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Proud of your graphic design awards? Great, pat yourself on the back and get back to work.

There's always a good feeling that comes with winning awards. Wether it's recognition from your peers at some formal gala, or a gold star from your third-grade teacher. Awards represent achievement, prestige, and of course give you some bragging rights. But when it comes to our business, do graphic design awards translate to better and more work?

Now I realize that this is my own personal opinion. I didn't look up any studies, nor did I conduct any surveys. But if you ask me, I would have to say NO. Entering in graphic design competitions and winning graphic design awards don't really do anything for your graphic design business. Disagree? Have a story to prove me wrong? Leave your opinion in a comment below.

Types of Graphic Design Awards

There are a ton of graphic design competitions that offer a variety of graphic design awards. That's not what I want to talk about. I'm referring to the different “categories” of graphic design awards available to you.

Graphic Design Awards For Students.

There are probably more graphic design competitions aimed at students than there are aimed at professionals. And that's OK. In fact, graphic design students are the ones that can benefit the most form winning graphic design awards. They look great on resumes and could be the deciding factor in an employer choosing one young designer over another.

Unfortunately, graphic design awards won while you're a student have short life spans. They look good for the first few years of your career but after a while the loose their wow factor. It's kind of like the local theatre awards some Hollywood A-listers won before they made it big. They were great at the time and may have helped them land their first acting part, but nobody cares about those awards now.

Professional Graphic Design Awards

If you do covet graphic design awards these are the ones to go after. I won't name any names here but there are some very prestigious graphic design competitions in our industry. Unfortunately, most of these competitions require you to pay a fee in order to submit a piece of work. Some of those fees can be expensive. Without a guarantee that your piece will make it on the final ballot the price involved with these graphic design competitions is just too much for most graphic designers, especially those running their own business.

Don't get me wrong. I fully understand why these graphic design competitions charge hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars just to submit your work for consideration. If they didn't they would be flooded with thousands of submissions from every wannabe designer looking for a leg up. The problem however, is that only those who can afford the entry fee are recognized. Meaning they may not necessarily be the best graphic designers, they are simply the ones with money to spend.

Niche Graphic Design Awards.

Niche graphic design awards are fun to win, but don't really mean much. A niche design award is usually offered by some industry or group to recognize achievement within their ranks. For example, a fire department my win an award for having the best department crest out of all fire departments in the state. Or a book publisher may offer an award for the best book cover design out of all the books they published in the past year.

Most of the time it's your client that is the one being recognized and not you the designer. In the examples above, the fire department and the book author would win the award. However, by proxy you can claim some recognition for having designed the winning piece and have every right to brag about it any way you like.

Graphic Design Inclusions.

Not so much an award since there are no graphic design competitions involved. Inclusions is when your work is recognized in some compilation of work. This is when a logo you designed appears in a book of “Best Logo Designs” or if a website you built appears in a list of the “top 100 websites”. You haven't actually won any awards for your design but you can still brag about its inclusion nonetheless.

Do Graphic Design Awards help your business?

My short answer is NO. Graphic design awards look great on a resume when you're applying for a job. But as far as your own business goes, they're nothing but fluff.

Continuing with comparisons to the film industry, a film director or producer my benefit from having an Oscar winner starring in their movie, but how that translates to the viewing audience depends on how good the movie is. After all, there have been many box office bombs that starred previous Oscar winners.

The same goes for the graphic design industry. Having an award on your resume may be coveted by the employers you're interviewing with. But when it comes to running your own business, your clients are much more concerned with what you can provide them, not some award you won for something you did for someone else.

Should You Bother Listing Your Graphic Design Awards?

Of course, you should. You won them after all so why not brag about them. Just don't expect your list of awards to translate into more business or better clients. Unless you paid some big bucks to enter your project in some prestigious graphic design contest that is. In that case, let me know how it goes for you because I have absolutely no experience with that.

One Last Thing About Your Graphic Design Awards.

If you do decide to list your awards somewhere, like I just told you, you should. I have one suggestion for you. Leave off the dates. If you won the “John Smith Award For Outstanding Achievement In Graphic Design” back in 2012. Don't list that you won it in 2012. You're only opening it up for the question “what happened since then? Why haven't you won anything since?”.

Simply list that you are the “Winner of…” or “Recipient of..” and then list the award. Nobody needs to know when you won it. Same goes if you won multiple awards. Instead of saying you won the award in 2010, 2011 and 2012, simply say “Three Time Winner of…”

In conclusion, don't let the success of winning a graphic design award define you. Concentrate on your portfolio. Strive to do your best on every project regardless on its worthiness for graphic design competitions. After all, the loyalty of a good client is worth way more than any award.

What do you think?

Do you agree with my take on graphic design competitions and graphic design awards? Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

I have another Question Of The Week to answer. If you would like me to answer your question in a future episode please visit my feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Norman,

Hey Mark, hope all is well, I had another quick question for you. Now you mentioned in a previous podcast episode that you were lucky enough to have a majority of your previous clients from referrals from another local designer so you may not have much hands on with this topic, But my question is about cold calling potential clients, and if you have any experience with this over the years how did you overcome the potential anxiety associated with picking up the phone and calling these people? Thanks again Mark! Keep up the awesome work.

To find out what I told Norman you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Resource of the week is Evernote Essentials

You've heard me talk before about the application Evernote. I use Evernote to organize my business, my podcasts and my daily life. I started using Evernote a few years ago but didn't become serious about it until I discovered Evernote Essentials, the guide written by Brett Kelly. Evernote Essentials is the user's guide that should come with Evernote.

When I first started using Evernote I found it a bit complicated and only used it for a few basic functions. Evernote Essentials taught me how to use this robust program to its full potential and now I rely on it daily to keep by business, and life running smoothly.

Wether you already use Evernote or are thinking of trying it out. I highly recommend getting this guide. You wont regret it.

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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at