How 99Spy built a full-time career on 99designs

Spyros Tsimouris (aka 99Spy) has been a prominent member of 99designs since 2012. A self-proclaimed “Workaholic Designer,” he’s also stepped up to the plate as one of our Forum moderators and a fantastic mentor for our community.

Early on, he began working full-time on 99designs and today boasts a global client portfolio and a diversified skillset – ready to jump in on book covers, branding and app design projects, to name a few. His favorite part? Having the flexibility to choose the projects that suit him best.

Read on to learn how Spyros transformed his career with the help of 99designs.

99spy

Name: Spyros Tsimouris
99designs handle: 99Spy
Location: Greece

Tell us a little about your background

I’m 47 years old and have been actively involved in all kinds of design for the last 27 years. I live in beautiful, sunny Greece, but I’m working with clients from all over the world.

I’m lucky enough to be married to the most patient woman on earth (regarding my endless working hours) and I’m blessed to have an adorable 6 years old daughter who keeps asking me all day long: “Dad, when is your client going to pay you, so you can buy me that Barbie you promised me?”

What drew you to graphic design? Did you receive a formal education or are you self-taught?

The passion for design!

I’ve learned since my very early days to keep a critical eye on everything that surrounds me. I realized, soon enough, that everything has an optical (image) identity and everything has to be communicated in a way that’s acceptable to specific audiences in order to be successful.

I decided to invest the first money I ever earned (at the age of 19) in a brand new, super extra fast Apple Macintosh IIx with 4MB of RAM and 80MB of Hard Disk…(!) That’s one of the things I never regretted in my entire life. I entered the awesome world of “Desktop Publishing” systems and never looked back again.

I’ve received formal education in Fine Arts, Architectural Design and I have a Masters of Marketing Communications. But trust me: the greatest education is from the real mistakes you make for real customers. Priceless!

app
App design for “Fruit Salad” match game

When and where do you feel most creative? What inspires you?

I feel creative everywhere and I seek inspiration in literally everything! Nature, technology, innovations, great people, friends, vacations, feelings, inner thoughts, everything!

But when it comes to turn my inspiration for actual design, I need the calm environment of my personal studio. I need a few moments to put it down on paper (or screen), to visualize the concept. Then everything keeps rolling like a well-oiled machine.

You dabble in a lot of different categories on 99designs. What’s the first thing you do when trying something new?

I was lucky enough to be trusted by a lot of people and companies to carry out their vision and make it work. This helped me dig deeper into a lot of design categories. After many years of involvement I realized that there’s not a single category that’s not connected with another – a different one.

So, when it comes to something new that I have never explored before I seek inspiration, skills and know-how in every possibly-related design category. I try to understand how things work in the big picture, how things are connected and how a design solution affects something that is established or something yet to be discovered. Flexibility and innovation are the key words here.

Do you have any other passions, outside of design? (feel free to link or share them)

I’m a semi-pro photographer, a musician and composer and an author. I used to teach advanced Photoshop and Illustrator lessons in private schools, but I no longer have the spare time to do it, though I love to share my knowledge and experiences.

What do you consider to be your most unique project?

In terms of something that I would never had the chance to do in my local market, it’s this one (below). A casino/poker chips set label design!

poker-chips
Casino chip design for Eastern Poker Tour

How has 99designs affected your career?

It’s been a life-changer for me! After experimenting for a few months, I eventually dropped almost everything else and I’m now working full-time (or maybe more) here.

I expanded my clientele to a global one and multiplied my chances to work for projects I could never have imagined. And that’s why I’m in so many categories. I never get bored. I fully enjoy what I’m doing, I’m paid fairly, and above all else I choose to work on exactly what I feel suits me best. My portfolio is now more impressive than ever!

What are your plans for the future?

I never make longterm plans. You know what they say: “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans…”

As for the next few months my plans include: Entering as many new categories I can, helping the community in the Forum (by being one of the Moderators) and trying to convince 99designs staff to introduce a couple of new categories, like “Photo Manipulation“.

chaos
Band logo for Weekly Chaos

If you could give designers one piece of advice, what would it be?

I would like to share my personal lessons for people entering contests:

  • Don’t ever be too over-excited for anything (unless you already won a contest)
  • Don’t ever be too over-disappointed either (shit happens, just like in real life)
  • Try to make a “psychological profile” of the Contest Holder before entering a contest: learn how to evaluate star-ratings, CH feedback, etc.
  • Do keep “profiling” them constantly while you’re participating in the contest.
  • Don’t just try to be good or cool to the CH. Try to be really useful and helpful.
  • As soon as a contest turns bad for you, don’t waste your time wondering why. There’s over one hundred other similar contests right in the browse contests list. More than one will be suitable for you.
  • Learn how you can better present your work to the CH.
  • Keep making mistakes. It’s the most valuable experience you’ll ever have.

See more of 99Spy’s work here.

The author

Kelsey Bryant
Kelsey Bryant

Kelsey is 99designs' Designer Marketing Manager. Born and raised in a small town in Connecticut, she moved to San Francisco in 2009 with a degree in Strategic Communications from Elon University. When she’s not working with the designer community, you can find her exploring the city, taking weekend road trips, and soaking up that California sunshine.

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