Whatever position you find yourself in as you journey through the creative industries, there's nothing that quite beats the feeling of winning an award for your design and illustration projects and receiving an official mark of quality that lets the rest of the community know what you're all about.

Particularly for young creatives just starting out, it can be validating to know that you're heading in the right direction and that there's something special about the creative visuals you've spent countless hours producing.

To help increase your chances of winning some of the industry's most coveted awards, the team here at Briefbox HQ have put together another entry in our series of detailed industry insights that guides you through the entire process of submitting your design or illustration project for awards consideration.

Quick Links

Understanding the Brief / The Judges / Previous Winners / Setting Your Own Deadlines / Focus on the Big Picture / Project Presentation / Online Portfolio Submissions / Final Checks / List of Awards

Before You Get Started

We've all been there, that feeling of excitement and possibility when the briefs are finally released, the awards are open to submissions and your mind starts whirring with the possibility of a million creative ideas all at once.

However, before you get ahead of yourself and get started on the creative visuals, there are a few key steps you should pay attention to in order to give yourself the best chance possible of securing some of the creative industry's most coveted awards.

Read carefully through the briefs, including any written guidelines and FAQs, and then read them again.

As with any live design project for a real client, it's absolutely critical that you take the time to fully understand the brief and what's being asked of you before putting pen (or pencil) to paper.

One of the first criteria your design or illustration project will be judged on is whether it accurately and successfully answers the written brief, and industry-experienced judges will be able to see right through a project that might look beautiful on the surface but lacks any real substance beyond the aesthetic.

Once the briefs have been released, spend the first few days reading through them from top to bottom so that you practically know them off by heart. Some awards also include separate "what we're looking for" documents or frequently asked question (FAQ) pages that will teach you how to break down a brief and avoid common pitfalls that the judges may have seen across previous entries.

When you're deep into the design phase, it's also worth conducting regular 'check-ins', reading through the brief once more to ensure that you're staying on track and haven't strayed too far from what's actually being asked of you.

Pay close attention to who's judging the work.

For the most recognised awards in the industry, such as D&AD's New Blood Awards, a full list of judges and their backgrounds will be posted so that you're able to get a good understanding of the people who will be critiquing your project and their experience in the creative industries.

This information could prove invaluable when putting together your own submission, as studying the work of the judges can help you get a feel for each judge's preferred styles and techniques that may play a part in their decision-making process.

However, it's important to stay true to your own style and ensure your own voice comes across in your submission. A good judge will be able to spot an emulation of their own work, so treat the judges' past projects as rough inspiration as opposed to a blueprint for your own project.

Need more tips on how to ensure your work stays original? Take a look at our top tips to using design as inspiration:

Three top tips for using design inspiration
1) Make the effort with mood boarding When beginning a new brief or project for a client, inspiration and mood boarding is the key to any successful project. Hopefully, and in most cases, the client will have picked out a few images or bits of design that they like the look of and that they don’t.…

Check out previous winners.

To get a good understanding of the level of quality the judges will be looking for, always make sure to take a look through previous winners, finalists and other shortlisted entries.

More often than not, these winning projects will include comments from the judges about what worked well, what could have been improved upon and why these projects were selected above others as winners.

The first time you think your submission is complete and ready to send off, take another read through previous judges' comments and try and apply their thinking and critiques to your own project.

There's a good chance you might pick up on something you never considered and might have missed the first time around, and this is a great way of ensuring that your project ticks all the right boxes when it comes to the official review stage.

Set your own deadlines.

One of the most important skills that any designer or illustration should possess is the ability to manage your own time, and awards submissions should be treated no differently than live client work in this regard.

To help avoid those final moments of panic, we recommend setting strict deadlines at key stages throughout the projects to ensure you're maximising the time available to you.

