Are Design Awards Worth It? Past AIGA 50 Winners Say Yes

Entering work for a design award may seem like a daunting task. But there are good reasons to make the leap — for affirmation, motivation and even new business.

With the deadline for designers to enter AIGA 50 just around the corner, we’re sharing thoughts from some past winners on the importance of design competitions.

What is the value of recognition in the community?

Antonio Alcalá, Designer, Studio A: Recognition by your peers is valuable as affirmation of your choices in work and design. It can lead to new opportunities like judging competitions, speaking engagements, guest lecturing in art programs, etc. Awards can lend credibility to your work and occasionally lead to new opportunities. They also can help make that pitch to your boss for a raise that much easier.

Kevin Sprouls, Principal, Skelton Design: Of course everyone pays more attention to a winner, but it’s more than that. Trust is a big factor when it comes to client relationships. Having a third party such as AIGA validate your work strengthens that trust, which is key.

How has winning an award impacted you?

Jeffrey Everett, Commander, Rockets are Red: For me, the award is motivation, a pat on the back that I rarely receive after the project is completed. I often work in a singular world without much peer review or conversation. I hear from clients, the audience, and all those nagging voices in my head. I do the project, release the project, and live with it for about a week before starting a new piece. The award entry — and possible win — allow me to reflect on what I have done, and take some outside pride in it.

Jennifer Cole Phillips, Director, Graphic Design MFA Program, Maryland Institute College of Art: In the beginning of my career, it opened doors to prestigious design studios and design education opportunities. These days, it brings reassurance that I’m practicing at a competitive level.

How do you choose what to enter?

Kevin Sprouls: It’s apparent if the work has substance. If the content and concept are strong, then the odds are that it will be recognized.

Jeffrey Everett: I typically open a folder of all the work over the last few years and feel it out. I typically get a feeling of, “That’s all I’ve done!?” After a few minutes, I pull myself together and realize I have a few pieces that I do appreciate and think may have a chance.

Jennifer Cole Phillips: I have very high standards for my students and for myself. I only enter a project I feel has truly hit its mark both conceptually and formally.

If someone is on the fence about entering AIGA 50, what advice do you have?

Antonio Alcalá: If your company is paying the entry fee, then enter often! You probably devote a lot of time to making the company look good. Here’s an opportunity for the company to support and thank designers for your work. If the entry fees are coming out of your own pocket, be judicious and enter your best work. It’s a real honor to have a design selected as one of the 50 best designs in the area!

Jeffrey Everett: Enter. The price point is manageable, the admission process is easy, and the organization is legitimate and historic. If you win, you can hang out with me in the back, making fun of ourselves saying, “Seriously!? They let us in?” Plus, the awards are heavy, make stellar weapons, and make the kids proud that their parent isn’t just drawing funny things.

Jennifer Cole Phillips: Do it! What do you have to lose? Were you to win, the distinction of finding yourself among a collection of only 50 winners is a true honor.


Feeling motivated? The deadline for AIGA 50 entries is 5 PM on Feb. 23, 2018. Find out how to enter.


By Claire Blaustein and Lara Key
Published February 12, 2018