Designers are often told that design contests and ‘spec work’ are the way of the future. Is that a good thing?

Design contest companies love to toss around numbers. The number of entries into contests. The size of their communities. The amount of money paid out as prizes. Last September, Oz-based 99designs announced to the world that the number of “designers” on their platform was 850,000 strong and claimed to have shelled out $80 million in payouts:

“99designs, the world’s largest marketplace for graphic design, today announced that it has reached a new milestone — the company has paid out $80 million to its community of graphic designers and is on track to hit $160 million by the end of 2015.

Fueling this activity is the company’s aggressive global and product line expansion. 99designs now offers design services in nine languages and connects clients and designers from 196 countries. Boasting a commanding lead as the largest design community in the world, the platform supports 850,000 designers and expects to reach one million early next year.”

Impressive numbers to be sure, but what does it all mean? Let’s take a closer look:
99designs contests by the numbers
Keep in mind that this chart was designed back in September of last year. 99designs are now currently boasting over one million designers, eager to work for free. Designers would be better served shoveling fries at the local burger joint.

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You can download a full size version (1200 x 4084) here.