food, shelter and clothing. If an 11-year old enters a songwriting contest and wins, is that child labor? What about a painting competition? There is a show of child artwork in the lobby of the building I work in right now – have those children been exploited? I think a little perspective is in order; any designer I know that says they wouldn’t have loved to have had a 99designs type site to enter ideas into as a kid is lying. I would have done anything to enter a “real” competition.

    As far as pricing, as much as it pains to say, designers can only “set the price of their work” in a vacuum. When there are more options, you have to adjust. Since design is something people like to do, and will willingly do for free or without expectation of payment, the downward pressure on cost is inevitable given the a marketplace that connects enough people. The internet, and by extension, spec sites & craigslist, are this marketplace.

    Say you gave great foot rubs, liked doing it, were known to be good at it, and charged a premium which many in your town paid for the honor. You’d have a pretty good deal going on. If someone then opened a foot rub marketplace in your town square, where amateur givers and receivers were free to find each other and connect on their own terms, you would have to deal with price pressure and expectation from some (not all) of your potential customers. And you would have nothing to complain about. That’s life.

  27. Howard

    @PinballLes

    Did you promise an 11-year old a PS3 to design your site?

  28. Stomach = sick.

    I can’t believe that you don’t actually have to be of legal employment age to join these sites.

    Similarly, there’s a reason why you wouldn’t hire an 11 year old lawyer to protect you, or visit an 11 year old doctor (Doogie Howser excluded.)

  29. M.

    @ Douglas Bonneville I linked my small and admittedly less than perfectly designed web shop here so you can pass judgment from on high.

    The problem you have, besides an obviously healthy ego, is that you see design only as “work.” And, done well by people for whom it is a business, it is hard work. But it is also “fun” – I’m guessing that’s why you got into it (assuming you are a designer). It’s why I did. A kid who catches the design bug, finds 99designs, and says “hey, I can do this!” and spends a few afternoons creating a design to submit – he/she is having fun. They are working from inspiration, not desperation (as are child laborers, and those being exploited).

    Don’t worry though, I’m sure the ambitious and talented 11 year olds on 99designs are, because it exists, far, far further along than you were at 11; and they’ll be better at 21, 31, and 41 too if they stick with it. Sucks to be the last guy on the streetcar sometimes, but that’s how it goes.

  30. When I was eleven, I entered an American Red Cross poster contest through my school along with several most of my classmates. I was in 6th grade and beat out all the 7th and 8th graders. I got a $50 savings bond and the Red Cross got promotional mileage out of it. It was fun, I got some cash, and it benefited a worthy cause. It was also overseen by a school administrator and their counterpart at the Red Cross. My parents were also informed.

    That was a legitimate contest.

    I have been an artist and designer my entire life and have never been in another professional line of work. And, I’m all for 11 year olds getting good in ways unimaginable when I was a kid. I seek those opportunities for my own kids.

    But I’m against commercial exploitation of children under the guise of a “contest” or any other ridiculous ruse. “Fun” isn’t the issue. If it’s all fun, then lets just have a contest and popular vote and keep commercial exploitation out of the loop.

    You are talking about this as if “fun” is the only factor. I’m talking about if it’s ethical to harness, as an adult in a commercial venture, the “fun” output of minors. Should a child even be on these sites?

    You know this all seems like the modern day equivalent of “Draw Trippy”. You’d draw Tippy and be “approved” to “apply” and pay money to the “art institute”.

    http://www.creativepro.com/article/creativeprose-tippy-the-turtle-and-pirates-too-

    How many kids enter these contest sites with high hopes? Working really hard in a vacuum not knowing really what they are doing from a professional point of view. I think of my own kids getting caught up in the excitement. How horrible when they are let down.

    The “it’s not hurting anyone” argument you hold isn’t as fully informed as it could be. To say my position is from “on high” is exactly backwards. It’s because I’ve taken time to get informed that I take such a strong position against these kinds of sites, and for reasons more than just the exploitation of kiddies.

  31. M., I’m not sure where you got the impression that this was about 11 year olds threatening the jobs of professional designers. It’s far from it.

    Allow me to quote a comment from the Logo Design Love Facebook page discussion on this very topic, written by Steve Douglas, and with which I agree:

    “That’s not the point at all (and I’m not sure where in the original article that was even mentioned). This issue has nothing to do with threats.

    “Either design contest sites are a professional service (as they’re marketed) or they’re not. If they’re a “Gee shucks, an eleven year old did this, how cute” service, then fine. If it’s the [professional service], I have no issue with competing against crowdsourcing companies. If it’s the [how cute service], I’d probably help some kids to win contests, not compete against them. I’m okay with either, but so-called crowdsourcing sites can’t have it both ways.

    “Further, and if they are the [how cute service], there are legal ramifications. Privacy restrictions (required by anti-predator laws in some jurisdictions), kids can’t agree to legal contracts (user agreements and copyright transfers) without parent’s consent (which probably means they need parental consent to sign up in the first place, and there’s no indication that this has even been considered). Then there’s the fact these kids aren’t even getting pocket money from their designs, while the host site are including those designs as part of their services, and charging their clients for same. It’s as close as you can get to unpaid child labor without technically being so. It’s a simple adult vs. child equation. Professional or not.

