Major 99designs Release today!

April 21, 2009

We’re excited to announce some major changes to way 99designs works…

Key points:

  • All fees including the prize money will be paid for in advance by all customers.
  • 99designs will handle all prize payments to designers.
  • We will offer a 100% money back guarantee to all customers.
  • Guaranteed prize contests have been vastly improved.

The Details

Since the early days of 99designs we tossed around the idea of taking full payment upfront for all contests and passing the prize money onto the winning designers. It seemed like a pipe dream when we first starting discussing this back in 2006, but we are pleased to announce that from this point forward all contests on 99designs will be prepaid. That means there will be no such thing as contests that are paid for after they are won — 99designs will be handling all prize payments to designers from now on.

We will also be offering a 100% money back guarantee on all contests that haven’t opted to have a guaranteed prize, and all contests up to the point where the designer hasn’t yet been awarded the prize and paid out. That will go a long way towards giving our customers peace of mind.

The thinking behind these decisions

The thinking that lead up to this was essentially finding an answer to two essential questions:

1. How can we minimize the risk of entering contests for designers?

2. How can we minimize the risk of running contests for customers?

We tossed around many ideas, but at the end of the day the answers were straight forward… The only way to reassure our design community that most customers are serious about finding and paying for a design is to require them to pay the full price of the contest (prize and fees) upfront. And on the flip side the only way to reassure  our customers that most design contests end with a great result was to offer them a 100% money back guarantee for anything less. It makes logical sense, but let’s delve a little deeper into the money back guarantee…

Our philosophy behind the 100% money back guarantee

We thought long and hard about this, and  the more we thought about it the more we came to the conclusion that if the customer isn’t satisfied, neither are we.  And neither should our designers be satisfied either.  It’s up to both of us to deliver value to 99designs customers – that’s the only way to build lasting relationships with customers. We decided that for this to work we had to be in the same boat as our designers. So in other words what’s good for our designers is good for 99designs.

If a customer requests a refund we will invest time with the customer and we will try to  find a way to get them a result.  Failing that we will issue a refund. We don’t make any money from contests that have been refunded and neither do our designers – we’re in the same boat.  All refunded contests will be locked down so no new designs can be entered, and all existing designs will be made invisible to the public. The fact that a refund has been made will be reflected in the customers profile. We’d encourage designers to think carefully about entering contests where customers have a history of refunding. At the end of the day 99designs is an open marketplace, customers are responsible for their own behavior and designers choose which contests they enter.

So, what does this mean for Guaranteed Contests?

We can hear you asking now “how about guaranteed prizes”. Rest assured they haven’t been removed, in fact they have been vastly improved.  Customers can still guarantee a contest after it’s launched if certain conditions are satisfied, but in doing so they forfeit their right to claim our 100% money back guarantee. A guaranteed contest is essentially a promise from the customer that they will award the prize, and we will back those promises. That means we will  put our hand on our heart and say to all designers that the prize will be distributed wherever a contest is marked as ‘guaranteed’.

Other improvements worth a mention

In addition to prepaid contests, the 100% money back guarantee, and guaranteed prize contest enhancements, we have also launched a number of new features around the site, the most comprehensive being the completely redesigned design handover process. It’s never been easier to exchange final design files, assign the copyright to the customer, and receive full payment (no more waiting for the 7 days).  From now on all prize payments will be credited to the designers 99designs account as soon as the customer approves the design files, and from there the designer can request a cash withdrawal at any time.

We hope you like the new changes. If you have any questions, shoot?

Update: Completion of Existing Guaranteed Contests

We are aware that a small minority of our existing Guaranteed Contests (launched prior to yesterday’s release) have ended, run beyond 7 days and are still yet to be concluded. Our support team will be actively contacting each of these customers over the next few days to assist them in concluding these contests, as this is ultimately the best result for all concerned.

For any existing Guaranteed Contests that are still not concluded in 30 days time, we will be backdating the new policy of distributing the prize money evenly to all designers who entered the contest (providing they have at least one win under their belt). We appreciate your patience with this and agree that no one wins when contests are left to drag on unresolved.

Taking a wider perspective, we’re also planning to provide more active support to customers to ensure that they have all the tools they need to manage a contest towards a great result. This may include better guidance on areas such as writing a clear brief, providing regular constructive feedback and concluding the design handover process efficiently. As always, thanks for your continued feedback and stay tuned for more news to come!

68 Responses to “Major 99designs Release today!”

  1. A 99design's Designer Says:

    This means that now there will be two types of Contests..

