6 Tips For Winning A Design Award

Architecture design tips

Last updated on March 20, 2024.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is known for bringing together licensed architects, industry professionals, and people seeking educational and networking opportunities to share the latest news and resources to continually push building architecture and design to new heights.

As a former Allied Board Member for the Redwood Empire Chapter and committee member for the 2018 AIARE Design Awards, I previously helped facilitate AIA Chicago’s jury submission review, gaining valuable insight into the review process. In doing so, can share some key takeaways for how to put forth your best work to the panel of jurors.

1)  TELL THE STORY.   It is important for the jury members to understand the intent, goal, and reason why the project was built. Essentially, relay the passion behind the project. Be concise. Be poetic. Be pragmatic.

2)  SHOW THE SITE PLAN.   Projects missing a site plan were quickly dismissed as the jury felt there was not full transparency behind the presentation. In the 2016 AIARE reviews, Francis Ching, a former instructor, refused to review any presentation without a site plan.

3)  BACK TO THE STORY.   Maintain a concise and clear vision. Long winded descriptions were irritating and overlooked.  One paragraph, 200 words should do the trick.

4)  SHOW THE PROJECT IN SCALE.   Your presentation needs to provide the jury with a varying focus of the project in drawing scale and images. Similar to the book S,M,L,XL (Koolhaas & Mau, 1995), jurors have made comments stating images appear to be too medium and there needs to be representation on a larger scale.

5)  RENDERINGS.   Virtual renderings can make or break the presentation so, if used, be sure to practice and refine execution. Any low quality virtual renderings will be dismissed. On the contrary, hand drawn sketches that are developed into high-resolution images are well-liked as it shows the process and hints at the project’s story.

6)  SUBMIT FOR THE RIGHT CATEGORY.   Your submission may fall into one or more categories, but when deciding be selective and correct. The first step in the review process is to confirm if categories are correct. If the incorrect category is selected for your project, your submission will be eliminated as a contender.


Do you have experience in the AIA awards review process?  If so, please share your ideas or advice on this subject below.