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Monthly Unlimited Design Services Comparison

Design Pickle vs Kapa99 vs Pebbled – Results from 14-day Trial

Poor graphic design skills?With the growth of the digital nomad and solopreneur lifestyles, crowdsourced graphic design has exploded and provides a solution for getting creative content as and when you need it.

If you’re like me and you struggle with graphic design, and you can tweak a bit in Photoshop, but are a long way from being a designer, having some sort of design capability will be needed.

Especially as more features are released in each version of Photoshop it’s simply impossible to stay on top unless you’re a dedicated graphic designer and this is your tool of the trade.

Therefore, what are your options if you need regular design work done and you don’t have enough work to hire a full-time designer?

You have a few options.

  • Use your network to find a designer and develop a long-term relationship
  • Find a design studio to work with
  • Use an outsource/freelancer portal

The cheapest choice on the face of it is use a freelance site, such as Upwork, Freelancer or PeoplePerHour, other options include the numerous design competition sites 99Designs and DesignCrowd, which I used for developing my supplement logo.

But wait, there is another design solution for getting creative content that will fit the needs of many solopreneurs – and this is a recent trend in the business of design – you can now find design services offering “unlimited graphic designs” for a flat monthly fee.

Monthly Unlimited Graphic Design Services

I’ve made a list of some of the more popular unlimited design companies that are dedicated to providing crowd sourced graphic design.

[table id=12 /]

The services vary between companies depending on the number of active tasks, turnaround time, type of work available.

One thing in common amongst all these services is the fact you appear to have an “unlimited number of tasks” each month for a fixed priced subscription.

Many of the companies offer a free trial and so I decided to take them up on their offer and selected three from the list above to see just how good they were.

I chose; DesignPickle, and Kapa99. All had a 14- or 15-day trial, which meant I could give them a go without incurring any costs.

To make this fair I decided I would give them the same design task so I could compare and contrast not only have their service but how good were their creative skills were.

The task I gave all three companies, was to create a featured blog post for my Supplement Blueprint page.

Comparing DesignPickle, Kapa99 and Pebbled

Before I started any of the trials their websites were important in creating my first impression of the service and company.

Before settling on these three services I checked out 8 similar companies in all. A few immediately put me off by the design choices of their website, such as Undullify’s use of backgrounds and Unicorngo with what I thought had a poor choice of layout and fonts. If they can’t get the look right for their business how can they get it right for me?

I chose DesignPickle, Kapa99 and Pebbled because they looked like the best of the bunch.

I did have high hopes for each service and it was my intention of picking one of these unlimited monthly graphic design services for my blog and supplement business going forward. Regardless of my review, that is if any of them proved to be reliable.

I used a re-design of one of my featured blog post images on this site as a means to compare the quality of the design work.

I chose the “Supplement Blueprint” featured image for the first creative design because I produced this and I thought it would be a good test. You can see each of the designs below and decide on if I made the right choice.

The competition is on.

Here is the summary of the outcome in the five sections looking at; the on-boarding process, submitting design requests, speed of delivery, quality of design work and how the work is stored.

On-boarding Process

The on-boarding process with Kapa99 really stood out as you get to speak directly with them and they take you through setting up with them. They set up a Trello board for you and briefly show you how to use it so that you can submit design requests and get revisions.

The process is very slick with Kapa99 and you can’t not fail to be impressed by this!!

In contrast, Pebbled was really poor, you get very little information apart from an introductory message on Slack that provides a PDF document for you to submit designs. Which leaves me feeling that Pebble hasn’t been thought out very well, and certainly hasn’t had much input from anyone that has spent time working in an agency and understands the personal nature of this process. Communication in any process like this very important. Regardless of price everyone wants to feel they are needed.

DesignPickle really gave me the personal touch that was lacking from Pebbled, as soon you sign up you are introduced to your designer, who immediately strikes up a rapport with you, asking about your interests.

kapa99 designpickle pebbled contest

Submitting Design Requests

With Kapa99 submitting design requests was really easy, the Trello board they set up for you makes everything simple. Although this was my first-time using Trello, it was pain free and I like the interface especially how easy it was to work with.

