(This article was originally published on April 2012)
We are all familiar with the challenges of receiving recognition in the highly competitive and saturated industry of art and design. Whether you are producing work for a client, for school, or for yourself, it’s a challenge to stand out from the crowd. Without recognition, we won’t be able to pursue our careers as professional artists, because no one will know who we are. This is why we need to enter design competitions.
I’ve created this guide to essential design competition directories to help you carve your own path through the growing crowd of designers and artists who are all vying for attention and recognition. By targeting leading recruiters in the industry, and a large viewership to boot, design competitions are an essential channel to show your stuff and prove your talents as an artist. Since you’re already so pumped up to kick your design career into high gear, I know I don’t have to sell this idea to you. Here is a digital roadmap to the top 12 Essential Online Design Competition Directories.
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AIGA, the professional association for design, hosts regular competitions celebrating exemplary design while demonstrating the power of effective design. Competitions encompass all disciplines of design, from print to digital, independent of platform.
Last year, AIGA hosted the “365 | Design Effectiveness Exhibition,” which showcased the excellence of effectiveness and aesthetics in communication design.
This year, AIGA is hosting the “Justified” competition (visit), a showcase of effective design.
Apart from competitions, AIGA also hosts events, workshops, conferences, and galleries on a regular basis. AIGA is an invaluable resource for any designer to keep an eye on considering that it is the oldest and largest professional membership organization for design, boasting over 22,000 members across 66 chapters in the U.S. alone.
Contest Watchers is a group who seeks out international contests for many creative disciplines. Contest Watchers also watches out for international scholarships and workshops. In addition to providing a wealthy database of competition opportunities, Contest Watchers also promotes upcoming artists by publishing the names of contest winners.
According to their website, “Winning a contest that has been featured on Contest Watchers gives you an opportunity to reach a worldwide audience.”
Some of the past competitions on Contest Watchers include the 7th International Mobile Gaming Awards (IMGA), a yearly contest for innovation and creativity in mobile games worldwide; the 10th Annual Independent Music Awards, a prestigious international program that gets top-ranked independent artists and releases global recognition; and the Art Revolution Taipei 2012 International Art Competition, featuring hundreds of leading and emerging galleries and artists from around the globe.
I know I wouldn’t have heard of any of these competitions if it weren’t for Contest Watchers. I strongly suggest that you keep up with all the news and announcements from Contest Watchers if you are serious about gaining recognition for yourself as a creative professional.
Dexigner is a responsive design news aggregator, which also maintains a vast library of design competitions from all disciplines of creative professions.
Dexigner’s competitions include entries like the Foam Talent Call, a competition for aspiring young photographers, as well as Adobe’s Youth Voice Aspire Competiton, a competition for teens who demonstrate creativity and skill in using video, print, or audio to convey their perspectives on issues important to them.
Aside from competitions, Dexigner is an incredibly rich, responsive, and easy-to-read design news aggregator. In my opinion, Dexigner may possibly be the most thorough resource on the web for all design news around.
By providing a highly granular directory that can also locate events and competitions near you by location, Dexigner proves itself to be a one-stop destination for designers looking to stay up to date about their discipline and to keep abreast of the hottest competitions and events.
Graphic Competitions is a simple (yet still elegant) directory of visual art competitions. Graphic Competitions features competitions for graphic designers, photographers, illustrators, animators, and more.
They even have a students-only competition section. In addition to providing an extensive listing of design competitions, Graphics Competitions also hosts a bookshop with tons of resources for all you artists to bury your faces in.
Graphics Competitions competitions include correct entries, such as the World Standards Day 2012 Poster Competition, a poster design competition with the theme of “Less waste, better results – Standards increase efficiency” and the Chelten Illustration Awards 2012, a competition for illustrators focused around the theme of “Magical Objects.”
CommArts (Communication Arts) is a company that knows a thing or two about the design world, given that they’ve been around since 1959. The good thing is that they like to share their knowledge with the creative masses.
CommArts also publishes a physical magazine in addition to their web offerings called “Communication Arts Magazine.” CommArts regularly posts features and articles from the design world, and focuses on showcasing, profiling, and interviewing creative designers from around the world.
Communication Arts has six exclusives, juried competitions that cover the entire field of visual communications. Winning selections are published both in print and online.
