Vistaprint acquires 99Designs

I’ll make no editorial comment, but…


I’ve not really come across it. Is it yet another crowd-source site, or different?

The big online gang-printing company merges with one of the big online crowdsourcing contest sites.

Taking the liberty of engaging in a little hyperbole, it’s similar to when the German Nazis teamed up with the Italian Fascists.

From the 99designs website: “Open your brief to our entire design community. Designers submit their ideas and you pick your favorite design.”


Awesome … Drive thru printing now has Drive thru designs


It just goes to show how much money these crowdsourcing sites make for themselves if they are part of big merges. They wouldn’t be bought if they weren’t worth it. See what fun it is when the money goes to the muckety mucks and not little worker bees.


99 Designs can bite my ass.
And vistaprint is far less superior than what I produce.

I had a guy walk in off the street and I told him how much it was to design and print his business cards. He nearly fell off the chair at the meeting and declared that VistaPrint can do it for a fraction of that price.

I duly pulled out range of business cards, flyers, posters, and brochures that I got printed with VistaPrint, and then showed him the same range I produced with the same artwork, the same stock of paper and the same everything.

My products were far superior, in colour, texture, weight, durability and all that stuff.

He then nearly fell off his seat again, and thanked me for not letting him use VistaPrint and he duly went with me instead.

Good luck to them.


That came across as pretentious, but I’m just angry, after 25 years in the industry to be undercut with far less quality products and to be potentially losing business to these crowds is frustrating, and it does make me angry.

That’s why I got VistaPrint products printed and kept them on hand, exactly for those conversations.


I think many of us are feeling that same way.


Sorry, I should have been clearer. Viperprint, I definitely know about and although I’d heard of 99designs, I’d never looked into it, so didn’t know if it was the same crowd-source model as the fivers of this world.

The worst thing about Viperprint is they have actually got better (still not anywhere near the standard I’d expect, but better than they used to be). Their stuff used to look like they used crayons on toilet paper. Recently a charity I was doing a quick brochure freebie for insisted on using them to save a few quid and actually what came back was not terrible. I still hate the whole idea of them for obvious reasons.

Plus, what this charity didn’t – and couldn’t be expected to – know was that I had prepared the a/w in the usual, industry-standard way. Viperprint wanted it set up differently, so the time it took me to change everything and upload it to their system, would have almost eaten up the saving made by the charity, had it been a paid job.

‘…shower of bastards, Ted’

That’s mad - usually when I send a charity job to print I get it at trade pricing when I mention it’s a charity.

Usually they can either do it for free - or at a ridiculous low low price for cost of materials only.

The only good thing I’ll say about Vistaprint is, I like their mask template. It fits nice. Their masks are tooooo pricey though. For the price of one of their “designer” prints, I could buy a whole box of cheap fabric ones. For that price they should be donating 2 (plain ones) for every one bought.
Now I make my own. :slight_smile:

Otherwise, all I have to say is, “a match made in heaven.”


A book writer im working with got the book cover designed through 99designs. I’m doing all the illustrators/charts in the book and offered to do the cover.

Still went with 99designs. All the designs looked unoriginal and unimaginative.
Some people I don’t even think were great designers although 99designs vets the designers that can bid for certain projects. It seemed like a cookie cutter machine and now with vistaprint being acquired its going to steam & press nicely. good for them & bad for the rest of us.

Nope, not bad for the rest of us.
Keeps the steaming pile right there in the stall, all nicely contained.

I can say that cuz I’m about 2-5 years from retiring (at least until I run out of money.)
I cannot wait to get out off this train wreck.

I’m completely not bothered. There are different segments of the market, and the type of clients who would be drawn to this kind of arrangement and price point aren’t my demographic.

I think of it as if I were a chef and I had a nice little local restaurant that is well-reviewed and much loved. I craft tasty dishes, create ambience, set a nice table, have a waitress that checks in on diners throughout the meal to make sure they have what they need, maybe have wine service. I know the names of the regulars and their favorite dishes, and they know my name.

I’m not going to get upset because there’s a Taco Bell down the street, serving their food on wax paper and slinging it out through a drive-thru window. It’s a different clientele with different expectations. I can’t compete at their business model, and they can’t compete at mine. There’s no reason for me to be threatened.