DesignPickles’ application, Jar, is really straight forward too and a real bonus is the integration with Unsplash and Getty Images (if you have paid for the additional monthly fee of $25). Otherwise you can upload your own assets you want for the design, or if illustrating ideas, you quite like.

With Pebbled you send design requests within a word document that you then upload into Slack. I didn’t like this process as it just took longer and seemed more cumbersome to do.

On balance I preferred the use of Trello by Kapa99 as visually it was great to see design tasks moving from board to board. DesignPickle’s Jar app was intuitive though and was really straight forward to use.

kapa99 designpickle pebbled contest

Speed of Delivery

The hands down winner for speed of delivery of design work goes to DesignPickle. I received my creatives back within 24 hours!

Pebbles and Kapa99’s delivery were nearer to a 40-44 hour turnaround. To be fair their service does say that turnaround is between 24-48 hours, and so they were always within this timeframe. It’s the contrast between the services that makes DesignPickle stand out, the completed a design in the time it took for me to get a response from Pebbled.

designpickle kapa99 pebbled contest

Quality of Creative Work

I had high hopes for these unlimited outsourced graphic design services as I have read a few reviews on other sites that gave glowing reports.

When I received the first designs back from DesignPickle I was immediately impressed. They had nailed it! They got the style I was after and provided a few good variations on this.

In contrast, I was shocked at the work I first received from Pebbled as it would have taken even me only 5-10 minutes for me to put this together in Photoshop.

Unfortunately, Kapa99 didn’t fare to be better in his regard. The graphical elements of the featured image bore no resemblance to the brief and just used generic icons around the font.

I requested revisions for both Pebbled and Kapa99 and although slightly better they still weren’t good enough for me to use. I some ways I was more disappointed with Kapa99 as they had started so well, dropped the ball in the design process. But at the end of the day the most important part of this is the quality of the designs, and they just didn’t quite make it.

If Pebbled had produced a better design I may have been able put up with the poor communication. But as it stands DesignPickle were the standout winner.

designpickle kapa99 pebbled contest

Managing and Storage of Design Work

Once the design work was completed each service stored them in different places for me to access them.

Pebbled use dropbox to upload their work and can be either sync’d to your own dropbox account, if you have one, or you can download the files to your computer.

Kapa99 store the files within the Trello board and can download from there.

And lastly, DesignPickle uses a different service called to store and manage the creatives. Another really cool thing Design Pickle do is to provide ALL the associated source files, these could be fonts and stock images used. You also have the designs in the file formats requested when first setting up the design task.

DesignPickle were the ONLY company that provided the source files for the graphic work – again you got to be impressed with these guys!

designpickle kapa99 pebbled contest

Starting my Trial

Pebbled LogoPebbled appealed to me because on all but the starter “core” package they offer front and back-end web development services too, which could be useful if I want to get some quick web work completed.

They have three prices starting from a very budget conscious $79 per month to a very reasonable $499 per month. I was interested in the “plus” plan at $249 per month, mostly as you can have two tasks running per month.

When comparing prices with other monthly design services, Pebbled is on the cheaper side, especially when contrasting to Penji who charge $698 for the same package features.

On-Boarding Process

I received an email “welcoming me to the team” and gave me links to getting Slack setup. The communication from that point on would be via the slack channel.

My First Pebbled Creative Design Task

After signing up you are sent an invitation to join a slack group containing instructions for submitting my first design task.

Although all communication is advised to be via the slack channel, they do highlight that its purpose is not for “live chat”.

I completed the simple questionnaire (10 questions only) and dropped this back into the slack channel at 4:14pm my time. Then I waited, and then waited, and hmm waited some more.

Pebbled slack conversation

There was no notification even the next day and so wasn’t really sure if this was fine, or if they had even started work on yet!. I eventually did hear back after 22 hours after submitting the task.

Their advertised turnaround is 2-3 business days and so I guess they take the first day to look at the task and then allocate their incoming tasks according to their resources.

I received the first three concepts 44 hours after submitting the job, it’s not superfast but within the timeframe they outlined at the start, so I can’t complain there.

