Why NOT to Join Online Design Contests

design contest websites are bad for both designers and businesses

I heard that a few of my Filipino designer  friends joined an online web design contest. I never made any comment because I was just not in the mood to debate and argue at the time. I have never joined a design contest online since instinctively I felt it would not be right or beneficial for me or the person I was making it for.

No Guaranteed Payment of Work

Simply put, it’s exploitation for the designer and bad for the industry. They make the losers gullible enough to believe that you’ll at least have something to show in your portfolio which I think is a ridiculous argument.

  • Would you walk into a restaurant and ask the chefs to prepare several entrees for you because you are hungry and you’ll pay for the one you like?
  • If you were on trial for a crime would you ask 99 attorneys to post their proposed defense of your case to a web site so you could pick what you felt was the best?


logo design contest are bad for designersDesigns that do not win can, and are still be reused  in these contests. Art or design  is more of an idea and it is those ideas that you pay for. A client can pay his in-house designer to bring something up to a full-resolution, they’ve still effectively stolen the design concept. Nothing stops other designers from copying elements of your design that is praised by the contest holder and using it in their design, which ends up winning the contest.

Websites like 99designs treats design like a cheap commodity, something that clients just need to get out of the way as quickly and cheaply as possible. Design is art, and art is intimate. To reduce it to strip-mining talent does tremendous damage to culture and the industry.

Just Having Fun Yo

Some new designers told me that they join just to to have fun and have something to do at the same time , practicing.  There are long term consequences to this kind of reasoning. Think of the other fellow designers you might be hurting by participating in these contests. It hurts the design community now and, as you are helping to keep these sites around. It will hurt you when you are looking for properly paid work later on. If you need practice, open photoshop and just design whatever tickles your imagination. If you want real world projects as a student, offer your services to churches, local charities, funded arts groups, etc instead.


Another argument is that small businesses do not have the budget for a proffessional design firm. What they don’t put into account is that since they’re new a professional image is even more critical to a business with no history. Major companies did not take take shortcuts. If you lack money – raise capital.

logo stealing

New Business Model

Some argue it’s how the business model for graphic designing is changing. That’s a whole load of crap. It’s changing for the worse if that’s what they meant.

I feel sorry for the  designers out there who give time and effort in this blatant abuse of their profession. Squabbling over the table scraps of uncaring clients. Let them worry about the next designer who comes along promising to do the same shitty work one hour faster for one dollar less. Their frustration will never end. Respect yourself enough to know you’re valuable and walk away from any pathetic contest ideas. You need to get paid for your work,

I hope I helped you understand the subject. The more designers who realize how unfair the very idea of these design contests are, and who realize that they are worth much more, the better the industry will be in the future. Check out my portfolio if you need  professional logo and web design done. At the end of the day you need  dedicated one-on-one personal attention to get the best results.

3 Responses to “Why NOT to Join Online Design Contests”

  1. arnold

    I appreciate your post. I did participate also in 99designs design contest for about a month now already, and the rip-off scenario is really annoying , and clients there sometimes are creepy, when they hold a contest , you got to make sure its blind and guaranteed else your time will be wasted. Our work should be value.

  2. guest

    For online contest, some bad sides

    1-some of the contest are not real, they were just being CREATED BY THE ADMINS to keep the designers coming in.

    2-some admins are also joining if the price money is $500 higher, come to think of it, how much does there salary range compare to the winnings, they can earn more than $2000/each month if they want to cheat, they do have extra time when they got home, since, they are judging the designs it means they have some basic knowledge regarding design, and MONEY is the thing we are talking about, everyone needs money.

    3-some project holders are designers mostly are the project which are not guaranteed, they pretend to be project holder and they get the design trace it and sell it into there countries customers.

  3. BanyoDiva

    I totally agree with you! I get irritated nung pinuri yung entry ko ng contest holder. The next time I watched the contest inimprove yung design ko nung ibang designers pro nanakaw yung idea ko which is very unique. Pero yung gumaya saken mas mataas pa yung rating. Sinabi ko sa sarili ko na ok lang yan try and try so that I become more magaling pa, pero mas marami pa rin mas magaling saken. Then meron din time na sinabi ng contest holder na gusto nya daw yung name ng store nasa gilid ng logo so sinunod ko,later on I found out na mas mataas rating ng hndi sumunod. WTF! I wasted my time for this bullshit. Buti nalang nakita ko na yung ibang designer it took them 1000+ entries to win a contest. Thanks to you also for posting this. Helped me a lot.