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We Used 99designs For Logos: Here’s Our Review

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What is it like to use 99designs? We’re going to go through the process of creating a design contest from start to finish to show you what the entire experience is like, so you can decide for yourself if 99designs is for you. For this 99designs review, we’re going to follow all instructions given and document each step of our journey for you to see below.

For this test project, we’re going to submit a contest for Owner’s Mag logo to see if 99designs can interpret a better logo for us. The chances of me getting this approved and having the CEO change the logo is practically 0, but this will be a fun project that everyone in our office can contribute feedback to. It couldn’t hurt, right?

1. Creating our design project

We went ahead and searched “Logo” and went through the process of creating the logo project. When selecting the business category, surprisingly there’s nothing related to digital publication, news, or publisher there. We went ahead and chose “Internet” as our category.

2. Choosing a name

Now it’s time to name our project. We’re going to call this one “Owner’s Mag Logo Design”. Not sure if I’ll ever get the approval to change the logo, but it’ll be a fun project that everyone at the office can give input on.

3. Types of logo

Logos come in all different shapes, themes, and types. They can be just a word logo, icons, abstract, or something unique with a mascot. Here’s where you can tell the 99designers what type of logo you want.

4. Choosing a style

I like this section a lot. Sometimes it’s difficult to actually describe what you want. Here, you can browse through a long list of logo designs that cover a wide spectrum of styling. Select the ones that best fit your taste and it’ll give the 99designers a better idea of what you want.

I went ahead and chose a few text-focused logo, since Owner’s Mag is a text-only logo. The selected examples in the screenshot above aren’t the ones I chose.

5. Brand Style Meter

I’ll be honest, this section is a bit weird for me. On this page, 99design asked me to explain the style I want using different sliding scales. There’s more than the 3 listed in the image above. I personally had a hard time deciding if Owner’s mag logo should be “Classic” or “Modern”, “Mature” or “Youthful”. Femine vs Masculine I can work with. But the other categories aren’t intuitive for me.

6. Choosing Colors

Now it’s time to pick our color preferences. I stuck with “Reds”.

7. Writing project brief

Filling out the project brief didn’t take too long. The questions were straight forward and all makes sense. It is odd that the project brief itself is this far down the process.

8. Choose your package

So far, we haven’t paid 99designs anything. Now it’s time for us to pick a tier for our plan. Although the Logo starts at $299, that’s actually for the Bronze tier. The higher tier you go, the more submissions and higher quality the work will be. Or at least that’s what 99designs promise.

For this, we chose the Silver $499 plan. We’ll be expecting about 60 designs to be submitted with this package.

9. Add-ons

In addition to the $499 we’re paying for the Silver tier, 99designs will upsell us for a few things. Some of these I think makes sense, others I felt should be included in the price I’m paying.

Personal Creative Consultant ($129) actually looks like customer support to me. I’m not a designer. Of course, I will need some help through this process. I felt like this should’ve already been included in the price instead of being a $129 add-on.

Guaranteed doesn’t cost anything. But it will null your money-back guarantee. This ensures the designer WILL get paid if they make it to the final round. Because of 99designs’ pay structure, this makes your project much more appealing to designers and more will likely submit drafts if you opt out of their guarantee.

Private ($59), this came as a shocker. I didn’t know this would even be public. Why my project is even open to the public in the first place is beyond me. This doesn’t feel right. Paying $59 just so 99designs keep my designs private seems like a scare tactic for me to cough up more money. Not a fan.

Duration lets you pay a bit more for faster delivery. For this, I feel the prices are fair and it’s typical to pay more for expedited work anyway. You can pay $39 for 3 day instead of 4 day delivery, $59 for 2 days, and $79 for 1 day.

9. Complete! Now we wait…

I opted to not purchase any add-ons for this review. Once paid, we’re redirected to 99designs’ dashboard where we can see the estimated timeline for the project. From today, it’ll take about 4 days for all of the designs to be submitted. Each day some designers will submit their work and on the final day, the round will be closed and we have 4 days to pick finalists.

The Designs Are In!

First off, I was very disappointed that we only received 17 designs instead of the promised 60. I contacted 99designs support about the issue and they claim that they don’t guarantee “60”, even though their pricing tiers clearly listed “Expect ~60 designs”.

Maybe the 17 designs we received are good? I’ll let you be the judge of that before we give our verdict.

Here are the 17 designs that 99designers submitted to us after 4 days.

What does our office think?

We passed the designs around our office to get some initial thoughts. Most thought the designs were random and not aligned with any of the directions given. Some look templated. Others look like they just slap a random icon in front of the text and call it a logo.