The designs I describe as being just okay, they didn’t really have any wow factor. And all the concepts had a watermark embedded with “Pebbled – 15 days free” on them. Which was interesting as the other companies I tried out didn’t do this and so you can’t really say this is a Free service, but more a free preview.

I gave feedback to them that I wasn’t that impressed, and they needed some work, with a few pointers on how, After 6 hours I hadn’t heard anything from them.

22 hours later, I gave them another prod on Slack and over 24 hours later I eventually had a response saying they were working on the designs and they will be ready in 24 hours.

I have to say I think the level of communication from Pebbled was poor, for me the service lacks a communication process, keeping clients up-to-date on what is happening is essential with anything that involves design . I had the distinct feeling that I needed to be on top of them all the time, I would have thought that as this is a trial period they would have gone all out to impress me so that I would sign up beyond the 14 days!

Here are the first two designs they produced based on the brief supplied.

Pebbled designs

After receiving my next set of designs, I canceled the service – they just weren’t very good, lacklustre would be a great adjective and in my opinion and the poor communication was very frustrating.

Given that we know much of communication can be automated, things such as an email when someone has started work etc. The whole service had an unfinished feel to it and they lack understanding about how design work and client/designer relationships.

When I attempted to cancel the service by logging into their website I couldn’t! Their own website didn’t work.

Considering one of their services is web development – It was disappointing to see their own site didn’t work, which overall begs the question how good would their web development services be for their clients?

I went back to Slack and explained I wanted to cancel on and guess what, then waited again!

I received a reply 7 hours later via Slack saying that they had received my email and “can confirm it had now been cancelled. Thanks for trying us out and all the best.”

Although it was great to have confirmation, I was surprised they weren’t interested in getting my feedback or even attempting to resolve any issues I had. Pebbled are really missing a trick here in my opinion. Maybe their problem is they have so much work on it doesn’t matter or worse still they don’t see feedback as being important to them.

In the words of a friend of mine,

You would expect that during a free trial period you would do everything you can to impress and retain a prospect, not the reverse!

Pebbled Trial Summary

In my opinion the communication was brief and rather sporadic. I got the feeling of being left hanging and this was frustrating.

The designs were nothing that I couldn’t do myself and lacked any relevancy to supplements as per the brief outline.

I should highlight that this is feedback based on my experience with producing the design from the brief given to all three companies.


Starting my Kapa99 Trial

Kapa99 LogoAs soon as you sign up with Kapa99, you’re offered two choices for submitting design work; either by email or by using Trello. They prefer Trello as it makes managing tasks easier and well as it keeps task related information all in one place.

I went with Kapa99’s suggestion and set up Trello.

If you’re new to Trello, they very helpfully send you a an onboarding video that outlines how to use their platform.

The on-boarding process with Kapa99 is slick and it really feels like they guide you through the setup really easily – which given my experience with Pebble was a VERY encouraging start.

Kapa99 mandate a 15-30-minute on-boarding call before the first task is started. This was a bit frustrating in that the timings for me weren’t ideal for me as I’m based in Malaysia, So my call was scheduled for 10pm in the evening. Which is understandable as you would expect on-boarding to come from their headquarters, but you would assume that should their service really take off, that they would have regional service centres.

On-boarding Call

My call had a minor technical issue but that was my problem as I had opened two conference call sessions, this caused an annoying feedback loop, listen to my voice in stereo was a bit weird!

Fabiana led the on-boarding conference call and gave me an excellent introduction to Kapa99 and took me through the process of creating and managing tasks in Trello. Their process is really good and means other members of your team can be involved or even manage for the project for you.

The on-boarding conference call and gave me an excellent introduction to Kapa99 and took me through the process of creating and managing tasks in Trello

I really like this and it gave me a much better feeling about Kapa99 taking my previous experience with Pebble into account!

If you take the option of using Trelli instead of email all you design tasks are stored using a Trello board. This really makes everything easy to see where a particular task is along with makes managing the whole process really easily.

Kapa99 Trello board

When you use Trello, your tasks move from the “To Do” Trello board … to the “Doing” and then to “Done list” when the final work has been completed. If you are not satisfied and need a revision, then you simply move the task to the “Revisions” Trello board and explain what you want amending.

