June 27, 2008

And the Award Goes to...

I've known many designers who judge themselves (as well as other designers) by the number of design awards they've won. But, what do those awards mean? They mean that the judges (other designers who are considered to be top in their profession) deem your work as being the best of all other work entered in that particular competition. I understand the appeal of being honored by your peers. It can be the designer's equivalent to winning an Oscar or a Golden Globe Award. But, does it really mean that your work is the best?

Whether you're creating an ad, brochure, web site, or logo, what is the true measure of success? For the person paying for the work, it may be increasing sales, growing brand awareness, or generating leads. It certainly isn't winning design awards. For the client, design awards are meaningless. I've yet to see a design competition that used the client's criteria for success as a factor in awarding trophies.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for promoting good design. But good design by itself is simply art for art's sake. If you are a fine artist, that's ok. But, good graphic design must first and foremost, be effective. Those award show judges can only make assumptions about the purpose of a piece as well as how effective it actually was.

Years ago, I did some work for a designer who entered four direct mail pieces in a local ad club design show. His client had hard data that measured the success (or failure) of these pieces. Only one of the pieces were accepted into the design show. It was definitely the best designed of the four pieces. Although the other three pieces were highly successful in generating sales, the accepted piece was a complete failure.

So, even if design awards don't judge on measured effectiveness, there really isn't any harm in them, is there? If I'm a client, I want my designer focused on creating an effective piece, not on winning a design award.

If you're a client, ask your designer or agency if they enter award shows. If they do, find another agency; one that is focused on meeting your goals. If you really love their work and can't bear to leave them, then do not allow them to enter your pieces in award shows.

If you're a designer, leave the award shows behind and focus on creating pieces that are effective for your clients. Work with your clients to make sure there are processes in place to measure the effectiveness. Then, use that to promote yourself. Telling a prospect that you created an ad that increased sales by 10% is much more impressive than showing them all the design awards you've won. And what could be a bigger award than that.


Gotham City Press said...

We have found most 'awards competitions' also involve an entry fee of some sort. We don't enter competitions simply because it doesn't change the quality of the work we do, and we certainly don't want to pay someone for the privilege of entering a competition.

In the end, our work speaks for itself, and a happy client is much better for business than a shiny statue on the shelf.

Percept Brand Design said...

Well said Gotham... we are a fellow Sydney design agency who echo your opinion!