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  1. Matthew Magain

    Hi Anthony.

    Your accusations of my article being “an utter load of crap” are undermined by flaws in your own post.

    You clearly didn’t invest much time in your “research”. The article links to Richard’s profile on 99designs, which includes all of the contests that he has won since joining the site. Are you suggesting that all of the entries in the contests that he won were also concocted?

    Full disclosure is given at the very start of the article about the relationship between SitePoint and 99designs, but I wonder whether you skipped over that as well? The article was an interview transcript between two people who happen to agree on whether design contests have some merit or not.

    The fact that Richard lives in Melbourne made it easy for us to catch up for lunch. Intimating that he doesn’t exist, rather than accepting the possibility that there may exist a designer who has a differing point of view to your own, just hurts your own credibility and makes you look like a goose.

    Here’s what I suggest. Why don’t I send you Richard’s contact details, so that you can interview him yourself. That way you can ask all the prickly questions that you seem to think I should have.

    I can’t speak on his behalf, so I can’t promise that he’ll come to the party, but I’ve sent Richard an email putting the idea to him.

  2. Zinni


    I am fully aware of the profile that exists on 99designs, and that Richard is most likely a real person. What I am getting at (and I said in the above post) is that who is he? I am sure he exists but why is he some sort of example that makes the claims of NO!SPEC, The AIGA, the Art Directors Guild, and design professionals everywhere worth ignoring?

    Your article is an “utter load of crap” because it paints a pretty picture for the damage that it really causes. Anyone who has studied value based ethics is aware that this sort of rationalization is nothing more than delusion. My article was never intended to be an attack on Richard, however he has been drawn in the middle. I really have a problem with 99designs and the services it offers.

    I would rather not waste Richard’s time as I am sure he needs a lot of it to make a profit through your system. However I have these questions for him, that he can answer in the comments if he so chooses…

    1. Are you able to charge your normal rates for follow up work, or do they assume contest level prices?
    2. How sustainable do you think your involvement is? What about when more users register and competition becomes increased?
    3. How do you justify your rates for normal projects if you participate in contests where the clients determine what the appropriate rate for services are?

    I used to have respect for sitepoint and its community, however I no longer have that feeling. Maybe I was a little harsh with my assessment, but someone needed to expose the realities of 99designs and the image being portrayed by the interview. If I have helped convince one person to avoid 99designs then this article was worth it no matter what you say about me or my opinion. I am sorry but our opinions do differ, and as a blogger if people don’t like mine then they don’t have to read it. I would rather be less creditable and have an opinion than be afraid to voice mine.

  3. liam

    @Matthew Magain - Wow. I’m a frequent user of SitePoint, and have won a few contests, and have stated before to Anthony that I don’t completely agree with his views. But his view is what they are. This is his own personal blog, so he can write what he wants. I think he’s made some very good points, both here and before hand. And you try defending yourself just by pointing out his errors, rather than answering questions he put forward.

    You also suggest that he puts his questions forward to “Richard” - But he made it clear that “This isn’t an attack on him” - His issue is with you and your site.

    The part that annoys me most about you, and is making me think twice about Sitepoint, is where you said

    “Rather than accepting the possibility that there may exist a designer who has a differing point of view to your own, just hurts your own credibility and makes you look like a goose.”

    Seriously, do you realise how awful that is for your to say, considering the only reason you are posting here is because you yourself Disagree with Anthony.

    You’ve made it too personal, and your reply is very hypocritical. The more you defend yourself in such a way the more I’m starting to think that Anthony has a very, very good point.

    @Zinni - Another thing I noticed about “Richard” is he doesn’t finish his Sandwitches! Strange. :) PS do you have Twitter?

  4. liam

    Warning: Spelling/Grammer mistakes in my post above, just try and work out what I meant :)

  5. Liam,

    Thanks for the support, I appreciate it even though you have a different opinion than my own. I also am very glad that you may be coming around to my side of the argument.

    Also, just click the “Zinni on Twitter” link under the twitter box in the footer to go to my twitter profile.

  6. Robert Augustin


    Whether Richard is a real person or not, everyone who is even peripherally involved in marketing or PR can see the constructed character of the interview. These are techniques that are in use every day. You didn’t invent the wheel with this one.