Overall, none of us were impressed by the results thus far. We eventually picked #6 to give feedback just to move the process along, not because we love the design. We felt let down that only 17 versions were submitted since 99designs promised we’d get around 60 designs to choose from.

We submitted our revisions and now wait for our designer to spin something back to us.

4 days later…

We received new versions of logo #6 within about 3-4 days. Personally I wasn’t happy with the new versions, but I shared the new designs with the office. You can probably guess how we all felt about the new drafts. Results…were disappointing and not what we had suggested. At this point, we didn’t feel compelled to give any further instructions or move the project to the final round.

We’re not happy

We decided not to continue the project given we’re not happy with any of the drafts so far. Even revisions were still so far off what we would even accept. I understand graphic design is subjective, and that sometimes you just have a difficult client. I assure you, we’re not that difficult and was looking for a very simple logo.

It was hard for us to justify even moving to the final round given the designers barely followed our directions. We specifically asked them to design the logo using our RED, and some of them ignored it completely. We asked them to NOT use any icons and just keep it text-based, yet there were logos with random icons.

Getting a Refund

Our experience could be a unique case and your experience could be much more pleasant. We eventually asked for a refund and was met with another obstacle. You can’t get a refund on the website, they request a call to speak to you to “verify” your identity before releasing your refund.

This is an annoying step clearly put in place just to discourage refunds. I oblige and got on a call with a representative. The rep was understanding and didn’t try too hard to sell me, which I appreciated. Our refund was promptly processed afterward.

Final Verdict

Our experience with 99designs has been mixed. I like how intuitive the website is and how easy it was to get your logo project started. The biggest let down were the number of submissions we received (17 instead of the promised 60) and the quality of each design. You can judge for yourself. Looking at the logos submitted, I didn’t feel like we got even intermediate level designers. These just felt rushed, patched together, and overall unpolished work.

Giving revision was difficult because most of the designs were so far off base. I didn’t know where to start, except tell the designer to re-read my project brief and start over.

Overall, it wasn’t the best experience for us. We would’ve gladly paid an agency or a freelancer the same amount and get more dedicated care and attention to produce 2-3 good logos instead of 17 poorly design random logos.

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Depop: Etsy’s $1.6B Ticket to Access Gen Z’s Market

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Depop is the home to progressive and diverse finds when it comes to fashion. However, is that why Etsy bought it for a dazzling price of $1.625 billion? Perhaps it’s one of the reasons, but that’s not the end of the story. It all comes down to the target market.

Depop and Gen Z

If you’re wondering what Depop is and why on earth it’s worth more than $1.6 billion, then you’re not alone. To give you a quick overview, Depop is a startup eCommerce marketplace for fashion. It’s a place where people can buy, sell and discover unique items. Let’s say if Instagram and eBay had a baby, it’s probably similar to Depop. 

Depop makes it its mission to provide a “community-powered” fashion ecosystem to its consumers. It’s a brand that is kind to people and much kinder to the planet. Aside from being an online eCommerce site, it has become a community. It managed to evolve into having a community that’s creative, diverse, inclusive, and progressive.  

The fashion eCommerce has over 26 million registered users hailing from 147 countries. It’s a marketplace where 90% of active users are under the age of 26. So yes, the majority are Gen Z’s. The most popular categories found on the website are vintage, one-of-a-kind clothes, Y2K, and streetwear.

Etsy, for $1.6 billion, gambled on the booming market for second-hand goods. Not only that, it gained access to Depop’s young and fashion-conscious audience. This scenario is an excellent example of how much brands are willing to pay to enter the Gen Z market. 

Why is Gen Z’s Market important?

Currently, Millennials and Gen Z’s dominate the rank if we’re talking about online consumers. Although Millennials now sit at the throne as the most extensive consumer base, change is inevitable. As Gen Z’s grows old, they will slowly surpass millennials as the largest consumer base. By 2026, it’s expected that Gen Z will entirely surpass millennials. 

Aside from its huge market base, Gen Z’s are considered ethnically diverse consumers. Also, they’re the most educated generation which explains why they always doubt brands. Gen Z values authenticity, transparency, and being unique. It’s the generation where they’ll research everything about your business before purchasing. 

It makes sense why $1.6 billion is spent to acquire an active marketplace with existing Gen Z users. Let’s take it as a shortcut to access the soon-to-be primary consumers of the world quickly. Aside from their extreme distrust of unknown brands, Gen Z’s are known to value brands that show authenticity.  

