How to give your project the best chance of success at the BDAV Awards 2018

Verity Campbell provides some guidance on how to achieve success in the BDAV Awards

With the Awards open, now is the time for a quick refresher on how to put in a great entry.

Winning awards can make a huge difference to a business, which is why so many building designers repeatedly enter industry awards. Even the process of putting together an award entry gives your business a suite of quality marketing materials. You can enter the project in other awards, upload it to your website and social media, and get the project published. The effort put into an award entry can benefit the business even if you don’t win.

But if you’re in it expressly to win an award, that’s another thing.

To win an award, picking the right project is crucial. So what is the right project?

The right project may not be your favourite, it may not have that ‘wow-factor’, but the right project:

  • is a true reflection of your core philosophy;
  • approaches design conventions in a new way;
  • has unique challenge(s) that had to be overcome;
  • features one or more new or innovative building systems or materials;offers a new solution to an old problem.

Of course it contributes positively to the public domain, fulfils the brief (and some), benefits the environment, makes your client’s life better, and showcases elegant, functional design. These are givens – most award entries fulfil these criteria. But it’s the standout projects, the exceptional projects, that rise to the top.

Quality photos are crucial

Don’t leave photography to the last minute! Before you even think of putting pen to paper, make sure your project photography is sorted. A few tips to keep in mind:

  • always use a professional architectural photographer. Real estate photographers tend to shoot with a wide lens to give the illusion of larger rooms, which can lead to distortion and odd angels.
  • brief your photographer clearly. This includes supplying them with plans in advance and ideally being onsite at the time of the shoot to advise on key design details.
  • all shots should be styled and carefully composed to ensure the design, interiors and landscape are documented in the best possible way.
  • opt for daylight (natural) shots over twilight. This will also avoid shots looking overly real estate-like.
  • consider shooting with people in images (they can be blurred to conceal identity). This adds a sense of activity and scale.
  • ensure you get full editorial licence.

Investing in great photography is a win-win. Not only do you have great images to support the design story, but you have added to your suite of marketing materials and increased your chances for future publication.

Framing your case

Now that you’ve decided to back your project, you need to start building a case. The jurors have a short time to review every entry – your goal is to make a good first impression by making it easy for the jurors to see what makes your project exceptional.

With award entries (and SEO), project titles count. A good project title can help your project stand out by capturing its essence – much like a tagline would – and give it an identity, something to remember it by. Titles like ‘Moss St’ and ‘Barton House’ do little to highlight a project.

Once you have a title you’re happy with, the next step is to start compiling the list of things that make your project exceptional. I recommend you don’t do this on your own. Ask the client/builder/drafter or whoever for insights that could make that crucial difference to your entry. This step also enlists their buy-in for what can be a demanding process and acknowledges their crucial input to the final product.

One of the best ways to get under the skin of a project is to ask yourself why you did what you did. When you ask why you start unpicking the creative thinking behind a project and processes that you may not even have been aware of or may have been forgotten. Dig deep.

How to write in your voice, to length

Start your award submission with your strongest points – your key messages – first. Entries that win awards make it easy for jurors to see what makes the project exceptional. Bullet points are effective ways to make information stand out.

Follow the golden writing rules:

  • avoid clichés;
  • delete redundant words or descriptions;
  • add details to create a clear picture. Here’s a good test: If your award entry didn’t include images, would your text paint a mental image of the project for the jurors?
  • use active voice to create more impactful writing.

Ask someone to edit your work a few weeks before submission, to give you time to make changes. And have it proofed before submission.
Of course be sure to spell check, keep to word lengths, and submit all materials requested. It’s amazing how many entrants fail to follow these basic rules. Observing them will get you to first base. But to go the distance requires an eye-catching project that’s brought to life by a compelling story and some genuine points of difference.

Good luck!

Writing, marketing and communications for design businesses. Join Verity Campbell’s weekly newsletter for new ideas, tips and advice for your building design practice. Sign up at www.veritycampbell.com.au/newsletter