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There is no doubt that designers are always looking for challenges to prove their talent and excellence in the industry. Design competitions are one of those opportunities that allow both students and professionals to compete with others on a domestic or international level. In our debate today, we will discuss the different ideas about design competitions and if they are really worth the time and effort, or just a waste of time. While many designers are eager to take up a challenge in competitions, others prefer to spend time on new, paid projects or gaining more clients.

Before discussing both points of view, let us define design competitions and their characteristics. Design competitions are either local or international design challenges that measure the skills and the talent of the attendees; the attendees are judged by a professional jury board which determines the best design or artwork and nominates it as the winner. Their judgment is based on different criteria, such as the creative idea, meeting design principles, following the design process workflow and implementing tools and applications.

Design competitions can either be general with multiple competing fields, such as the Adobe Design Achievements Award or specialized in one type of design, such as the Poster For Tomorrow, which specializes in poster design only. While most design competitions are open both for students and professional designers, some competitions target specific professional levels, such as the Adobe Design Achievements that target design students only.

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During my lectures at the university and professional events, I noticed that the interest in joining design contests varies between design students and professional designers. It was an interesting observation that made me think about the reasons that drive students to join design contests and if they are the same reasons that drive professional designers to join these competitions.

I have found that many students are very ambitious to join both local and international design competitions. When I asked them about their reasons for joining contests, they had different reasons, such as proving their talent, professional recognition and enriching resume. These are the common reasons in addition to the challenge and contest prizes.

New design students are always looking for advice and mentoring as well as having their artwork evaluated, especially by professional designers and experts. This helps them to know their progress and if they are moving in the right direction. Design competitions provide them the international and official judgment that can give them an idea about their skills, especially when they get the chance to compare themselves with the rest of the contest participants.

Recognition and acknowledgement are very important for many design students and professionals, because when they win in contests, they get featured on websites, magazines and exhibitions. Being featured can have a great impact on the career of a designer and can promote their work to companies and clients. However, designers should make sure that the contest they are applying for has a good reputation and exposure in the design industry, otherwise it will not provide the expected industry recognition. On the other hand, well-known design contests are very competitive because there are thousands of designers who submit their work and only the best of the best have a chance to win such competitions.

This narrows down the chances of winning such contests, unless you are very skillful and talented.
Many professional designers and design students try to win design contests to add their achievements to their resumes. Students aim to add these contest achievements to their resume to have proof of their creative skills and be able to attract the recruiters with their contest achievements. Professional designers look at contest achievements for their resumes in another way, because they already have practical and professional experience. Therefore, designers are eager to improve their resumes with these contests to subsequently improve their career or their current work positions.

Other design students and professional designers are more pragmatic when it comes to joining design contests. When I got the chance to meet different designers and asked them about why they were interested in joining design competitions, their priorities of the advantages were different. Generally, professional designers look to fuel their resumes by winning contests, in addition to the competition prizes, as we mentioned above.

Contest prizes and awards are very important and attract both professional designers and student designers to join design competitions. The prizes of the contests vary from cash, free software, books, gallery participation, trips and having your artwork featured in a magazine. Among the large number of nominated designs and artworks, especially in large contests, you may have very low chances of winning the big prize. Meanwhile, some design competitions replace the big winning prize with multiple prizes, such as the Annual Design Awards, which provides free software packages and featuring the contestants’ artwork.

Many other designers think that there are a lot of disadvantages of joining design competitions. While design students are more willing to spend time and effort on creating artwork and designs for the competitions, professional designers are usually limited in time and effort that makes them less able to spend time on creating designs and artworks for competitions, especially when the contests have a specific theme or topic.

The time and effort spent on preparing the design and artwork ideas for competitions often exceeds the time and effort you would spend creating designs for clients, because the former will be judged by professional experts that judge your submissions with a deep focus on every detail. Also, you need to understand the theme of the contest and the type of competitors to be able to find an idea that can compete with the other submissions.

While most of the famous design competitions require submission fees, many designers find it very risky to pay for one or multiple submissions. Submission fees vary depending on the competition and the type of the submitted artwork. For example some competitions charge $35 for a single submission and $70 for submitting multiple artworks. On the other hand, submitting videos and animated materials would cost more.

Also, some contest guidelines ask for late submission fees if you could not meet the official deadline. These fees make it very risky for designers, because winning cannot be guaranteed even if they submit more than one artwork. This is one of the reasons that make many designers think that design competitions may be a waste of money in addition to the time and effort.

Idea burnout is yet another disadvantage of joining contests, because you spend a lot of time trying different design ideas and brainstorming to reach a final, suitable idea that you can submit to the design contest. This burnout of ideas may affect your regular work, because you may get tired and it will affect the delivery of other paid projects. In addition to the idea burnout, you submit your unique ideas and styles without having a real client that will pay for it and for the time you have spent creating it.

The opinions vary so much about joining design competitions, and the options vary between design students and professional designers. In this poll article, we tried to discuss the different advantages and disadvantages that designers see concerning design contests. Do you think that you can spend the time and effort to join design competitions? Is it really worth it?

Join our discussion and tell us your opinion about these contests, and do not forget to answer the poll questions below.

Poll Questions







FYI – This poll closes at midnight Pacific Time on August 5th. The results of the poll will remain hidden until then so we can reveal the results in a follow up post early next week! Thanks for voting and all your comments!