So now, it’s obvious why brands go through extreme lengths to secure their market base for the long run. 

Depop’s Business Worth

So far, it’s clear why Etsy bought Depop, especially if we emphasize the percentage of Gen Z users on the website. But it’s not enough to measure the scale of Depop’s business worth. 

Here are two key factors that can show at what level Depop’s is worth: 

  • Gross Platform Spend, 2020’s Revenue

In 2020, Depop earned $650 million and $70 million, respectively, each increasing over 100% year-over-year.  

  • Gross Platform Spend Trend, Historical

From 2017 to 2020, Depop’s gross market sales grew at an 80% annual growth rate. 

From the 2020s 70 million revenue, Depop is valued at 23.2 times compared to the previous year’s top line. It’s notable how Etsy sees Depop as a high-growth “SaaS business” instead of a consumer marketplace. 

Depop and Etsy

The majority of younger shoppers have been maneuvering the shift of resale on a broader note. Besides, according to GlobalData PL, 40% of shoppers under 24-years old have been buying second-hand fashion. This study explains why Depop, where they can resell unique items, is popular with Gen Z’s. 

Meanwhile, Etsy is widely known as a marketplace for handmade goods where you can buy vintage items. According to CEO Josh Silverman, the transaction is a way to deepen their connection with the younger generation. The company had $1.8 billion in cash, investments, equivalents, and balance sheet. It also had an undrawn $200 million revolving credit facility last March. 

Although Etsy has acquired Depop, the current chief exec of Depop is encouraged to continue running the marketplace. As for Etsy, it will remain in London and will continue its operations as a stand-alone marketplace.

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Penji Review: How unlimited is it REALLY? (+25% Promo Code)

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Move over Fiverr. Unlimited graphic design services are the newest alternative to hiring a graphic designer. But, these services bring up many questions. For example: How unlimited is unlimited graphic design?

We tried out one of the top services: Penji.

Like many of their counterparts, Penji offers graphic design work on a monthly subscription. We put their promise of fast turnaround, high-quality, and affordability to the test.

You can submit as many design projects as you want via their online portal, and they’ll complete your requests one at a time until your queue is complete. This type of service promises to be a great added resource for teams to improve productivity.

Does it sound too good to be true? We thought so too. So, we signed up to see for ourselves.

This article was updated on June, 2021.

Quick Summary

As with any service, there are pros and cons. To help with your graphic design hiring decision, we decided to condense what we found in a bulleted list below. Here’s a quick summary of our review of Penji’s unlimited graphic design service.

(Still wondering what “unlimited graphic design” is? We explain what it is here.)

Pros

  • Easy and quick to create design projects
  • Storage for all my requested designs
  • VERY fast turnaround on most projects. I expected just 1 draft in 24 hours but instead received 3 drafts. Revisions were sometimes completed the same day I submitted them.
  • Helpful features such as a revision tool, ability to invite team members, brand profile, and more
  • Upbeat and direct communication from everyone I interact with
  • A dedicated and responsive account manager who replies within a few hours

Cons

  • Can’t call or talk to designers
  • Best if you have design projects ready to submit
  • Not available as an app

Overall Experience

Penji’s “unlimited” design model is a great choice if you have the right expectations going in. The service is affordable for growing businesses and their output is reliable. However, if you’re expecting to be on-call or face-to-face with your designer, this type of service is not for you.

Compared to designing yourself, hiring freelancers, or using Fiverr, Penji is a much better service and value by a long shot. Their team of designers lived up to the promise and exceeded my expectations.

Thinking of trying Penji out for yourself? Here’s a special promo code for Owner’s Mag readers:

Use the Penji promo code “OWNER25” to get 25% off your 1st month.


PENJI FULL REVIEW

We put Penji to the test by signing up, requesting a design, and examining the results. Here’s how it went.

Final Verdict

We get it. You want to know how it went without reading all the mumbo jumbo.

All four projects were completed within two weeks and I was impressed with how they all turned out. If I had paid hourly or per project, these would’ve easily cost me well above $1200+ to get done, and probably taken weeks.

With Penji, it took just a few days and I paid a fraction of what I would’ve paid elsewhere. Definitely impressed with both the turnaround, quality, communication, and value this startup has to offer.

But Penji isn’t without its flaws. The service definitely isn’t for everybody.

Who would benefit:

  • business owners
  • marketers
  • agencies
  • creatives with consistent design needs

If you don’t have a consistent need, the bill will start racking up after a couple of months and you won’t see the value in the subscription.

