For a society that increasingly teaches future generations that there are no losers, and avoids events where there might be winners, creative awards are vital.

Lion hearted competition

Errol Brown of Hot Chocolate fame could well be some sort of Minister of Competition, the way I’ve been feeling lately. His “everyone’s a winner, baby, that’s no lie” seems to be the new mantra of competition in education every which way you look. Our society seems hell-bent on ensuring that success is seen as a Bad Thing, even going as far as loading the dice so that nobody wins anything, ever.

Our new, “competition-is-bad” agenda is most pronounced in schools around the country. Sports days are being cancelled because having someone win the three-legged race would upset the losers (especially those with only two legs). Recently, a school football match was restarted at half-time with the scores reset to level-pegging following a first-half 12-0 trouncing by the better team.

The message to this next-generation of adults – many of whom will be competing (sorry to swear) in a global design market and working for you – seems to be that it’s OK to lose, because someone, somewhere will give the scoreboard a good shake and make everything all right.

Design and creativity – from winning Hollywood pitches to bluechip Web-site commissions – is all about competition. Some might argue that it’s also about art, emotion, and interpretation but they’re still students. In the real world where beer costs more than a quid and you don’t have to sleep with someone with purple hair, creativity is fuelled more by money, fame, recognition, ego, greed, jealousy, and screwing the client for all they’re worth. Competition rules. Don’t believe me? Fine, we can have a scrap if you want – winner takes all.

That’s why it’s a relief to see that creative competitions are now at a high-water mark. For the sought-after, such as the Cannes Lions, D&AD Awards, and BIMA Awards, there is much to celebrate. The standard of the winners, and the sheer number of entries, proves that designers are eager to show their worth in the heat of a creative fight.

Reassuringly, there are even a rising number of contests aimed at turfing students out of their cheap-beer and purple-headed slumber. The likes of Adobe, Microsoft, and pretty much every creative company, are now offering prizes – up to £10,000
in some cases – for award-winning student work. C’mon, that’s a huge potential for a hangover and a guaranteed shag.

Competition in creativity is a Good Thing. It makes us do better, aim higher, and innovate because of a burning need to succeed and wipe the smiles off the face of our peers. We want our work to be talked about, to have our names spoken of in awe, and invited to speak at posh lectures. It’s called success and here’s what it buys: cars (fast ones), bling, fat cigars, useless but expensive gadgets, plasma TVs, houses big enough to store said plasma TV, friends and the ability to bribe people. You can also display outrageous social skills and people will love you for it.

So, forget previous experiences of school sports days that left egg on your face, and not on your spoon, and believe in your work. Step up and try to win a Yellow Pencil, Cannes Lion, or even a copy of Photoshop. Creativity is all in the winning.