^ this

Having worked in the higher ends of the profession for most of my career, I used to make the same argument, but I no longer do. I see some disturbing larger trends that are more extensive than just cheap online printing or crowdsourcing. I don’t think any segment of this profession is immune from this bigger picture.

Even if it were entirely accurate, looking at only the high-end disregards the large segment of designers who have traditionally made a living from catering to small businesses and start-ups. There are already way too many designers competing for too little work — making room for them at the top just isn’t feasible. Even though the high-end might be somewhat insulated (for the time being), it still is a big problem for most.

Even considering only the high end, I don’t think the trend lines look at all good. The number of profitable design-specific studios has plummeted over the past few years. Some of that work has been pushed to full-service ad agencies, but the advertising industry is far from healthy either, with an increasing number shutting down or merging to fend off bankruptcies.

Much of the work has moved in-house as companies have expanded their marketing efforts to include everything from web sites to social media to public relations to traditional advertising. This sounds great until we start looking at designer salaries, which have actually shrunk — both in terms of buying power and in real terms.

Average wages for beginning- to senior-level designers in my part of the U.S. haven’t grown in probably 20 years. More recently, I’ve noticed advertised wages in help-wanted ads drop by, maybe, 20–30 percent to, in some cases, near the minimum legal wage.

Larger companies with in-house agencies are increasingly relying on their growing but poorly paid in-house expertise to take on projects that would have, in the past, been farmed out to agencies. The remaining outside ad agencies are responding by lowering their fees and attempting to make up for it by hiring cheap labor from the ever-growing glut of designers graduating from for-profit designer-mill colleges.

Just about the only segment of graphic design that has managed to hold its own in terms of real growth and wages has been UI/UX design. There, the wages are often double that of more traditional design and roughly where design job wages should be if they had kept up with cost-of-living increases.

I’m personally in a weird position right now. I’m closing in on retirement age, lost my job due to the pandemic and literally cannot find another job that pays as much as if I just quit altogether and began collecting money from retirement income, like social security, investments and a couple of pensions. (Speaking of pensions, how many design jobs in the U.S. come with pensions anymore? Maybe close to zero?) Part of my situation, I think, is due to age bias, but a huge part of it is just that salaries for designers, art directors and creative directors (with the exception of UI/UX) are in free-fall.

For those still working with well-paying clients who have a need for great design, that’s fantastic. However, the house is on fire and I’m not at all sure anyone is safe. I think there will always be a need for ultra-high end work, but that’s an awfully tiny sliver to hang one’s optimism on over the long haul.

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Oh, it’s a train wreck to be sure. I’m in an odd corner of the industry, but I’ve also seen studios fall, designers layed off staff but then hired back to do contract work with no benefits, the long slow slide to “good enough,” clients eyes popping at some of the prices we toss out, but popping again when they see the results compared to the mass produced stuff they put beside it… as long as that last part is still there, I’ll have a job.

But I don’t see anything good happening 10 years down the road, short of a collapse in the number of colleges able to offer crap art courses post-pandemic. Even then, I believe it to be too late.

I agreeIi feel like for what it was worth my university just had design tacked on.

This is really the fuel that fires the crowdsourcing sites. And it’s not just larger companies with “in-house agencies”, but also all the SMEs with one-man-show marketing departments that are expected to juggle the entire marketing mix and do wonders with measly budgets. Of course they are looking to find shortcuts to hit all their KPIs.

It’s ironic that the demand for graphic design is greater than ever, but that fees and salaries are going down.

As you mentioned, many smaller and mid-sized businesses have employed a full-time in-house marketer. These people are typically not experts at everything they need to do, so they head to Canva or farm it out piecemeal via crowdsourcing. These one-person in-house shops are typically savvy enough to avoid the design contest route, but their budgets are so small that they rely on the freelancer sites, like Upwork, to look for talent.

In theory, this sounds like a good deal for freelancers, but even on the freelance sites, everything turns into a race to the bottom as designers undercut each other for contracts. The end result being that a small business can hire an after-hours contract freelancer with all the right skills and qualifications for, maybe, $30 per hour (or less). Whereas if they headed to the agency where that designer worked during the day, they could be paying $250-plus per hour for that same person’s work.

The whole thing adds up to a radical redo of our whole profession — one in which most everything is handled online in piecemeal fashion as needed, sort of like one would order a burger and fries at a fast food counter.

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