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The Best Design Contests and Prizes in 2016

Design isn’t just a job, it’s a lifestyle. This year, get the attention and accolades that you deserve. Get out your calendar and mark the dates of 2016’s best design contests and prizes.

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What’s the fastest way to rise above the competition? For many designers, winning a prestigious award will catapult them to the top of their industry.

Contests and prizes are a chance to show off your talent, get recognition from peers and pique the interest of art directors. Plus, cash rewards up to $100k don’t hurt either.

From sustainable innovations to book covers, there are plenty of opportunities to let your creativity loose. Here are the best design contests and prizes in 2016—which one will you enter?

Nu Ri Kim, Seunghoon Shin, Yoonshin Kim, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 2015 Winners

D&AD Awards

Deadline: February 2016
Prizes: The coveted Pencil awards, work placements, project bursaries, short courses and small training grants
Fee: £100-400

The annual D&AD Awards are regarded as one of the major events in the worlds of design and advertising. They are highly respected for bringing designers, students, and industry experts together. Entrants are required to work on a design project following a creative brief found on the D&AD website. You can apply in the “Professional,” “Next” or “New Blood” categories.

Should you enter?

Although the D&AD awards don’t offer large cash prizes, they are one of the most prestigious awards in the design industry. If you have the entry fee money, you should go for it.

Yang Zhaoyi & Huang Yuling, 2015 Winners

Red Dot Design Awards

Deadline: February 2016
Fees: €150-450 Euros, depending on the project
Prize: €10,000

The Red Dot Design Award features three categories: communication design, product design, and design concept. Being associated with the “Red Dot” logo is a significant feat; it has become an internationally recognized quality label for excellence.

Should you enter?

Yes. Not only do contestants get the opportunity to win the hefty sum of €10,000, the Red Dot awards also offer winner the opportunity to be part of the Red Dot Design yearbook, and to have their designs on tour in exhibitions around the world.

Alexa Pollmann, 2015 Resident

Design Museum Residency

Deadline: March 2016
Fee: Free
Prize: A bursary to create work that will be showcased in London’s Design Museum.

This year, the residency’s winner will be the first designer to showcase work in the Design Museum’s new Kensington building. The theme is “Open” and applicants are encouraged to explore new ways of thinking, doing and making.

Should you enter?

Yes. This is an elite opportunity available to UK residents who have graduated from Higher Education within the last five years and who have been working professionally (either paid or voluntarily) in some form of design or architecture practice for a minimum of one year.

Lesley A. Martin, 2013 Winner

AIGA 50 Books/50 Covers Competition

Deadline: March 2016
Fee: $45 per book
Prize: Winners are added to the AIGA Design Archives, the physical archives at the Denver Art Museum and to Columbia University’s Rare Book and Manuscript Collection

This contest by AIGA, design’s oldest and largest professional membership organization, highlights the importance of books. There’s a lot of history here. The 50 Books/50 Covers competition is the oldest continuously operating graphic design competition in the United States. If you love books, design and value tradition, start dreaming up your entry.

Should you enter?

Yes. Recognition by AIGA is one of the highest accolades for designers. You can choose to submit an entire book or cover-only.

Atlas, 2015 Winner

YCN Awards

Deadline: March 2016
Fee: Free
Prize: Internships, mentoring, and other professional development opportunities, plus being honored at YCN’s Annual Awards Ceremony, and in the pages of the YCN Awards Annual.

Launched in 2015, the YCN awards have separate categories for professionals and students. While the professional entrants are selected by nomination, rather than paid entry, students can follow the traditional route of submitting a proposal for available briefs. Available options range from creating a social media campaign for The Gap to stunt marketing for the upcoming movie Independence Day: Resurgence.

Should you enter?

Yes. The focus on larger scope design projects, plus no entry fee makes this a great contest to enter.

