Posted in practice on August 17, 2016 11:28 am EDT

8 Tips for the Award-Minded AEC

If you decide to commit time to the submission of a design award, do it right. Here, pointers from a peer award-winning architect.











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TAGS: architectural design awards, business,


By Scott Hall, AIA

When you work at an architectural design firm, your business revolves around the design integrity of your portfolio. And while you may know your project is the greatest project ever, industry recognition is what really sets you apart. After raking in a number of design awards, you begin to build real credibility. On the project level, you can claim a project has won more than a dozen design awards. On the firm level, you can claim hundreds of design awards. This coveted peer recognition is essential to establish yourself as a credible firm with design solutions that are applauded by many. But it can be hard work, so make sure you know what you’re getting into from the get-go. When preparing to submit a design award, there are key factors that can make or break your submission. Here are some critical things to take into consideration:

Scott Hall, AIA, principal and design director of Omniplan Inc. in Dallas

ONE: Tell a Story – A building is just a building if it doesn’t tell a meaningful story. Every project has something interesting that you can articulate throughout your submission. For instance, if the project is all about community engagement, then your submission should communicate that. The pictures you select should have people in them, perhaps even looking engaged. You might consider showing a context map of where the project is and how it physically engages with its surroundings. The story should also be communicated in the flow of the submission. You may arrange the order of your images in a particular way that helps communicate the story (i.e., walking through the project using images).

TWO: Translate the Big Idea – Oftentimes, the story of a project can be traced back to a singular idea developed by us as designers, the client, or a combination of both. The big idea can be a symbolic geometric form, a view, or any number of things. Whatever it is, it should be documented along with the design process, because when this idea is translated from a napkin sketch to built form, it provides the juror with insight on some of the pure intentions of the design. We once designed a project to be reminiscent of the layers inside of a tree. This design intent was felt throughout the project, so telling that big idea was imperative in the design award submission.

The big idea can be a symbolic geometric form, a view, or any number of things. Whatever it is, it should be documented along with the design process....

THREE: Think Like a Juror – If you’ve ever served on an awards jury, you know it can be a daunting task. There are a plethora of submissions to consider—so standing out among the other submissions is key. How will you catch their attention right out of the gate? Most submissions start off with the typical dusk shot of the building in all its sunset glory. While this is likely the most stunning image of the project, it may not always be enough to stand out in a juror’s mind. In one recent design award submission for the Dallas Holocaust Museum, we decided to use a sobering image from the Holocaust of a pile of shoes vs. our beautiful building design. Not only did it begin to tell the important narrative, it also stood out and surprised jurors.

FOUR: Research the Jurors – Knowing your target audience is Marketing 101. What do you know about these jurors and how can you cater your project to them? We recently submitted a fairly large project for a design award juried by individuals who had small design firms and worked on small projects. While we were straightforward about the size of the project in the text and plans, we carefully selected photography [depicting] smaller moments within the larger space to appeal to their familiar palate of small-scale projects.  continued >>