    I’m sure it will have the intended effect on your target audience, but you should not assume that it will have the same effect on people who actually know what they are doing.

    Professionals in the design business like Zinni, myself and others might raise an eyebrow at your venture with 99design. I’ll grant you that. But in the end, you have your place in the market just like I do, only that you target the potential clients I kindly ask to look for someone else. You don’t affect me.

    The only thing that made me comment here is that you think that your little publicity gag will actually trick everybody, including the leagues above you. Obviously, that’s not the case, and it doesn’t exactly help your position when you call people geese.

    My advice for you is to know which floor you are on in this building and stay away from the top levels. You wouldn’t stand a chance here.

    Robert Augustin’s latest post: Magenta Lessons, Part 2: The Role of Brands in Marketing

  7. Lemon

    I think the big problem here is that would spec work be allowed in any other industry? You would never see anyone, ever, for example build custom cars based on the idea that if theirs is the best the client will buy it, or any labor type position, you would never never see an architect design a building based on this system. Regardless of the views expressed in favor of this system it does devalue the work of designers. That should be undisputed even if there are people that can achieve success within that system. I would be really interested to see if Anthony’s questions are answered but I would like to pose one myself as well:

    How much time are you willing to put into a contest design? Does this amount of time accurately reflect what you would expect to be paid on contracted work and would you spend less time on your work because its not guaranteed?

    I really can’t see how it can be justified simply because even if a person does win they are being paid based on the clients determined value of their time and the people that lose are working without any compensation whatsoever.

  8. Chris

    @Lemon - Yes, spec work exists in many industries.

    Home builders build houses before they have buyers.

    Ad agencies create campaigns and pitch them to clients in hopes of winning the account.

    Web Design agencies spent dozens of hours writing detailed proposals and technical specifications, in the hope of winning a client.

    Car manufacturers build cars before they know that they’ll have buyers… In fact, most product manufacturers do spec-production in hopes of seeing revenue down the line.

    At the end of the day, Design Contests aren’t going away…

  9. Richard Scott

    hi Anthony,
    Thanks for you incite into the interview….very interesting. I respect yours and everyone’s views here.

    I first of all would like to thank sitepoint for giving me an identity, designing a full portfolio of work and giving me a solid client base.
    I quite liked being portrayed as a mythical character but I can assure you I do exist : )

    BTW Melbourne has a population of around 4 million. So it may come as a surprise to some that not everybody knows each other personally.

    The reason I don’t have so much info out is because my business is just up and running. I have been too busy with new clients to even finish my own identity or launch my website.

    ‘ADDICTION’ - I thought it would look better written in caps.
    I guess I can only apologise for coming across so positively about a system that together with a lot of hard work and determination has enabled me to get back into the design field after receiving many letters….’sorry your not what we are looking for’.

    I believe I have ‘some’ talent…. why should I not do anything in my power to resurrect my career? Wouldn’t anyone do the same? Or should I just turn my back on design altogether? This is really just my story and how I got back into design through the medium of 99designs.

    Yes the site is addictive. I am sorry if that offends anyone. The thrill of competition, the sharing of knowledge and skills. I didn’t realise it was such a crime to have fun at work.

    To answer you questions Anthony….

    1) I have my hourly rate, which I charge for follow up work and clients have never questioned these rates even though it may be higher than the original prize offered.

    2) I think the more new users the better. We now live in a global community after all. More briefs seem to be on 99designs day after day. The word is spreading. Now talented designers from all over the world have a chance to showcase their skills and build up a client base.

    I will always have an involvement in 99designs for sure. But as mentioned in the interview I only ever wanted to make contacts with designers and agencies. Now contests won’t play as big a role in my life but if I read a brief I have ideas for I will still continue to enter.

    3) I don’t have to justify my normal rates because the clients so far have all been great and accepted them without question. Maybe they actually respect my work and me? Yes they may have initially received a cheaper logo from a contest but what does it say about them when they would rather build a relationship with me than go back through the contest system?

    To answer your question Lemon….
    I probably spend way to much time on contests without any income but it’s my choice. I couldn’t magic clients out of thin air so I decided to ‘win’ some. A few times I have won say a $500 contest where the logo took me 10 minutes to design. Sometimes I have won a $200 contest which I probably spent hours on. It doesn’t matter…. it is all relative and my choice to participate.

