Graphic Design Competitions 2018: The Top 10 to Get You Noticed

Graphic design competitions: are they really worth all the hype? Your reputation as a designer can either make or break your career, so it is vital to build a good reputation from the start of your professional journey if you aspire to make it big in the fast-paced and competitive design industry.

A great way to get your name – and your work – out there is to enter, and win, graphic design competitions.

One of the major perks of being a graphic design student is the abundance of student design competitions you are eligible to enter. There are many student-centered competitions that allow design students to get their work out there for free, or at a fraction of the price of the industry-focused categories and comps.

But with so many to choose from, it’s hard to decide which event is worth your time and effort. To make it easier, we’ve gathered together a list of the top ten graphic design competitions that are guaranteed to get you noticed…

Top 10 Graphic Design Competitions 2018:

2. The Penguin Random House Student Design Award NOW CLOSED
3. The RSA Student Design Awards NOW CLOSED
4. YCN Student Awards NOW CLOSED
5. Design Week Awards NOW CLOSED
6. Design and Design Awards ALWAYS OPEN
7. GDFS International Poster Competition COMPETITION CLOSES 06.08.18
8. International Design Awards NOW CLOSED
9. London Design Awards UPCOMING
10. Chip Shop Awards NOW CLOSED

1. D&AD New Blood Awards

D&AD New Blood Awards – the iconic Pencil trophies

For many, the prestige of the D&AD wooden or yellow pencil is the créme de la créme of graphic design competitions. With such an esteemed reputation, having one of these bad boys on your CV is a sure-fire “in” to the industries top agencies.

“Creatives the world over value the D&AD New Blood Awards above any other. Winning truly marks you out as one of the best. Your future starts here.”

Graphic design competitions: D&AD New Blood Award Winner 2017
Net / Crowne Plaza – 2017 Winning D&AD New Blood Award Entry by Steven O’Neil and Perry Rowe

In order to achieve this accolade, you must innovatively and creatively answer a design brief provided by real-world big name companies. All of the briefs are open to anyone aged between 18 and 23 years old, students of any age, as well as recent graduates of any age. D&AD New Blood Awards are open for international entries too.

If you haven’t submitted already, you’ve missed the boat next year. But keep an eye out for next year’s dates!

Key Dates 2017/2018

Autumn 2017 D&AD New Blood Briefs Launch
7 February 2018 Entry Site Opens
NOW CLOSED Submission Deadline
May 2018 Winners announced
12 July 2018 D&AD New Blood Festival, London
12-14 July 2018 D&AD New Blood Awards Ceremony
July 2018 D&AD New Blood Academy – an exclusive boot camp for New Blood Pencil winners

2. The Penguin Random House Student Design Award

If you are a UK-based student studying an art or design course at HND or degree level, or an MA student, you can submit your entry for the Penguin Random House Design Award.

For your chance to win, simply create a book cover design for one or all of the following categories: Adult Fiction Cover Award, Children’s Cover Award, and Adult Non-Fiction Cover Award. You can submit a maximum of one design for each category.


The Penguin Random House Student Design Award is one of the most prestigious student design awards, as well as an excellent opportunity for your work to be seen by a wide audience. The winner of the award will be offered a four week work placement with the Penguin Random House.

Non-UK residents are also welcome to enter the competition, but all entrants must be eligible to work in the UK, so that if they win first prize they can be employed on the work placement.

Key Dates 2018

NOW CLOSED Submission Deadline
Wednesday 25th April Shortlist announcement
Thursday 10th May Closing date for shortlisted student’s final submissions by 12:00 noon GMT
Wednesday 20th June Winners announced

3. The RSA Student Design Awards

The RSA Student Design Awards present a fantastic opportunity for students from all around the globe to work on industry-level creative briefs and to get their names noticed among the wider design community.

The awards are based in the UK but international students and graduates can all take part. Winning and shortlisted entries for previous RSA graphic design competitions have included students from Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Hong Kong, Australia and the UAE.

Winning Entry from Thomas Howell-Jones (RSA Student Design Awards 2017)

A grand total of 108,008 students have entered the RSA Awards since 1924 and an eye-watering 2070 briefs have been issued over their 93 year lifespan. Last year £42,000 in cash prizes and paid industry placements were awarded.

Key Dates 2017/2018

August 2017 Briefs launch online + registration opens
Mon 15th January 2018 Competition opens for submissions
Wed 14th February 2018 Deadline for ‘early bird’ submission by 4pm GMT
NOW CLOSED Submission Deadline
Tuesday 22nd May 2018 Winners announced
June 2018 Awards Ceremony at the RSA

4. YCN Student Awards

The YCN Student Awards are another great place to showcase your work if you are still in education or a recent graduate. The awards have separate programmes for Europe and North America, but the timings and entry guidelines for both are the same. However, the entrants from each continent have to work on different creative briefs.

Similarly to the D&AD Awards, the YCN Awards work with a list of partner organisations. They make the creative briefs for each category. The awards are very competitive, and since you have to work on a real-life project we couldn’t recommend them more!

Key Dates 2017/2018

Friday 20th October 2017 Call for Entries
January 2018 Awards Entry uploader live
NOW CLOSED Submission Deadline

5. Design Week Awards

The Design Week Awards are among the top awards in the design industry. Prizes are given in several categories including Identity Design, Brand Campaigns, Print Communications, Poster Design and Furniture Design.

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that these graphic design competitions are harder to get into, but if you’re beyond the aforementioned student competitions or simply have an industry-smashing idea, it’s worth entering as winning can bring you a great deal of publicity.

As with many graphic design competitions, all submissions for the Design Week Awards must include an explanatory brief and may also, where applicable, include digital supporting material and physical samples.

