why competing with other designers in contest will hurt you rather than help you

Competing with other designers for various reasons seem to make you believe or think that you will become a better designer. I think that applies to a certain extent and should not be taken for granted.

Time Consuming

When competing in a contest, trying to come up with a design can be very overwhelming and time consuming. Often designers get the picture in their heads that they can come up with a rocking pixel perfect design in just a matter of hours. I will agree that a design can be done within a mater of hours but I can guarantee that it will not be rocking nor pixel perfect. Designs roughly take about a day or more to complete if you’re trying to create something very fascinating. When designing a website or graphic, designers have to plan out many things such as.

  • Color Scheme
  • Typography
  • Layout/Mockup
  • Functions

Those are the main topics that designers often have to take time to think about before making a decision. I will explain below why each one is very important.

Color Scheme: Color Scheme is very important when designing a website or graphic. Whenever you’re trying to find the right colors for something you must always find at least 3 colors to use for your design. Choosing 3-5 colors will give you many options and will basically give your design a good look. I will give 2 sub examples why you will need about 3-5 colors for your design below.

Website

  • Background
  • Container
  • Navigation
  • Links
  • Logo

website
website
Graphic

  • Background
  • Elements
  • Image
  • Environment
  • Logo

graphic

Typography: Typography can be very frustrating when creating a new design. Whether its for a website or poster it can take time looking through thousands of fonts just to find the right one for you specific project. Typography can also determine the look and feel of your website. Thin fonts tend to be more elegant while bold fonts tend to be more fun-ish.

typo
typo

Layout: Creating a layout or Mockup can save you a ton of time. Most designers do not like sketching things out and just decide to open up photoshop in begin working. That fine if that works for you but for me I find sketching out my designs or creating a mockup can really make a difference with my designs rather then me just creating it step by step in photoshop.
layout/mockup

Functions: This only applies for web designers. Whenever you create a design of a website make sure you keep in mind what functionality you might like your website to have when everything is over with. for example if you’re going to have a button and you want it to be a rollover button, make sure you create the rollover effect even if users cannot see it in the final layout.

typo

Losing hope / inspiration

lose inspiration
When competing in contest many designers often lose inspiration in their own work. The reason for such a thing is because when you’re in a contest you are competing against some of the best. Someone design will always be better than yours in most cases or at least you will think that and will not know what to create. For example I was once in a contest and I was very excited about it especially the cash prize but when I started to see designers entries I thought to myself that there was no way I could create something that good. I lost hope and inspiration. I could not think of a design and was very frustrated. Looking at others work made me feel like I was not designer and did not belong in the design community.

Less time for personal work

personal work
Most of the time when you enter contest you find that a design might take you quite the time to complete and yet you are unsure if you’re going to win it. I often hear many designers say “I lost but it will make me a better designer”. I strongly disagree with that. The time you spent designing that poster or website you could of been following a tutorial or creating something for yourself that is worth while. Working on personal projects or following a tutorial will add to your knowledge and make you better at designs. You can also learn new techniques that you did not know of. In a contest you are not guaranteed the prize so you’re basically taking a big risk. Why take a risk in lose time when you could do something productive with that time.

How to become a better designer

Becoming a better designer takes time in practice. If you would like to become a better designer just follow my steps.

  1. Do not look at others work to often
  2. Take a walk for inspiration
  3. Always brainstorm & sketch ideas before turning to a computer
  4. Work on personal projects instead of entering contest
  5. Follow design tutorials and pick up various techniques from it
  6. See what the latest trend is in design in creating something that is opposite from it

If you follow my steps above you will be a better designer in no time. Stay away from contest in work on personal projects so you can build your portfolio and become better at what you love to do. Sometimes you have to keep your secret hidden and release it when least expected(In terms of design). Good luck at becoming a better designer. Hope all goes well

Joe Granados the author

Joe Granados is the owner of WebDevTuts. He is also a web designer & developer who loves to design and develop websites. If you're looking for him you can find him via @webdevtuts
  1. Salad Fingers says:

    Well yes you are right about this… but sincerely I consider web design as an art and if you are good in that you can participate at some contest even if you not win because in my vision the best site that you do is the one that you create no matter the rest. That’s a nice post there to learn more of the basic principles.

  2. Hi Marcell, thanks for the nice read. I agree with manyterms. For a while i lost my faith in my talent and my profession, just because i could not win any competition on a design contest website where the client chooses the design he likes most. In many cases the client has no idea of what he wants and will likely choose a crappy piece of bullshit from amateurs over fullthought design from a pro.

    I quitted the idea of free “contest” and started to focus on my babies. This is the point where the motivation comes back and you set new goals which you can reach and statisfy and enhances your knowledge.

    Know what the others do, but dont judge your own work by the work of others. There are -always- better designers. Important is that you feel comfortable with your skills and the work you do, and that your clients are happy.

    Another fact why competition is bad is because the client self has little to know communication with the designers, this way there can never be a design which the client really desires.

