Six Workable Strategies to Winning Design Competitions

Throughout the years, students from Sunway University Department of Art, Design & Media have drawn accolades in various design competitions, under the guidance of Wincen Foong, a Teaching Fellow at the Department. Among the notable ones included the 2nd Prize in Hyundai Veloster Creative Display Contest 2013 (worth RM30,000); the 1st Prize in Ambank Festive Greetings Competition 2015 (worth RM17,000); the 1st Prize in Adobe Certified Associate (ACA) Championship Malaysia 2018 (worth RM18,000 with Trip to Orlando, Florida, USA); and the 2nd Prize in Adobe Certified Professional (ACP) Championship Malaysia 2022 (worth RM10,000).

The achievements were testaments to the proven strategies deployed in winning design competitions. Below are the six strategies:

Follow the Rules & Regulations

It is very important to understand the competition's brief in terms of the rules and regulations. The specifications listed in the brief are a MUST to follow, such as the measurement, colour mode, and permitted software applications. Measurement is about the sizing of the design artwork; and colour mode coordination with either CMYK (for print) or RGB (for multimedia) and the application are all about the computer software application that is allowed to be used to submit the right types of file format. Many competitions still require physical copies of printed artwork so make sure they are packaged up nicely (sticking in the envelope is not enough!).  It may or may not sway the decision, but a bit of effort in packaging your designs well will go a long way. Anything missed may result in automatic disqualification. So, observe and follow the rules accordingly. Also, do not fall at the last hurdle by filling out the submission form incorrectly.

Achieving the Objective

What are the competitions trying to achieve? Please carefully read through the guidelines and understand the competition’s brief. If necessary, obtain the organiser's contact information to further obtain clarification about the competition’s brief. Besides that, one must be able to identify the purpose of the competition and make sure the message can be achieved. Research on the topic and background must be done to understand the demands of the brief. If the competition is not a live competition, one can request comments on the design from superiors, lecturers, or fellow designers for further improvement and enhancement. Do a test run of the work to ensure it achieves the objective of the competition’s brief.

Look at who the Judges are

It is crucial to know who the judges are to stand a good chance of winning. Research on them and the work they have done to search for the direction of design style that they preferred. Look through their social media feeds such as Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs, or even their website for an idea of the kind of work they like. It will not guarantee a win, but knowing their taste can sure help.

Put Aside Enough Time

As the idiom says, “Time is a great healer”. The more time one allocates for the design, the higher the chance to make improvements. Do plan time following the process of the design. One must be able to estimate the time taken to complete the required tasks for a design. The design should be ready, way in advance of the deadline. Choose to participate in competitions that work with the schedule, without disrupting any current projects. There is no point in entering competitions with last-minute designs. If one is joining an overseas design competition, make sure to convert the deadline submission time into your local time.

Multiply It

If the competition allows participants to submit more than one artwork, have various design styles, ideas, or concepts, and multiply their submissions to gain higher chances of winning.

Participate again next year. Whether one wins or not, be sure to enter again the following year with a new project. The name will be familiar and although the quality of work will be the defining factor, this reputation will go a long way to boosting the winning chances the second time around.

Accolades from competitions are a surefire way to establish oneself as a great designer. Winning competitions is a great way to build a reputation, either for a student or a professional. It aids in the promotion of oneself, the university, and even one’s own company.


Wincen Foong Hock Kuen
School of Arts