However, if you do happen to fit their target demographic, then there’s no better alternative out there. The speed and quality of their work easily rival other services I’d ever used. For $399 per month, this is an absolute steal.

What I Did Step by Step

Now, if you want to get into the meat of how it went, keep on reading for every detail of how I got from the sign up screen to the final project.

Signing Up For Penji

Signing up for Penji was a relatively quick and painless process. All of my questions were answered in less than 5 minutes by customer support via Intercom and another 2 minutes to complete the checkout process.

Communication with Penji’s Support Team

How fast and reliable a company’s support team is before you are an active customer is a reflection of what’s to come. If they’re unresponsive now, it will only get worse once I’m a customer. I reached out to Penji’s customer support team via their Intercom chat popup and got a response within 30 seconds, which is pretty good. I asked basic questions and the agent seemed knowledgeable.

Communication as a Customer

All communication is done online through Penji’s proprietary online portal. That includes revisions, feedback, and answering any questions my designers may have.

Communication with Your Designers

Penji assigned me 1 designer, Billie, and communication with her was easy. If you have used any messaging platforms like Slack, Facebook Messenger, or Discord, you’d be familiar with this form of communication.

Billie was responsive, attentive, and always seemed to have a positive attitude no matter how demanding my requests were. She had many questions about the projects, which I tried my best to answer as a customer. Though the back and forth took longer than I wanted, I realized she was just being thorough to get the design done right, which I appreciate.

Communication with Your Account Managers

They assigned me an Account Manager, Charmaine, who was very quick whenever I needed something. It usually takes just a few hours for me to get a reply via email from her. When I had an issue with one of the projects, she quickly stepped in and helped resolve the situation.

1. Choose the Right Package

All the packages are laid out with monthly, quarterly, and yearly pricing. Starting at $399 per month for the Pro plan, you’ll be able to make unlimited graphic design requests with a 24-48 hour turnaround. As your design needs grow, you’ll have the Team and Agency packages to choose from.

2. Checkout

The form is straightforward and easy to fill out. Checking out was a breeze and took about 2 minutes.


3. Submit a Design Project

Clicking on the “+ Create new project” button, I’m presented with a visual chart of all the design categories they offer. They offer an extensive selection of options and even the ability to request a custom project.

4. Fill Out the Request Form

Next, I filled out a short form detailing what I wanted them to design. For those of you who hate long forms, this one from Penji is easy to follow and doesn’t ask too many questions. Most of the questions are actually optional so you can be as descriptive or non-descriptive as you like.

My test projects

As a digital publisher, we produce content on a daily basis and always have a need for on-brand graphic design. I created several projects to test how well-rounded Penji is and how they handle both simple and complex requests. A simple banner should be difficult, but can they handle a complex infographic with lots of texts and imagery?

Here are my test projects:

  1. Blog Graphic: Best DSLR Camera Equipment For Beginners
  2. Custom Illustration: Best Vacuum Cleaner Money Can Buy
  3. Facebook Post: Isometric Tech Gadget Graphic
  4. Magazine Print Cover (Owner’s Magazine’s 2020 May Edition

Despite creating four projects, the entire process was quick and smooth. It only took a few minutes to create them and their internal platform was lightning fast. At this pace, I can see myself submitting multiple projects on their platform with ease.


Turnaround Time

I expected at least one draft the next day. What I didn’t expect were three drafts ready for review. To give you a comparison, most freelancers and design firms we’ve hired take several days to submit just one draft.

The designs were surprisingly good considering that it’s the first draft AND they had a 24-hour turnaround. After reviewing, I realized how they did it. Every project had a different designer. I wasn’t assigned just one designer. It was like having my very own virtual design team.

4. Requesting Revisions

Though the designs were good, I still needed a few revisions. The drafts were turned around usually the same day or by the next day. Their support agent actually told me it will take 24 hours to turn around revisions. The revisions that took 24 hours were typically much more involved.

Overall, revisions were quick. Most came back within a few hours after I submitted them.

My one gripe would be that I prefer to have some sort of real-time chat with my designer or at least have a Zoom call. That’s one thing I like about working with my freelancers. Whenever they were online, we could just have a back and forth conversation to get the revisions across. I can’t do that with Penji.

Built-in Revision Tool

Penji has a built-in revision tool that lets me click anywhere on the design to leave a revision. I found this incredibly useful as it enables me to pin-point what I want to change.


The Results

It took about 1 week to go back and forth with revisions and edits for all 4 design projects. At the end of the week, I received the final drafts for all three. Here are the results of the three test projects.

