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Showcase the Best Work of the Profession Using These Winning Strategies

ASLA 2013 Awards
Message from the Jury Chair

I hope you are considering entering the 2013 ASLA Professional Awards Program. In 2012, the Professional Awards drew more than 600 submissions from across the United States and around the world. The jury met for three days of intense discussion and deliberation before selecting award recipients. I’m often asked what makes a submission a winner. Here are some tips my jury colleagues and I can share for improving submissions to awards programs. 

 Tom Oslund, FASLA

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—images are 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, and with people, 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, or 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.

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 and good grammar count.

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 photographing projects.

Consider submitting projects in less-traditional categories.
Most competitions have several categories for submission. For example, the ASLA Professional Awards Program features six: General Design, Residential Design, Analysis and Planning, Communications, Research, and the Landmark Award. The design categories are far and away the most competitive, with twice as many submissions as the next largest category, Analysis and 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 the first year, don't give up—resubmit it the following year. Over the past five years, a large percentage of ASLA’s winning projects have been submitted previously. 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. Simple changes, such as better photography or allowing plantings to mature, can turn your 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. This is a big deal—celebrate your success!

Submit on time.
The most important piece of advice for a successful entry is to submit it on time. The 2013 entry deadlines are:

Entry forms and payment must be received by:

  • Friday, February 8, 2013, for Professional Awards
  • Friday, April 26, 2013, for Student Awards.

Submission binders must be received by:

  • Friday, February 22, 2013, for Professional Awards
  • Friday, May 17, 2013, for Student Awards.

In need of inspiration? View the ASLA 2012 Professional and Student award-winning projects.

Best of luck,

Tom Oslund, FASLA
2013 ASLA Professional Awards Jury Chair

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