Winning Entries: Is Your Product or Installation a Winner?
November 1st, 2006

November-December 2006

Whether it is for the glory or the money, everyone likes to be a winner. The trouble with most contests is that the odds are so stacked against the individual that many contests are hardly worth the bother to enter. With the lottery, for example, they say that you’re more likely to be struck by lightning than to win. So what’s the point of even trying? Well, for one thing, you can’t win if you don’t enter. For another, you can forget about odds when the contest isn’t one of chance but one of skill and talent.

In the case of tile design awards, entrants can flaunt their innovative and beautiful new installations to win a bit of money. Perhaps even more valuably, entering design competitions gives designers, architects, and even manufacturers recognition among their peers and provides a showplace for many people to see the installation. This, along with all the media attention surrounding the contests, has the potential to bring in additional business.

Binnie Fry is a specialized-tile dealer who provides tile, glass, materials and advice for public art projects through her company, Specialty Tiles, located in Washington DC. She has won many awards, most recently a Spectrum Award of Merit in 2005. Although she hasn’t been able to quantify her win to direct sales, she says, “It definitely translates into reputation.” Of the three times she’s entered the competition, she’s won twice, once in 1998 and once in 2005. “I really don’t see any drawbacks to entering,” she says.

Within the tile industry, there are several international design awards that are available for entry by distributors, architects, and designers. These awards sometimes have just a few dozen entrants or less.

Of course, those who do enter have put time and energy into presenting their best projects, so the fact that there are only a few competitors certainly does not mean that winning is guaranteed. Still, the entry process is pretty straightforward. For those who are already designing gorgeous installations and photographing them, it’s worthwhile to go ahead and submit to one of the many design competitions and see what happens.

There are many different competitions available with the largest and most prestigious being the Spectrum Awards, the Prism Stone in Architecture Awards, the Tile of Spain Awards, and the Ceramic Tiles of Italy Design Competition.

The Spectrum Award

Spectrum Awards are sponsored by Coverings and coordinated by five sponsoring organizations: Assopiastrelle, ASCER, the Tile Council of North America, the National Tile Contractors Association and the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association.

According to Spectrum’s promotional material, “The Spectrum Awards competition celebrates creativity and achievement in the use of ceramic tile in residential and commercial projects.” Along with the Prism awards, the Spectrum winners are announced on the opening day of Coverings and large images of the winners’ projects are on display in the lobby throughout the show.

“I think of all the awards, Spectrum provides the best publicity and is the most open of the design competitions. When you win you get lots of PR,” says Fry.

Guidelines for entry to the 2007 Spectrum awards are expected to be similar to past years, as are the entry process and fees of $100 for the first entry and $85 for additional entries. Forms will be available online starting in November. Electronic copies of the identification sheet and project descriptions will have to be submitted in addition to the usual hard copies. There will also be some enhancements to the entry forms based on recommendations from last year’s judges.

In addition to the ID sheet, and the electronic submission, there must be at least four printed 8×10 photographs of each project, both printed and submitted on a CD. The deadline for entry is February 2007.

According to Wendy Diep, Marketing Specialist for National Trade Productions, “The required project description sheet will incorporate added questions such as, ‘How did the material used enhance the quality of the project’ and ‘What other materials were considered as well?’”

Diep adds, “The prize money for the grand prize winner will most likely remain $10,000 and the prizes for the sub-categories would be similar to the 2006 program.” In addition, first prizes for the residential and commercial categories are $2,500 each and awards of merit in the residential and commercial categories are $1,500 each.

This year’s grand prize winner, artist Mike Mandel, of Watertown, MA, won for his dramatic mosaic tile design in the Charlotte Arena. The 27 foot tall public art project represents the history of basketball in the Carolinas using half a million unglazed porcelain and opaque glass tiles.

Even though Mandel has won Spectrum awards twice before, (once a commercial award, and in 1999 another grand prize,) he almost forgot to enter in 2006. “I went to the website and found out that it was only ten days before the entry deadline,” says Mandel. “So I hurried to get the photographs and enter at the last minute.”

“I am not connected to the tile industry. I’m an artist,” says Mandel. “So the fact that I’ve won, and won now more than once, indicates to me that the jurors are really interested in rewarding what they consider to be creative tile projects. I’m an outsider, but I’ve gotten recognition, so it isn’t about who you know.”

The Prism Stone in Architecture Awards

The Prism Awards recognize excellence in the use of architectural projects where stone was an integral material. These awards are sponsored by the Marble Institute of America and Architectural Record and are promoted along with the Spectrum awards. Categories, entries, and the awards are all similar to the Spectrum awards.

This year’s grand prize went to Conventional Stone and Marble Corporation for their work on 90 West Street Building in New York. The award acknowledged the thoughtful renovation of an historical landmark following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.

The Spectrum and Prism awards will be presented at Coverings in 2007, April 17–20 at Chicago’s McCormick Place Convention Center. See for more information about entering the Spectrum and Prism awards, or for the show.