    “And if you’re okay competing with 11 year olds, have at it. Personally, I don’t compete against kids in most things because they either kick my ass (in sports or video games) or I don’t have the heart to (as in this instance) as they’re, well, kids. As an adult, I’m hardwired to want kids to win in any endeavor they engage in. Aren’t you?”

  32. M.

    @ David – I understand that the reason this post came about was specifically about children submitting work to crowd-sourcing sites. (It quickly became, as always seems to be the case when they are brought up, a referendum on the nature of those sites in general; hence my comments about the marketplace.) So to stay with the specific point of your original post: I do not think submissions from children are threatening serious designers. I do not think children are being harmed by the experience of designing for the fun and practice of it – the sport of it, if you will – and likely losing out to better designers. I don’t think it’s harmful in any way, emotionally or morally. In fact, I think it’s positive and will lead to grooming better, more serious, and more capable designers in the future.

    You bring up a valid point about contracts; to the extent that a minor has done good enough work to be in the position of signing a contract for successful work, I’m sure it can be done without much issue, as it is in other fields where children do and are paid for exceptional accomplishments. In that case, the kid is to be applauded, not pitied.

    There will always be concerns about online safety and predatory behavior in any location where people interact online, but that’s way larger than a design discussion; that’s internet-wide. And of course kids have a higher tendency to do bad and punishable things, like stealing work; those problems for the most part need to be dealt with specifically until there is far more evidence of wrongdoing on the part of would-be young designers.

    As you said, this isn’t about competing work with children (at least, your original post isn’t), so your last point about being “ok competing with 11 year olds” isn’t really a valid counter. But in the sense that some 11 year olds are talented, and virtually all of them are throwing things into galleries on 99designs for fun, yeah, I’m completely ok with it.

  33. @M “A kid who catches the design bug, finds 99designs, and says “hey, I can do this!” and spends a few afternoons creating a design to submit – he/she is having fun.”

    True. As a kid, I’d probably have done the same. But that isn’t the issue. Those designs are being offered as part of a *commercial* service, by a for-profit company, to other companies who’ve paid for access to same. Your hypothetical “kid”, all starry-eyed about design, gets jack. Let’s keep that in mind…

    “They are working from inspiration, not desperation (as are child laborers, and those being exploited).”

    The technical definition of ‘exploitation’ has little to do with voluntary/involutary, “desperation” or motives of those who might be exploited. It has to do with the entity that’s doing the exploiting. Wiki has a definition (I won’t paste the entire page, it’s easy to find) but I’ll quote the salient parts that might be appropriate to this issue:

    “In political economy, economics, and sociology, exploitation involves a persistent social relationship in which certain persons are being mistreated or unfairly used for the benefit of others.”

    Are design contests ‘unfair’? It could be argued yes. Are the designs being submitted ‘used for the benefit of others’? You betcha.

    The definition also involves “Short-changing people in trade”. Do design contests ‘short change’ people in trade? Obviously they do, as most don’t get paid, even though the service, and designs submitted, have a defacto value, as indicated by the fact that some DO get paid, and contest holders PAY for the service.

    Continuing, WIki also describes exploitation as referring to “the act of using another person’s labor without offering them an adequate compensation.” Does that apply here? Of course it does. Not only do the majority of designers, including your gung-ho kid not get paid ‘adequate compensation’, they don’t get ANY compensation. Talent, ambition or the lack of same simply isn’t part of the equation.

    There’s very little doubt that design contests are exploitative. The question is, are you okay with that exploitation? If you are, fine. Some of us aren’t.

  34. M.

    @ Douglas – Thanks – a very valid explication of your side. I’m glad to know you are not against kids trying their hands at design contests at a young age. And I agree that things can get shady if things aren’t very well supervised. Your point about parental notification, for one thing, is something I’m in complete agreement with.

    However, we’ve now gone from exploitation and child labor down the path to “I think of my own kids getting caught up in the excitement. How horrible when they are let down.” Protecting kids from disappointment is much different than protecting them from labor exploitation. It’s valid, for sure, but in another universe of concern.

    It’s obvious you care about your kids and in general want kids to grow up as healthy designers; I think we can agree on that.

  35. M.

    @ Steve – I don’t agree that it fits the definition of exploitation, in that an ambitious kid submitting a design *is* getting a justifiable return and payment – not “jack” – in experience, in the thrill of competing in a real contest, in maybe getting design feedback, and maybe, just maybe, in winning a prize.

    Not all payment is in cash, in the same sense that not all designers (of any age) need or expect money to justify what they do.

  36. “I don’t agree that it fits the definition of exploitation, in that an ambitious kid submitting a design *is* getting a justifiable return and payment – not “jack” – in experience, in the thrill of competing in a real contest, in maybe getting design feedback, and maybe, just maybe, in winning a prize.”

    Fair enough. But taking your point – *if* entering a contest offers “a justifiable return and payment”, from your perspective, kids *are* being paid to offer design services to commercial entities. That’s another thing entirely.

    See, I kinda figured it was a break in the system of these sites, something that occurred through happenstance, and, quite frankly, something they completely overlooked when then set up their registration forms. Are you now telling me that you’re okay with minors (which they are) being subbed out to commercial entities for the profit of third parties?

    Interesting POV if you are.

  37. nina douglas

    I don’t think the kids are being exploited. I would have done this as a child had I the opportunity. I think the company needs to have an educational program for designers under 18 about using other people’s work in their logos, etc. Intellectual property really has to be explained to children who are entering into logo design contests.