    Greetings from Germany.

    • Marcell says:

      I also agree with “client self has little to know communication with the designers”. As a designer it is important to stay in touch with our clients because we can better understand what they would like or want. Great points Benjamin!

  3. Stacey says:

    I’m sorry… I read that you are 17, and it makes me wonder if this article is simply your naivety speaking.

    The #1 rule to being a better designer is to CONSTANTLY be looking at others’ work… the exact opposite of “don’t look at others’ work too often”!!! If you’re not constantly taking in what the other people in your field are doing, you’re not improving. Whether it is to pick up their techniques and aesthetics, or to learn what not to do, you need to be looking at what others are doing.

    Very, very poor advice for designers, I hope others who read this article don’t follow your #1 “rule”.

    • Marcell says:

      I said don’t look at others work to often. Also if can’t design a website without looking at another website then I truly feel sorry for you. See not looking at others work to often will get your brain cooking up ideas. I have to say whenever i try to find inspiration by looking at others sites and design I simply cannot come up with a design because I am to busy looking at others work and when I design something new I do not want it to look the same as the other site. Also you do not want to be like any designer you want to be better then them so following what they do would just make you a follower but looking at what they’re doing and creating something totally different and abstract, makes you a leader and a follower of your own work πŸ™‚

  4. Hey Marcell,
    Interesting read. I’d have to say I disagree with you though, and here’s why: (1) In any industry whether it’s sales, music, dance, etc one needs to practice their skills — in addition to when they’re actually “working”. Contests give designers the opporunity to practice their skills while being offered a chance to earn some money from it. (2) “Losing hope”: Hate to break it to you, but we lose hope all the time, regardless of industry, just by doing our normal job. For most designers, it’s even worse because they have to deal with clients’ concerns (which are often invalid and way too many). The life of a freelancer is actually a pretty tough one if the freelancer doesn’t know how to manage themselves and their clients very well. And again, if you go into a contest with the mindset that you’re using this time to practice, and winning is just a bonus, then the “competition” shouldn’t bother you.

  5. Marcell says:

    Yeah but you can also better your design skills from looking at tutorials and doing something productive with your time instead of entering a competing contest. There are two types of contest in the one I am talking about is where a company or individual would need a site or logo done and a bunch of designers would compete for one prize. I see no purpose in that. Now if your looking at it as for a school project and you have a chance for a scholarship or big opportunity then why not do it but other than those types of contest I think they are pointless. Some people go into contest and believe they can win and sometimes lose and vise versa. All I can say is do whatever floats your boat. I’m against competing with others designers because I know that I do not learn anything new and it wastes my time but we are all different and think different.

  6. Katie says:

    Hi Marcell,
    I just want to point out that I think this is a really great site for a 17 year old to put together. However..this article? Oh tsk tsk. First of all, if you are a designer, you are competing every day of your life. You are competing against everyone else in your field. To tell people NOT to compete is ludicrous. You need to have 100% confidence in everything that you do as a designer, or you will get nowhere. You shouldn’t look at others work and think how you will never be that good..you should look at it and say “wow, what an amazing and inspiring piece of work. I can do that.” and then try it. Also, entering contests inspires hard work and dedication, which is something you may not put into any random personal piece. Even if you don’t win, you still have a piece for your portfolio. As far as saying not to look at other designers work? Oh dear. Another TERRIBLE piece of advice. You should look at other peoples work CONSTANTLY. For ideas, inspiration, new techniques, color palettes, etc., etc. I’m sorry to rip this apart, but I just don’t think you have enough knowledge about becoming a good designer to actually try to give advice to other people.

  7. Robert K. says:

    I agree and disagree. I think if you lose, it won’t break your passion. I believe if you are truly in love with designing NOTHING will break your inspiration and passion. I have entered hundreds of contests and won about 50 so far. I started one year ago. I didn’t even know how to use Photoshop or that Illustrator even existed. I started off using “The Logo Creator” program. I got better because of those contests, if I lost I needed to know why and try again.

    Sometimes I lost because the CH was looking for a certain look not the “best” overall design. Sometimes I lost because my design just wasn’t the best. But I believe in order to truly be a winner you must lose.

    You NEED an imagination too. Don’t look at other people’s designs and say I can do it better. I look at other people’s designs and say, I can come up with a better idea than that. I think that’s the way to go no?

    Thanks for the article.

  8. Diania says:

    A couple things – please, please check your grammar — there are errors everywhere.
    I said don’t look at others work to often. — it’s TOO, not too. — just one of the many errors that makes your article come off as unprofessional ….

    2- You’re advice is very off , and you are only 18 years old. Rewrite this article in 10 years from now. You don’t have enough experience to be writing this kind of article at this time in your life πŸ™‚

    • Marcell says:

      Yes my grammar is not perfect but you get the point. Yes I may type unprofessional but it will get better. Atleast you got my point. πŸ™‚

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