    1) Prepaid (Having Money back feature)
    2) Guaranteed (Do not have Money Back Feature)

    Am I Right??

  2. A 99design's Designer Says:

    When the site will be back??

  3. Designer Says:

    When the sit Will be back?

  4. Alex Bilusic Says:

    “From now on all prize payments are distributed as soon as the customer approves the design files.”

    – Does that mean that the payments will be made AFTER the designers delivers the ORIGINAL and final files?
    Or just he needs to approve (as before – deciding who a winner is)? Thanks.

    To all the other changes – thumbs up.

  5. Designer Says:

    Secondly, Please tell me that am I right that there will be now two types of Contests?

    1) Prepaid (Have Money Back Feature)
    2) Guaranteed (Do not have Money Back Feature)


  6. sudhithxavier Says:

    hats off to the dynamic team of 99designs.
    really love to experience the changes.
    seems like 99designs
    is becoming more and more serious freelancers place.
    It would be nice if 99designs team gives users an
    assistance for making the right decision on right design. I think that will add lots of value to the
    entire project. It’s just my personal suggestion
    as i have seen winning entries lack the right appeal
    and details.

    I would like to hear more from you on the statement:
    “That means we will put our hand on our heart and say to all designers that the prize will be distributed wherever a contest is marked as ‘guaranteed’.”

    wish you all the best for the future.
    lets work together to make this a great place to live on.

    thank you.

  7. Designer Says:

    Also, Can any one please explain that Guaranteed Contest prize will be given directly by 99designs (As it was done in the past) or by the contest Holder (From now on)?


    Guaranteed Contest is only a promise and the prize will not be credited in our 99design account.


  8. Alex Bilusic Says:

    Some links still broken
    in the text.
    Good luck!

  9. fin Says:

    is this means that the contest can be canceled whenever the contest holder didn’t find any of the design that they liked? if so, it’s going to be hard for the designers who spends their time on designing for the contest to finds that the chances of winning is suddenly gone.

    i finds on some of the contest are abandoned by the Contest Holder. They didn’t give feedback, they didn’t choose any of the design when the contest is ended (the CH will get 7 days to choose, but sometimes it takes more than 7 days even weeks)

    what happens if they didn’t choose any? did 99designs choose the best design for them? or with this new 100% money guarantee, the contest is automaticly get canceled?

    i think this new 100% money back guarantee will be disadvantage for the designers. please concider.



  10. jeiru Says:

    First, I like how 99D is evolving and being a member from way way back, I’d say there are a lot of improvements introduced so Kudos to all 99D staff!

    One point of concern with regards to the latest improvement, if the customer say he is not satisfied with his contest how can we verify if this is a valid claim as this is very subjective?

  11. Alex Bilusic Says:

    Looks like there are still no news about what’s going on with abandoned contests. :(

  12. Alex Bilusic Says:

    Sorry for flooding; but seems like I found a new entry in FAQ section;
    saying “If a guaranteed contest is not awarded, the prize money will be distributed evenly between all designers who entered the contest.”
    Does that apply retrograde? Thanks.

  13. v-render Says:

    thanks for these improvements
    what if i assign the copyright to the customer, and receive full payment but client doesn’t approves file and ask more design or
    say if contest is for logo and he asks for business card design in same price and i do not send it. then obviously he will no accept files.

    or somebody gets files but do not approve it but they have files. then ..

    What about payment to designer ? how many days to withdraw price ammount to paypal ? last time it took almost 12 days for me. please bare with my comment .. i have asked too many !

  14. noel Says:

    Nice improvements!

    I’d like to know when can we expect the site to be up and running again if a rough estimate is possible.

    Secondly, for contests that are about to end (1-20 hours before closing), does the countdown timer stop during the maintenance period? I believe customers would be greatly affected since the design submittion window has been narrowed.

  15. discosmiter Says:

    Still is not clear (to me) – what happens when contest is guaranteed, and CH does not declares winner after 7 days.
    How is that handled at this moment?

  16. yanne Says:

    hi guys,

    thanks to the improvements, it would be a great help to all the designer here at 99designs. anyway, i just like to point out some concern, i was trying to upload an eps file using the handover button but was not able to do so. is there any way we could check on that. would appreciate it a lot. thanks!

  17. loquaz Says:

    I would encourage 99Designs to take a more active role in educating the contest holders and encourage them to provide feedback and effective criticism — this would go a long way to keeping contests healthy and insuring that no refund is required. There are way too many contests where the CH either abandons, or, worse, leads designers on with inadequate feedback, only to abandon contests and leave designers holding the bag of hard work and hours invested.

