5 Steps for a Successful Design Competition Entry
Back in October, we entered a design competition and the objective was to transform the lower level of a 2 level bridge in Cleveland for pedestrian & bicycle use. Originally, the lower level was created for street cars, but had been closed down in the 50s. The bridge is over a half mile long and connects West neighborhoods to downtown and is adjacent to the Flats, an up and coming industrial-rehab area. Although we did not place in the competition (they have posted the winners here), we are very glad we participated. Not only did we enjoy putting some ideas on paper, we also realized that to complete suc-cessful entries that we are proud of-we need a rule book or process. Below is our 5 step process along with some analysis of our recent design.
1. Read and re-read the competition brief.
In this way, it’s no different than making sure you have an understanding of your client’s needs. Not on-ly do you want to have a full understanding of the requirements for the presentation, it’s imperative that you follow the guidelines.
2. Brainstorm, research, create, repeat.
The best part about competitions are that you can suggest some pretty radical solutions to problems that may not have an obvious relationship. It is important to not get stuck in the brainstorm and research component. For this competition, we spent alot of time researching city stats, population facts and life-style trends to make the most educated design gesture. While I’m all about research, jumping into the creation part needs to happen sooner than later. So-that’s why we added the repeat. Give yourself enough time to chase an idea or two down the wrong path and still have time to find the best one.
3. Jump to the finish line, then race backwards.
With competitions, the only opportunity to express your idea is your submission. Often, that means 2d boards or uploading pdfs. You are not present to fill in the gaps and help explain, so it is critical to lay-out the presentation and make sure you’re being clear. And let’s not quickly jump over the difference between online submissions and printed boards. Users can zoom into online submissions; judges can easily see entire boards at a glance. Both take a unique approach.
4. Give yourself enough time.
I suggest to create a design review 2 days prior to the actual submission date. We didn’t pull this off for the Cleveland Competition, but I wish we had. It doesn’t feel very good to know you have great ideas and no time to pull them together.
5. Have fun!
Time spent working on design competitions probably come along with stories of studio, perhaps a missed shower or two (no? is that just me?), and rounds of everyone’s favorite music. Competitions are a way to push creativity without fear of losing actual clients. Figure out what you enjoy most about this profession and find a way to incorporate it into a competition.