  38. @ M:

    “Protecting kids from disappointment” is a side issue, but it stems directly from the exploitation which is my point. This is a form it takes. But I digress.

    The only experience a child gets in submitting a design to a contest site is how to submit a design to a contest site.

    Your position is that these sites are not exploiting anyone. However, you are just missing it entirely, which explains why you are OK with it. You don’t see it, I’m afraid.

    On the most basic level, letting children work for you for free with no legal protection is clearly stupid. I’d urge you to rethink your position and realize that this should be a no-go area.

  39. M.

    @ Steve – Here is precisely what I am ok with: design-interested, ambitious kids entering free online contests that give them an honest sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. If the system is set up so that others (like third parties) might also benefit from their occasionally exceptional work, and the designers are then further rewarded, and all is conducted above the board with parental supervision, then: no, it does not bother me in the slightest.

    The position you assigned to me (“subbed out”, et al) was quite trumped up.

    @ Douglas – Resorting to the “you don’t get it” tactic is really the last place an argument can go, so I won’t belabor your point. I’ll try one more analogy: if an 11-year old kid was commenting in this space, and it was extremely compelling, and the audience for this page grew – say, doubled – because of his/her commentary, and logodesignlove, through the ads it has on the sidebar up there on the right, sold a few extra books from the bookstore – was the child exploited for this blog’s financial gain? If you really believe that, then there should be an age restriction on the commenting feature.

    Oh: be sure not to give business to any American Idol sponsors, either. What are the auditioning kids getting out of that, besides empty promises?

    I get the sense that you and a subset of designers are hiding behind a haughty moral high ground in order to further denigrate a way of doing business (spec work) that they feel threatened by.

  40. Alphonse

    Sometimes I’m embarrassed to be a designer. This is one of those times.

    These sites really can’t get any sketchier. A client buying services off these sites probably has like a 50/50 chance it was done on pirated software, stolen, or at the very least 72dpi.

  41. @ M:

    Resorting to the “you don’t get it” is also the place a discussion goes at times when one party *actually does not get it*. It actually happens from time to time. You aren’t getting the point some of us with this point of view are making.

    Your example of the commenting on this site is not the same. There is no contest nor pretense of reward. There is only the expectation, among all good bloggers, that good thoughtful commentary is like a rising tide that lifts all ships – a real community of give and take. I comment on David’s site and he has commented on mine. That’s just NICE.

    I can’t bring myself to watch American Idol. I have never one time tuned into it. I can’t stand to see people get crushed like that, so I do stick to my principles. And the exact same principles make me feel sick when I see spec work being done. I have seen youtube clips, but even then, little kids don’t end up on American Idol or Britain’s Got Talent without proper legal representation, parental or otherwise, I assure you of that!

    You apply the “there’s no harm” rhetoric arm in arm with the “but what about…” diversion. Again, if you don’t see it, there is no point belaboring the discussion.

    Haughty moral high ground? Please! Kids should not be exploited, nor should they be allowed to participate in anything that might even look like it. If you call that moral high ground, I’m fine with that!

    Do you work for one of these sites somehow or are you really engaged in this philosophical debate on a truly altruistic level? I’m intrigued.

    I have never done spec work. I will never do it. I’ve personally never even been asked. I’ve never sought it out in 18 years of designing. I’d encourage a thousand different avenues for getting started to young designers other than spec work. I don’t feel threatened by spec work sites at all. Spec work is just end to end a bad deal put forth by unscrupulous business people looking for succers to give them valuable assets of one sort or another for free.

    How do you get the sense our subset feels threatened? By what exactly?

  42. M.

    @ Douglas – Agree to disagree, then. I could just as easily say “you don’t get it”, I suppose. I feel like I’m seeing this from a better, broader perspective than you are; it’s your right to feel the same.

    No, I don’t work for a spec site, and no, I don’t use them. I recall the first time I heard about 99designs – I immediately surfed around, picked a logo contest, and worked on it for a bit. Why? Because the particulars of the challenge caught my eye and I needed a small, focused creative activity to get myself revved up for a bigger freelance project. I did submit, and of course I didn’t win; for all I know, a 10 year old kid did. But I flexed some left-brain cells, got myself into a creative mindset and applied that to other things. I think this is precisely how designers of any age benefit from sites like 99designs. For supervised kids, who have no other outlets aside from amusing themselves and participating in the occasional design contest that caters to them, it’s especially valuable in this way.

    And I also just plain don’t like professionals in any line of work complaining that a new model is running them out of business. Any point of attack will do in order to prove the larger point, it seems. I have more of a “suck it up & do good work” attitude, I guess.

  43. Don’t judge the kids. Let them learn through example. I bet you would have killed for work the first times you opened Photoshop. How else are they supposed to learn? There are enough clients for everybody, said Jesus.

  44. Hi, interesting debate, I’ve only just found the thread and caught up so excuse me if my comment misses the mark. Technically, by the letter of the law (so to speak) these young designers are being exploited as are any other designer participating. Its serves as another argument as to whether these sites can validate their claims of being a professional service.

    The discussion seems to be one of ethics, while trying to place it into a context that is relevant to 99designs and how 99designs is used. As we are all probably aware ethics s a tricky subject especially within the field of design. Hopefully I don’t have to expand on this too much but in a global economy anything we help promote as designers run the risk of having links to some form of exploitation. So maybe we should be careful when talking about the “exploitation” argument, how many of us have really scrutinised our own work.