    Contest holders cannot expect to be satisfied with the out come of their contest if they don’t provide well written, complete briefs and concrete, specific feedback.

    On my list of “watched contests” there are literally dozens of these abandoned contests where no winner was ever selected. Does 99Designs follow-up with these CHs? It’s just sad to see so much hard work (and, many fine designs) languish in this manner.

  18. #everyone: Thanks very much for your feedback! Keep it coming!

    @A 99design’s Designer: Basically, yes. Technically, we only have one type of contest: ‘Prepaid’; and prepaid contests can be made: ‘Guaranteed’ by forfeiting rights to a refund.

    @Alex Bilusic: Payment is made after the final design files have been uploaded by the designer and approved by the contest holder. Thanks for letting us know about those links, too. We’ll post about how these new changes affect past guaranteed contests soon.

    @sudhithxavier: Thanks for the suggestion. As for your question, what we mean is: 99designs will honour Guaranteed contest prize payouts.

    @Designer: Prizes will be paid by 99designs from now on, for both prepaid and guaranteed contests.

    @fin: Actually, with these new improvements we believe contest holders will be even more likely to see contests all the way through to completion. By receiving the prize up-front, we confirm fund availability and, as a result, encourage more committed contest holder’s.

    @jeiru: Where a contest holder wishes to refund a prepaid contest, we’ll first see if we can help them resolve any issues that may be holding them back from awarding their contest.

    @v-render: In either of those cases, please shoot 99designs Support an email and we’ll sort the issue out for you. As for the payment time-frame, the new process potentially cuts it in half.

    @noel: Anyone seriously affected by the outage can contact 99designs Support and we’ll provide them with an extension.

    @yanne If there’s still no word from a contest holder after 7-days, let us know and we’ll contact them on your behalf. We’ve also fixed the issue with .EPS files – thanks for letting us know!

    @Tracey Glenn: Looks like you’re registered! Great!

  19. LukeSF Says:

    That thing with approving files is really tricky… I personally have experience here, when the files for the won contest have not been even downloaded… So does it mean that in this case, I will be a winner, I transfer copyrights to the CH but will have no chance to get money?
    Guess you should consider it…

  20. Sharath Says:

    “All refunded contests will be locked down so no new designs can be entered, and all existing designs will be made invisible to the public.” – What if a contest is canceled while the contest holder is not happy with the designs submitted and if CH takes away any design which they like before it is locked down ??

    The contest holder gets 100% money guarantee + the design, for free ??

    I mean to say, what should one do at such a situation ??

    I think 99designs team should come up with something for this, since many designers are spending there valuable time on the designs and there should some kind of safety given to the designs submitted.

    Sharath kumar

  21. Hateem Says:

    HEllo 99 design team,

    What about these contests ?

    2 month passed . And no winner ?

    Comon . Are we wasting our time here ? Its Guaranteed contest .

    And I think more contest like this :(


  22. yanne Says:

    thanks adam. i have already uploaded the eps files.

  23. @LukeSF: If a contest holder hasn’t approved your files within a reasonable time-frame (5-7 days), please contact 99designs Support and we’ll contact the contest holder on your behalf. We’re really committed to doing all we can to ensure each and every contest ends positively.

    @Sharath: If you have any suggestions for how we could make further improvements, please let us know on our UserVoice Feedback & Ideas page.

    @Hateem: As I mentioned above, we’re working with contest holder’s to resolve any issues they may have with their contest and end it positively.

    @yanne Great! Thanks for letting us know! :-)

    Updated: April 23, 2009.

  24. LukeSF Says:

    Well, then we may consider 3 other possibele ways the situtation can develop
    1) The best one. You contacted the CH, he checked the files (hopefully not another 5-7 days, said everything is ok and I got the money.
    2) You contacted, received no feedback, or received it in week(s) saying that the business objectives/marketing strategy/positioning, etc changed and the files are no longer needed… Again he has copyrights and designs…
    3) CH downloaded the files and already have my copyrights but hasn’t approved the files. you contact him. he says that designs turned to be wrong format, wrong color, whatsover…And after certain period (5-7 days) says nothing can be improved and files can not be approved

    In case 2 and 3 I’m left without design and money… Maybe at least we could transfer copyrights after we have the design aproved… Besides adjustments made to the design after copyright transfer can considerably change the original and secondly it’s at least a vague design protection

  25. 'quad-a' Says:

    Kudos !!!…….Team 99designs !!!