Depending on the complexity of your revision this will be completed within a few hours or can take up to 8 hours if it is more complex.

My First Kapa99 Task

With my Trello board set up and my first task created, I looked forward to seeing the progress of my first design.

I received my first creative from the designer 18 hours after the job was setup after the on-boarding call.

First impressions of the design were that it was just okay and that the graphical parts didn’t really relate to the page it was going on, which made me think that the designer hadn’t done his homework.

I gave my feedback and asked for some revisions and moved it to the “revisions” card in Trello.

The designer asked for the blog post page the featured image would be placed on to get an idea of the context. I received a message 7 hours later showing three versions of their concept.

Whilst these were quite nice (see below) they really only used the existing image parts on the featured image I had there already (These had been designed by DesignPickle!). So, there was not much you could call creative to this, it was more a case of moving some design pieces around.

Although I really liked the on-boarding with Kapa99, I felt that the misunderstanding from the designer on the first task was a real concern.

The brief was very straight forward and the fact that there was no graphic component that in anyway resembled a “supplement” meant one of two things

Either, the designer was rushing and didn’t read the brief, or the brief was read and was not understood.

Both are points to be concerned about.

With a more in-depth description and illustration on what you need, then Kapa99 may be an excellent choice, it just didn’t work out that way for me.

You have to weigh up the time taken to write, incredibly in-depth briefs for what should be fairly clear, and so, with this concern I decided Kapa99 are probably not the solution for me.

Kapa99 Trial Summary

Awesome on-boarding process with a nice video walkthrough of how to work with Kapa99. The phone conference call is a great way to understand the setup process and managing designs using Trello.

In my opinion the design brief wasn’t looked at correctly by the designer and the designs had little relevancy to supplements as per the brief. Upon looking at the work of the current page that had the updated featured blog post image (from DesignPickle) they did a re-work of this.

As such, the designs were nothing that I couldn’t do myself.

I should highlight that this is feedback based on my experience with producing the design from the brief given to all three companies.

UPDATE: The guys got back in touch with me after I cancelled with some feedback and offered to extend the trial.


Starting my DesignPickle Trial

Design Pickle logoI should say at the start, the guys at DesignPickle don’t do logos or websites, so if this is your requirement this solution is probably not for you.

I should also say that when you first sign up to DesignPickle they do take payment for the first month. So what you have is 14 days to test out the service and if it’s not for you, you can then ask for a full refund.

There are conditions on the refund and so it’s best to be aware of this at first. You need to complete two design tasks and give them a chance to get this right for you – in other words, if you don’t like the design you submit revisions until you sign it off!

There is a really great guide on their site on how they work and exactly how their service could work for me.

On-boarding Process

When signing up for an account you’re asked to customize what they call your “graphic design cloud”. This means you select the plan type, either the standard ($370) for next day or pro ($995) option for same day output, keeping in context with Pebble and Kappa99 I went with the standard plan.

Next you select the number of Design Processing Units (DPU) you require. This lets you choose a level of design output that works best for your individual needs. DPU is effectively how many resources are allocated to your account. So, I only selected one so although I can submit multiple jobs each day only one may get completed.

If you want to have multiple concepts each day and have real-time collaboration then they recommend you take the Pro package.

They also have a great upsell feature, that is an option for stock photo images from Getty for an additional $25 per month. This is ideal if you want to have real professional pictures used in your designs, all with commercial licenses included. And it worth every penny if you don’t have high quality imagery, the images you use say so much about your product, in the same way as an old and tired shop front with a broken sign tells a customer something, poor imagery gives the same impression for online as well.

Although I am looking for more flat design graphics for my blog, this will be very useful for future designs, for the reasons above, so no surprise when I say I took this option.

The last step is of course the credit card details and then go straight onto describing your first design request.

Following the design request details, you’re asked details about your company, such as size and online presence, with questions on what sort of graphic design work you’re looking for.

My First DesignPickle Task

Communication and design requests are all managed via DesignPickle’s app called Jar. This keeps all communication on the project within one place, within the Jar pickle app.