    Have I really got a problem with it? If pushed I’d have to say no. Have I got a problem with with sites such as 99designs undervaluing the profession and how they present themselves? etc etc….Yes.

    There are hazards to using sites like this, let people learn from their mistakes, I don’t engage with such sites so it really doesn’t concern me. If people get a bad experience using 99 designs then great, it supports our views about them.

    As for the kids being involved and exposed an adult community and being at risk, well this is the nature of things both in reality and online and is a much broader discussion. The internet certainly throws up a whole lot of new possibilities when it comes to social interaction and how people engage with each other. If your a responsible parent you should monitor your childs online activity.

    Some people take their kids to a pub where they are exposed to adult themed conversations that some parents would deplore.

    Like I said context, ethics and where you sit on a spectrum between two points of view.

    The best we can do is to continue educating new comers to the industry and those that come to us to use our services.

  45. Hi M.,

    About children using 99designs, you said you “think it’s positive and will lead to grooming better, more serious, and more capable designers in the future.”

    I disagree. Spec work websites, through their obvious ease of registration and participation, attract those who don’t care for design, but only for making a quick buck.

    Certainly, there are those who do care, but I’d hazard a guess they don’t stick around long after experiencing the spec marketplace first-hand — the numbers appear to back me up.

    I hear from quite a few designers who say they were left demoralized about the lack of constructive feedback on such websites, and the lack of support from site owners.

    The copyright infringement that occurs, the software piracy that’s openly admitted to, and the accusations of ripping-off other designers is no place to gain an education, or for kids to “dip their feet in the water.”

    Encourage children into design. Absolutely. I’ll be the first to offer congratulations when a potential client chooses them over me. But don’t encourage them into spec work marketplaces. There are many other avenues to follow — perhaps another post, for another day.

    Glen, I agree, we should absolutely be educating newcomers to the design profession about what goes on within it. That’s why I choose to bring up the topic of spec work every once in a while.

    Thanks for joining in the chat.

  46. Interesting post David!

    The price a company is willing to pay for branding and a logo is reflection of how they feel about their own company. I can’t afford it, is usually a codeword for I’m not sure my business is going to make it so I’m going to invest as little as possible.

    People use the money as an excuse. Yet, it’s never really about the money, it’s about something deeper. And it all feeds into itself, if you hand out business cards with the printing company’s logo stamped on it and your logo looks like an 11 year old in the UK designed it, that says a lot about how you feel about your company’s future prospects.

    Yes, a company might pay way more for a thoughtful logo. That money will come back to them tenfold because they’ll feel more confident about that business and be psychologically able to charge higher prices.

    Take anything really cheap, it falls apart sooner because the person making it didn’t have time to make it right. You end up replacing it quicker. Why not get something made well from the beginning? It’s less expensive in the long run.

    It’s up to the company to decide how it wants to be perceived. For that reason, I’ve chosen to peacefully co-exist with crowdsourcing.

    Thx!

    Giulietta

  47. There is no win for anyone with these spec sites, designers or clients. And to say that any sort of quality design is being made by an 11, 14 or even 16 year old is a joke. Even the majority of the adults on those sites are doing crap work. Some hack can get lucky every once in a blue moon and do half competent job. And there may be a few really talented youngsters out there that are doing exceptional work. But you cant look at the few exceptions to judge the whole.

    What qualifications does someone who has no art training have to art direct their own logo design or any other type of design project? Especially when the work is being done by “designers” who for the most part have no experience, design education or actual working experience at an agency or with any type of design related job. It’s basically the blind leading the blind. So what sort of good experience or feedback would a young designer get from an unqualified source? That would be exactly zero. What sort of quality do you really think you are going to get when anyone entering a contest is going to spend as little time as possible working on designs since they are most likely not going to be paid anyway. And if they do “win” you end up getting peanuts for the work.

    Design is subjective? Really? No, art as in fine art tends to be subjective because it is for the most part created just for the sake of being created. Someone creates a painting or other artwork and if other people like it good if not then so what. That would probably be a bit different for commissioned work. Design is geared towards business, sales, marketing strategies… There is a certain level of subjectivity because clients have their preferences as to style but what is presented to a client to select from should all be viable options so no matter what is selected they get a good design. You can’t just have a substandard design slapped together and call it a job well done. If the design does not represent a business well and is not appealing to the majority of their target market then you have some problems.

    This kind of thing really does affect the industry. It may not be felt by larger agencies but I know a lot of other independent designers like myself that can see how this has affected things. People start to expect free concepts and contests to be the norm. I get requests all the time to work on spec or to compete against other designers to create a logo, brochure or other design work for their business. Sometimes for no pay at all. And to top it off they stress the benefits of the fact that they will let me use the work in my portfolio. Seriously?!?!!!!!!!!! I will be “allowed” to use work that I created in the first place in my portfolio.

  48. M.

    I don’t really want to reignite this, but the post above is kind of exactly the attitude that bugs me about some designers w/r/t spec work. It’s the old, “Henry Ford used to offer only black cars” story. The industry changed due to competitive pressure (and to his chagrin I’m sure) and soon Ford had to offer multiple color schemes. This became the customer/client’s expectation based on competitive pressure and subsequent industry-wide innovation. Japanese cars put the same pressure on Detroit. The internet is putting the same pressure on, well, almost every form of traditional media. The burden is on the individual to figure it out; whining for the industry to stop evolving or to limit itself is a waste of time.

