Professional Awards: Winning Strategies
The 2004 Professional Awards Program was the most competitive in
ASLA history, drawing 550 submissions--100 more than in 2003--from
across the US and around the world. The jury met for three days
of intense discussion and deliberation before selecting 33 award
recipients. What makes a submission a winner? Here are some tips
for improving submissions to awards programs:
Keep it simple and follow the directions.
While it's tempting to customize a submission in hopes it will
stand out from all the others, the best way to draw the jury's
attention is through clear narrative description combined with
high-quality photos and graphics. Printing out the narrative
description in landscape style instead of portrait, using colored
ink, or submitting a collage in order to include more images
can actually detract from your presentation
or even get the submission disqualified. Keep the focus on communicating
the project's value to the jury.
Focus on the narrative description. Provide
the information requested in a direct, simple style. Highlight
what makes the project unique, its environmental components,
its long-term value, and how it raises the bar for the profession.
Resist the temptation to overwrite. Use an easily readable font---Arial,
Garamond, and Times Roman are good---in at least 10
point size. Increasing line spacing from single to
1.2 and double-spacing between paragraphs makes the narrative
more readable as well.
Remember--photography is key. Let's face it,
the best narrative in the world can't make up for poor photography.
For design competitions, hire a professional photographer to
shoot your project. Lighting is particularly important, and
professional photographers can show your project to its best
advantage. Be creative: shoot the project in different seasons,
during the day, and at night, if appropriate. Have the photos
shot or scanned in a high-resolution (dimensions should be 3,000
pixels x 2,400 pixels, at a minimum of 300 PPI, pixels per inch)
electronic format (jpeg is fairly universal). Do not submit
color copies of photos; submit professionally processed photos
no smaller than 8 x 10 inches. For good advice on photography,
download the American Society of Media Photographers' brochure.
Organize. Don't wait until the last minute
to prepare your awards submission. Maintain an awards file.
Most entry requirements for awards programs are set from year
to year, and changes in procedure are minimal. Gather materials
early and allow plenty of time for review. Two-person proof
the narrative and captions for misspellings and typos. Neatness
Let plantings mature. Where site plantings
are a key design component of a project, wait for the plantings
to mature before photographing it for your portfolio or for
awards submissions. Some firms wait up to three years before
Consider submitting projects in less-traditional categories.
Most competitions have several categories for submission. For
example, the ASLA Professional Awards Program features four:
Design, Analysis & Planning, Communications, and Research. Design
is far and away the most competitive, with twice as many submissions
as the next largest category, Analysis & Planning. Consider
all the work your firm has done for the past several years.
There may be projects to submit in alternative categories.
Resubmit projects you believe in. If your
submission isn't successful one year, don't give up--resubmit
it the following year. Juries change each year, and what appeals
to a jury one year may completely differ the next. Keep a copy
of your submission so that you don't have to re-create work
you have already produced. Request jury comments if they are
available. Simple changes, such as better photography or allowing
plantings to mature, can turn the project into a winner.
Be prepared to win. Find out when the results
will be announced and get ready. If you don't have a regular
public relations staff person in place, designate someone to
field media calls and to coordinate your firm's promotion of
the award. And remember to let your receptionist know what types
of calls may be coming in and who the contact person is.
Back to Top^