"You don't win once in a while, you don't do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time. Winning is a habit." - Vince Lombardi
Design contests are often used as a marketing activity to drive awareness of a publication, create entrance fees, or promote a sponsor. That might be great for industry recognition, but it usually puts the customer last. After all, design is about solving the unique challenges every product or website presents for the benefit of the people who use them. That's not a competition.
Design is not a passive element, it's meant to be used. It's as much a verb as a noun. Understanding a solid design takes more than just looking at some screenshots or clicking on a few items. Knowing how a design solves a customer problem might take weeks to fully understand through feedback and metrics, and that's not something a competition can help figure out.
So, how does one win at design? Look at the bottom line. If the product or service has a throng of happy customers and solid profits, that's solid design. It may not win design awards or competitions, but it wins customers. As designers, it's our responsibility to put the needs of customers at the forefront and push our egos aside— even if it means "losing."
Leading the charge at ZURB since 1998