Key Dates 2018

NOW CLOSED Submission Deadline

6. Design and Design Awards

Graphic design competitions: Design and Design

The Design and Design Awards have been created for designers by a fellow designer. They are described as “an independent and non-profit on/off-line venture developed by Marc Praquin to help talented designers to promote for free their work on an international basis”.

You can submit your work to be considered for the awards at any time. However, there are two main categories you can choose from – graphic design and product or packaging design.

Design and Design Website

We recommend you check their gallery of previous winners to get a better idea of the quality of the projects submitted. Although these awards do not work in the way most other competitions on this list work, you can still get great publicity for your design project.

7. GDFS International Poster Competition

Based in Scotland ourselves, it would be remiss of us not to mention the homegrown success of the Graphic Design Festival Scotland; launched in 2014, GDFS has grown year on year. Celebrating their 5th birthday, this year’s GDFS will be shaking up the Glasgow design scene from 19th – 25th October.

This success is shared by its International Poster Competition, that to date has received, showcased and championed thousands of contemporary poster design entries from around the world.

This year the three winning poster designs will be awarded cash prizes, with a curated selection of entries exhibited in Scotland’s National Centre for Design & Architecture.

If you happen to be in Glasgow, pop along to The Lighthouse between the 19th October – 23rd November 2018 to have a look for yourself! Alternatively, you can grab a copy of the 2016 or 2017 International Poster Books which accompanied previous years’ exhibitions for inspiration!

Key Dates 2018

6th August GDFS International Poster Competition Deadline
19th – 25th October Graphic Design Festival Scotland

8. International Design Awards

The International Design Awards are presented in a variety of categories, including graphic design. They are open to all graphic designers, advertising agencies and studios out there that have exciting projects of conceptual, in-progress or completed work to share with the world.

Anyone can enter and the entry fees start from $30 for students and from $50 for professionals.

Graphic design competitions: International Design Awards Winner 2016
“Graphic Design of the Year” awarded to Phoenix The Creative Studio (International Design Awards Winner 2016)

If you are a student entering the awards, here is what you can win:

“a publication of your work in the IDA Book of Designs, to be distributed to museum bookstores nationwide; promotion in a newsletter to 100,000 design professionals and potential clients worldwide; year-long coverage on the International Design Awards website; and critical acclaim by a distinguished panel of judges.”

If this appeals to you, try your luck in their graphic design category.

Key Dates 2017/2018

30th November 2017 Early Bird Deadline (10% Discount)
31st January 2018 Extended Early Bird Deadline (5% Discount)
28th February 2018 Regular Deadline
NOW CLOSED Submission Deadline

9. London Design Awards

Graphic design competitions: London Design Awards Winner 2017
Vodafone / Brand Union – Graphic Design – Identity and Branding Category Winner (London Design Awards 2017)

The London Design Awards are part of the design100 range of award programmes. They provide a platform for businesses to reach out to a highly specialised audience through the design100 Awards communication streams.

With only two Graphic Design categories last year, they have expanded to a grand total of five:

To enter their graphic design competition, you have to “nominate” a piece of your work. Once nominated, your submission will be reviewed and available for the public to rate and appreciate, so get involved and help out your fellow designers by rating this year’s entries.

Key Dates

17th May Standard Deadline
13th September Late Deadline
4th October Judging & Ratings
10th October Rating Closes
11th October Winners Announced
22nd November Awards Presentation

10. Chip Shop Awards

Looking for something a bit more risqué or rock ‘n’ roll? The Chip Shop Awards pride themselves on providing a competition celebrating ‘pure, unadulterated creativity’, and in this competition, anything goes…

“Rather than have anyone bend or break the rules of more exacting awards schemes, we decided the industry needed a platform where anything and everything was allowed. Got a great campaign idea for a product that doesn’t yet exist? Enter it. Think you could improve an existing advert? Go for it. Got a concept for a brand you’d love to work for in the future? We want to see it.

Whatever you’re capable of, don’t hold back.”

Whatsmore, the winner of the 2018 Grand Prix receives a £1,000 cash prize! Their motto is “Everyone can enter but not everyone can win”, so head over to their site to find out what categories peak your interest.

Key Dates

NOW CLOSED Submission Deadline
Monday 23rd April Nominations Announced
June Awards Ceremony

We do warn you, their website does contain some unsavory content. This competition isn’t for the faint-hearted…

Top 10 Graphic Design Competitions:

1. D&AD
2. The Penguin Random House Student Design Award
3. The RSA Student Design Awards
4. YCN Student Awards
5. Design Week Awards
6. Design and Design Awards
7. GDFS International Poster Competition
8. International Design Awards
9. London Design Awards
10. Chip Shop Awards

Are you a keen photographer as well? You can try your luck with one of these top photography awards.

We hope you enjoyed this article on graphic design competitions and feel inspired. Let us know what you think in the comments section below, and don’t forget to share:

6 thoughts on “Graphic Design Competitions 2018: The Top 10 to Get You Noticed

  1. I recommend the A’ Design Awards program. Entry is not free but you can get a free preliminary score for your work. Plus students, young professionals and individual graphic designers get a good discount, not 20% but more like 80% compared to enterprises or large advertising agencies. You will want to check the Graphics and Visual Communication Design Award category at A’ Design Awards website. There are also packaging design and photo-manipulation categories as well as a separate illustration category.

  2. I recommend Taiwan’s Golden Pin Design Award. It’s mainly full of Taiwanese and Chinese designers, but anyone from anywhere in the world can enter. An added benefit is the exposure you get in Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, and the rest of Asia. There is also the Golden Pin Concept Design Award for concepts, which is free to enter.

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