    My main message though is simple. There is enough for everyone. Surely we can all see the bigger picture? As Robert above mentioned ‘But in the end, you have your place in the market just like I do’. Like I said ‘enough for everyone.’

    If you have any more questions feel free to ask me.
    Also if you would like to do some more research on me here is my Australian Business no. 63 836 174 902

    Kind regards,

  10. Matthew Magain

    @liam: Maybe calling Anthony a goose was unnecessary. It’s easy to get defensive when someone refers to something you’ve created (not as an employee of SitePoint, but as the author of the article) as a load of crap, so I’d suggest that it was already personal, but I digress. Please accept my apology Anthony.

    I will address this though: “the only reason you are posting here is because you yourself Disagree with Anthony.”

    This is not true. The reason I posted here is because he accused my article as being pure propaganda, and suggested that the interview was somehow contrived, rather than it being an actual record of our conversation. Richard’s views are his own, and he was not coerced into answering my questions in a certain way, so this is something I take exception to.

    Of course every interviewer has an agenda and brings their own bias to the conversation, whether they’re conscious of it or not. No doubt my bias shows by the questions I asked or the way I phrased them.

    But the same is true of your critique of the interview I conducted — I could suggest that this blog post and all of the commentary published by the NO!SPEC organisation was also propaganda, because it pushes an opinion that I don’t agree with. And that’s the thing: the issues surrounding the topic of design contests come down to opinion — what’s truth to you is propaganda to me, and no doubt vice versa.

    The reason I thought Richard was worth interviewing was because he offered an alternative view to the topic of design contests. He is one guy who spoke about his experiences. There is plenty of information on the Web about how design contests are supposedly evil. Here is a designer who has a different take, and his story, which is very real, also deserves to be heard.

    @Robert: “in the end, you have your place in the market just like I do, only that you target the potential clients I kindly ask to look for someone else”

    I couldn’t agree with you more.

    “The only thing that made me comment here is that you think that your little publicity gag will actually trick everybody”

    As Richard’s comment above indicates, his views are his own, not SitePoint’s.

  11. Amit Singh

    well, this is not really about 99design, but the approach taken by Richard.

    If i wanted to start my freelancing career, two-three years back, i don’t think i would stand a chance against established player at that time. Do you really think it is possible for newbie(with no proven track record) to charge the same as bigshots in any industry?

    So what do you think i will do to get to that positions?
    It is very simple i will take a difficult jobs at very low rate(or in Richards case 99design), i will do it, idea is that once i have some quality work i can also charge at higher rates.

    that is where sites like 99desings comes to help, i will keep participating to showcase my skills( ;) i don’t as i am not designer) get contacts, grow older so that i can say i am doing this for last(n) years, hence i am better or whatever.

    established player will always find it as threat, while newbies will always find it useful.

    i just wanted to point out “microsoft vs linux” or “design houses vs crowd-sourcing”

    choice is yours :)

    Amit Singh’s latest post: 8th important MySQL tool missed by Six Revision List

  12. Jhanne Hall

    Erm….I went to Falmouth College of Arts and studied my BA Hons Graphics Degree with Richard…I’m pretty sure he’s real..He’s very good at what he does too out there in Oz!

  13. Zinni

    Matthew & Richard,

    I just wanted to let you both know that I am actually happy that you have chosen to comment here. One of my objectives of starting this site was to make sure that everyone could voice their opinion on subjects related to design. I am not for censorship and believe that you have the right to share your opinion just he same as me. That being said, I am sure that you are both good people and I just want to be sure that you know that ultimately my biggest concerns are for the industry and where it is headed not either of you personally.

    One thing about the internet and open discussion forums is that everyone is always trying to win them. In this situation I don’t really think there is a winner. I just think we are never going to come to a agreement on the issue. I see 99designs and similar systems as unethical, and you see it otherwise. I guess that is all I really have left to say?

  14. Chad

    The only reason you have a problem with spec work is because it takes away from YOUR work.

    In a democratic society, it’s up to business leaders/owners to develop new ways to crush the competition.

    I suggest you stop whining, and use this energy to find a better way to fatten your pockets.

  15. Joram Oudenaarde

    Personally I can understand that for designers that júst started, doing specwork does have it advantaged to a certain degree… you’re putting yourself out there, and *if* you make something good it *might* give you a new client.

