Design Competition Organization Guidelines

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This page describes how design competitions should be organized, different competition phases and actions that should be taken in each step is defined.

Guidelines for Design Competition Organizers
This guideline serves to have an understanding of how a design competition should be architectured, constructed, launched, managed and maintained. Each phase is explored in great detail to provide a complete understanding of the complexity, requirements and knowhow required for organization of design competitions. Upon reading this article you will have a significant amount of information and solid, scientific ideas about how a competition should be executed from planning state to post-competition.

Phases of a Design Competition
Design competitions have five important phases as defined: first is a planning phase which is a design process itself, second is the construction and definition phase where exact definitions are made and the competition is formed, third is the launching phase where advertising and publicity begins, fourth is the management and execution phase where entires are collected and competition is run and finally we have a post-competition phase which starts after the competition is over.

Phase 1: Non-Linear Initial Planning Phase
Define what and how you want to achieve. This phase is where we define the visions and mission of the competition, together with insights regarding its organization. The elements we define in this step, is for internal usage purposes, we do not necessary share them with the public such as participants or press.

  1. Define Your Organization Goals
    Define your goals by choose one or some of design competition models. There are several dozens of models that could be utilized to derive benefits to organizers, participants and the society.
    Learn More: Business and function models of design competitions.

  2. Define Your Budget Based
    Your goal defines your budget significantly, if you aim for prestige, you will need a high budget, if you aim for procurement, perhaps you might as well organize a contest rather than a design competition. Define budget for incentives, goals, guidelines, the platform etc.
    Learn More: Design competition organization costs and budgets.

  3. Define Target Participant Audience
    Based on your organizational goals; point out the primary participant target for your design competition. Defining the target participant audience is especially required to develop a strong communication and media strategy and to run an effective advertising campaign through focused demographic and geographic targeting.
    Learn More: Design competition participant profiles and segmentation.

  4. Define Communication And Media Strategy
    Who do you want to reach, where is your audience located, who is the audience, what do they read, watch or listen, which sites do they visit? How to reach them without being obtrusive? How many people do you need?
    Learn More: Communication and media strategy for design competitions.

  5. Define Participation Guidelines For Entrants
    Competition guidelines for participants is composed of the information that the participants should want; competition brief, methodology, terms and agreements, entry-rules and how to entry details, time-frame, judging panel, patrons and sponsors.
    Learn More: Preparing participation guidelines for design competition entrants.

  6. Define Roles And Actors
    Who is who in your design competition? Imagine and explain the roles of different partakers; such as the participants, sponsors, patrons, co-organizers, legal consultants, media-partners, jury members, pr-agents, mediators, solution-providers, coordination, management and support team. Define the core actors and their responsibilities along with what they put and what they get.
    Learn More. Core actors of a design competition.

  7. Define Participation Incentives
    In this step, you must create and define a reason to attract and convince designers take their precious time to take part in your design competition. Some incentives would be: award money, prestige, realization possibilities, job opportunities etc. Your incentives will affect the number of people significantly.
    Learn More: Incentives and driving forces to attract entrants to design competitions.

  8. Define Eligibility Conditions
    In most cases, the competition should be open to anyone of legal age, however in some cases, you might want to filter the participants based on your demographic or geographic targeting. This also applies, if you would need to limit the number of participants. Furthermore, you might want only to accept participants that fulfills a certain prerequisite therefore you might want to have a competition that is invite-only. Finally, you might plan to run a closed competition, for example by a predefined participant base such as your institution colleagues etc.
    Learn More: Defining eligibility conditions and exclusivity for design competitions.

  9. Define Submission Requirements
    Submission requirements are very important to manage the competition in the future, for instance would you require physical entries for an exhibition? Do you need designers to submit higher-resolution images so that they could be used for publishing a book? Do you need entrants to submit images in certain resolutions and dimensions so that they could be easily fit to a template? These kind of questions should be answered in advance.
    Learn More: Submission requirements for design competitions.

Phase 2: Construction Phase
Define exactly how you will achieve your defined organizational goals and how the competition should be organized in exact and clearly defined terms. This phase could be considered where we take further action to realize our initial organization plans by making decisions for each and every aspect of the design competition. Most of the elements defined in this step will be communicated to participants.

  1. Define Core Communication Components
    You should be firstly defining the core communication components composed of design competition name, title, subtitle, description, keywords, tagline and call to action text for your design competition. This does not include the competition brief, as brief should be defined distinctly.
    Learn More: Core communication components of a design competition.

