As a student, it can be difficult to convince yourself to invest money in something related to your professional career such as an awards program, let alone investing in that side of guac at Chipotle. Though it may seem difficult to envision what applying to something like an awards program gets you, winning one offers several hidden benefits that could help your design career in the long run.
For any students wavering in whether or not they should apply to awards programs this year, our Core77 Design Awards team put together a list of some honest points to consider before you submit to any awards program:
You can get international attention before you even graduate
And that's great for your future job hunt. With an award, not only have you proven that your ideas have merit in the real world, but it also gives you an opportunity to seek press, which helps refine your image as an expert in your field.
2021 Core77 Design Awards Furniture & Lighting Student Winner "Grow N Glow," by ArtCenter College of Design student Jez Sun
Winning an award can help with Artist's Visas
An O1 Artists Visa is for individuals who display excellence in the fields of science, athletics and art, and an application for getting one is reliant on official documents such as awards certificates to prove your work is, well, award-worthy!
It's a great thing to mention in grad school applications
A project in a portfolio is one thing, but one from your undergrad that was recognized and honored by well-respected designers in your field? That take things up a serious notch.
While winning an award isn't the sole way of validating an idea, it can help boost your confidence. Even just the act of creating a submission works as a real-life exercise in learning how to convey your design ideas in a clear and compelling manner.
It can help start a conversation about your work with professors
Having healthy dialogue and discourse with faculty outside of the classroom is super important to professional development, as these people are often some of your first connections in your desired work field. Applying for an awards program is a great jump-off point for establishing a working relationship with faculty you admire; you can get an honest opinion from someone you trust about your most impressive projects, and crits can help you write out a well-balanced application.
Students always get the best discount pricing
Once you're out of school, prices go up for awards applications, so it's great to take advantage of these spoils while you can!
Tips for applying to design awards
Ask your school for financial help
If you feel you can't afford to pay to submit, ask your school if they'd be willing to sponsor your submission—winning awards looks just as good for your school's design program as it does for you! :)
Buy your English major friend dinner in exchange for editing your application
If you can avoid it, never send an awards submission in without having someone else read over what you wrote. Awards programs commonly receive write-ups with incorrect spelling and less-than-desirable sentence structure.
2018 C77DA Student Packaging Winner Lovisa Boucher did a great job of identifying a mood for her product photography that supported her project.
Don't forget about images (including process!) and being selective with what you include
This is where those annoying process photos that are oh-so-easy to forget to take come in handy. Awards programs want to learn a little bit about how you got to the final form of your project, so getting documentation amidst the design process helps further illustrate this journey. And of course, your final images make a big difference on the impact they'll have with the judges, so make sure they're as pro as possible. Think about lighting; what kind of lighting will contribute to the mood of your project? Does it call for something straightforward (like for a tech product) or something more creative and subdued?
Lastly, don't bog judges down with a million photos! Only pick your best and most helpful images to include.
"No Fixed Address System" by Chih Chiu of Royal College of Art took away several awards in 2018—we can't help but think their super original video had something to do with that.
Make a compelling video
Come up with an original idea for a video that gets the message of your project across within a matter of a couple of minutes; if done correctly, it can make a huge impact.
Seize the moment
If you have a project that's super topical to big real-world issues from the past year, this can help up your chances of getting attention from the judges. Seize your moment by applying. Finally, pick a category that's spot-on in relation to your project, and you'll be set for success!