A successful Studio competition begins with comprehensive, thoughtful prep work. Designers need specific information to get their creative juices flowing and produce their best work. A great contest specification and supporting materials allows a designer to feel energized, excited and connected to your project rather than staring at the drawing board feeling confused and unsure of which direction to take.
The first step in preparing your design contest is to get familiar with past contests. Take a look at what other clients have done, and the submissions received. After you've done some initial research, the following ten questions should be addressed:
Who is your target audience?
Designers will take completely different approaches to a concept depending on the target audience. For example, a web banner ad that is meant to draw in financial advisors in their 50's will look vastly different from an ad targeting young college-age women. You should provide as much detail about your target audience as possible.
What branding considerations must the competitors follow?
Your brand guidelines are something you must adhere to, and so should the designers. In order to allow them to produce work that will not have to be revamped later by your branding team, you must provide as much information about the branding guidelines as possible. Give extremely clear instructions, such as specific color identification numbers or the exact amount of clear space your logo must have between design elements. These considerations identify and distinguish your brand from others.
What are your primary goals for this design?
If you need to freshen up your web site because the design is outdated and stagnant, you may want to give a summary about why you're ready for a redesign and if customer feedback brought you to this point. If you need marketing materials for a conference and you want to stand out from the other presenters, make that clear to the designers. The more information you can provide about your decision to get this design produced, the more likely you'll get a designer who focuses on concepts that specifically meet your goals.
What is the design's medium and how well will it translate to other mediums?
A logo design for a software application may only be displayed on a screen, but a company logo and other branding will need to translate into many different mediums including the web, print, and apparel. Designers will make specific decisions about gradients, spacing and typography based on the information you provide here. It could mean the difference between a clear, versatile logo and one that becomes unreadable at small sizes or impossible to embroider on a T-shirt.
How will your design stand out from your competitors?
You should always be aware of the design trends of your competitors, and then find a balance between capturing the attention of the same demographic and standing out. If you have links to what your competitors are doing, and what you like or dislike about those competitor's designs, include that information in your contest.
What source file types will you need from the winner?
There are many different graphic file types the designers utilize. Many are specifically tailored to certain types of contests. For example, print designers tend to work mostly with high resolution vector files. Designs for the web are rasterized and low resolution. You'll need to determine what file type is needed for correct output and you'll also want to ask for files you can edit at a later date.
Do you have examples of design work from other sources that you'd like the designers to view?
While Nike may have absolutely nothing in common with your company, you may admire the way its logo conveys movement and its elegant simplicity. You may be inspired by navigational elements, layout, color schemes, etc. on other web sites, which is great to share with the designers. Keep in mind - you should never encourage a designer to copy any design elements.
Do you have all of the materials the designer will need to incorporate into their designs?
If you are running a brochure competition, do you have the content and company photographs ready to provide to the designers? While it is fine to ask the competitors to be creative and offer new ideas, you should also be prepared to give them the neccesary materials. Logos, content, photography that you own, etc. should all be provided.
Are any of your materials copyrighted by a third party?
Everything you include in your contest must be owned solely by you. This includes content, graphics, photography, sound files, Flash files, etc. You may not include screenshots of other designs - but you may provide links. If you are in doubt about what you own, speak with your legal consultant.
What criteria must the designers meet to win?
While it's highly possible you'll prefer a design that strays from what you initially envisioned, setting realistic criteria for the designers is a smart idea. Specific limitations (such as restricting a color or a specific layout style) and specific requirements (such as the inclusion of your company logo) will help the competitors meet the basic needs of your competition, but you should also list high-level criteria and your overall judging methodology.