  49. I would hardly call the expectation of work for little or no pay an “evolution”.

  50. M.

    How about “reality.”

  51. @M. What exactly does Henry Ford have to do with the post above? Not much really, but if you want to bring old Henry to the table, fair enough…

    Ford, despite being an avid capitalist (and fiercely anti-union) was also an advocate for paying workers fair wages. He understood that not only did he get better work, but that his employees were also his customers (as were their friends, relatives, etc). By insuring that he put enough money into the economy, people could afford his product. Ford paid his workers *more* than the going rate, doubling the minimum daily wage of the day. He also reduced work weeks to the now-standard 40 hour one. At the time, Ford was heavily criticized by the Wall Street crowd, but stood by his belief that paying people more would enable his employees to not only afford his cars, but help the overall economy. Ford was also the first to offer his employees profit-sharing while remaining steadfast in his opposition to the unionization of his plants. Do you believe that Ford would have believed in free, or speculative, labor? Not likely. Your “Ford’s black car” analogy is a non-sequitur and has nothing to do with the issue being discussed in the thread.

    Criticizing a business model or social issue is not “whining”, though that is a phrase often used by opponents in ANY philisophical debate, usually by people who can’t intellectually rebuke the points made by people they’re debating with.

    The term ‘it’s reality’ is a fallacy, has been used to justify a lot of things, many more odious than spec work, and has nothing to do with whether something is right, wrong, good, beneficial or not.

  52. Josh

    I have not signed up for 99designs but the other two spec sites I have state in their TOS that you agree to that the user must be over 18.

    I assume that 99designs has this as well.

    This is a basic problem of the interwebs and not of spec sites in general. Anonimity. However I would prefer this to the alternative.

    Really a non-issue.

  53. OK This is true.. Me and my friends have been participating for a while and other than me none of them won anything, I’m not boasting or anything but I love what I do and I get paid for it.. I’ve won 6 comps from the 60 I participated which is great for me, being a 13 year old. Thats 10 in 1 I enter. The contest I’ve won aren’t very cheap either. you can view my profile here – http://99designs.com/people/1122334455

    Thanks

  54. Eh, no. The reality is that working this way is an unsustainable business model. Others can go right ahead and have fun toiling away trying to make it by working on spec and entering contests but I’ll continue to pass on that and get paid for my time and expertise. Other than a few nonprofit organizations that I do work for on a pro bono basis every year I do not do work for free.

    Okay, so Ford added different colors to cars. Well, I’m sure he didn’t do it for free. That expense would have been passed down right to the consumer. You can’t apply the same principles from businesses which manufacture mass market products like cars to our industry which is mainly based around custom work.

  55. M.

    “Others can go right ahead and have fun toiling away trying to make it by working on spec and entering contests but I’ll continue to pass on that and get paid for my time and expertise.” – This is a perfectly valid and fine response to the modern design landscape; I’m not advocating that spec work will dominate the profession and everyone should do it, just that it’s here to stay, will probably grow in importance, and can be, in many ways, a positive thing. There will (IMO) always be plenty of traditional client-focused work.

    “Okay, so Ford added different colors to cars. Well, I’m sure he didn’t do it for free.” – It’s not that he did it for free, it’s that he was forced to change by emerging business models. This happens again and again in a free market.

    I will say, It’s pretty clear that people with strong ideas on this subject aren’t changing (on either side).

  56. Alphonse

    @ Marco

    You’re right. While I’m sure there are plenty of kids that can make some great looking things, I wouldn’t compare them to a real designer.

    A real designer being someone that knows design is about solving problems, not about making pretty things.

  57. Josh

    After looking at the TOS on 99designs they do not actually stipulate ages.

    Which they should. The other spec sites do.

  58. Joon

    This is sick, to the point where I am starting to laugh out loud.

  59. Joon

    Let’s keep one thing clear, I’m sure we all agree design contests are fun/positive experience for any designers.

    As long as they are legitimate.

    What we have here is an exploitative commercial service in disguise of these concept of “contest” we are familiar with. For many people this is a very alluring trap until they start to see their position in the whole process.

  60. Think back to your first “design” project. Was it awesome? Did anyone buy it?

    I’m not saying that an 11 year old’s “art” is professional design, nor do I support 99designs in any way, but for Pete’s sake… Keep in mind that you are discussing actual people here. Many of us wound up in the industry through playing with design programs as kids/teens. Bad business practices of 99designs aside, It’s just not appropriate to post a child’s work and ridicule it…even if it sucks.

    You’ve got a fairly successful site going here; if those kids read through here, I’m guessing you’ve just managed to shame them out of ever pursuing design as a career. Way to go.

    On the flipside, yeah, 99designs is wrong on a million levels.

  61. Rob Record

    Exploitation = “the act of using another person’s labor without offering them an adequate compensation.”

    You don’t pay the sun for warming the earth.
    You don’t pay the ladybirds for eating greenfly.
    You don’t pay people on Twitter for their quips & insights.

    I think exploitation is only that when the other party is forced, or lied to.

  62. Hi Erin, it’s fantastic that children are interested in design, and this is by no means about shaming budding designers. You’re right. I could’ve made that clearer.

