Whether you’re an established designer keen to break into the international design scene or a graduate who wants to show the world what you’ve got, winning a recognised competition could give you the exposure you crave.

A designer’s job is tricky. You spend hours devising a cutting-edge solution to your client’s brief, they reap the fruits of your labour, and then your sole reward is to get paid. Money’s great, but for any future clients to appreciate your skills and hard work, you must sell yourself further in a bid to win them over.

An alternative approach might be to enter the occasional design competition and give yourself a little more exposure. This way you can impress both your peers and the industry. But where do you start? A quick Google search will reveal any number of design competitions all claiming to be the industry’s equivalent to the Oscars.

So we’ve saved you the job of whittling them down. The following should give you a good starting point, but it’s worth keeping an eye out for the all the new competition announcements, too. Before you know it, you’ll have reversed the roles and have clients hunting you down.

The D&AD is a UK-based educational charity that works on behalf of the international design and advertising communities. Most famous for its annual awards, the Yellow Pencils, the D&AD Awards showcase the very best of creative design. This year’s winners have already been announced, so why not take a look at the kind of work you’d need to produce to win in 2006. The competition attracts over 23,000 entries each year and competition is tough, so you’ll earn respect even if you’re shortlisted.
Estimated entry date: February

BAFTA activities expand much further than the well-known film and television awards and now include both the BAFTA Games Awards and the BAFTA Interactive Awards. The latter, now in its seventh year, focuses on the new media industry and offers awards in categories such as Online Entertainment, Interactive TV, Film, DVD and Design. The panel is currently deliberating over the current entries, so check out the site and see what you’d be up against.
Estimated entry date: October

Created by Lynda.com and United Digital Artists, Flashforward is aimed at Macromedia Flash designers and aims to provide valuable exposure for the most innovative, compelling and original examples of Flash-based websites. Fifteen categories cover everything from programming, design, animation and sound editing, so take a look at the current listings and start planning your entry for next year. Judges include Jeff Faulkner, Shannon Darrough, Craig Swann and Eric Wiese.
Estimated entry date: May

The Webby Award is probably the ultimate mark of recognition for a website. Established in 1996 by The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (www.iadas.net) in New York, the 500 member body of web experts, business figures and creatives get together each year to decide on winning sites in over 60 categories. Sites are judged on content, structure and navigation, visual design, functionality, interactivity and overall impact. A People’s Voice Award is put to the public vote.
Estimated entry date: October

The 2005 awards for the design industry’s trade journal were announced at the beginning of March, with an extravagant ceremony and dinner for those shortlisted in such categories as Letterheads & Logos, Furniture Design, Editorial Design, Branded Packaging, TV/Film/Video graphics and even Workplace Environments and Retail Interiors. Current judges include Sebastien Conran, Michael Johnson and Tom Roope. The deadline dates for the 2006 awards have yet to be announced.
Estimated entry date: October

This year sees the graphics software giant running its . fth annual event, which acts as a showcase for the most talented and promising student graphic designers, photographers, illustrators, animators, digital . lmmakers and computer artists. For 2005, the number of categories has been increased to nine, with animation and broadcast design broadening the video submissions. The ADAA is one of the few competitions where the kudos of winning is complemented by a cash prize of $5,000.
Estimated entry date: April
Additional prize: $5,000

The Communication Arts Interactive Design Annual has been running since 1997 and offers awards across such broad categories as Advertising, Business, Entertainment, Information Design and Self Promotion. The closing date for Interactive Annual 10 has already been announced as the 13 January 2006, so you’ve got plenty of time to start planning your interactive project – as long as it’s been created for the web, CD-ROM, interactive kiosk or handheld device.
Next entry date: 20 January

We’re not biased, honest, but if you only enter one competition, make it this one. Our own Graduate Showcase has helped many a design graduate earn that precious mark of early respect. Successful candidates are showcased in a large format supplement, which is distributed globally alongside Computer Arts. Applications for this year’s Best of British showcase were restricted to UK graduates only, but if you think you’ve got what it takes, keep an eye on our news pages.
Next entry date: March

The Macromedia Innovation Award for Students is a bi-annual event that offers some additional tempting prizes. Two winners are selected from the four categories of Digital Communication, Interactive Media, Art Projects & Portfolios and Video. In addition, four People’s Choice winners from each category receive an iPod and four Editorial Award winners each receive $1,000 cash. How the award will be affected by the proposed Adobe/Macromedia merger only time will tell.
Next entry date: September
Additional prizes: iPod/$1,000

Gaining recognition from your peers is satisfying, but avert your gaze from the navel of the design community and you’ll . nd a host of competitions run by organisations such as the BBC, national press and other media sources. One of the most prestigious must be the Design Museum’s Designer of the Year award. Note, however, that nominations are by invitation only. To be in with a chance of getting hold of that £25,000 prize fund, you may need to work on increasing your profile.
Next entry date: n/a
Additional prize: £25,000