While everybody has their own unique way of working and managing their own time based on their own strengths and weaknesses, we suggest a structure similar to the below to help your creative process run as smoothly as possible:

  • Brief analysis (really take your time here!)
  • Analysis of previous winning projects
  • Moodboarding and concept generation
  • Initial design phase
  • Brief check-in (checking you're on the right lines)
  • Secondary design phase
  • Second brief check-in
  • Peer review
  • Final proofing and amends
  • Final brief check-in
  • Submission

Struggling to stay motivated and find the time to complete your graphic design award entries? Take a read through some of our relevant articles below:

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Stop working. It may seem detrimental at first – but take breaks, and take them regularly. In fact, take breaks whenever you feel like you need it! Doing so can actually be more beneficial to your work flow than becoming overworked and burnt out. If you feel like you’re starting to get a creative bl…
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Making it #2: How do you beat the beast that is creative block?
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How to Prepare Your Design Awards Submission

You've taken the time to read through the brief in detail, you've done your research into previous winners of the biggest design and illustration awards in the industry, and you're finally ready to get started on your own creative project.

Now that you're itching to get started, let's take a look at the do's and don't's when it comes to putting together your own submission and how to avoid the common pitfalls that judges will be looking out for.

Focus on the bigger picture and don't sweat the small stuff.

Some awards such as D&AD's New Blood Awards, will favour projects that are the strongest conceptually as opposed to the most visually appealing. Winning projects will have responded to the brief in the most well-thought-out way and have carefully considered the effectiveness of their own execution.

As mentioned previously, checking out previous winners of the awards will help you get a sense of whether the judges are looking for intricate design pieces or something that focuses a little more on the bigger picture.

Avoid immediately jumping into Photoshop or Illustrator, and instead spend the first few days writing down ideas and trying to find the strengths and weaknesses of each of your ideas. When you finally feel like you've got a strong concept together, discuss it with your peers to see if they're able to pick up on anything you might have missed.

Put real care and attention into the presentation of your submission.

When preparing your entry for awards consideration, try to avoid getting tunnel vision, falling into the beginner's trap of focusing solely on the design of the final piece itself.

Presentation plays an enormous role in your chances of winning awards in the creative industries, and it's this ability to effectively market a strong concept that separates a winning submission from an honourable mention.

A few topics we would recommend covering in your accompanying written submission include:

  • Proving an understanding of the main problem or challenge posed by the brief, including any research you conducted to help further your understanding.
  • A written analysis of your approach to the brief and how you arrived at your final solution.
  • An explanation of how your design effectively solved this problem in the real world.

Want more information on what you can do to prepare your graphic design and illustration portfolio for review? You might find this article useful:

How to Nail Your Interview and Find Meaningful Employment as a Graphic Designer or Illustrator
In our latest industry insight, we’ve put together a curated list of some of our best tips and tricks to ensure that you nail your interview and really impress your new directors along the way.

Preparing a design and illustration portfolio website.

We've already covered this one in detail, but for design and illustration awards that are looking for designers to send over their submission via a website link but don't currently have a portfolio website ready to go, then spend some time looking around to find an online portfolio builder that suits your own individual needs.

There's no such thing as a bad reason to take a second look at your professional website, and making sure your projects are clearly organised will not only make it easier for awards judges to review your work, but when combined with a strong SEO strategy, will increase the chances of finding paid work from real clients online.

Need to prepare an online portfolio but not sure where to start? Take a look through Briefbox's review of six of the most popular website builders on the market today:

Choosing the Right Website Builder for your Online Design and Illustration Portfolio
In this latest guide from the Briefbox team, we’ll be taking a look through six of the most popular website building platforms available today and giving you the knowledge to help you identify which option is right for you as a graphic designer or illustrator in the creative industries.

Double-check the entry requirements before final send-off.

Before hitting the 'submit' button and sending your brief off for review, cross-reference your submission against the brief one final time to ensure that you've covered everything the judges are expecting to see from you.

If there's an online form to complete as part of your submission, then ensure that you've filled out all of the fields correctly and that you've proofread each of your field entries.

Here at Briefbox, we use Grammarly alongside regular once-overs to ensure our written content remains as error-free as possible. Completely free to use, Grammarly is a web-based browser extension that constantly checks over your content for both spelling and grammatical errors.

Submit Your Design and Illustration Projects for Awards Consideration

Now that you're confident that you know what the award bodies are looking for and your design is ready for review, it's time to submit your project for awards consideration!

We've put together our helpful list of some of the very best awards for junior designers and illustrators that are currently open and looking for entries in early 2022.

