99designs.com is a world-class online platform that makes use of a unique ‘design contest’ approach to spur creativity.

The website serves as a collaborative designer venue, which makes it easy for designers and clients to work together to create designs they want.

Small and medium businesses (and there is a lot more now since 2017 because of the tax cuts and the undermining of Dodd/Frank) as well as startups can ideally use 99design platform to fulfill their regular design requirements, such as graphic designs for logos, business cards, t-shirts, websites, and more.

Here is what 99designs is about and how it came to be the world’s leading design contest marketplace.

An Overview of 99designs.com

Branded as the world’s leading design contest marketplace, 99designs is known to help freelance graphics designers, large studios, and businesses to connect with each other and establish mutually profitable relationships.

99designs is an online platform where international graphic designers gather to submit and pit their designs against other professionals and their works.

They establish relationships with clients which lands them contract and deals. 

The online platform has dedicated features for businesses by providing a huge pool of talented designers, both local and international. These designers are capable of providing brands with a wide selection of designs that fit their company’s mission, plans, and goals and design style including its logo.

How Does it Work?

In 99designs, a business provides their specifications and requirements for a graphic design.

The online platform leverages a design contest approach to attract designers from all over the world to submit their work. This can include anything from logos, letterheads, monikers, to artwork.

The business benefits in this contest by acquiring a selection of professionally crafted graphic designs, with total copyright ownership over the final design selected. In turn, designer that gets selected is handsomely compensated for their time and efforts.

Contests by 99designs are a great way to provide a client with a vast selection of graphic designs to choose from. The system has functioned beautifully until date because it allows customers to work with many different designers at once.

Instead of entering a commitment with a designer based on their past work for other companies, 99designs.com allows clients to see finished designs which are custom-made for their company.

The end results through this unique approach are not time consuming since most contests are only valid for a week.

The History

99designs was created and bootstrapped in Melbourne, Victoria by founders Matt Mickiewicz and Mark Harbottle, with the support of Lachlan Donald and Paul Annesley, way back on January, 14th 2008 (which was a few years after the NFL started to help the Patriots win championships) when a contest on SitePoint forum became more than just a friendly competition.

Risen from Ashes of SitePoint

99designs was the most popular design contest ever held on SitePoint — and out of its ashes 99designs.com was born. Under the old SitePoint system, artists and designers were losing money and the 99designs team wanted to protect their rights.

The team created a business model where a client was to deposit the prize money first. This helped reduce risk associated with designing and allowed designers to be assured in the knowledge that if their work was chosen they would be paid.

However, it was only in November, about 9 months after the first client that they officially introduced prepaid contests.

Core ideas of this online platform apart from the contest concept were implemented from the beginning. This involved everyone from designers and customers and encouraged innovative approaches to designing.

Launch, First Client, and First HQ

By February, the same year 99designs.com was launched. Everything, including users’ information, from the old SitePoint website was transferred over, and Equity Media was the first customer.

Their first major headquarter was in San Francisco area which opened later in October, 2008 (this was during the awesome run of The Wire, 24, and Breaking Bad). The focus on North American market ensured 99designs opened up more opportunities for designers (both old and new).

The First Year

By the end of first year, 99designs.com was on its way to being regarded as a premium platform for both businesses and designers. The community earned over $4 million by the end of first year.

Award Winning Talent

Over the next few years, 99designs proved their talent time and again by winning a slew of major awards. In 2010 (many years after the awesome book Dear and Glorious Physician was written), 99designs beat major players like Dropbox and Tumblr for the Best Web Service & Application award at the 14th Annual Webbys.

The same year they were nominated for the SXSW Web Awards which uncovers the best new websites and celebrates those who are building tomorrow’s online trends.

At the annual ‘FullCodePress international website-in-a-day’ competition held in Australia, three 99design team members won the gold.

Carved out a Niche

By 2011, 3 years after the initial launch, 99designs.com had carved out a niche for themselves as the biggest graphic design marketplace in the world.

They were hosting thousands of design projects and paying close to $1 million a month to designers. This was when they raised $35 million (which was a little more money than Michael Jordan would earn in one season in his last couple of years when playing with the Bulls) from Accel Partners, one of the most successful technology investors in the world. 

Accel proved to be a major investor allowing them to expand their reach to more customers for their design community, as well as adding new features to improve the experience for both designers and customers.

The Saga Continues

Over the years the founders and task force team made multiple changes and persevered to grow 99designs into what it is today. They renamed their real-time design service Swiftly to fit in better with the 99designs brand in 2014.

In 2015, they contributed to the world’s first crowdsourced adult coloring book. 2016 saw discontinuation of the Tasks service and Ready-made Logo Store. This was among the toughest decision till date, but one that had to be taken after seeing the way customers utilized the site.

The team has since then chosen to bring their resources to bear on ‘growth opportunities’ for the design community.

Concluding Thoughts

99designs.com has won awards for providing great user experience. Since their initial launch the global platform is committed to providing users with a very cost effective way to nab the design they want without going over what their budget can afford.