For most AEC firms, winning a prestigious design award is a huge opportunity. That kind of recognition brings with it lots of great free press, but it also validates a firm in the eyes of potential new clients. Awards can directly result in new business.
As an architectural photographer, I’ve worked with many trusted industry professionals throughout the years. A select group of these individuals ultimately serve as the jurors that give out prestigious AEC industry awards like the AIA Connecticut Honor Award, the CREW CT Blue Ribbon Awards “Best in Class” Award, the CT ABC “Best in Show” Award, and the CBC Project Team Awards “New Construction” Award. Through our ongoing conversations with them I’ve learned a few tips and tricks for setting your design apart from the competition.
The simplest, most tangible thing you can do to improve your chances of winning an AEC design award in the next year is…
I know, I know. I’m a professional architectural photographer, so I’ve got a vested interest. But hear me out! There really is very solid logic behind this recommendation and I’ve personally seen it work more than a dozen times over.
According to many of the experts and judges I’ve talked to, around 25% of the consideration provided to your next design award submission will be based on architectural project photography.
That’s right. Forgoing professional photography is like leaving up to one quarter of your “points” on the table. If you enter a competition with do-it-yourself photos you’ll, at best, not be penalized (unconsciously or not) for your visual representation. At worst? Your submission will look amateur compared to everyone else. It’s in your best interest to do whatever you can to prolong the judges’ engagement with your work.
Here’s the thing…You have to approach an award submission like you would an RFP. You wouldn’t expect a new client to give you their confidence off a few iPhone photos and a snappy project title, and you shouldn’t expect award judges to, either.
The way I see it, there are two components to every effective AEC award submission: Data and Storytelling. You’ve got to support your entry with data (i.e. delivery ahead-of-schedule, accuracy of historical details, etc.) and you’ve also got to tell a story. The story part is, arguably, the most important, particularly if it’s a design award you’re after. The good news is, professional photography supports both the data and the story at once.
Your storytelling should focus on how you met and exceeded the goals of your client, and also the goals of the project itself. Great photos emphasize the point! The story of your project should invoke an emotional response in the judges; this is where the right words and the right images work together to create something special.
Here’s how great AEC photography can help you win awards.
- A successful photo story will make it clear to the judges what was important about the project, whether that was smart use of a small parcel or creating an evocative sense of place.
- Intriguing photographs encourage judges to keep looking, revealing new insights about your project one layer at a time. “Bad” or otherwise unsuccessful photos can lead to disinterest. Remember, first impressions are everything!
- Clear, large imagery throughout your submission shows you put as much thought into the design of a project as you did the logistics. A good shot listensures the photographs you end up with tell that story.
- Take advantage of captions! They give you more opportunities to tell your project’s story. Captions aren’t usually limited in length and won’t usually count against your total word cap.
And don’t forget…completed award submissions can also act as abstracts for industry conferences or even double as PR tools. You’ve already spent a great deal of effort telling the story of your project, so you might as well double-down on that investment by utilizing your polished award submission for some other purpose.
Great AEC photography can win you awards.