Q:In the last issue, you discussed the benefits of design awards and
how to choose which competitions
to enter. OK, I’ve decided to try
a few awards shows. How do I
increase my chances of winning?
The most important thing you can do to improve
your odds of winning awards—besides producing
fabulous work—is to match your entry to the competition.
Do your homework. Find out what typically
gets recognized by looking at past annuals. If
the organizers announce in advance who the judges
are for the competition you’re entering, familiarize
yourself with the judges’ work so you can see how
they think. Jurists often pick projects in genres similar
to their own. If you know how judges design,
you can more easily predict how they’ll choose.
Another bit of advice: If you enter a number of
competitions each year, it makes sense to develop tactics
for ensuring that your submissions comply with
the rules … beginning with making sure that your
entries will be received on time.
Start early in preparing your entries. Too often,
designers put off compiling their entries until the last
possible minute. This results in obvious hard costs
such as overnight charges and rush fees from suppliers.
Additionally, rushed entries are often poorly
assembled and perhaps not even judiciously selected.
Don’t let the heat of the moment cost you money
and cause disappointment. Set a personal deadline
well in advance of the actual competition deadline.
Preparing your entries
Before you develop your list of potential entries to
a competition, you’ll want to first study the criteria
for submissions. Usually presented in the call for
entries, these instructions will spell out important
details such as the competition deadline, eligibility
requirements, and categories for submission, as well
as particulars about where the entries should be sent
and how to package or present them. Some of the
more highly regarded competitions receive thousands
of entries, making it all the more important
that your submissions comply with established rules.
Your odds of receiving recognition are increased
if you adhere to the instructions of the organizers.
You may even be disqualifi ed if you don’t follow the
requirements to the letter. Typically, refunds are not
given for disqualifi ed entries (and materials usually
aren’t returned even if your entry is allowed).
Some firms and designers have developed
sophisticated procedures for compiling competition
entries. They might include maintaining a detailed
list of all work eligible for competitions, or the
identification of a specific person who is responsible
for the firm’s submissions. Other firms use checklists
and other administrative methods to make the process
Tips for increasing your odds
- Submit an actual printed sample of your work—
rather than a photograph or slide—unless the rules
specify otherwise. Judges prefer to see the real
thing when they’re evaluating entries.
- Be certain your entry is well protected. Always
ship in sturdy boxes and take special care when
packaging posters. Consider shipping via a courier
that offers tracking.
- Make sure your entries are in good shape to begin
with. If your entry is yellowed with age or dogeared,
it won’t look good in the annual even if it is
accepted—which isn’t likely.
- Be absolutely confi dent that you have read all the
rules and that your piece really qualifi es for the
show you’re entering.
- Print legibly, or better yet, type your entry forms.
Competition organizers don’t have the time to call
you to clarify illegible information.
- Specify the correct category for your entry. Read
and reread the call for entries to be certain you
have it in the right spot.
- If you’re submitting electronically, include information
on software as well as how to open the fi le.
- Keep the various pieces of a campaign together
when you ship them.
- When shipping multiple packages, mark the outside
of each “1 of 2,” “2 of 2,” etc.
- Check that you’ve included the appropriate fee
with each entry.