    By taking up-front payment from the contest holders. we almost negate(eliminate) casual contest holders who may just be hunting for ideas or concepts in order to improve

    them later and pass it as their own with a few changes or modifications.

    Hope fully from now on, we will have only serious contest holders running their design projects here at 99designs.
    Having achieved this significant milestone(which certainly deserves a celebration…….)The 99designs team after getting back to work, should start thinking on the


    1. A thought run over putting a cap to the number of refunds a customer can receive.

    2. There should also be some procedure where the contest holders should provide a convincing explanation on the reason for a refund(for all we know a project with less or

    no feedback is bound to head to the rocks)

    3.All those contests where the contest holders brief may not be descriptive enough or insufficient. Thought should be run on whether a refund needs to be extended to such

    contests or not.

    4. Likewise if the contest holder who wants to keep the option of refund open should mandatorily adhere to a set of guidlines, for instance

    # A Clear and Descriptive Brief
    # We already have a feedback percentage calculator on our contest details list, we might as well utilize that by…….asking the contest holders to cross a certain percentage

    of feedback in order to qualify for a refund.
    # Extensive use of Private messaging or feedback has to be followed with designers who show potential.

    5. My experience at 99designs suggests that contest with absolutly no feedback but a very Clear, Descriptive and Asserive brief( where the contest holder knows what he

    wants), attracts out of the box & interesting design proposals dished out by the talented designer community of 99designs.

    …….We can educate the Contest holders on this fact and clearly exempt such type of contest from the refund option as these are sure drainers of valuable grey cells of

    talented designers here. Also it would help to keep a minimum cap to the prize money for such contest say atleast 500-700 dollars.

    As only a combo of high prize money and no feedback attracts “out of the box & interesting design” proposals.

    Also it would be of prime importance to have a proper investigative procedure before processing a refund claim.

    As its understandable that a client may not be satisfied with the result but we can never take it sitting down that this place called 99designs lacks talent !!!!!!!

    Right Guys ???????

    cheers !!!

  26. gman333 Says:

    i hope this make’s a change in a good way
    good job 99

  27. meko6 Says:

    I agree with loquaz regarding feedback. Since the establishment of guaranteed contests I have seen a big decline in the feedback given by CH’s. This is not how it is in the real world where initial submissions are made and the design is “tweaked” to the client’s liking. Generally the more feedback given in a contest the better the outcome. Its quite exciting to see a direction that we are pointed towards and the amazing results that appear from us as a collection of individual minds. Perhaps 99designs would consider an agreement by the CH of giving daily feedback as part of the contract for each contest.

  28. Lisa S Says:

    Will the prepay eliminate unhealthy contests? I’ve had a couple contests go unhealthy on me, only to be healthy again the next day. It’s hard to know if the contest was abandoned if the health can fluctuate so much in 6 days. Are there any plans to change the criteria for the “health” of contests?

  29. Chris A Says:

    I have to agree with LukeSF. This is pretty backwards to the way this business happens in the real world. You never transfer over copyright and designs in freelance type situations until you’ve been paid. Although, since 99 designs is handling all payments from now on this should be easily resolved. You could basically act like an escrow, where you hold the money until both sides are happy (the CH has approved the designs and the designer has signed over the copyrights). It just seems a little silly to expect the designer to basically hand all their power over to the CH before they’ve even gotten paid.

  30. Gerardo Bolivar Says:

    Hi all,

    I think the changes are designed to solve existing problems between 99designs and its client, but I am preocupoacion it can affect the designers who work hard here in the first place if there is standing claims of these returns can be interpreted per customer is even in cases where they declare a winner? if so this could be a fatal consequence for designers because if we have that the competition lasts 7 days and then 7 days to obtain the credits, and depending on the payment system are obtained up to 10 additional days, a claim beyond the decision to pay more than 24 days, this already seems rather long. Secondly I do not know if this will now be monitoring the conduct of the Contest Holder’s many competitions because they do not generate feedback and improve the proposal that prevents the subjective desires of our customers, this can also generate a higher number of cancellations is which will make community participation drops (that I think), you would know the position of staff 99designs thereon.

  31. perlico Says:


    I’ve held quite a few contests and always pay even if i dont find what im looking for. The fact that 99 designs now feel that they have to babysit the contest holders annoys me and frustrates me.