  2. Define Participation Channels
    This is where you define how participants could be able to join your competition and also contact with the organizers. We define website or online submission forms, address for sending physical entries if any and email address etc.
    Learn More: Participation channels for design competitions.

  3. Define your Brief
    Explain what you expect from the participants in a clear manner. It is important to note that this is not what you want to achieve; this is what you expect participants to do so that you could achieve what you intended to achieve as you defined in the initial planning phase.
    Learn More: How to write a design competition brief.

  4. Define Evaluation Methodology
    In this step, you should choose how the entries should be evaluated, judged, scored, voted, sorted, and ordered. It is important to define the evaluation methodology clearly and in detail as this information must be communicated to participants. Some evaluation methodologies do not require jury at all, but if there is a judging panel, we should also be defining the selection criteria for jury members and other relevant details.
    Learn More: Evaluation methodologies used in design competitions.

  5. Define Intellectual Property Rights
    This is one of the most important aspects of your design competition, and should be clearly communicated to winners. The following questions of winners should be answered: What will happen to my designs? I.e. will they get published, will I get paid from this? Will I lose rights to my designs? Will I have to transfer the rights to my design to organizer, if I am selected as a winner?
    Learn More: Intellectual property rights in design competitions.

  6. Define the Reward
    In this step, you should define the participation reward i.e. the total benefit provided to winning or participating entrants in forms of services rendered, prize money paid or benefits provided as you defined within your budget. You must also work on and decide the design and value of award trophy, winners’ certificates, the prize sum or money, and other incentives that you had decided earlier. Especially rewards must be highlighted and communicated to prospective participants.
    Learn More: Designing rewards schemas for design competitions.

  7. Define Time-Frame and Structure
    Clearly state when competition starts accepting registrations and entries, the deadline for submissions and registrations, the date of evaluation or judging, the duration of judging period, the date when the results are announced, and other dates where rewards are provided or services are given. Also define any foreseen deadline extensions, and structuring of the competition such as single phase, ladder etc.
    Learn More: Time-Frame and structure of design competitions.

  8. Define Participation Agreement
    Based on the intellectual property rights, the evaluation methodology, and awards and prizes that you have selected, prepare a participation agreement for the entrants. The agreement must be carefully constructed to avoid future conflict and should be clearly made available to entrants.
    Learn More: Participation and registration agreements for design competitions.

Launching Phase
Before the competition could be launched, we should realize and communicate the prior choices, for instance by preparing visuals, posters, the website and also by launching the required advertisement and public relations campaigns.

  1. Prepare Visual and Communication Materials
    Before you could launch a design competition, you will need invitations, postcards, website, call-for-submissions posters and similar other communication materials, thus an expert graphics designer who has brand identity and coordinated image experience is required to be contracted. The visual appeal of the competition is highly important to provide trust to the participants.
    Learn More: Visual and communication materials design for design competitions.

  2. Build or Choose the Participation Channel
    Make sure your participation channel is active and works as intended and your competition is open to submissions. If you have built your own participation channel, you should also test it before its release. Make sure that your participation channel does not impose limits and restrictions that might lead to frustration, provide people multiple ways to join.
    Learn More: Limitations and restrictions of different participation channels.

  3. Define Management & Staff
    In this step, you should define a management and assign staff for your competition. Try to answer the following questions: Who is going to answer the questions of the participants? Who will deal with the participants’ issues? Who will help participants to upload images or to download brief? Who will be contacting magazines, media and press for advertising inquiries? Etc. Some of these functions might also be outsourced too.
    Learn More: Managerial and staff requirements for organizing design competitions.

  4. Quality Assessment
    Before you would launch your competition, it might be a good idea to have an expert consultation regarding how well it would perform based on the brief, jury, budget, and other details. We have defined an in-depth system to determine the intrinsic quality score of a design competition based on all the transparency and key criteria that defines the competition.
    Learn More: Quality score and assessment of design competitions.

  5. Launch the Competition
    Kick-start the design competition by aiming to reach the target audience. You should be using both your traditional channels and online channels to spread the word, for example through online advertising, press releases, public relation campaigns, asking friends, announcing through your social media channels, existing websites and direct advertising at magazines and other media, newsletter marketing and others.
    Learn More: Public announcement and launching a design competition.