Kate Gamet, 2015 winner

The Penguin Random House Design Award

Deadline: March 2016
Prize: £1,000, plus work placement within the Penguin Random House Design Studios
Fee: free

The Penguin Random House Design Award offers an opportunity for students studying art or design to experience real cover and page layout design briefs first-hand. The award gives students complete insider access to the world of graphic design for publishing.

Should you enter?

Yes. The spending money and work placement offered by Penguin Random House, one of the biggest publishers in the world, is an instant jumpstart to any new designer’s career. However, entrants must be students and be eligible to work in the UK, so if this isn’t you, it’s time to move on to the next award.

Kazz Morohashi, 2015 winner

The RSA Student Design Awards

Deadline: March 2016
Prize: over £32,000 in cash prizes and paid internships
Fee: £25 (early bird), £35 (regular)

The UK-based RSA Student Awards offers design students around the world an opportunity to work on industry-level creative briefs. It’s the longest running student design competition in the world, now in its 92nd year!

Pick your preferred brief, then submit your proposal. There are twelve different categories that tackle a range of important social, economic and environmental issues—each with a unique prize. This is definitely an opportunity to showcase your resourcefulness, design expertise and imagination.

RSA’s competition is open to students and graduates from all design disciplines.

Should you enter?

If you’re a student or new graduate, absolutely. When you’re just starting out as a designer, this experience with a creative brief will be invaluable. It’s a great opportunity to learn how client-designer relationships work.

AdlensFocuss, 2015 Winner

The Design Week Awards

Deadline: March 2016
Prize: The “Best in Show” award
Fee: £169 per submission

The Design Week Awards are among the biggest awards in the design industry. With 19 design categories open to contestants, prizes are awarded in Identity Design, Brand Campaigns, Print Communications, Poster Design and Furniture Design.

Should you enter?

These awards are among the hardest to get into, but if you have a great idea waiting for the right opportunity, or you are already creating products in the design-related business, winning them can bring you a tremendous amount of publicity and status.

Jakub Klouzek, 2015 Winner

Young Package International Design Competition

Deadline: March 2016
Fee: Free
Prize: €3,000

Young Package is divided into the following two competition categories: (1) university students and young designers up to 30 years of age (2) high-school students. This gives high schoolers a shot at having their design voice heard.

This year’s theme is “Package Unlimited!” Judges are looking for imaginative, multi-functional and detailed packages that can be used for several purposes.

Contestants are asked to create innovative packages and show how packaging doesn’t have to end up in the trash.

Should you enter?

If you are under 30, you should enter the Young Package design awards. The theme is original and will push all young designers to grow and improve their craft. Plus, no matter what happens, you’ll walk away from the awards with a new project you can include in your portfolio.

i29 Interior Architects, 2015 Winner

Core77 Design Awards

Deadline: March & April 2016
Fees: $50-75 (student), $150-225 (professional)
Prize: The Professional and Student winners of each category will receive the Core77 Design Awards trophy, and all Honorees will be published in the 2016 awards gallery and across the Core77 online network.

The Core77 Design Awards celebrate the varied scope of the design profession with 14 different categories for contestants to enter. It showcases a huge variety of design enterprise including commercial, cultural, social, discursive, and environmental.

Should you enter?

Yes. A C77DA trophy is a design badge of honour. Plus, the Core77 awards not only offers 14 different categories for contestants to display their work, but they also offer separate categories for students and professionals to allow everyone a fair shot at the grand prize.

Marie Zieger, 2014 Winner

Joseph Binder Graphic Design and Illustration Competition

Deadline: April 2016
Fees: €55 (student), €90 (members), €115 (public)
Prize: €2,500-1,500, plus trophies

The Joseph Binder Graphic Design and Illustration Competition is an award ceremony to really get excited. The award supports the independent, conceptual, scientific, and non-commercial activities in the fields of graphic design and illustration by awarding cash prizes to winners in the Design Fiction category.

If you’ve ever felt frustrated that a lot of the money in the graphic design world can feel like it’s holed up in the world of corporate events and advertising, the Joseph Binder Graphic Design and Illustration Competition is for you. Joseph Binder’s motto was: “In design, everything has a function. Design has a representational function. Design has a communicational function. Design has a motivational function.”

