Make Web Designers Battle It Out for Your Business

Last Updated Feb 10, 2011 1:27 PM EST

Which would you rather have: one designer coming up with a few concepts for your logo, landing page, banner ad, etc., or small army of designers battling it out to win your business?

If you chose "army," check out 99designs. This ingenious service combines contests and crowdsourcing to give you a potentially unbeatable deal on just about any kind of design project.

It works like this: you whip up a simple outline of what you need, be it a logo, a brochure, business cards, or even a custom background for your Twitter page. Then you choose between three preset price packages -- or, if you prefer, set your own price. The more you pony up, the more designs you'll get. (Most projects start at around $195 -- which, trust me, is dirt cheap.)

Once your contest goes live, designers start submitting concepts. You can provide feedback to get the work tweaked so it's closer to what you want. In the end, you choose your favorite design; the money goes to the winning designer, and the artwork (complete with copyrights) goes to you.

Neat concept, huh? It's like getting dozens of designers for the price of one (and sometimes less than one -- even 99designs' Gold package for a five-page Web site is just $1,891). What's more, the service offers a money-back guarantee, so if you're not happy with any of the designs, you get a full refund.

By the way, if you're a graphic designer yourself, you might want to offer your services to 99designs. It gives you a chance to get some exposure, find new clients, and, potentially, earn some cash. (That said, this could prove to be a fairly sucky deal, as you might end up doing lots of work with nothing to show for it. Such is the artist's life, I think, in today's Web-powered world.)

I haven't used 99designs myself, but I will tell you this: years ago, when I handled marketing and advertising for a computer reseller, just finding a qualified designer was a huge chore. Then we ended up spending a small fortune on ads and logos we didn't especially love -- but we'd already invested so much time and money, there really wasn't any alternative.

That's why I'm jazzed by the mere concept of 99designs. If you need help with a design project, I'd check it out.

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    Rick Broida, a technology writer for more than 20 years, is the author of more than a dozen books. In addition to writing CNET's The Cheapskate blog, he contributes to CNET's iPhone Atlas.