There’s a quotation widely attributed to the composer Sibelius: “Pay no attention to what critics say. There has never been a statue in honour of a critic.” Someone else also once said: “All anybody needs to know about prizes is that Mozart never won one.” Both valid points, so why then, in an industry that celebrates creativity, should we care so much about winning awards?
Katherina Tudball is creative director at Superunion, which has had its work recognised in design and branding categories across a range of awards schemes, including Cannes Lions and D&AD. Winning an award in the first year of her professional career, says Tudball, “gave me a taste for it. There is no denying that it can feel pretty good when respected peers in your field consider your work worth celebrating. It’s a confidence boost.
“When I started out awards were also one of the only ways to get your work out there,” she continues. “Design blogs weren’t really a thing yet and design publications were limited to a few specific print titles. And there was certainly no social media around to promote yourself on. I think awards mean less to younger designers today because there are so many other ways to get your work seen, celebrated and commented on.”
Max Ottignon at design studio Ragged Edge agrees. He is selective about the awards he enters. “Our clients don’t care about awards, so we don’t see them as a new business or marketing tool,” he says. Nonetheless, the agency bagged two D&AD Pencils at last year’s awards. Top awards such as D&AD, says Ottignon, “are an excellent way for us to measure how our work stands up against the very best of the industry. That means credibility is crucial. We want the work to be judged by people whose opinions we respect against clear, transparent and relevant criteria. And most importantly, we want to be up against the absolute best work of that year.”