    My personal problem with specwork is that although it might perhaps benefit a person, it usually almost always hurts the overal industry. One individual might get a little money, some exposure and possibly a client. But by then the client had (near) free work done for him already. There are a couple of things with doing specwork that makes me believe that in the overal picture it’s hurting the graphic industry;

    1. The client participating in the specwork gets (near) free work.
    There’s a lot of clients that feel that this is the perfect way to get a good product for the least amount of money. Problem is that they will keep trying and often tell their friends about this kind of opportunity… causing the designstudio’s/professionals to lose clients and therefore income. It might not look like it happens a lot, but it does help.

    2. For the designer-to-be it doesn’t give a clear picture on how things work. Some designers, and Richard might well be one of them, already have a fair understanding on how to run a studio. But for most people it seems like a nice chance to get up that connection-ladder, only to find out they don’t know anything about running your own studio or being a freelancer. You get minimum income for a maximum amount of work, only for a small possible chance that you get followup-work. It will not teach you anything like “what to do to start your freelance career” and it doesn’t teach you the fine arts of your business.

    I think that if you want to start your own company or become a freelancer, the best thing you can do is to either simply start and jump right in, or work for a company as an employee, and get some actual experience. For the majority of people these 2 options are what will give you the best and biggest chance of making it (along with a healthy dose of skill of course).

    Doing specwork is very offbalanced when it comes to doing work and receiving a proper reward. Out of every 100 people who participate in specwork, I bet that only 1-3 will actually be able to make a little profit of it at some point, leaving the other 97% out in the cold.

  16. liam

    I think the main concern is the effect on the Web Design industry. And I think in the long run it’s a negative one, as people who go on sites like this are not seeing a fair picture of the web design industry.

  17. Zinni


    Actually, the type of clients that would look for speculative work are the ones that I normally would turn down. As a whole I choose to avoid these types of businesses unless it is someone that I know personally. Typically I choose to find client’s with larger budgets and some experience working with design professionals as these clients are usually have more enjoyable projects and a better understanding of what designers do.

    I hate when people say that protesting against something you do not agree with is whining. Also, Democracy has nothing to do with competition I believe you may be talking about capitalism. And unfortunately capitalism is not full proof, that is why we have government regulations.

    Think about it for a minute, In a completely unregulated capitalistic system child labor is profitable and effective. We all know the downsides of child labor, however without proper protest and governance child labor could easily still exist in civilized culture.

  18. Aaron

    A site that asks designers to engage in no spec work also owes it to its user base to warn them of potential dangers associated with that type of working agreement.

    Anything less then that is quite unfair in my opinion.

    A possible solution is for 99deisgns to include a section on their web site that defines no spec work. This page should include a list of the positives and negatives for clients and designers as defined by unbiased professionals in the design industry.

    The page certainly should also link to blog posts about no spec work (like this one), the no spec website, a few of the list a part articles, etc. Perhaps even a forum for people to discuss how no spec work benefited/hindered their growth as a designer/client would be helpful as well.

    That would be fair. I don’t think we can ask anymore of 99designs if they produce the aforementioned solution and publicize it well.

    Thanks for the blog post. As I’ve said before, this website is always a joy to read.

  19. Chad


    Comparing child labor to “at home designers” doing logos is a little extreme, don’t you think?

    I have hosted a $300 contest on 99designs and it was fantastic for a few reasons.

    1.) I got free marketing.

    2.) I got to choose from dozens of logos, some that were refused sparked creativity in other aspects of my design.

    3.) I saved money

    4.) I didn’t have to keep asking for revisions from one designer.

    From “your” perspective, I see the point. However, would you agree that the customer would have a better experience on a “99 designs” type site rather than your average graphic designer?

    I do however think there should be 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place prizes though. We did this in my contest I hosted.

  20. Erika

    I honestly don’t think that there’s going to ever be any reasonable conclusion drawn between those who see a value in contests and those who don’t. This article is clearly proof.. and honestly, I couldn’t comment on it without angering a few people. So, either way, great discussion. :)

  21. Zinni


    I am glad that for you the site worked out, however the system is set up in your favor. I agree that it may work out better for customer in terms of convenience. There is however something to be gained from going through the process with a designer. The designer is able to gain great knowledge of your services/product and as a result create a better end result. There is much more to design than pretty graphics, unfortunately that is not what you are getting in a contest.