The awards try to live by this motto and encourage contestants to do the same.

Should you enter?

If the above description sounds like you, then yes. If you needed any more motivation, the ceremony takes place in Vienna and the awards only happen every 2 years so this is a slightly rare opportunity.

Olson, 2015 Winner

Communication Arts Design Competition

Deadline: May 2016
Fee: $45-$220, depending on the project
Prize: Award of Excellence trophy and feature in annual publication

A top tier prestigious award, the Communication Arts Design Competition will turn you into a star. The feature in its annual publication will put your work in front of every client, art director and company worth impressing.

CA’s Award of Excellence is one of the most-coveted awards in the industry. If chosen, winning places you in the highest ranks of your profession.

Should you enter?

Yes. If you think you can win, don’t hold back.

Blynk App, 2015 Winner

AIGA Cased

Deadline: May 2016
Fee: $35 (members), $55 (non-members) Prize: Honorees will be showcased on AIGA.org and AIGA’s social media platforms as well as affiliated with the prestigious AIGA Design Archives.

AIGA’s Cased competition recognizes case studies that demonstrate the value of design in a clear, compelling and accessible way. There are two rounds: the first presents your project’s concept or idea, then if you’re chosen to continue, you send a follow-up about your process and the overall project’s impact.

Projects that have been published, produced, or implemented in the past two years are eligible. There are many categories including book/publication design, editorial design, brand and identity systems design, corporate communications design, design for entertaining, environmental graphic design, exhibit design, experience design, service design, information design, interaction and application design, marketing/promotional design and advertising, motion graphics, package design, place-making design, product design, industrial design, or typographic design.

Should you enter?

Do you have a project that fits AIGA’s criteria? Get recognition for your work and submit to the first round.

Santiago Muros Cortes, 2014 Winner

Land Art Generator Initiative Design Competition

Deadline: May 2016
Fee: Free
Prizes: $15,000-$4,000

The fourth Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI) international design competition invites scientists, engineers, and designers to submit ideas for large-scale and site-specific public art installations that generate carbon-neutral electricity and/or drinking water for the City of Santa Monica, California. Not a small feat, to be sure, but an incredible and unique opportunity for designers.

Should you enter?

Yes. The LAGI awards offer a one-of-a-kind opportunity to impact public space in a sustainable way and the innovation and ideas present at the awards are enough to blow you away. As if that wasn’t enough, you could win $15,000 to top it all off.

Jorge Zapote, Mitchell Weber, Xi Cheng, Michelle Zhou, 2015 Winners

Biomimicry Global Design Challenge

Deadline: May 2016
Fees: $40 (student), $100 (public)
Prize: $100,000

The Biomimicry Global Design Challenge is an annual competition that invites people around the world to address critical sustainability issues with design. The awards believe sustainable design can create solutions that help support a healthy planet, and the goal is to help bring more biomimetic solutions to the global marketplace.

This year’s theme is “food systems.” Applicants will go through two rounds: a design concept round and a prototype round. All finalists also receive business training and/or incubation support, mentorship support, access to software tools, and legal support as part of the awards package.

Should you enter?

Absolutely. You could win $100,000! But before you start innovating, know that this competition is only open to teams of two to eight people and individual entries won’t be accepted. Better start organizing your team.

Christopher Pandolfi & Luigi Ferrara, 2015 Winners

RGD So Good Awards

Deadline: July 2017
Fee: $40-$90
Prize: Printed catalogue, exhibit, workshop and award ceremony

Toronto’s RGD So Good Awards provide an opportunity to celebrate your ability to make a difference in the world through design. It’s also a chance to be rewarded for work that you’re proud of, have your projects showcased across multiple media and be recognized among the top designers in your category.

Should you enter?

Yes, the promotion is worth it. This competition is open to international applicants. Because it’s not a bi-annual competition, you have lots of time to get your work in winning shape.

Want more?
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