There are a plethora of other awards for creatives throughout the year that are absolutely worth you keeping your eye on, including the World Brand Design Society's Student Design Awards, the Indigo Design Award, The Design Kids Awards, the AGDA Awards (for Australian students) and many, many more.

These awards are currently closed from new entries but will reopen for new projects from our awesome students later this year.

Penguin Cover Design Awards 2022

Alongside their annual Student Design Award, Penguin Random House also offers young creatives the ability to win one of the industry's most prestigious book cover design awards alongside either a £1000, £500 or £350 for the first-place, second-place and third-place winners.

Open to any junior graphic designer or illustrator with less than one years' significant experience in the creative industries (including either in-house or freelance roles), the award pushes all entrants to create an imaginative and unique book cover across any of the Adult Fiction, Adult Non-Fiction or Children's Book categories.

  • Entry Deadline: 1st March 2022
  • Cost to Enter: Free (No entry fee required).
  • Who Can Enter: UK and Ireland-based undergraduate and postgraduate students around the world with less than one years' experience in the industry.
  • Winners Announced: June 2022
  • Previous Winners: Take a look at previous winners of the awards here.
Cover Design Award

RSA Student Design Awards 2022

Running successfully since 1924, the RSA Student Design Awards is a competition for emerging designers and illustrators that encourages students to utilise critical design thinking to act on social, environmental and economic issues.

Not limited to a specific country or region, any student of the creative arts can enter, provided they're currently studying for an undergraduate or postgraduate degree (or similar).

There's no focus on a specific discipline, and award entries can cover any form or medium, from physical products to more service or experience-led solutions.

  • Entry Deadline: 9th March 2022
  • Cost to Enter: £25 for Early Bird entry, £35 for standard entry.
  • Who Can Enter: All undergraduate and postgraduate students around the world.
  • Winners Announced: June 2022
  • Previous Winners: Take a look at previous winners of the awards here.
Student Design Awards
The RSA Student Design Awards is a competition for emerging designers that’s been running since 1924.

D&AD Impact Awards 2022

A completely separate competition from either the standard D&AD or New Blood Awards, the D&AD Impact Award focuses specifically on creative ideas that are making a real and positive difference to the world.

The award is split across two individual categories:

  • Impact Awards - Work that’s been commercially released, including designs, initiatives and social good campaigns.
  • Future Impact Awards - For early-stage designs and initiatives, recognised for their potential to drive change.

Winners of the award will be awarded the right to apply for a £25,000 development grant from the D&AD Impact Fund, a place on D&AD Impact Accelerator Bootcamp, alongside 10 hours of one-to-one mentoring from the D&AD Impact Council and free entry into the Impact awards for the next three years.

  • Entry Deadline: 16th March 2022
  • Who Can Enter: Starting at £288 for Impact Awards and £18 for Future Impact Awards.
  • Winners Announced: May 2022
  • Previous Winners: Take a look at previous winners of the awards here.


D&AD New Blood Awards 2022

Arguably the most sought after award for any new designer or illustrator, D&AD New Blood Awards pits the world's best and brightest junior creatives against a series of challenging briefs produced by international brands, including Audible, Disney, Google, Netflix and many more.

All entries are judged by a series of industry veterans, before successful projects are finally recognised with the prestigious Wooden, Yellow, White or Black Pencil awards.

  • Entry Deadline: 22nd March 2022
  • Cost to Enter: £15 for paid members, £20 for non-members.
  • Who Can Enter: All higher-education students around the world, as of 1st January 2022.
  • Winners Announced: May 2022
  • Previous Winners: Take a look at previous winners of the awards here.
D&AD New Blood Awards 2022
The D&AD New Blood Awards recognise young creatives. Winning truly marks you out as one of the best. Your future starts here.

Strengthen Your Design and Illustration Portfolio and Find Paid Work in the Creative Industries

Here at Briefbox, we offer practical advice and mentoring to help you improve your design skills through a selection of industry-respected briefs and short courses.

Whether you're a design professional or just getting started in the industry, our team of expert designers and mentors have got you covered.

Briefbox offers practical, realistic and industry-respected project briefs, courses and mentoring to help you improve your graphic design and illustration skills.