Design strategy
creating a business model for direct work

Expanding our product offering

99designs started ten years ago as a graphic design contest marketplace, where a client submits a brief for a pool of creators to pitch their concepts. As the company matured, it evolved into a creative platform that directly matches professional freelancers with clients across the globe, allowing the business to grow in new segments and attract creators beyond graphic design.

During my tenure at 99designs, I've actively worked on designing new business strategies, bringing research and a design-centric approach to the problems and subsequent hypotheses that were raised. This case study is a sample of what we have achieved.

More exposure to our users to shift our internal team's mindset

The shift in the business meant that we needed to shift our team's mindset as well: our understanding of our clients, creative professionals, and platform. Foundational research, through interviews and field investigation, helped us better understand the nuances of our diverse global community. The insights from the research were shared with the team through presentations and workshops.

Guidance with flexibility: the key principle learned from research

From our conversations with creators and clients, we learned that there wasn't a design process for our platform that would fit everyone, but they all missed some structure in their project. That would translate into simple, flexible tools to manage projects without imposing a specific way of working.

Empowering clients and putting designers in the driving seat: collaboration tools

Clients are often not used to talking about design or collaborating on a creative project. We needed to educate them in order to empower them in order to work confidently with creators, trusting their process and leadership within the projects.

Two iconic examples are: 
• our project flow, from beginning to completion - estabilishing expectations regarding timeframe, revisions, and deliverables;
• our tools to manage feedback and files - what it's the final version, what needs revision, and how clients could give feedback on the deliverables in a sensible way.

From an experimental business model to the company's  new vision

To design and deliver a community-oriented platform that would be used by thousands of users across the globe is not a simple task. We needed to quickly address their needs while minimizing impact on all ongoing work.

Through the following months, we worked closely with our community, continually delivering new features and tools that help their day-to-day working directly with clients.

UI in production for reviewing a creator after completing a project

By the end of 2018, 250,000 direct projects have been completed on 99designs, which represents more than 30% of the work done on the platform.

I started as a solo designer working on this problem on a small product team. Currently, we have three teams and four designers collaborating on it.


99designs 2014-

Moip 2011-14
Brazil, acquired by Wirecard

Locaweb 2010-11

AgenciaClick 2009-10
Brazil, acquired by Isobar

Yahoo! 2007