From the “yay disruption” department.

Remember way back when the guys launching design contest platforms told us it was all about the “democratization of design?” They told us “portfolios didn’t matter,” neither did experience, credentials or past work and that everything boiled down to whatever contest we were talking about. They were “disrupting” the design industry and all was good. Anyone, anywhere, could get in on the action (less a tithe of their contest “winnings,” natch.)

Remember that?

Embracing the change.

Let’s say you bought into this nonsense opportunity. You signed up for one of these platforms – we’ll say 99designs for the sake of this exercise – and have been dutifully submitting unpaid work pearls of opportunity into their contests for months. Those opposed to design contests (guilty) are just snooty gatekeepers trying to keep the little fella down. 99designs lets you express yourself, maybe win some money, experience and credentials be dammed. You’re still one of the roughly half a million people yet to win a contest, but you will at some point, so screw those whiny designer types, right?

Not so fast little buckeroo.

Auditioning to work for free.

You try to sign into your account on 99designs – embracing the design democracy as it were – only to find the login page a no-go zone. Pooched. Locked. You’ll then receive an email that goes something (exactly) like this:

“Thanks for your interest in 99designs.
Unfortunately the current quality of your work does not fit our site standards. As a result we have put your account on hold. We encourage you to improve your design skills. You can find design tutorials and inspirational work here [link removed] After you have spent three months on your designs, please send a portfolio of 4 to 5 of your new designs in vector PDF file format to [email removed] with the subject line “Portfolio review (Your 99designs username)”. When submitting your portfolio, please zip the files and include the link to each contest from which the designs were created in the body of your email. We will review your submissions and determine if your account will be reactivated.”

Gonna let that sink in a bit.


Seems portfolios do matter. Seems talent and experience do too. 99designs apparently has some “standards” – good question what they are – but you have to meet them. As an audition, if you’d be so kind as to create free logos from 99designs contests for the next three months or so – without actually submitting to the contest you’re doing them for – and then send them to 99designs, the people at the other end might, just might, let you re-up and start submitting free stuff to their contests again.


And if they do actually let you work for free in on the opportunities, this.

Like I said before. Word’s fail. Yay disruption.