header

Every so often (or pretty frequently, if that’s your style), it’s fun to pull the gloves off and compete in a head to head design contest. Whether you enter one that’s well within your expertise or just outside, design competitions will challenge you to stretch your limits, learn new skills, and get creative within set constraints. Notably, that’s just what you do on the job as a designer as well, so design competitions can help demonstrate your skills to potential employers. If you’re just starting out, they can also fatten your portfolio, and if you’re a seasoned design vet, you can help bring attention to your personal or company brand. And if you win, that can only be good for business.

Here are just a few excellent competitions happening within the next year that just won’t be the same without your entry.

1. Shutterstock’s Pixels of Fury

Agent, here is your assignment: design a poster on a specific theme. Design it well. Design it quickly. Design it under scrutiny. Specifically, in front of a rowdy crowd of peers and in under 20 minutes. Go!
If that sounds appealing to you, then you just might enjoy Shutter’s Pixels of Fury. Partly a shindig with colleagues and friends, partly a race towards greatness, this rapid fire event is at once intense and uniquely fun, with the chance to win renown and respect amongst your own kind. If you miss the competition in your town, just head to the next stop on the Pixels tour; Shutterstock takes Pixels from one design event to the next, so there’s always a new venue to prove your muster. And of course, networking opportunities abound at every event, as do alcoholic beverages.

Having just completed showdowns in São Paolo and NYC, the next competition will be held in Toronto, so point those design fingers northward.

2. AIGA Competitions

AIGA, the premiere professional association for designers, holds a number of competitions year round, both on the national and local levels. The most recent national competition Justified, invited contestants to tell the story of a recent challenge they faced for a project and to present the work they produced. The contest was juried by leading designer and author, Clement Mok, who was tasked with choosing a design that exemplified the tenets of modern design as well as the designer’s realization of the client’s vision.

aiga

In the past, AIGA has also held a “design effectiveness competition, focusing on work that highlights particularly creative design solutions. And on the local level, many AIGA chapters hold their own design marathons, for which designers are challenged to brainstorm and create an entire design within 24 hours. Prizes can range from a simple plaque and feature on the AIGA website to displays in national museums.

The Justified competition just closed and should run again in the fall of 2014. Check the AIGA main site for updates on other competitions.

3. Communication Arts’ Annual Design Competition

Arguably one of the most prestigious graphic design contests in the country, the Communication Arts Design Competition selects top designs printed, published or aired in the past year. For this year’s competition, that means work that appeared any time between May 2013 and May 2014. The main prize for this competition is exposure, as the winners’ work will be included in the popular and respected Communication Arts Design Annual as well as on commarts.com. And you’ll get a nice (and notably well-designed) trophy, too!

designca

Due to Communication Arts’ prestige, having this one under your belt can definitely land you desirable gigs in the future. Communication Arts also runs other more tightly focused contests, like their Typography contest, so if you’ve got a niche, flaunt it. This year’s deadline is May 2nd, 2014, and the winner will be announced within 3 months of that date.

4. Dieline’s Package Award

Package design is truly an art form, but ten years ago, you’d be hard pressed to find any awards committee to confirm that fact. Enter Dieline, a website specifically created to feature standout projects drawn from an increasingly artistic package design world. For the past 5 years, the site has also run its package awards, which feature 13 different categories such as sustainable design. The winning designer gets to attend Dieline’s annual conference for free.

Entries for this year’s competition will be accepted between November 10th, 2013 and February 21st, 2014. More information is available on the Dieline website.

5. Print’s Regional Design Contest

Though Print’s design contest is 32 years old and has the word “print” in its title, doesn’t mean this contest hides from the digital age. In fact, this contest is pretty comprehensive, offering categories for everything from annual reports to infographics published in the last year (in this year’s case, that’s between January 1st and December 1st, 2013). Winners will be featured in the December 2014 issues of Print as well as on the Regional Design Annual website.

The contest is only open to designers living in the United States and you must enter online. The deadline for entry is February 3rd, 2014 for early entry and March 3rd for regular. Winners will receive notice by August 31st, 2014l

6. Folio Society Book Illustration Contest

A love of literature and design collide in the Folio Society Book Illustration Contest, now in its fourth year. This year’s contest tasks designers with creating an illustration for Joseph Conrad’s A Heart of Darkness—a truly terrifying and stimulating prospect. Illustrations can depict any scene in the book and can bleed off the page or use a white border. The prize is £5,000 for first place and £500 for 3 runners up. The deadline for entry is January 10th, 2014.

One last tip…

Many of the best design competitions are held in conjunction with a conference, like the UK’s New Adventures in Web Design, Altitude, or many of the events listed on this BigStock listing of can’t miss international web design conferences. Just another reason to get your company to send you to one of these (or pay your own way there and write the expenses off on your taxes). Not only do conferences feature opportunities to show off your work, but they’re also the perfect time to network and really establish yourself in the design community.
No matter what competitions you enter, remember to have fun with it, really push yourself, and distribute the project of your work across the web, whether or not you win. What design competitions and conferences do you consider “musts”? Let us know in the comments below.