How to Win a Design Competition: tips from the ASID California Peninsula Chapter


Time to get your project photos and entry forms in order—the deadline for the annual ASID California Peninsula Chapter’s Design Challenge is February 15.

Wondering how design contests are won? Below are tips from some of the most seasoned judges in the region, taken from a recent ASID panel discussion on the topic. (Panel speakers: Pamela Pennington, ASID; Patricia McDonald, ASID; Diane Hurd, ASID; Professor Brian Kimura and Barbara Jacobs, FASID.)


Q: Describe the structure of an award-winning entry.
Kimura: “A winning entry should have a clearly stated concept statement. It should be carefully analyzed and clearly communicate to the judges what you accomplished in the project. It should have an easy-to-read floorplan. It should also have really good photography.”

Q: How do you know when a project is competition worthy?
Pennington: “I design as if every project is going to be a winner. My advice would be to put your design ability and passion into every thing you do. I think that a winning entry is all about the binder, and I spend hours on the concept statement. I think that good photography is extremely important, because it is an art. When you are recording your work, you don’t want pretty good, you want excellence. Keep in mind that if you win, the photographs will be published.”

Q: Just how important is good photography?
Hurd: “As Pamela says, it’s an art form. A space is three dimensional, and you want to work with a photographer who can capture that and communicate the project. If the lighting in your project isn’t great, you won’t be able to see your work. If your binder doesn’t have great photography, then the judges won’t see your work.”

Q: It seems judges prefer high-end and modern design. Do low-budget and/or traditional projects stand a chance?
Kimura: “I’ve talked to other judges about this and we all agreed: If it’s great work, it’s great work. It doesn’t matter what the style or budget is.”

Q: Why do the same people win every year?
McDonald: “Many people who win a lot submit multiple entries. It’s like they say with the lottery, if you don’t enter, you can’t win. One designer who won three prizes last year submitted nine entries.”

Q: Is it really worth entering?
McDonald: “It’s invaluable. Getting published is huge. Potential clients will see your work. Editors will get to know your work. It’s worth taking a risk to make that happen.”

Winners from the ASID 2011 Design Competition will be published in the July/August issue of California Home+Design. Check out for entry forms, judges’ criteria and more information.


Sponsored by ASID California Peninsula Chapter

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