Spec Watch

Raw numbers - analyzing design contest site statistics

Crowdsourcing and design contest sites typically feature statistics on their home pages, and speak about the size of their designer 'communities', the overall numbers of contest submissions and the amount of prize money currently available. While not precise to accounting standards, by performing some basic arithmetic, we can work out some very rudimentary statistics of our own. Figures were accurate at time of notation.


23,893 contests

Whether this figure includes abandoned or unpaid contests is unknown.

"$115,151 up for grabs in 326 open contests"

Current average payout per contest is $353.00.

"$5,512,961 in total awarded"

Historical overall average payout per contest is $230.00.

"2,061,258 designs in total"

When included as part of the total contest revenue, the average 'value' of each design is approximately $2.67 per design. That would include logos, website design page concepts, brochure layouts, stationery packages, etc. if every contest has been awarded, and the final design is considered as the one that wins that actually wins, there were approximately 2,037,356 designs submitted to 99designs for which no compensation was ever received.

If, on average, each submission took 1 hour (not unreasonable once we average complete time required from reading the contest brief, developing a concept, development and sourcing, creation and uploading to the 99designs server) that represents a total of approximately 2,037,356 hours.

That is the equivalent of 232 years of unpaid designer time.

if we account for the various differences in artwork type (ie: a website page submission may take several hours or more) that number is substantially higher. If we average out the average hourly wage down to $10 per hour (an unrealistically low figure but simple for calculation) that represents an amount that's close to $20,037,356 of unpaid man hours.

Yes. That figure is somewhere in the region of twenty million dollars.

If we were adjust to realistic hourly rates, that figure would increase significantly. Even if we assume that every winning design had 4 preliminary designs before selection, that still amounts to 1,916,900 design entries for which no compensation was ever received and the calculations can be reworked accordingly. Unpaid man hours 1,916,900. At average 1 hour per design at $10 per hour, that still represents over nineteen million dollars worth of unpaid designer time.

The average number of submissions per contest works out to approximately 87. 99designs has stated they selected their name because of an average of 99 designs per submissions.

"38,721 designers"

We have no information on how many 'active' designers are actually entering 99designs 'contests'. If there are 38,721 active designers, that means an individual would have about a 0.9% chance of winning anything. However, it's highly unlikely there are 38,000 active designers and that figure probably represents the number of user accounts that have been opened. It's also not clear if this number also includes original accounts from SIte Point, the precursor to 99designs.

If every individual designer on 99designs had entered and won 1 contest, that would mean that 14,828 designers have submitted work to 99designs without any compensation. We know that some designers win multiple contests, while others never win any, so it is difficult to extract any real data.

We can, however, play with what we have.

Let's say, for sake of argument, that all winning designers have won an average of three contests each. That works out to a total of 7,964 designers having earned an average of $690 each (when multiplied together, the total amount of those earnings would equal $5,595,160 - remarkably close to the $5,512,961 figure that 99designs lists as their total cash payout).

That would mean that 28,957 designers have spent a collective 232 years worth of design time, submitting 1,916,900 designs and contributing labor that is very conservatively estimated as being worth twenty million dollars.

Without ever receiving a penny for those efforts.

Evolve or Die

For latest news, updates & bulletins follow SPECWATCH on Twitter