    Removing the option to pay after is ridiculous. By having both options, then its covering both the contest holders and entrants (they dont have to enter an unguaranteed contest). I don’t feel i should have to pay an extra $15 when its unjustifiable.

  32. ulahts Says:

    Congrats fellows. This is a really great step.
    There is a small issue though.
    That part with the contest holder aprooving the files prior to the payment release is not quite an option.
    For example some contest holders does not even know what program will be required to open and edit illustrator files. I have received many requests in the past to make a PSD version of the logo / stationery as they said “this is outrageous, i gave you the money now please send me a photoshop version so i can open the file” Well, re-building a vector shaped layered version of the logo in photoshop is completely another thing. That’s why some of the contest holders may not aproove the files and if something like this happens.
    Another issue concerning aprooving files is that sometimes we may have to wait another period for the CH to aproove the files + the crediting your 99designs account period + withdrawal request period…then it may take longer than expected.
    And lastly, the “change my mind factor”
    For example there were not rarely cases when CH asked for further revisions – after the contest – due to the fact that his client changed his mind about colors, the “symbol” (e.g. “Well, now he does not like the symbol anymore and he wants something similar … but please can you do another version where…blablabla”) This means more time from us and the same money from them. In this case, the CH may not aproove files too early…

    All i know from my experience there will be more dificulties than now. I suggest that CH should be aware that illustrator / EPS files are the best and especially to mention if he/she desires other formats – mandatory or not.

  33. Anzol Says:

    my biggest concern is that the “7 day to pick a winner” still not working, we still waiting 2, 3 weeks to contest holder pick the winner, and this is to much time.

  34. VB20 Says:

    I can agree with Ulahts. In some cases, the payment process can be very quick, in other cases it may still take a while. I guess it all comes down to the contest holder making it clear what type of files they will need, and also designers should make sure upon entering a contest, that they can deliver the files required.

  35. wahyu Says:

    it will be more risk contest to designers. since a contest can be cancelled at any time even a minutes before it end. the contest is over then. The CH take the money back and the designers do not get any improvement of this improvement.

    i think 99d should improve how long a contest can be held before it marked with guaranted.

  36. Alex Bilusic Says:

    LukeSF, ChrisA, ulahts – I agree.
    There’s no way in the real world that I will handle the open files (.ai, .eps or similar) to the client and then let him decide if he is satisfied with what he’s got, while transferring all the copyright to him too, and just sit and wait for the client to say “OK I’ll pay you” or “No, I won’t pay but I have editable files and I can do whatever I want with them”.

    I hope this will change soon or IMHO lots of quality designers here just won’t be participating anymore.
    Just to quote Chris A once more:
    “It just seems a little silly to expect the designer to basically hand all their power over to the CH before they’ve even gotten paid.”

  37. Alex Bilusic Says:

    I’ve read ulahts’ comment once more, and have to agree.

    It would be good that the CH MUST specifiy clearly which file types he needs – i.e. “I need .eps or .ai” or “.pdf” or “.psd file” etc.

    This way how it is now – it looks like they aren’t forced in any way to approve the files,
    but still have an opportunity to *keep them* and *use them* – since they have already downloaded them. And they can always declare that there was something wrong with the files etc. Very tricky, from where I stand now. :(

    One possible solution I can now think of could be – if the 99designs had *someone* to open/review/confirm the files sent by the designer are identical to the winning design, and then hand the files over to the CH and the payment to the winner simultaneously.

  38. Bombardierbob Says:

    100% money back guarantee…

    Sounds good on paper but raises legal issues big time. When a designer creates anything they hold the copyright to it till they sell that right away. 99 Designs retaining the files raises an issue as they do not have legal rights to the design and if that design should be compromised and leaked to the internet would be held liable for any loss caused from it. By the wording of this new changes you not only trying to strip the designer of their copyrights but of their work as well by retaining the files period.

    Just how does the Contest Host go about checking the work if they do not have access to the file itself pray tell. Once they have access to it they can easily opt out and have their money and the work as well. Just like if you give them access to the web page work that is coded, some can access the coding easily and again they walk away with everything and leave the designer empty.

    Sorry but this sounds like the designer is at the losing hand and this has become one sided toward the host. This changes can become a legal night mare in courts real easy cause now you become liable for handling the files of designers around the world.


  39. Designer Says:

    I think these changes are not good for the designers, as this can easily happen that CH do not accept the files, but start using them. Therefore, this is a great loss for designers.

    I think the designers are not happy from these changes. The previous type of Guaranteed Contests was better than this one.

