Award Submission Advice

Professor Alan Tate, former Chair of the CSLA Awards of Excellence Program, provides suggestions on how to prepare a submission to the Awards of Excellence program

Professor Alan Tate chaired the CSLA Awards of Excellence Committee from 2001 to 2018. During that time, he has observed more than a dozen juries juries reviewing more than 600 entries. These suggestions are based on this experience, as well as comments from jurors, observers and award winners.

The CSLA would like to thank Professor Tate for sharing his advice.



It is important to ensure visual and verbal clarity in all aspects of the submission. Remember that jury members might be asked to review up to 80 submissions in two days. A winning submission must therefore stand out. In particular, jurors will be attracted to projects which:

  • are innovative
  • promote the discipline
  • demonstrate excellence.

This can be summarized as “providing clear evidence of making the world a better place”.

Entrants should consider staging in-house reviews of projects before finalizing their submissions. These self-evaluations should be as honest, harsh and detached as possible. Ask yourself: why is this project worthy of an award?


Entrants should consider using professional photographers to document their work, and they should be highly selective over the images that they submit. Images should illustrate the project clearly and concisely and should also enable viewers from outside the profession to understand the project.

Wherever possible, images should show people using the project and should demonstrate the diversity of user experiences that are provided by the project.


Jurors are sifting through thousands of words of text. The verbal description of projects has to grab them in the first 10 seconds. Edit it. Then edit it again. Make it as sparse as possible. Make it powerful and purposeful. Just as you could use a professional photographer, you could also use professional copy editor.

The text should be a direct response to the judging criteria and it should present the project in the context of the social and cultural history of the site.



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