1. Blog Graphic: Best DSLR Camera Equipment For Beginners

This far exceeded my expectations and will more than do for the blog I’m writing about DSLR camera equipment. I think most designers would probably just stop with 1-2 icons and graphics for this design. My designer decided to add the tripod, three lenses, drone, backpack, and a whole entire stage lighting kit.

I didn’t ask for those, but I’m impressed with the quality of the design. No revisions needed. I approved this project on the first try.

2. Custom Illustration: Best Vacuum Cleaner Money Can Buy

For this project, I asked my designer Kei to do a custom illustration of a man vacuuming his floor. He actually drew it up and sent me a rough sketch first before he started coloring it in. That was an extra layer of care and attention to detail I wasn’t expecting. Needless to say, I approved of his drawing and he delivered this draft the next day.

Revision

Everything in this graphic was hand-drawn and then colored digitally. Like the first project, I couldn’t think of any revisions except asking him to put the texts “Best Vacuum Cleaner Money Can Buy” on the graphic.

He went the extra mile and designed the text to fit the graphics. See for yourself above. It’s details like these that I would have had to harass my freelancer and he would try to nickel and dime me for every revision. Great work Kei!

3. Facebook Post: Isometric Tech Gadget Graphic

My designer Jave’s first draft amazed me because of how much detail he put into this project. I had asked for an isometric graphic with various tech products laid out on an isometric glass plane. I honestly thought my description may have been a bit too vague, but he understood my vision even better than I did.

4. Magazine Print Cover (Owner’s Magazine’s 2020 May Edition)

My designer Billie gave me 3 versions of the magazine cover. I don’t like version 1 at all. It looks too templated. I personally like version 2 and 3 and left revision notes accordingly. The coronavirus image was entirely her idea and I love it.

Revision

This project took a bit longer than the others because my designer Billie had questions and we had a lot of back and forth. I didn’t mind at all since she was asking good questions that I should’ve included in my design request. Overall, I appreciated the extra time she took to understand me and the project better.

About three days later, I received another draft which blew everything before it out of the water.


Reviews From Other Sources

Because you may not take our word for it, here are some of the most recent reviews from other sources:

Jan Kartusek

Jorge Vila

IM Nights

Disclaimer: we receive an affiliate commission when the Penji promo code is used, however, the review is based on our experience.

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Graphic Design Tips You Need to Know

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If you’re not putting enough effort into your visual branding, there’s a chance your brand would be defunct in a few year’s time. Sounds harsh? Well, think about this – research by Kinesis says 75 percent of consumers judged a brand’s credibility based on website design. That being said, it’s vital to know the best graphic design tips to keep your business afloat and thriving.

Stick to a Color Scheme

This is one of the most crucial marketing graphic design tips pros swear by. To create a strong visual branding, you need to pick a color palette and stick to it. Resist the urge to overload your scheme with too many hues. Otherwise, you risk making your visual look amateurish and tacky. 

If you’re having trouble picking a color scheme, consider color psychology. According to this field of study, colors can invoke moods or emotions. For instance, red signifies passion while blue channels peace and calm. Make sure to pick a hue that expresses your brand identity or what you want your audience to feel when engaging with your brand.

Use Fonts Wisely

Choosing fonts wisely is one of the graphic design techniques that separates pros from newbies. Without a doubt, one could get excited scrolling down a long list of new and cool fonts. However, too many fonts or using styles that clash against each other can wreak havoc on the visual. The rule of thumb is to never use more than three fonts in one design. 

Also, if you’re combining two fonts in one copy, they need to have contrasting differences. For instance, using one serif and one sans serif font is a go-to trick for many pros.

Negative Space is Your Friend

Negative space pertains to the blank area in the design that surrounds the text or image. One of the best graphic design tips for beginners is to embrace negative space and not crowd every pixel with a design element.

But what exactly does negative space contribute to a design? For one, it offers a break to viewers, helping them absorb info better. In addition to that, it also brings the viewer’s attention to the crucial parts of the design. That said, not using negative space enough or having too little of it can result in a visual that’s too “noisy” for the eyes.

Ask Help from a Pro

Sure, you can take a pseudo crash course of all of the graphic design hacks out there. But if you don’t have the patience to actually put them into practice, then they won’t help your brand in any way. 

If you’d rather focus your energies on other facets of the business, then it’s best to hire a pro to handle the creative work for you. Reputably designers know graphic design best practices by heart, and they can save you a lot of time, money, and effort. 

In the end, it’s not about how beautiful or trendy your graphic designs are. Instead, it’s all about making sure that your visual assets reflect your brand values and let them shine through in every design.

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