    I admit that child labor is a far cry from what design contests, however it was an exaggeration to prove a point. Just because there is a market for something doesn’t mean that it is right…

  22. Chris G.

    While I once created a profile on 99designs and participated in a couple contests, I quickly realized the system wasn’t for me. However, what I did was took the prize value and divided it by my hourly rate and that was the maximum amount of time I allowed myself to spend on it. I wasn’t about to drive my own business into the ground simply for the “addiction” or “excitement” of winning a contest. I think this approach is similar to designers padding their proposals with research, communications, and meeting time for preparing the proposal. If you win the contract you recover your time.

    Looking back now, I recognize this is not the way to grow your business as a designer. If you need to practice your design skills while trying to gain paying work, do it by creating stuff for yourself and your portfolio. Let people know it was for yourself by labeling it as a “study”.

    To grow your business, do it by making connections with people. Surely in a town of 4 million this can be accomplished. We did it and continue to do it in a town much smaller (Reno, NV - population 200,000 or so).

    Spread the word about yourself, your love for design and why you’re doing what your doing through luncheons and other entrepreneur get togethers. To be any kind of freelancer, you also have to be some kind of salesman. Connections with other like-minded individuals in other industries should garner you plenty of work. Those connections should turn into a nice referral source for you.

    No matter how people try to hide it, business is about relationships. Build them, nurture them and your business will grow. Then you’ll be known for your work and not your price point.

  23. Amit Singh

    @Joram Oudenaarde,
    i agree when you say ” Out of every 100 people who participate in specwork, I bet that only 1-3 will actually be able to make a little profit of it at some point, leaving the other 97% out in the cold.”

    But is that really bad? I don’t think so.. let’s for a second think their is no, so does this grantee that all 100 will get paid same amount of money for their work, even more important, they will get a client or job.

    you see world without competition, means select few(talented or well connected) will capture everything, while rest of will have to just watch.

    in competitions, you have a fair chance of winning as everyone else who is participating, can this be true for normal situations where keyword is relationship/contacts.

    So my question still remains what are the best way a beginner start his/her career without being overshadowed by people with connections.


    Are we trying to create a trade where your connection/networking ability is the only criteria for successful business and not your talent?

    Either ways i agree, PRO should not do spec work. why? that will take the one chance that a budding designer might have :) . like site should be left to have a image like “A place where you can get cheap design done by novice. It could be good, still it is not what a PRO can give you.” i think that above stance will, to an extent, reduce the friction.

    Amit Singh’s latest post: A case for Crowdsourcing

  24. Barney Carroll


    (First off, when did you redesign? This is beautiful, very nice job)

    Your stance against 99designs is solid. I was fully in agreement with your first article on the subject. I appreciate the thoughts that went into this one, but it does drag you into an ideological war as opposed to a clear statement of views. I don’t think it’s a good idea to make the Positive Space blog a forum for this confrontation.

    Admittedly, the ensuing comment argument with the key players reflects A) the impact you’ve made on them and B) the spineless free-market capitalist “I’ve got some it’s good give me a break” mentality of these people.

    All the same, you’ll lose the crux of things if you get too swept up with rhetoric.

    Keep up good work!


  25. Joram Oudenaarde

    @Amit Singh
    I definately agree that a Pro shouldn’t do specwork like the ones being promoted on 99designs.

    It’s not that I believe leaving the 97% out in the cold is bad, but I think the method is wrong. Of course people should be able to learn that they’re either not good enough (being one of the 97%), or being good enough (being the 3%). But in the case of a competition for specwork, it has 2 disadvantages.
    • No one is there telling you you’re not good enough. You’re doing a large amount of work without getting a personal crit about your level of creativity and/or experience.
    • There’s no feedback whatsoever, so even if you do a good job, you don’t get to know what could be improved.
    When you work for a client directly, the feedback (usually seen as revisions) makes you realize what points you need to work on… not just for that particular assignment, but moreso for the way you work. You get more experience that way that to work with a blindfold on, which is basically what you do with specwork.

    It’s indeed very good for the client. All the points you mentioned are completely valid and will benefit you in multiple ways.
    But on the other end, the people who work for you are left with a bitter taste. No matter how good a designer is, there should always be feedback and revisions to end up with a logo that fits the client (and the clients’ clients) needs… it’s the only way to come up with a good product.

