In Singapore alone, there is a plethora of design awards catering to every aspect of the industry but sometimes it’s not clear who the really benefits from these competitions.
The motivation for young designers and new design companies to pursue creative awards is fairly clear, they wish to be noticed and have their work recognized by the industry because they see awards as credentials that will enhance their reputations and bring them more business. But do they?
Being recognized by one’s peers might be gratifying but one’s peers are unlikely to be giving you work. That comes from winning new clients, and how many of those are following the various industry awards? Of course some right brain extremists’ no doubt take pride in such wins, and displaying their trophies and certificates in their offices in the hope of impressing potential clients.
Individual designers and even more so the CEOs of design companies need to weigh the costs and benefits of entering awards schemes carefully. Apart from the cost of submissions, and attending the events – which can be considerable for international competitions – there are the countless hours and great effort spent on conceptualizing innovative ideas to awe and impress the judging panel.
Many young designers go to great lengths to persuade their employers to participate hoping to enjoy a free ride to personal fame, since it costs them nothing but some work hours but what does the employer or the client get out of it?
Employers should consider that while winning awards may be exciting, and a motivation for designers to work harder and more passionately, it does not necessarily equate to a better bottom line.
In our competitive marketplace, award-winning design agencies do not automatically get to charge higher fees than other agencies. Employers also run the risk of having their ambitious, award winning, young designers move on to bigger agencies on the back of such wins.
It is not always good for the client either. If a young designer is thinking more about winning an award than fulfilling the clients brief the resulting concepts tend to be aesthetically overindulgent. They might be pleasing to the design senses, but miss out on the crucial communication objectives.
The pre-production and post-production processes of these ideas are also usually more complex and expensive. Less experienced customers can be taken in by these creative proposals and end up having to pay more for such designs without knowing that they are being used to fulfill a designer’s award-winning aspirations. Then there is the whole issue of what determines an award-winning design.
Often, the judging criteria for design competitions are too broad and ambiguous. Unlike other kinds of business awards design awards often seem to be judged solely based on aesthetic appeal rather than actual, measurable results.
A more realistic approach to judging would be to assess whether a design answers the client’s communication brief, and aids in producing quantitative and qualitative results.
With good design, the real winner should be the customer, and not the designers who have worked on the project, or the competition organizers who have charged an arm and a leg for each entry submission.
“Design is about communication, and not about winning awards.”
The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect this publication’s view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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