  63. Hey Dave,

    Thanks for the clarification – I reacted too quickly. Sorry for the crabby note!

    Erin

  64. No need to apologise. I added a little update at the foot of the post, just in case any of those people I featured do read this page (and don’t work their way through the comments).

  65. I think that we youngsters would be way better off if you ‘adults’ kept on focussing on your own work. As long as we have parents to take care of us, we have clothes, food an education there is nothing to worry about for you.

    Your discussion overhere is getting a little childish.

  66. I’m not exactly sure where I fall on this.

    On the one hand when I was 16 these sorts of contests are what inspired me to learn more about design. I saw true talent and genuinely wanted to better myself. I didn’t consider myself a designer but I participated in these sorts of contests as a way to challenge myself. I learned a lot about how much it takes to be a professional logo designer, web developer ect. and gained huge amounts of respect for guys like you, Cass, Wolff, and many more talented individuals. Looking back I appreciate what I learned from these sorts of contests, but I realize why this is ultimately bad for most designers. Clients who are not trained to spot bad design can easily be mislead into buying rubbish work. While designers who have spent the time learning and applying themselves are left in the cold.

    Great article, thanks for the read!

  67. If the designers don’t want to submit to 99designs (or other spec sites), they don’t have to. Simple as that. If I was a brand new designer and no one would hire me (especially in this economy), I’d rather have a chance of getting paid rather than no pay. Seriously, why fight to limit a designer’s choice of income? You forget that these designers have a *choice* – no one is forcing them to submit to 99designs.

    Also, how degrading to the design industry that you think youngsters can’t design. We accept & laud young actors, and we laud young singers, and we laud young dancers. Why is a young designer somehow less capable than a young actor/singer/dancer?

  68. I kind of recognise myself in this article.
    At the age of 11-12, I started learning HTML and CSS with tutorials. Main difference is that I did not join any websites like 99designs back then. But there’s nothing wrong with some enthousiasm in these kids. Okay, they might pollute the real contest a little. But they get trained and get better with every design they make.

    To get back at me now, I am 16 years old now. I have done a little freelance working with some people – who know my age. I also have published a post on Webdesigner Depot last week.
    When I now find some design or website I did back in time when I was 12, I also know that they are bad and feel a little embarassed.

    We should learn, and stay learning. I don’t see why starting at the young age of 11 is any bad. Designers could give us tips and help instead.

    Pieter

  69. If these kids weren’t on 99designs, they’d be on DeviantArt with all the other teenagers.

    DeviantArt heavily monetizes these kids’ creations through ad income.

    That seems more of a case of “child labor” than this. Perhaps the uproar is less about kids being monetized, and more about kids becoming competition?

    What were you all doing at 11-12? Because most of the graphic artists I know spent a lot of time sketching at that age. They just weren’t able to show their work to others online. Or to compete with adults.

  70. drew

    Just thinking about what I know now, from what I knew when I was 12, you’d have to be nuts to hire a 12 year old to design your logo. there are so many elements to logo design that a 12 year old couldn’t possibly know about.

  71. Scott

    Questions of child exploitation aside, I see a lot of comments about good design being important, and how customers of 99designs and similar sites are not getting optimum results.

    So I have a serious question. What if I have a project that doesn’t need ‘good design?’ What if I want a logo for my personal blog? What if I want to have a t-shirt designed for a high-school reunion?

    There is no budget to speak of, and as long as it’s nice looking I’m happy. So where would you pros send me to get that type of work done?

  72. @Scott – Well, my point is that children and non-professionals lack the knowledge to properly format their designs for print and other medium. For example, once I received a logo from a “designer” that was in a powerpoint document. It’s not only design, but technical ability. Some of these so-called designers are using ms paint! sometimes they may use paint.net, which is not vector-based, meaning that it’s not scalable for print.

  73. Andrew

    What doesn’t make sense to me is not why a small business might look for a cheap solution but why spend the several hundred dollars for these sites. Why not just go to a font site and do a couple searches for terms that relate to your business. There are even free fonts there. If I was a small business and could not afford a real designer yet, I would just go to a font site and pick a nice font for your logo, then when you can afford a couple grand for a real branding strategy, hire a real designer like me. I don’t see how wasting several hundred dollars on a cheesy logo from one of these sites makes sense when you can get a perfectly good logo by choosing a good font for free. My professional advice to small business owners is that some of the greatest logos in history were just a typeface, adding graphics often make the logo less usable for practical purposes and less effective, and at least from what I’ve seen on these sites, a lot more cheesy and corny. If you are a small business on a very limited budget, just find a good font on a font site that has a personality that represents your business. You’ll save the few hundred bucks you’d waste on these logo sites and you’d probably get a better logo.

  74. You might or not believe me but I’ve just won my highest ever contest on 99designs and it’s a $700 contest for a logo and stationery, and I’m 13. http://99designs.com/logo-design/contests/medical-specialist-practice-setup-37254

  75. Andrew, I think that’s a good call — for a client to spend a few hundred dollars on a professional typeface or family, and use it while the business grows. Often, a company doesn’t need an accompanying symbol or icon.

  76. Dione

    Even if you were naive enough to trust your business communications strategy to a child, and even if one child DID produce a decent enough design, consider the remainder of the naive and desperate ‘contestants’ from whom you have now solicited slave labor.

    From an ethics standpoint, THAT is the real issue.