  40. Dormouse Says:

    Has anyone else noticed a sharp decline in the amount of new guaranteed contests since the changes were implemented?

    I am worried that the money back guarantee leaves a lot of room for abuse on the part of the client…

  41. guillermo Says:

    hello, thanks for the opportunity to earn money… In the poor countries.

  42. hworks Says:

    i have the same prime concern regarding the contest holder’s ‘approval’. the process just isn’t logically sequenced and staff needs to realise this. its a biased scenario and increase in prize waiting time is only a consequence of this.

    appreciate the other changes, specially prepayment. shared money from abandoned guaranteed contests is also a good thing. refunded contests is a concern that only time shall tell more about.

    how about a visual uplift to the site? not asking for a cosmetic vista, but atleast an XP compared to the current windows98 era look! :)


  43. sukonrat Says:

    I think CH still should paid at least 50% of the prize if he doesn’t choose the winner and that money will separate to all designers that participate. 100% money back is absolutely push all risk to designers. We should separate 100% risk to both side. Now that’s not fair for designer.

  44. ulahts Says:

    Well said Bbob.
    This raises bigger problems.
    If the contest holders would have contracted an agency – for example 99designs Creatives – and let’s say that the client would ask for a corporate branding then there should be a contract made signed and agreed by both parts. Then to start a project at least an advance must be paid. If for one reason or another the client drops the contest than he looses the advance and has no claims furthermore on the creations.

    Again, i think more and more that handling the files is a very big issue and needs more work.

  45. #everyone: Thanks again for your constructive comments. Reading your ideas, fears, suggestions, and criticisms keeps us honest and fuels our fires. Believe me, we’re listening.

    We’ve heard your thoughts on copyright transfer occurring up-front. As it stands, the contract is only supposed to ‘activate’ once the contest holder approves the files. However, having reflected on the whole process, we can see why there is some confusion surrounding the order of this step.

    So, we’ve put our heads together and we have a solution: we’re going to move the copyright transfer step, and merge it with the contest holder’s ‘approval’ step.

    This means the Design Handover will begin with file transfer. Importantly, it will be very clear the designer retains full copyright of their files until such time as the copyright contract is agreed to and the files are implicitly approved.

    In other words, the contest holder will be able to review the master design files, but will not own them until they have agreed to the copyright contract. And, both parties agreeing to the copyright contract will automatically ‘approve’ the files. Remember: designers are paid when files are approved (that’s the case, even now).

    We believe this provides the best incentive and makes the most sense for contest holders, and reassures designers that copyright ownership only occurs when they are paid; just as it should be. Throughout this process, we’ll send the contest holder regular email reminders, too.

    We’re busily implementing this solution. Stay tuned (it may take a bit).

  46. @C: The file size limit has been increased. Thanks for persevering. As for your second question, please see the update to this blog post (just under the original post).

    @Alex Bilusic: You’re absolutely right about specifying (file format) deliverables up-front in the contest brief. It’s on our list of things to do soon.

    @Bombardierbob: Where do I start? Basically, the last thing 99designs wants to do is strip the copyright from designers. Without designers, there is no 99designs. We want to do everything we reasonably can to protect designers and their work. We aim to do even more. A balance must be struck between protecting the designer, as well as the contest holder and I’m really thankful we’re able to improve that balance as a result of this conversation.

    @hworks: Ouch! Windows 98? We have long had plans for aesthetic improvements around the site. As user interface ninja, I’ll take your challenge personally. Stay tuned.

    @sukonrat: Actually, 100% Money Back Guarantee is good because it puts 99designs in the same boat as designers. And, that means we are going to do everything we possibly can to minimise designer risk.

    @artofid: That’s a good idea. You can vote for it on UserVoice.

    #everyone: Please don’t miss my above comment. Thanks!

  47. LukeSF Says:

    Well done! I appreciate that you hear us, guys! Thanks for that.
    As for concurrent aproval/copyright trasnfer – have you got a certain idea how it’ll be done? I mean in terms of clicking buttons or things like this:)

  48. @LukeSF: Yes, the changes will be fairly minimal, all considered. The important thing is that we get the ordering right (as I outlined above) and the text must be very, very clear for both parties. The checkboxes/buttons should follow naturally. Thanks again!

  49. Alex Bilusic Says:

    Thanks Adam for answering each separate question, that means a lot and puts some confidence in my (or should I say our) heart.
    BUT; I think it’s not the copyright itself that makes such concerns.

    It is the final file delivery itself.