    Besides that, while you save money, you’re technically costing numerous designers more money. They’re doing work for free, which usually means no income and no ability to easily pay their bills. Personally I see that as stealing and an unfair way to do business. When you go to a bakery you can’t tell them to bake you a bread, to then take it to other bakeries and try everything before you decide to give bakery number 4 the money. You want a product, so you pay whoever is working on that product. It might seem very black and white, but you can’t tryout a mortgage or insurance either ;)

  26. liam

    @Joram Oudenaarde - Good points. Completely agree.

    I don’t think anyone can doubt that it’s good for the client (In terms of price) - But I don’t think they get a fair view of what web designers can do. And the more clients end up going to 99designs the less people there are out there looking for established designers & companies.

    I think we’re a far way off 99designs saturating all of the clients, but even now I’ve had people walk away from projects because they could get it done on 99designs for a lot cheaper. And no matter how you try to explain the difference in quality (a lot of the time) and experience you might have - compared to people on 99designs, all it comes down to is price. - We should be encouraging clients to look for designers not based purely on price alone.

    I think there’s a real problem in the industry of people not really wanting to pay for web work, everyone expects something for nothing, it’s a odd attitude many people seem to have, and it’s something which 99designs doesn’t do enough to discourage.

  27. Amit Singh

    @joram - i agree with both the points.

    i am assuming that person who chooses to go 99design way understands them as They will have to become their own teacher, guide and critic.

  28. Joram Oudenaarde

    I’m afraid you’re right on that one Amit :)

    It’s partially the “fault” of all the people who know someone who can do it for less. How many people do you (points to everyone) know that have a “friend of my nephews uncle” that can do it for $50,-?

    And most of the time they actually get a design/website/logo for that little amount. Not aware of the, often lack of, quality of the logo, they tend to believe that real designers are overpricing their service. And from my point of view/experience it’s usually these kind of clients who move to services like 99designs.

    I have to add though that there are companies that áre willing to pay a fair price for our service, but simply want to see who’s “out there” by going to 99designs-kind of sites and do a little scouting with a competition. I have no problem with those kind of actions whatsoever… it’s a great option for them, and the winner will get a fair followup-assignment as well.
    But it’s the clients that are unaware of the actual work that goes in a design. From doing research to sketching, meeting with the client, revisions, being able to place yourself in the clients client, and so forth. Most clients simply don’t know that they’re paying us for far more then 1 design, and move to a service (or buddy of their son) to get it for far less money.

  29. Fizz

    Ooh juicy fight! I like..

  30. Barney,

    First of all thanks for the compliment on the redesign. I agree that I do not want to turn this blog into an endless collection of articles like this one. However, I do think that every once and a while there is something to be gained from it.

    I think that this conversation has gone in a rather productive direction. I would like to thank everyone for their comments, because there are a ton of solid points.

    As a note of reference, if this or any future posts become a flame war I will close comments because am more concerned in constructive commenting that benefits the readers. So far I think we have stayed on that path more or less.

  31. J. Jeffryes

    This is an issue that’s been around for a long time, and it’s not going away soon, not so long as any fool can get a copy of PhotoShop and call themselves a designer, and businesspeople are willing to pay those people $50 for “design.”

    There is, however, a real need in the design community being addressed by these contests. It’s very hard to break into design. So it’s no surprise young designers turn to these contests, or $50 logo sites, or any number of other scams that may help them break into design, but at the cost of poisoning the industry they’re entering.

    My solution? 99Designs should change it’s business model, and allow ONLY non-profits to post projects. Working pro-bono for charities doesn’t devalue design, and it’s a win for everyone involved. 99Designs gets their money, the charity gets great design work, the designers get their exposure and experience, and the industry doesn’t get cheapened.

    J. Jeffryes’s latest post: A Simple Solution for Design Contests

  32. Marc Rapp

    Amazing post and commentary. Hope no one minds if I jump in on this one.

    99designs = a business. Not a creative shop. Crowdsourcing has only one merit in most cases; You make it–They make money from it. It’s a common practice and ultimately proves more beneficial to the standardized factory business model that has homogenized creative work for the sake of efficiency. Fortunately for us creatives, the internet is quickly democratizing this process and allowing everyone to have a voice. Or in this case, a showcase of their talents. A platform to stand on that no one person can take away. It’s a collaborative effort.

