This month we all about celebrating and supporting new creativity. Our Papergang box for October has been created by Beth Tibbles, who won our Pitch A Papergang competition! Due to the on-going chatter of competition wins, newbie illustrators and submitting work, we thought it would be helpful to start up a conversation surrounding the yays and nays of creative competitions.

The YAYs


Competitions can be a great way to get your creative hat on and design something you might have never thought to try. They allow you to perhaps step out of your comfort zone and expand your portfolio, so pretty neat right? With the current impact of social media, many competitions are run on community platforms. Our Pitch A Papergang competition for instance was on Instagram alone, with people voting by “linking” their favourite design. If you’re a bit nervy when it comes to sharing your work online, this is an amazing way to build your internet presence and put yourself out there! You’ll begin to notice that actually, social media can be a really supportive place, with people commenting and sharing your work and even providing constructive criticism. As an illustrator and/or designer, Instagram is a fantastic place to grow as a creative.

Along with the points above, an important part of competitions is getting the recognition and payment you deserve. You get the chance to have your work shown in front of some quite important people: creative directors, marketing managers and publicists. If the piece you’ve submitted stands out from the crowd, you’ll be remembered not only in terms of the one competition, but for future projects that might lend themselves to your style. Additionally, as money really does make the world go round, competitions can be a fabulous way to also get a cheeky bit of additional income. Here at Ohh Deer, the winners of our competitions are treated as fairly as their contracted counterparts, as everyone is entitled to a fee that showcases their worth as a talented creative! Winner winner.

The NAYs

Sadly, with the good comes the bad. Many creative competitions are just an easy way for big corporations to get good ideas in return for cheap labour. So cheap that in-fact most competitions are unpaid. Companies brand these competitions as a way for winners to gain “exposure” (which we all thought was left in 2017 along with unpaid internships). Other businesses like to resort to gift cards as a way of payment. A recent episode of this has been high-street fashion brand Monki; as a reward for submitting your ideas you get to win a 500 euro gift card. Amazing! This will really help pay the rent!!! What’s more, the company will print your submission onto sweat shirts, and you get to see absolutely no income from the profits Monki will make from YOUR work.

Source: instagram/monki

Source: instagram/monki

Furthermore, some competitions will actually make YOU pay to enter! This is common practice for many student competitions such as the RSA Student Design Awards; they have an entry fee of £35 which is a lot of money for a student. In a recent article by It’s Nice That, titled “You aren’t a winner of design awards unless you pay – is it worth it?” speaks from Braulio Amado’s point of view when he states that he had to pay over $400 to even start receiving awards from the competition, even though he won! Amado concludes the article with “Sure, I do get to see my work on a wall and in a book, and I get to use this award to help with my visa re-application, but really? $410?” he states “I think it’s ironic that I had to pay them more than what I got paid myself for originally designing the two posters that won the awards.”

Overall, it’s worth looking and doing your research before entering any type of creative competition. Look at what the reward for your work will be and take into consideration if it’s really worth your time. Ask yourself - “If I don’t win this, will this still be enjoyable for me to participate in? Or will it add any worth to my portfolio?”

Further reading:


Below we chat to some of our own Ohh Deer & Papergang winners to hear their view and experiences when it comes to creative competitions!

Illustrator & Pattern Designer - Jacqueline Colley


“I actually often encourage people that are starting out to get involved in competitions as I've really benefitted from them myself and will still occasionally enter a competition if it ticks a few boxes! Such as: are the people judging it THE people that I want to see my work? Sometimes a competition is a great way to get your work in front of someone you admire who would otherwise be unlikely to stumble across your designs!

I'll also enter a competition for a company that I can see myself working with in the future as a way to strike up that relationship! I got involved in Ohh Deer's card competition as I had some designs in my portfolio and I thought my style might be a good fit, plus the competition was paid so if I did manage to win I'd also get paid! So for me it was a win win situation; an intro and a fee!