    It is exploitation and ignorance on the part of the contest holder, then add in greed on the part of the site owners who are raking in the profits. Involving children just makes it worse than it already is.

    And if you have NO ethics and are okay with both child and unpaid labor, I present another point to consider: Not many children or third-world hobbyists will have invested $1200 on Photoshop & Illustrator, so in using stolen software there is an inherent disregard for copyright law to consider… you may just be buying a lawsuit along with your cheap logo. See how that affects your bottom line.

  77. Mariano

    David, thanks for this post.
    I really believe companies that use this site have no idea of what they are looking for. It’s sad but true, there’s a long way to make them understand the importance of professional design.

  78. Jon

    The writer of this post is a [expletive deleted by site owner so as not to badly-influence 11-year-olds] moron. These 11+ year olds are getting a chance to perfect their craft and not only become better but strive to become better in order to win more jobs. Not only is it teaching them to excel their skills but it is teaching them the benefits of healthy competition in a capitalistic world. 99designs is a beautiful thing for young aspiring designers who no matter what would be spending hours making these logos on their own time regardless of whether or not 99designs was available.

  79. Javier

    We live in a cheap world, where everyone wants everything for nothing. I’m tired to see on the briefs a company that make 1m per year, and offers 150 dollars for their logo contest…
    The real designers like all of us, won’t last even 2 contests without being eliminated. They don’t want good designs… They want 3D logos! they want web 2.0 sh*t!
    I’m really tired.

  80. Jani

    I played around a bit with 99D and it became apparent very quickly how little this company “for designers by designers” cares about designers – better to rename it 99 Ways to Have Your Ideas Stolen. But if an 11 yr. old kid wants to putz around on their computer and enter then so what? Let’s not forget to ask if the parents are monitoring their kids use of a computer…finger pointing needs redirectioning here. I know what my kid is doing on the computer…it’s called a good relationship with your child. But this does not excuse 99Designs corporate mentality with “the little guy” branding…it’s a giant scam and best avoided. They’ve got some talent in the pool but it’s a duplicitous business and the talent generally ends up feeling ripped off.

  81. Dominic

    Hey Jon, guess what – 99designs is teaching them nothing more than how to design bullsh*t! If there is no-one who teaches, there is nothing to learn!

  82. Dominic

    @ Mohammad Fuaad

    Hell yeah, I still do…

  83. Christina

    Organizations like AIGA need to step up and get more funding to help educate society, especially small businesses and start-ups about the value of design. This needs to be addressed more in business school as well. I still don’t understand why there isn’t a license to practice design for graphic design/art direction/creative direction/etc but interior designers require a license. It frustrates me that our industry isn’t taken seriously on a professional level!!! So we just make things look pretty and appealing?
    Now I can understand the appeal of 99designs to many businesses who are not educated about design and struggle with finding talented designers that fit within their tiny budgets. What do they do? Google I need a logo? Sad. Let’s face it, many of those business owners on 99 don’t have a clue about branding or how to go about it the right way. Maybe we can convince Paris Hilton to wear a NO SPEC shirt at a public event.

  84. Amen Christina! Methinks really pushing this with the media, getting business magazines to talk about it would be a huge lifesaver for all of us – it’s all in reaching clients on their level so that they can actually understand what’s going on. And if we can just come up with a hot pink No Spec shirt…

  85. Brando

    99Designs a slippery slope for child labor? Over-dramatic-much?

    The OP clearly has no understanding of Child Labor Laws and is merely using this as a point of drama.

    No one is forcing these children to work against their will, for longer hours, under hazardous conditions. Nor is anyone forcing companies, small biz or freelancers to use this service.

    If you’re a great designer, this won’t effect you. If the only business you’re getting right now is from people that need spec work like this, then you should start doing better work or get into a different industry.

    Sounds to me the OP is in danger of losing business from this because they’re a direct competitor which should bring about a certain amount of introspection.

  86. “If you’re a great designer, this won’t effect you. If the only business you’re getting right now is from people that need spec work like this, then you should start doing better work or get into a different industry.”

    If only that were the case. Unfortunately doing good design doesn’t automatically equal to getting a lot of business.

  87. Carmen

    If a company is going to profit from a child’s art then the child should benefit. For example child actors. Strange comparison maybe. However, they are considered artist and any child in the state of California must have a work permit for any work in the entertainment industry. Commercials, print work (modeling) and so on. This was put in place so that children do not get taken advantage of and to enforce strict child labor laws. Just saying.

  88. Carmen

    I do also think that your portfolio is all you should show for free. You should get paid for spec work absolutely. :)

  89. Alexandra

    Well if you do on google “logo design” 99cents website comes as #1 because they pay for advertisment and funny they say “we are #1 in logo design”. The sad part is that a new client who starts a business and maybe has a budget and investors maybe fall victim to that sweat shop.

  90. Jeff Pascual

    An obvious demoralization. No 11 yr old kid could finish the registration process in 99designs. If the first kid was fake, then how about the nexts? If you are the unfortunate victim of 99′s success then there’s nothing you can do but join the community and see for yourself if your knowledge in designing is enough.

  91. Sam

    None of those ‘kiddy profiles’ have won any contest – so they haven’t been paid for work. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen – but those screenshots are not worth much like that. Of course, young people can register for such sites, that doesn’t mean they really get into serious work more than a hobby would be.