    Lets make an example: I design an outstanding, magnificently glorious logotype :). The CH picks me as a winner. I handover the files, so the CH is now in possesion of the original, vector files (let’s say, .eps file). OK, I do not transfer the copyright until I get paid. But the fact that I handed over the original, editable file is here. Lets imagine that for some reason the CH doesn’t approve the file(s).
    So; I don’t get the money, he doesn’t get the copyright. CH gets his money back from 99designs.
    But, he still does have an original file.
    So; I am left without the original file, and the CH gets his money back, and gets the files.
    Does that look fair and pleasant?
    Not to me, at least.

    Who can guarantee to me, living in Croatia (Europe) now, with almost no way to solve anything legally, that anyone will be fair enough not to use that file since he hasn’t got the copyright? And having an original file makes the things lot easier… It’s easy enough to figure out that this doesn’t make a designer confident. And it sure has to be a concern to 99designs.

    I just can’t be so trustful, that’s not how things work IRL. I’ve worked in several ad agencies, and every single time the final (raw) files didn’t come to the client until he has fully paid.

    Please forgive me if my english is a bit rusty :)
    Thanks in advance.

  50. Alex Bilusic Says:

    Thanks for the clearing :)
    But this just moves the issue to the part when it’s time to approve the files.

  51. Stevan Says:

    I LOVE OLD “Guaranteed Contests”!!!
    I think it`s not safe enough for us designers. It`s much better for clients & I don`t like it. I like old way :( I think so that I will work only Guaranteed Contests. We work for something “maybe” and we have one more “MAYBE”. It`s not fair. That is a my opinion.

  52. Bombardierbob Says:

    Thank you for answering my concerns as well as the others on here. Just feel that from your own statement above;

    In other words, the contest holder will be able to review the master design files, but will not own them until they have agreed to the copyright contract. And, both parties agreeing to the copyright contract will automatically ‘approve’ the files.

    The moment the host has access to the master files there is no protection to the designer of design theft. I hope you truly find a better solution to this potential legal nightmare.


  53. hworks Says:

    core issue still isnt resolved with delaying the copyright transfer. infact the copyright transfer seems very unimportant, or rather irrelevant to me here in india. cant chase down a supermarket in illinois and accuse them of a breach.

    i don’t understand all this complication when the solution is so simple. please get back to crediting money as soon as files are uploaded. in most of the contests i won, contest holders did not have vector software. it is, in fact the printer or the web designer that the contest holder eventually goes to with my logo files who i believe is the actual ‘user’. surely we cant wait til such a person validates the file. its almost like telling the contest holder that they should not trust a designer’s master files.

    i suggest you have a starring system by previous contest holders for a designer, visible only during the handover process. it would provide a quick visual overview of how happy previous contest holders were with the files or rather, service provided. the designers would make sure their stars were perfect and you could resort to the contest holders approvals if the average stars received were 2 or 3. another thing, i’ve seen a few picky clients ask designers to show ‘details’ or zoomed in views of their logo/graphics. for whoever needs it, the point is that they’ve already figured out a way.

    im currently stuck in an approval process. its already been a day ive been waiting for approval, add 7 days to that for the credits to be available, 2 days for payout and bank credit. isnt it a bit unfair?

    the prime issue still remains that i cant stand anyone accessing my vector files before i see the money. c’mon staff, give us some respect we’re putting a lot at stake ‘hoping’ to win in the first place. why do you think its called ‘speculative/spec’ work?

    you’re killing the simplicity based on which i use 99designs and submitting work isn’t seeming so motivating anymore.

  54. Brand0n Says:

    what!!! please bring back the old process.

  55. Brand0n Says:

    And I realeze now that guaranted contest decreasing drastically. what a shame…

  56. @hworks the credits are available as soon as the contest holder approves them! We actually were trying to speed up how quickly you guys get paid. We’ll take your feedback on board and see what we can come up with.

    • hworks Says:

      Well thats really nice and Im glad you guys thought of it. I only hope I get to that stage though. Its now 48hours over and my last contest holder is still ‘reviewing’ my precious vectors. The guy seems nice and professional but we as designers cant do this ‘hope’ scenario twice. One, to hope we find appreciation and have our work chosen and then hope again that the contest holder is not some dweep who smiles over readily transferred vectors.

      Its surprising that you guys have a totally different take in the pay-to-win contests where the winning email says:
      “The first step is to contact the contest holder with your payment details
      (e.g. a PayPal address) and wait for the payment to arrive.”