    This process however; in now way, competes with a true idea factory/indiviudal. This type of value center is often learned on the client-side. And it takes several creatives to fall victim as the martyrs. Clients are at fault here as well. I have no qualms about saying this. But I most certainly can not condone the use of these sites either. They are viable sources of learning, for user and nay-sayer alike.
    Spec, in most cases, is guess work. Which in-turn throws the self-taught or educated designer back into the perception of artisit. We all know this is not what we provide as a service. We also know the value of work with meaning and purpose. And unfortunately, a lot of us know what it’s like to eat Top Ramen four nights a week.

    I suppose the only contribution I can offer to this controversial subject is this;
    What are you worth? What is your idea worth? What will your idea do for your client? When you can answer these questions, you’ll figure out why it’s so important to value creativity. Even when it exceeds beyond a design piece or a brand identity.

    The graphic that accompanies this post is spot on. We have moved from creating a perception of value to perceiving the value of creativity. And it’s important to remind ourselves just how valuable creative ideas are. No matter how they are executed, no matter what medium they appear in.

    As this wonderful web develops ( and it’s still very young ) and we begin to adopt more personalized technologies for value, invoicing and project management–sites like these will cease to be viable. And in-fact, will probably become somewhat of a desolate wasteland of regurgitated ideas and hacks. A copy of a copy of a copy.

    For now, simply ask yourself; How Hungary am I?

    In the end, remember that we all have ideas. Everyone of us. Even clients. But we make money and survive based on the amount of time it takes to execute these ideas. This involves client-education in some cases. In doing so, we see the original and innovative rise to the top much faster–naturally. Those creatives who can afford to explore and reinvent, will always find themselves wealthier then the other. And their book will speak–so they don’t half to

    Marc Rapp’s latest post: WEB 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0

  33. Zinni


    Thanks for the amazing comment! I hope that you are right and these types of sites end up dying off, until then I will remain a firm opponent of their services!

  34. David Airey

    Excellent discussion. I just spent too long reading it, but appreciate how the original post brought up the issue.

    Anthony, so much has already been said, that I’ll simply leave a link via my name to an article on my own blog.

    I hope everthing’s going well for you, and so you know, I just arrived via Cat’s post on Designers Who Blog.

    Ciao for now.

    David Airey’s latest post: Creative roundup 19 May 2008

  35. Dennison Uy

    I used to have tons of respect for SitePoint. I even subscribe to its RSS feed in a special group along with ALA and Mezzoblue. It is way up there. Having learned this connection between SitePoint and that pathetic excuse of a design whore called 99designs has made me lose any and all respect for SitePoint. May the crew of 99designs rot in hell.

    Dennison Uy’s latest post: Does Skype steal information from me illegally?

  36. Andrei

    I think everything that has been said by those against design contests have been said. I, for one, throw my weight behind those who are against spec contests.

    I’m very disappointed in Sitepoint for having created this. However, I am not surprised, as Sitepoint is a site run by programmers, not designers, hence, I doubt if they have any real understanding of the damage they are doing.

    I’ve got an idea: why don’t we put up And lets create spec work for programmers!

    Let’s see how the sitepoint crew feel about that. ;)

  37. Dennison Uy sounds like a good idea! Companies post their software requirements and programmers do their best to meet the requirements. The best software will then be awarded the cash prize. Big bucks to be made there!

  38. Paul Annesley

    Let me know when is up - I’ll be first to compete :)

  39. Andrei

    Paul, your website looks like the work from a 99designs’s winner. ROFL.

    You guys should be ashamed. We talk about No! Spec, and how we should help one another bring this industry up, make it more respectable, etc. etc., and all you buggers did was put up 99designs and stab us in the back.

    Maybe us designers should refuse working with the people from Sitepoint and 99designs, what do you think?

  40. mayhemstudios

    Looks like 99 Designs and Sitepoint is at it again!

    99 Designs is sponsoring a free pdf version of the book, “The Photoshop Anthology: 101 Web Design Tips, Tricks & Techniques.”

    The book looks more like for newbies. This is their way of suckering newbie designers into their Spec Contest web site!

