1. Unless you're submitting a forklift or an airline terminal, try whenever possible to send the actual designed object. There's just no getting around the fact that photographs are flat and untrustworthy. Not only do they mask important information but they're rotten at imparting sensory details, such as the click of a button or the dent of letterpress, which can add up to love.
2. If your submission is mechanical, make sure that you also send all batteries and cords to allow the judges to turn it on. If it's a packaged food item, keep in mind that it may sit in a stuffy box for months. If it's alcoholic, you will win the good will of the competition's organizers who will consume it later, but the judges need to keep their wits about them and will probably not be impressed.
3. Provide a clear, succinct statement of what makes your design great. Very clear. Very succinct. Judges facing heaps of entries paw through them at a furious rate, and the brilliance may not leap to the glazed-over eye.
4. If you choose to submit your design in more than one category, don't assume that the same judges will be reviewing your entry multiple times and will be bowled over by your persistence. In many cases, different judges will be assigned to different categories.
5. If, however, you submit many entries in the same category, chances are fair that the judges will be bowled over by your persistence and will not have the heart to reject everything you've sent. This is true even for blind submissions (those that cover up the designer's name to ensure that the judging remains impartial). Because no two people fill out entry forms in exactly the same way, it's easy to see when a single unidentifiable designer has sent in a flood of work.
6. Submit in whatever category historically features the fewest number of winners. Fewer winners suggest a smaller playing field with less competition. Less competition means better odds for you. At I.D.'s Annual Design Review, for instance, the mega-categories are Consumer Products and Graphics. Smaller categories are Equipment, Packaging, and Concepts.
7. Submit a design that will unequivocally blow the minds of any half-sentient person who beholds it. Many (though by no means all) juries encounter a breakaway object that makes everyone nod their heads with relief and say, "Okay, we've done our jobs. Now let's grab a pizza."
8. Only, take care that you haven't already won too many other design competitions with said fabulous object, or the jurors will feel unoriginal. Ultimately, the best way to win a design competition is to be totally obscure and produce something of shocking originality and beauty. Easy peasy.
Julie Lasky, a former editor-in-chief of I.D. magazine, edits Change Observer, the social-innovation channel of Design Observer.