Art and creative directors, graphic designers, web designers, copywriters, photographers, and illustrators find these competitions a priority for worldwide promotion and a valuable resource for potential clients and colleagues. Winning the CommArts competitions earn high marks for an artist’s career.
According to their website, “CA’s Award of Excellence is one of the most coveted awards in the industry. If chosen, winning places you in the highest ranks of your profession.”
CommArts review panel consists of industry leaders and visionaries such as Saul Bass, Michael Beirut, Lee Clow, Hillman Curtis, Louise Fili, Milton Glaser, Jeff Goodby, Hal Riney, Sam Scali, Paula Scher, Michael Vanderbyl, Lynda Weinman, Fred Woodward and Jeffrey Zeldman.
Design Boom is a site for designers who are looking to both learn and compete in the design world. The site has over 24,148 articles in its information repository.
Design Boom also offers courses called “Design-Aerobics,” featuring topics on self-promotion, temporary structure (pop up), graphic design, shopping, paper, and food. You might think these titles sound a little simplistic but take a look at the actual course materials and you’ll be surprised to find the wealth of information covered in each course about design.
Design Boom doesn’t currently have a list of ongoing competitions, although you can easily find contests and competitions by reading their articles. Design Boom does, however, feature a list of results from finished design competitions. I listed Design Boom here because of the quality of their site and their large readership. If you won a contest that was featured on Design Boom, you would gain a lot of exposure for yourself in a very short time.
(Designophy Calendar is not longer in service)
Designophy is a design news & resource site that features an extensive calendar for competitions, conferences, events and fairs, and education.
Designophy also offers a Designopedia, a resource list of designers, products, and terms; and a resource list of essential manuals, books, and magazines Additionally, Designophy hosts regular interviews with designers and features articles about all facets of design.
(Studio1C Blog is no longer in service)
Studio1C is an internet marketing, SEO, and web design firm that happens to also offer a comprehensive and regularly updated list of design competitions from around the globe.
Contests from Studio1C’s list include the DieLine Package Design Awards, a competition specifically for package design, and the Conqueror 2012 Typographic Games, a competition for typographical sports posters.
Studio1C also has a shortlist of ongoing competitions from around the Web that you can compete in regularly if you’re a glutton for punishment (or great success.)
(PrintMag is no longer in service)
PrintMag is a bi-monthly magazine about visual culture and design, as well as a vast online resource for all things related to print design. PrintMag was founded in 1940 (a long time ago!) and has been cited as one of the most engaging, insightful, and journalistic endeavors ever seen. Print offers a great resource section for print designers, as well as inspiration for those who crave it.
Print’s directory section gives you a chance to find design firms, schools, designers, stock images, printing services, and more. It also has a large online shop with many tools and resources for print designers.
Print’s competitions include the infamous Print Design Annual Competition, a competition for any printed materials that you can produce (currently closed), not to mention the Creativity + Commerce Competition, a competition for business-focused and print & interactive design.
All Art Competitions
(All Art Competitions is no longer in service)
All Art Competitions is a web directory of artistic competitions from around the world. There are many entries on All Art Competitions that I hadn’t seen listed in other directories.
Another thing that you can find here that isn’t found in most other sites is that generally the prize money or incentive is listed alongside the title of the competition.
All Art Competitions features some hard-to-find competitions and contests, like the $10,000 Southern Comfort Video Contest, as well as the $7,500 Dole Video Contest. Besides video, All Art Competitions also showcases creative contests for less publicized disciplines, such as sculpture, literature, poetry, architecture, dance, and music.
(Design Competition is no longer in service)
Design Competition is simply a directory for online design competitions. I’m not sure what sources they aggregate from, but the style is very simple and to the point, and there are a whole lot of entries, some of which I know I haven’t found anywhere else.
Design Competition is definitely worth a look at, considering the number of competitions they list. The other nice thing about Design Competition is their cheesy but effective countdown timer in the top right-hand side of their site which tells you when the next competition deadline ends.
There are many places for you to showcase your creative abilities. Design competitions are an essential platform for you to show the world how good you are. Yes, via the power of the internet, the whole world can potentially see your greatness if you just take the time to compete with others in your discipline.
If you have the dedication and the passion it takes to succeed in your craft, you should fare well in any design competition. I sincerely hope this article will prove useful to you in your creative endeavors. Thank you for reading!