Completing a design request is very straight forward with 6-7 fields to complete and specifying the file types for the final output.

one of the features I really liked was the ability to search for stock images through Unsplash and Getty, that is if you opted for this in the sign up – I go through this option for a little more later on.

Within a few hours of submitting my first task, my designer contacted me via the requests board introducing herself with some facts about herself. This was a really nice touch and immediately helped and is a great way to build a rapport.

Designpickle Design Request

I received six concepts from my designer the next morning when I woke up – I have to say I was really impressed with that they speed they produced the designs in and was in stark contrast to the other services.

The turnaround time was just less than 24 hours, which is brilliant. The whole process was fluid and I felt like I was in contact.

Not only were the designs nice. but my designer did variations so I could decide on the style most suitable. I really liked the concepts and picked one for the site to try it out.

Here are the initial designs that Design Pickle produced. You can see which one I chose on my supplement blueprint page.

Design Pickle designs

I wasted no time in requesting my second task, which was a featured blog post image for this site. Again, in less than 24 hours I was delivered three designs following the same design as requesting before.

I really was blown away with the service from these guys!

Not only do their designers do great work, the communication is fast.

I sent off two more design requests for them to work on as they clearly get the style I was after and so now I was able to proceed full steam ahead on getting my creative work completed.

DesignPickle Trial Summary

The on-boarding process is okay and a little more personal than Pebbled but not quite as slick as Kapa99.

The designer understood straight away what I was looking for and produced nice designs that I liked. In fact, I wasn’t sure which why to use!

The turnaround time is great and ALL designs requested have been done within 24 hours, often less.

I should highlight that this is feedback based on my experience with producing the design from the brief given to all three companies.


Are Unlimited Monthly Design Services Worth It?

Before you go ahead with an unlimited plan,you need to have a clear idea of how much creative work you need doing. The last thing you want to be doing is signing up and trying to find graphic work that you think you need.

To make a service like this worth it, you will need at least one project every week, maybe more depending on the service and package selected!

If you only have the odd design task, then a freelancer is going to be the most cost effective, andfinding a trustworthy freelancer on on Upwork might be your best bet. You could even ask if they are keen to have a monthly retainer.

I write 2-3 blog posts on this site each week and put together the featured image myself (does it show?). Ideally, I would like this to be delegated to my outsourced creative design team.

Not only will this free up much needed time to write but the images will look much better than me fudging about in Photoshop.

The Winner Is…

designpickle kapa99 pebbled contest

It’s most likely obvious by now, but the winner of my side-by-side trial of three unlimited monthly design companies was – DesignPickle.

The 2nd place runner up was Kapa99 followed in last place by Pebbled.

If like me, you have on going creative demands then an unlimited graphic design service will save you a ton of money and time.

There is no need to waste time hacking your way through Photoshop, unless you really enjoy doing so – I know I don’t!

Signing up for a monthly unlimited design packages is definitely worthwhile thinking about.

Each of the services I tested varied significantly with elements I liked in one service and others in another. I really liked using Trello with Kapa99 and was really impressed with the delivery, quality and communication of DesignPickle.

At the end of day, it’s all about the quality of the design and timely delivery though, and so I will continue to use DesignPickle, which will cost me $395 per month.

I really look forward to working with DesignPickle’s creative designers. They have already started producing some great looking blog post creatives, which I hope you guys will like too.

You can give DesignPickle a try by clicking here.

Adam Author

About the LifeHacker Guy

Hi, I'm Adam the founder of the LifeHacker Guy.

I have a First Class Honours degree in Sports Science from Brighton University, specialising in exercise physiology and nutrition. In my youth I was a competitive Triathlete and long-distance runner placing top 10 in most triathlon races I completed.

Since suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, I moved into web development, after a couple of years I then moved onto developing a number of online businesses. I've recently taken a sabbatical and I'm now looking to make big changes in my life, hopefully this may resonate with you - join me in my journey!

1 comment

  1. Thanks for testing these services! And for taking the time to write this review. There are so many now, and I was wondering if they’re worth it.

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