  92. ^^ Sam

    I’m 15, won 31 contests, it is a really good place for young people like me to get in to the industry and gain some real world clients :)

    http://99designs.co.uk/people/fuaadh

  93. One point that many of the comments seem to miss is the fact that contest websites are changing the paradigm of the design industry. If you think you’re safe because you’re a bespoke designer and this is not the market you are competing with, you couldn’t be more wrong. You should be very worried, because if nothing happens to shutdown this slavery-like business model the whole design industry as we know it will simply cease to exist.

    Don’t think so? Whether you like it or not, there are many talented youngsters participating and they are delivering a very high level of quality work. I agree there’s a big bunch of useless design in these contests, but the good work, although scarce, is all it takes to keep the clients coming to these sites, and from the perspective of the client, these designs are made by professional designers, not talented youngsters with free time on their hands.

    Now, in a few years, what is going to happen? These youngsters are going to reach their early 20′s and start looking for work. But guess what? There will be no more work, because companies have realised they can use design contests to get their design for a lower cost. Made by whom? The next generation of talented youngsters with free time on their hands.

    If you don’t believe in that, than think twice! Do you know what these contest websites use most for their advantage? Competition, and competition will raise the standards. If these websites are not shutdown, with a few more years down the line, the quality of work there will increase. More clients using contests websites, few winners and an outrageous number of losers.

  94. david

    99designs is a total waste of any slightly talented designer’s time. It took me all of 3 weeks to realise this.

    A contest with a prize of $540 received 2782 designs from 1131 designers, all of which visited the exisiting website (of the contest holder) to inspect the existing logo. This made me think, perhaps the site is being used purely for advertising. How many of the designers signed up to the website (the contest holders website, not 99designs) and paid the minimum fee of $2.99? How many of the designers showed their logo design to friends? What sealed the deal for me was that the “winning design” was almost EXACLTY the same as the existing design, same colour, same font, only the first letter slightly tweeked, so little in-fact that it was only noticeable after being pointed out to the less trained eye. What made it worse is that the brief requested a new “look”, the site is laughable and the contest holders are now there with a hidden agenda.

  95. kid

    Okay, I admit it. I’m a kiddie designer of 99designs. Honestly, I’m just having fun. I’m in a committed relationship with Adobe Illustrator, and it’s great practice for any future I might have in graphic design. You adults go do your jobs, and we can have some fun online. Personally, I think my designs are better than many of these adult created designs. Even if I don’t win, at least I had some fun and some practice. As far as language, c’mon…we go to school.

  96. Andy

    I used to work for an advertising agency in the UK. When we wanted a new contract, days were spent on creative and producing physical samples to persuade the prospective client to part with their cash. Sound familiar?

  97. csub

    99designs business model:

    1. – Offer another persons services for free – no need for investments

    2. – Cheat service providers that they can earn money – expectation factor

    3. – Aggressive global marketing to monopolize the market – they got $30M budget for that

    4. – Mute & ban out the frustrated service providers

  98. zgrud

    99designs.com is a cheap place, especially for pro designers. There are lots of amateurs on the site (“passionate designers”) who create loads of b-grade web templates (poorly inspired from themeforest) and far worse, these designs are chosen by the cheaper clients who don’t have a clue about design or its implications.

    For example:

    http://99designs.com/web-design/contests/finance-warehouse-needs-website-design-202700 – just look at the winning design! Good lord, that is the cheapest imitation of the poorest themeforest design ever! And look at the prize money – astounding $955 for such a shitty and nauseatic design.

    99designs is a totally wrong move in the world of design in general. The staff are ignorant and greedy. In the beginning the contests’ duration was a week. Now, they added some ‘stages’ unnecessarily prolonging the contest duration.

    Also one of the most ridiculous things ever – they introduced so called ‘bronze’, ‘silver’ and ‘gold’ contests which cost even more. And they make every crap designer on this planet a gold designer and claim that gold contests have hand-picked gold designers.

    Seriously, how much more greedy can 99designs become? These guys should be banned for polluting the respectful design community with their false, filthy and fake promises, and cheap practices.

    And their so called “guaranteed” contests are not guaranteed at all! If the buyer leaves the project even though its guaranteed, the money is simply distributed amongst ALL designers – which means stupid fools who submitted an idiotic design also get a share – an equal share.

    99designs, freelancer, and other cheap sites should be banned. They are destroying the graphic community and treating designers as people of skin trade.

  99. Mick

    Get real, ban 99designs, why? because designers are upset – ah! poor you, don’t the contest holders realise how brilliant you are, what’s wrong with them. Live in the real world, it’s successful because it meets a requirement.

    I’ve been a designer for over twenty five years and am as busy as I have ever been. I’m busy because I’m good. When I started it was Magic Markers, Layout Pads and Drawing Boards, you needed to be able to draw and have half a brain about you, it’s a hell of a lot easier to design now. I didn’t moan then and I wont moan now. Get over yourselves, 99designs isn’t going to go away, you are living in a dream world if you think it is.

    Designers – stop being so precious

  100. Client

    I was considering hiring a designer for a mobile app instead of doing it myself and someone suggested 99designs. But then I thought if designers are competing for money and there’s no guarantee that they’ll get paid, what incentive do they have to pay attention to detail or even to do a good job in the first place?

  1. On Value | Eric D. Brown - Sep 30th, 2010


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