I've definitely made the mistake of entering competitions that in retrospect weren't really a good fit for me and so of course they didn't work out. Once I got totally schmoozed by a PR firm into making an illustration for a fashion brand, to possibly win some tickets to an event, it was a complete waste of my time as I didn't win and it wasn't the beginning of a relationship either. But I suppose we learn from these encounters. The best way to approach a competition is to ask yourself is this really a good fit for me and my style? Then if yes figure out how much time you can actually afford to spend on it.“

Graphic & Web Designer - Twin Pines (a.k.a Catherine Ings)


“Even after adding it to my to do list for weeks while the competition was running, I kept holding back entering, probably because I was convinced my work just wasn't good enough. It was only a couple of days before the competition closed that a number of friends and followers on Instagram kept tagging me in the competition posts and I finally got over all the imposter syndrome bullshit, put on my big girl pants and entered 4 designs into the competition. After all there was nothing to lose; the worst that could happen was that my designs weren't chosen anyway.

I had nothing to worry about though as I only bloody ended up being one of the winners of the competition and was asked to design a range of Twin Pines cards to sell with the legends that are Ohh Deer. Now there are tons of competitions that promise you the world, great exposure (Yeah, whatever. Like that pays the bills!) Or just leave you hanging, but 18 months down the line and I've created multiple different collections of cards and other goodies, learnt so much about the industry and really built up my confidence in my designs and ideas. I've had so many amazing opportunities since working with Ohh Deer and none of them would have happened if I'd let that stupid voice in the back of my head, saying I wasn't good enough, win. Not only that but I’ve actually earned cash monies too and haven't been conned into giving my ideas away for free like a lot of 'competitions' these days.“

Illustrator - Beth Tibbles

Oct 2018 Papergang Box Image Insta Square.jpg

“When I entered the Pitch a Papergang competition I felt like it could be a great opportunity, and something that could be beneficial to me and what I want to achieve as an artist. I was unsure about whether my work was good enough as I’m always comparing myself to others but I felt that I should give it my best shot anyway. What gave me that “hey, why not attitude” when entering was knowing that I had nothing to lose by submitting my work, but potentially a lot to gain, so I might as well go for it! I was so happy when I found out I had won, it was the best confidence boost to see how many people enjoyed what I had designed. After winning it’s been fantastic building good working relationships with Ohh Deer, I have been included in the design process and my opinion was always taken on board.

I know lots of competitions offer nothing as a prize, only exposure if you win, and although I think exposure is important, so is your time and effort you’re putting in. I find that when you start out as an illustrator, it is difficult to gage the value of your work and it’s easy to feel that the promise of some good exposure could lead onto great things. And that’s great if that happens. But it’s so much nicer to feel appreciated for all the hard work you have put in and to be paid for it in return.

I think if anyone wants to enter a competition you have to see if what you’re getting out of it at the end is actually worth your time and energy. It’s great when a company acknowledges you and your work; they understand that even though you’ve won a competition you still deserve the same treatment as any other artist they may work with. I would say don’t get caught up entering your work into any old competition, you want to be associated with companies that respect you and your ideas, and you should value yourself as an artist!”

Illustrator - Alex Willmore


“I’ve been really lucky with competitions in that I’ve only ever entered one and it was a win! I was so thrilled to have had a winning spot in the Go Card or Go Home comp. It was a really positive experience for me.

I think ultimately in the world of art you’re always creating work for exposure to some extent. Every portfolio piece, pitch, and sample for a project… it’s to be expected and does make sense. There are definitely limits though. I’ve heard some real horror stories.

I’m lucky in that I’ve only ever had a few instances where I’ve felt conned “working for exposure”. When I was just starting out I did some work for “exposure”. I was at university at the time and my tutors had warned me against it but I did it anyway. The working for free element aside, the results were pretty terrible, the publisher didn’t seem too worried about quality and the result was a piece of artwork I really wasn’t happy with… and the exposure I didn’t really want. Since then I’ve learned the importance of working with good art directors who can really serve as that much needed second pair of eyes. I’ve gone on to work with some amazing editors, designers, art directors and book designers to create work I’m really proud of. I think when a client is paying they understandably want the best and value your skills.

Working for free can be really beneficial or completely awful depending on the situation… I think all you can really ask for though is honesty.”

What are your views on this topic? Share them below in the comments and get the conversation started! Head over to the Papergang Instagram this month for more posts surrounding the topic of new creativity + subscribe to Beth’s amazing Papergang box!

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