Monday, March 5, 2012

Trying to Win a Communications Award? Advice from a Recent Judge

I judged a communications awards competition recently that was open to companies, non-profits, colleges and universities, etc. I’ve entered these before, and wondered how work I’m really proud of doesn’t even make it to the finals. Now I have some answers. Hopefully they'll help you as well.

The category we judged was print publications. First of all what we saw – especially in an age where visuals are everywhere and so important in getting attention – was just not very sophisticated.

Here were some common problems with the entries.

1. Didn't Answer the Questions

Many entries ignored certain questions or gave vague answers. That costs you. Those most avoided:

Results. At least 50% of the entries didn’t answer the results question at all and the ones who did weren’t very specific. If you don’t answer the question that shows you were successful, you are done. Also, if your measurements don't match your goals you get dinged on that.

Budget. I think there was only one entry that answered the budget question. Not all entries are created equal. So what if you don’t have glossy pictures, great stock, and beautiful design? If your budget is small we have more information to judge on. So tell us what your entry cost to produce.

2. Pay Attention to the Rules

Your application package. You have to follow the rules of the competition. If your entry form is only supposed to be two pages, don’t submit more than that. Yes you may have more to say, but you’re going to get disqualified.

Type size. We almost eliminated someone because their font was smaller than what was asked for. In the end we didn't because the entry did not score well anyway, but making a font smaller to fit more in, doesn't help you.


3. Your Narrative

Quite frankly, the narrative answering the questions and explaining the goals, objectives, etc. of the publication was in many cases far better than the actual work. A strong narrative helps you depending on how the competition scoring is set up, but if the category is publications judges are going to judge mostly by design. Remember that before you enter.

3. Your Design


All design is subjective but there were a few glaring problems we found over and over again.

Keep it simple. There’s a magazine on the newsstands and available digitally called Real Simple. That should be the mantra of every print and web designer. Far too many entries had really busy pages. We don’t need subheads, and pull quotes and captions and explanations of a headline and charts on one spread. It makes your head spin.Also it looks like design by committee, which it probably was.

One photo is better than ten. I used to work with an art director who was adamant about this. She hated collages. One great photo is far better than several and run it as large as you can. It will draw the reader in and make them want to read.

Don’t run your captions across photos. I don’t know if this is some new design style or what but a number of publications splashed their captions in dropped out type across photos. Why? It just ruins the picture.

Stock quality shouldn’t be nicer than your magazine. We saw some celebrity wedding invitation level stock in magazines that clearly didn’t need it. The printing alone probably ate a big chunk of cost. Design, stock, publication quality should all be equally weighted.

I could go on for awhile but I’ll spare you. We did not judge content, other than the way it was presented but one thing I noticed was a mix of number of columns, font overload, type that would have made Victorians happy, and again a sad lack of simplicity.

If you’re going to do a print publication, and I don’t want print to die, study the look and feel of digital and learn to work in formats that people under 40 can relate too.

Best of luck next time.











12 comments:

  1. Well said, Aimee!
    We just finished the judging process for Gold Circle Awards 2012 (the awards ceremony will be held at the ASAE MMCC in May). I've been involved with Gold Circle since it was revived about 7 years ago and I have seen these issues arise consistently in each category. Part of communications excellence is showing that you have read and digested the rules and provided what is requested.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Nicely put. And very relevant. I've judged several advertising awards shows and these are things you see all the time.

    ReplyDelete
  3. These articles are fantastic, The information you show us is interesting for everybody and is really good written, very informative. It’s just nice! continue posting. Thanks!

    Marx of beachfront properties in the philippines

    ReplyDelete
  4. I was very happy to have found this site. I wanted to thank you for this excellent information! I have no doubt like a little and I have saved your blog to make sure you write something new on the road.

    buy and sell

    ReplyDelete
  5. Very interesting post and relevant for my field. I am in charge of Corporate Communicatin in comvort www.comvort.com. I would like to post your article in our blog if that is ok with you. I will credit you and insert the link to your blog. Let me know if you agree, my email is pr@comvort.com.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Excellent tips and on point. Understanding what is required and delivering it it critical in our day to day strategy and execution of communication campaigns. Why we sometimes forget this when submitting work for competitive or peer review is hard to fathom. Nice article.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Read a lot of blogs specially interesting ones like your blog, Good post! I accidentally found your site on the internet, I am going to be coming back here yet again.Love Information Is Beautiful. Keep posting.

    lanie

    ReplyDelete
  8. These articles are fantastic, The information you show us is interesting for everybody and is really good written, very informative. It’s just nice! continue posting. Thanks!

    - nina

    ReplyDelete
  9. I was very happy to have found this site. I wanted to thank you for this excellent information! I have no doubt like a little and I have saved your blog to make sure you write something new on the road.

    -april

    Whitening Skin and Body Lotion

    ReplyDelete
  10. Nice. I like your point about keeping it simple. This mistake can be often seen for example on, now very popular, info-graphics. I saw recently one about twitter and as you wrote: "It makes your head spin" Clean, minimalist designs are usually the best.

    ReplyDelete
  11. It’s a very interesting and informative blog, thanks for the article I really liked your blog and I really appreciate it... It’s just great!! Continue posting...More Powers to your blog..


    - Althea Shareen of beachfront properties in the philippines

    ReplyDelete
  12. This was really a great effort, You must be appreciated for making the judgment.Keep it up.

    ReplyDelete