      I always found this one statement very very understanding of a designers situation. Now its an absolute about turn.

  57. Paul Annesley Says:

    @Brand0n: all contests now begin as ‘prepaid’ but not ‘guaranteed’. We then encourage the contest holder to guarantee their contest while it’s running.

    This helps us educate the contest holder as to what ‘Guaranteed’ truly means, and therefore prevents problems and disputes at the end of guaranteed contests – it’s to make it safer for the designers.

    You’ll find that contests become guaranteed while they’re running, so don’t measure it on how many brand new contests are guaranteed.

  58. Whipsnade Says:

    How About this…
    I’ve been pick as a winner…
    and the CH need a revision…
    and i gave them…
    after a weeks the CH is change the Winner with someone else, and tell me
    ‘Sorry, we have accidentally wrong Pick a winner’
    Is that okay, with the contest?
    tell me?

  59. malonna Says:

    I thought pay on win contest do not exist anymore?
    does that mean that are not guaranteed ? and why are some still on here?

  60. Riz Says:

    Great stuff guys! Its getting better and better everyday! And the number of contests are also increasing.


  61. perlico Says:

    Paul, i’m very frustrated. My budgets have been become even tighter due to current climate and you expect us to pay $15 extra.

    I have personally thrown a number of contests and paid all winners and i think that in itself should be a guarantee for the designers. You should have both prepay and post payment options.

    Unless this changes, i will throwing my final contest today and moving over to one of your competitors.

  62. LukeSF Says:

    Looks like new changes are not in favor with both designers and CHs…

  63. jessicadg Says:

    I am sorry but I have to say that nothing is done for designers protection.
    I dont think somebody will upload layered PSD file and “Waiting for Godot” in some cases…
    The last thing you give the client is the original file and its only when the full payment is done.

    So lets say I upload layered PSD file for a wed site contest..the CH give the file to coders and the job is done.. later he decides the colours I used are not exactly what he wants!!
    What copyrights?…Who knows I did the original design?

    You need to protect designers better…in this way changes are not in favor at least for designers.

  64. tw design Says:

    Hi all,

    i must agree with most of the above stories,
    its very good that 99 designs is trying to improve things, but i have my doubts that this is for the best.

    i will give an example , i just won a guaranteed contest, uploaded everything including my masterfiles, only now the ch tried to open it with adobe ps6 well i work in cs3 so you guessed right he can’t open it. so he hasn’t approved my files yet (doesn’t mean he won’t its just an example!) so now i am stuck by my computer waiting … (so it doesn’t go really faster eather)

    it just worries me that someone got my masterfiles and i don’t have the money yet.

    before when i entered a quarenteed contest and i was declared winner i was really happy because i know i will be paid (very good system) and i don’t mind waiting 7 days.

    i just feel pretty bad giving the files first i did that once and that was a bad call (my own stupid mistake)

    i put in a lot of time an effort in my designs, and i just don’t have the legal ability to go after someone who is using my design without the copyright.

    i really like 99 designs and i am still designing but i thought i speak my mind (don’t want to step on any ones toes ;))

    sorry for al the spelling mistakes ( i am dutch)

  65. Visual Depth Says:

    It’s about time! Very nice work 99designs!!

  66. mkels Says:

    i agreed with tw design:)

    i also recently won a guaranteed contest and already
    upload the logo into design handover..but still waiting
    for the contest holder to review it..

    so the problem will be time…if by any chance the CH
    only ewview it after weeks or month…how is that going
    to affect the winning designer..speaking on behalf of all future winning designer…is there a certain rule for CH to review the design in some time limit..after the time limit..the prize will auto creadit to winning designer account.

    personally i don’t mind waiting for days…but if weeks
    or month, that might be a bit dissapointed for winning designer.

    prefer the old design handover process, where once
    designer upload the file and there will be 7-10 days
    time for CH to ask any question before the credit available for withdraw by designer…..this will assure
    designer can be creadited within time and also assure CH take time to review the files within time before the credit transfer to designer account….in the new system, contest holder can take as long time as they want before approved the i right?


  67. #everyone: Thanks for all of your comments. No problem is insurmountable, but some take some head-butting! (rubs head) I’m drafting a new blog post with “An Even Better Solution™” (yup, even better than the one I proposed above). Please sit tight while I tap it out.

    While I do so, please consider the balancing act we have a to maintain: between protecting designers and contest holders alike. Some shoe-swapping is always good for perspective, I think you’ll agree.

    Okay, back to writing that blog post. We’ll publish it on Monday.


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