After reading the guidelines finally you can choose a contest. There are contests for logos, business cards, brochures, website, icons, illustrations, naming and so on, everything that needs a designer or a creative! Logos are my favorite but there are a lot of categories and you should begin with those which are well-known by you, obviously you’ll be faster and you’ll have more chances to win.
Anyway it’s a really good training to compete in something new or quite unusual. There are many great designers and you’ll learn so much by them, you’ll see what works and non, modern and trendy styles, classic works… there are incredible professional designers and even if you aren’t a first class creative like them, watching their work will help you to improve your skills and maybe tomorrow if you got talent you’ll be a champion too. You’ve just selected a category, now you have to choose a contest inside it:
the prepaid contest, with a guaranteed prize, is a good choice: surely there will be more designers competing but you’re going to do a lot of works that will be never paid, others will win, so the less it’s to race for something, something sure, I mean. Contest holders aren’t always fair and honest and I think they always should guarantee a prize, if they don’t, I don’t have any reason to think they will pay although there are great submissions… maybe they could use those ideas too…
the blind contest is a kind of competition where you don’t see others’ submissions. If you are a beginner avoid the blind contest, for you it’s more useful and helpful to see what experienced designers do and what the clients like. If you aren’t a novice surely you’d like the blind contest because other designers can’t copy your concepts or your style. Blind contests are definitely for skilled designers.
the private contest: your designs won’t be shown in your public portfolio, I never based my choice on that but when I won three contests and none of them appeared in my portfolio I wasn’t particularly happy with that. When you begin this experience I think it’s much better to choose the public contest: it’s pretty favorable showing your best designs… not rarely happens contest holders watching portfolio of those designers involved in their contest, so if you are well ranked in some contest it’s basic to demonstrate it with facts!
choose those contests which can marry your style: are you a good illustrator? maybe the contests where a character wanted are right for you. Fast food, restaurants and hotels are categories in which some kind of draw is often required too. Have a minimal style? Insurance companies, banks, financial services could look for a style like yours. Just read the brief and you’ll get in a minute if it’s the right contest, look at the top ranked designs to understand if your style could work and however try to adapt your design to the client taste.
This illustration shows the same design with different styles (1.glossy, hyper realistic 2. minimal, bold, negative space 3. sketch), try to get what the CH likes or try to submit something totally different from others.
Prize and entries: the richest contests are very attractive for all, so it isn’t always a good choice to join them in particular if you are a beginner. The greatest designers are surely involved and it will be difficult to stand out for you. Watch the entries and decide. At the same time there will be a lot of competitions with few entries and this means more chances to win. For european designers it’s hard don’t choose the richest contests when the currency is the dollar and I’m the first one who looks at the prize but your portfolio will look better with placements too, even if you don’t win, and your possibilities will grow up in the contests with few entries, try to strike a balance.
Ranking: take a look to the contest holder’s rank. You can see if the style he likes it’s in your hands. Watch how complex are the top ranked designs and estimate if participating can be a good choice. If there isn’t any rank it’s better to wait or if you have a good idea, just submit one and wait for rank or feedback… “no feedback, no entry” it’s a good designer saying.
Deadline: it’s difficult to say when it’s the right moment to join a contest, but surely there are benefits and losses in every case. Just open contest: the biggest benefit is the freedom to create, if there are no entry or few entries you can develop your own concept without the problem of similar submissions and you can be the first to use some common shape, maybe banal but also functional and many clients just need that. If the client likes your idea probably will encourage you with feedbacks and specific requests and he could be affectioned to your work. He can decide to close the contest before the deadline too, so don’t wait too much if you think to have a nice solution. Losses: you don’t have any idea of what the client likes, the competition holder could get bored by your logo even if it was his favorite when the concourse began. If you are ranked good a lot of designers will try to copy and they will be able to design the same in a subtle way and it will be very hard improving your design because someone else already did. You can report the copycats but, as I said before, sometimes it could be bad for your image, so it’s very stressing in general. In a contest ready to end, the biggest benefit is no time for others copying if you make a great design and if the contest holder wasn’t totally satisfied with posted designs, you could have good chance to win. It’s like the “surprise effect”. Losses: a lot of concepts already developed, the client could be stuck with some design, no time to make adjustments and revisions.
Probably a middle time solution is the best but I think it isn’t a mandatory. I could advice against taking part in ending contests, it’s difficult to impress somebody who saw hundreds of drawing and maybe has already taken his decision. However there are a lot of contests and one attempt can be done where you see few entries or where the top ranked designs haven’t a great quality, but usually happens CH extends the competition if new cool submissions are in. After the contest choice I read the brief again with more attention… even if I read it first quickly to understand if contest was for me or not. Many times, you’ll notice, your thought has just developed by someone else: it’s always important to watch others’ entries before starting to draw. Sometime this can be a benefit because it drives you to find a new concept, more creative than your first idea.