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Design Competitions: Showcasing Your Skills + Getting Recognition = Strong Kung Fu

April 6, 2010

One way I’ve found we artists and designers can keep our skills sharp between assignments and projects is the lesser traveled paths of design and illustration competition. When you think about it most competitions offer some really good opportunities.

Some pros:
1. The deadline is usually well established, predictable and firm and there is no confusion.

2. While there are usually some general guidelines, the participant has virtually no constraints (or at least a considerable amount more freedom) on their vision and direction. This allows for much more exploration and gives an opportunity for a more brazen sense of experiment and development.

3. Whether or not you win your work is reviewed. It is seen by a panel of professionals, in some respects your portfolio of skills is subject to an interview process and viewed by someone (or a group of someone’s) whose opinions actually matter.

4. Your competitors are having as much fun as you are. They are pushing their boundaries too and you get a really good look at what is at the core of your fellow creatives’ talent. Imagine an unrestrained, unbridled and potentially unconventional competition. It is much more bohemian and unorthodox than applying for the same job or freelance gig. It is less refined, not everyone’s cup of tea (I get that) but I dig it.

5. If you do win, you get promotion, publication and recognition and sometimes there is pay.

Some cons:

1. You probably cannot make a living off of competitions alone, it’s not that kind of beast. While there is usually some kind of pay, it is usually not very much.

2. If you were to try to make a living off of competition, and were successful, then that defeats the nature of the beast itself. Competitions showcase the talent that is rising. Talents that have already risen have an obligation to go on and change the world, not stay hovering over the pool of new rising talent. Dominance over any bohemian enterprise will seek to conform it. And there is nothing more sad than a well organized, homogenized group of anarchist.

For you, dear readers, I have traveled to these distant lands of  design competition, I’ve spoken with their villagers and I’ve brought back with me (no I didn’t go actually anywhere but I like the way it sounds) a small list of competition resources.

I know I’ve left many sources out, if you have any you like more… in fact… if you have any resources you like less, if you happen to like the concept of competition, if you happen to be opposed to competition, if you seek to dominate the amateur world of design like an evil da Vinci entering competition after competition not giving anyone else a fair chance. Then please feel free to post a comment or two.

– J. Hall

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