Blog: Do Graphic Design Awards Matter?

Design Hovie Studios has been fortunate over the years to receive various awards for our graphic design from organizations from all over the world, from France to Italy to Japan to the United States. I’ve even served as a judge at the Vancouver Island Rock Awards for graphic design which was an invaluable experience seeing how the process works from the inside (the actual time for judging was so much faster than I would’ve thought). But do graphic design awards matter and how legit are they? Well that depends.

Early in my studio’s existence winning awards was invaluable as it gave us notoriety and a level of prestige. In fact it opened the doors for me to not only judge at the Vancouver Island Rock Awards but also to be a keynote speaker at the Los Alamos National Laboratory for Interlab. But as the years went by and as award competitions became more expensive to enter, it became less a priority. In addition I began to see too many competitions as being a popularity contest where who you know, is just as if not more important than what you have designed. Of course the "who you know" competition bias extends to other industries as well (music, sports, etc.). I remember years ago when a prestigious travel magazine awarded a new candy shop in my neighborhood as one of the best in the West. It was a fine shop but had a selection of mostly national brands that you’d find in a grocery store aisle. I mentioned the award to the owner one day and he laughed and told me the author was a friend and needed to fill that slot. I don’t think I’ve thought of competitions as the same ever since.

All and all it’s great to win awards and vital to have them on your resume when trying to attract larger clients and make a name for yourself. I’d never turn one down and am always grateful to receive one, but in the end the bottom line is the quality of your actual portfolio and how it speaks to prospective clients. Do they like what you do or not? For young designers I say keep designing, as much as possible, and enter competitions that won’t break your bank. But don’t be discouraged if you don’t win since there are typically many other things, aside from graphic design, that are the ultimate reason a piece is awarded.

— Hovie Hawk

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