Tips and Advice

Design awards: how to write the perfect entry

Entering design awards can be incredibly rewarding—if you win, you’ll have an exciting accolade to your name. If you don’t quite make the cut you’ll still be able to get some valuable networking opportunities with your contemporaries, so it’s well worth the effort.

If you decide to toss your hat in the ring, you’ll need a killer entry to stand a chance against the stiff competition. Maximise your success with our top entry-writing tips to and make sure yours ticks all the boxes.

Consider your options

There are a lot of great design awards out there and it’s easy to get overwhelmed when trying to make a choice. Making a submission can be costly and time consuming so thoroughly investigate the company that’s hosting the award before you commit. Is it going to help further your career in your chosen industry/genre/style? Will it give your customers added confidence in you and your skills?

Entry fees vs prizes

Entering an award can cost anything from £25 to upwards of £500 or more, so you’ll need to make sure that the benefits outweigh the entry fees. Besides a shiny trophy, bragging rights and a nice title, you could also get your mitts on some valuable website and social exposure, a spot in an exclusive showcase, a healthy cash prize or an unmissable career opportunity. Take a look at what’s on offer before you commit.

Manage your time

Writing and compiling an entry takes time, maybe far more than you realise. Make sure you work backwards from the submission deadline, leaving yourself enough time to gather all the information, supporting materials and artwork you need, then a little extra time for any additional drafts and rewrites you may need to complete.

Pay attention to the details

Any student that’s ever jumped through hoops to format and submit a dissertation or assignment will be able to tell you this—if you don’t pay attention to the submission guidelines and ensure all your material is in the correct format, you stand a chance of losing marks and losing out.

The best thing to do here is to print out the entry requirements and use them as a checklist, ticking them off as you complete each one. It’s also well worth copying out the written overview requirements so you can make sure your entry is strong. Break it down into sections which will serve as the paragraphs of your entry. Let’s take the Core77 Design Awards project details as an example:

Your Project Details section should describe your intent as you approached your project in 1500 words or less. What is your point of view? The juries would love to know about this, as well as the process that informed your project. When describing your process, think about research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing and anything else that went into the project. It also helps to describe the stakeholder interests your project considers, such as audience, businesses, organizations, labor, manufacturing and distribution.

After breaking this down, your structural list would look a little something like this:

1)      What did you want to achieve with this project?

2)      Why did you want to achieve that particular goal?

3)      What was your process in actualising it?

–          How did you research it?

–          Where did it originate?

–          Who are the experts in this particular movement or style?

–          What was your process with regard to researching and sourcing appropriate materials?

–          Did you use any technology in the creative process?

–          How many versions did it take to get right?

–          Did it need much testing before the final version was reached?

4)      Who is it aimed at?

Once it’s broken down like this, the piece has almost written itself and you’re not left staring at a blank sheet of paper, stressing about where to begin.

Don’t skip the supporting material

It’s likely you’ll be given the option to supply supporting material to help strengthen your entry. Although it may be more work, anything that helps you to that winner’s podium is worth the effort, so round up what you can—every little helps!


Get someone else to read it

If you’ve been asked to submit an overview with your entry, make sure you get a second or even a third pair of eyes on it. It can be all too easy to ramble, repeat yourself or write in a jumbled way. To be in with a chance of winning, the judges will need to be able to get a clear idea of what you wanted to achieve. Eloquence and concision are key if you’re going to make a case for your work.

Check it, then check it, then check it again

Before you submit it, run through your printed checklist one more time so you can rest assured that you’ve included everything you’ll need in order to be considered.

Awards to watch

Many of this year’s awards have stopped accepting entries, so get a jump start on next year and start choosing what you want to enter. You can register with them for updates so you don’t miss out when they open for 2017 entries. Here are a couple to keep an eye on:

Creativity International Design Awards
Design Week Awards
The Drum Design Awards
iF Design Awards
Core77 Design Awards
Red Dot Design Awards
D&AD Professional Awards

And for the students…
Student Design Awards
YCN Student Awards
D&AD New Blood Awards

Got any award entry tips of your own? Do a nice thing and leave them in the comments box below or check out more Tips and Advices here.


Don’t forget, if you need to print your submissions, we’ve got a whole range of options, from Display Boards to Hardback Books to Saddle Stitched Portfolios.

About the author

Bex is our Senior Content Manager and lover of all things community. When she's not glued to her phone you can find her out cycling in the Chiltern Hills or braving the London commute on her Brompton.

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