Management Phase
In this phase, we have the platform ready, and the competition has already been launched after the public announcements. Now, we should be obeying the timeline that we have already announced.

  1. Registration or Application Period
    In this time period, entrants are able to register themselves by applying to take part in the competition. In most cases a single registration option could be used which immediately allows submission of entries, but in other scenarios, you might want to first filter the applicants. While registration, the most important aspect is to make sure that the participants agree to the terms and conditions.
    Learn More: Managing registrations for design competitions.

  2. Entry Collection Period
    This is the most important time period where the participants are able to make submissions to the competition. These entries should meet the previously defined submission requirements, and a system should be provided to let designers know that their entry has been received and processed. Advanced systems would also allow designers to modify or withdraw their submissions until the competition is announced.
    Learn More: Collecting submissions and entries for design competitions.

  3. Interaction and Engagement Period
    At this step, the organizer has the ability to provide feedbacks to entries through direct comments to designs, preliminary judging, initial scoring, first screening and via other mechanisms. Interaction period is usually parallel to the entry collection period and is very important to increase the number and quality of entries significantly if made correctly.
    Learn More: Increasing number of entries and quality of submissions in a design competition.

  4. Extension Period
    Deadline extension is a systematic tool used commonly by competition organizers due to the “I’ll do it the last day” approach of participating designers. The extensions allow significant number of additional design entries, and also provide opportunity to run a more effective advertising campaign as designers usually get serious in the last two weeks of a competition.
    Learn More: Deadline extensions for design competitions.

  5. Judging Period
    Judging should be made at the time defined in the evaluation methodology. Some models allow you to have continued judging while the participation is still open, however more prestigious competition models require that the final judging is made only after the entry collection period is over.
    Learn More: Judging entries in a design competition.

  6. Announcing Results
    In order to avoid any frustration, competition results must be announced as stated in the initial communication, and furthermore non-winners should be provided feedbacks or status updates. Results are usually announced by a press release, during a gala-night or through online channels. There exists best practices such as building special platforms, sharing photographs in social networks and others which could significantly increase the reach and impact of results announcements.
    Learn More: Announcing results of a design competition.

  7. Rewarding Winners
    Rewards promised to award winners or runner-ups should be delivered as stated in the initial competition announcement and call for participation. In some cases, there might be tax issues for paying monetary awards so expert consultancy might be required.
    Learn More: Rewarding winners of a design competition.

  8. Publicity Periods
    There are several times, when the organizer should devote a significant budget for advertisement. Especially the following events should be communicated and advertised extensively:  Call for submissions announcement, entries open announcement, two-weeks before deadline announcements, three-days left announcement, results-announced announcement, and winners-rewarded announcements.
    Learn More: Announcement and publicity periods for design competitions.

Post-Competition Maintenance Phase
At this phase, the competition is already over for the participants, but it is not indeed yet over for the organization. There are a few elements to be considered such as evaluation of results, further maintenance of the platform and others.

  1. Evaluating Results and Goals Achievement
    A Survey could be organized to measure how the organization of the design competition affected the partakers. Furthermore, media analysis could be run to assess the publicity impact of the competition organization as well. In addition, you could confirm the competition statistics to decide if the predefined goals are met. The evaluation is necessary in order to understand if it was worth to organize the competition in the first place.
    Learn More: Assessing the success of a design competition.

  2. Planning for the Next Year
    Based on the evaluation of the results and the achievement status of the goals, a new version of the design competition could be conceived, with improvements based on the feedbacks, testimonials and suggestions provided by the participants in order to provide a better, more positive experience for future entrants.
    Learn More: Improving a design competition based on participant feedbacks and survey.

  3. Keeping the Communication Active
    After the competition is over, it is intelligent to keep the platform open as it would lead further press appearances and publicity for the organizers and winners. Furthermore, the platform can be later re-vitalized in order to arrange a new version of the competition. However, your platform might die if communication might be ceased for a long period of time, therefore it is good to keep past participants informed every once in a while.
    Learn More: Engaging current and past design competition participants.
Further Details & Knowhow:
Fully Custom Design Competitions where A' Design Award organizes everything and provides full support for Competition Management, IT Functionality and Public Relations.
Custom Design Competitions which run at A' Award website using our existing IT Platform and Participant Base.
• Learn also about different Sponsorship Types which could be an alternative to organizing a design competition.
• Learn about How to Write a Design Competition Brief to get the most out of your design competition organization.
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