    In order for you to get the download link. You need to enter your email address. Yet another way to get you on their mailing list.

    - Cal

  41. Jamie

    The article is certainly not propaganda! Ok so maybe it paints a pretty idealistic view of, but that view is correct for many designers!

    ”Design Contests Made Me A Better Designer” is a perfectly legitimate title as most regular designers for 99designs do learn alot and gain from their experiance there. I am 17 years old, and have been participating in contests for around a year. The designs i first submitted to the site to me now look awful compared to what i am producing now! I have learn so much by observing other designers’ techniques and relations to the brief.

    Contests are addictive indeed, especialy when you find a company you can relate to and suddenly get an idea for. Its a great feeling when you get good feedback, a five star rating or a random designer commenting on your works. I find myself checking back each day to see if there are any updates on contests, or anything new i can get involved in.

    I attend college as well but learn 10x as much by submitting designs and looking at other peoples work. I am then using this ‘training’ in my college work and achieving the best grades i can! Next step; uni, with a full portfolio of designs!

  42. Chris

    As a designer with 8 years of experience, I have done some work on 99designs to see what it’s all about and I can’t say it’s bogus. I started my own business two years ago and built my client base from the ground up without 99designs or spec work or even quoting on freelance work. I did it 100% by referrals. Almost every client I have had comes from someone I have worked with or someone I know. I’ve never used pay-per-click or banner ads because I’ve never needed them.

    My point is, if you’re good, people want what you have. If you’re not, continue doing spec work on 99designs, eventually you will get better and you’ll have a great portfolio, which in turn, pushes you up the ladder.

    Sure, spec work sucks, I agree 100% there. But sometimes being headstrong, taking initiative, and working your ass off means taking spec work, if that’s what is available.

    As a side note, I am not a fan of any contest that strips the copyright from all designers’ entries. Rather, the final winning design should be the only one.

    Chris’s latest post: Synchronize your iTunes Library across all computers? Go Mojo!

  43. praxis

    Looks like Richard’s needs are vary modest if all his bills are paid with around 10 k a year, assuming the contest holders all paid him. If you look at his winnings at 99design that’s about what it comes out to. Maybe he lives with his mom?


  1. A case for Crowdsourcing | am i works?
  2. Why logo design does not cost $5.00
  3. The Logo Factor Design Blog » Design Contests - The battle continues
  4. Why logo design does not cost $5.00 | Dalton Trent's Blog
  5. THE| | Web Blog
  6. Why logo’s dont cost $50.00 | Joosebox Magazine: A place for creative minds!
  7. » WordPress Icon Contest Quanundrum :: Positive Space Blog
  8. » Blog Archive » The WordPress Icon Contest Quanundrum
  9. The WordPress Icon Contest Quanundrum



  • Koocha: Thanks for that. Also, feel free to browse my new site with lots of design stuff collected from Internet
  • Paul Gordon: Aaah, I love KickStarter projects. I’m hoping they come over to the UK very soon. Nick, the very best of luck with...
  • Firma Rehberi: thanks for this.
  • James Kemp: In the end, everything thing is designed. Plain things are still designed, but with usability in mind. The two bounce off...
  • Joshua: Being more of a graphic designer than a web designer, I think I can agree with the concept here. I do a lot of web layout mockups...
  • estudio web: Muy buen blog de diseño! great blog! thanks from Argentina.
  • theComplex: @Lisa – I have the same issue. And sometimes I get so caught up in how irritated I am at that client that the...
  • Daus: I don’t think there is “rules” in webdesign. It is just trend, and people (read: designer) often...
  • Web Design Australia: Forcing yourself to work on something when you’re stressed won’t give you the results that you want....
  • Benny: Great post and good tips! I also have this problem from time to time, having trouble finding that perfect ‘inspiratio...
  • Luci: Conventions and standards, in my mind, are different kettles of fish. Standards, like coding standards, I think exist for good...
  • Tom Hermans: Although I want a website to be visually appealing, and to stand out etc.. I also want it to be a handy instrument that is...
  • Vim: This list is always a good tip however its something that most designers already know, finding inspiration can be hard, but to get...
  • LA Woodarts Designer: An excellent reminder to step back sometimes. It’s amazing how often the business part blocks the creative....
  • Ben Rama: shouldnt it be as simple as if it works it works in an ideal world great post – thanks
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