Tile of Spain Architecture and Interior Design Awards

Sponsored by the Spanish Ceramic Tile Manufacturers Association (ASCER), the annual awards honor the creative use of ceramic tiles from Spain in architectural and interior design projects. There is also a degree projects category aimed at young architects. This year the jury awarded first prize to Pedro García Martínez for “Interchange at the Glorieta de Cuatro Caminos (Madrid)”.

In the fourth year of the competition the jury considered approximately 50 entries in all, which came from professional architects, interior designers, structural engineers, landscape architects and decorators of various nationalities. Prizes for the Architecture and Interior Design categories were 18,000 €. (approximately $23,000) each in 2005. The winner of the Degree Projects Category won 9,000 €. (approximately $11,500.)

There is no entry fee or form for the awards. Submissions must include a minimum of 3 photos (maximum of 10) showing the quality of the project. Images must also be submitted as slides (Size 6×6 cm minimum) or digital photos 300 dpi. Submissions must also include a plan of the project (digitally and on paper), a brief explanation, including the type of products used and the names of manufacturers (600 word maximum), and the credentials of the designer or designers of the project.

The deadline for submitting entries and the required documentation is October 31, 2006. The full rules and regulations can be viewed on Winners will be announced at an international press conference at Cevisama 2007 in Valencia February 6–10, 2007.

Work eligible to be entered for these two categories must have been completed between January 2005 and October 2006. It is a prerequisite that any work entered must have made use of ceramic floor and/or wall tiles made in Spain, and that these feature significantly as a material in the visible part of the building.

Ceramic Tiles of Italy Design Competition

Sponsored by Assopiastrelle, the Association of Italian Tile Manufacturers and the Italian Trade Commission, this design competition awards the best projects using Italian ceramic tile in projects from the past five years. According to the entry form, the jury bases their decision on “Overall design of the space as well as how the tiles meet their function and technical requirements.”

This competition had 50 submissions in 2006. The winner in the residential category was the Line House by Hufft: Projects which used over 3,000 sq ft of tile in a modern home located in Springfield, MO. Architect Matthew Hufft found out about the contest from an ad in a magazine.

“It took about 4 to 6 hours to put together the book for the submission. We already had the design, the drawings and the photographs,” said Hufft.

The Institutional winner was the San Diego County Regional Airport authority for their use of porcelain to match existing limestone. The commercial winner was Rusico Studio for the Place Fleur de Lys shopping mall in Quebec City, Canada. There was also a special recognition for mosaic excellence award for Rene Gonzalez architect for the Cisneros Fontanals Art fountain in Miami. This fountain used over one million tiles in 107 different colors.

Italy is good at publicizing the winning entries, garnering loads of positive publicity for the winners. In 2004 they published a soft cover book honoring the winners from the first decade of winners, Ten Years of Design Excellence: Ceramic Tiles of Italy Across America, which they handed out at Coverings.

This year, the prize is $5000, a trip to Coverings and a five-day trip to Bologna, Italy to attend Cersaie 2007. Another feature of the Italian competition is the additional $1000 that will be awarded to the winning contractor and distributor team. The deadline for submissions is February 9, 2007. For more information, contact Novità Communications at


Apart from just entering, what does it take to win an award? Basically, having a stunning project using quality tiles in a creative way. According to the Spectrum entry brochure, “Certainly vision is important. Talent and skill to pull off that vision. A strong knowledge of materials in order to specify the right tile and install it properly. And, it doesn’t hurt to have a great client.”

This last part can be tricky, especially in residential installations. Kristin Powers of Trikeenan Tileworks says, “Entering isn’t always up to you. The homeowners have to agree to allow their home to be photographed.” She explains how Trikeenan provided the tile for a beautiful home that included eight rooms full of tile, but the homeowners refused to have the house photographed for entry into a contest.

It’s never too soon to plan for the future. Last year Hufft considered submitting the Line House only after construction was finished. Now he’s working on another home and he’s already thinking about entering it in a tile competition. “We have a house in New York that is still in the design phase. We’re two years away from being able to submit,” he says.

Awards that come to you

Some awards can’t be entered—they find you. Assopiastrelle hosts the American Distributor Awards, which rewards North American distributors “For their dedication to the promotion and use of Italian ceramic tiles in the North American marketplace.” This decision is based on several factors: competence as importer and distributor of Italian tile, a preference for Italian ceramic tile, fair-trade practices, and best showroom and corporate image. This year’s winner was New Jersey-based Wayne Tile.

Mapei hosts a competition called the “Grand Prix of Reference Projects.” This international contest is in its fifth year and the winner is announced at Cersaie. The contest awards unique use of the product, and as corporate communications specialist Diane Choate describes it, “Using the right product for the right job.” Company representatives enter their clients in the contest and fill out the forms. There is no cash prize for the architect, designer, installer or contractor. “Just the bragging rights,” says Choate. “We also have the photographs of all the entries on our website, and industry magazines publish stories about the winners.”

Trikeenan Tileworks won a “Best-in-Show” award at Coverings in 2005 for best booth under 500 square feet. “You don’t even know that they’re looking at your booth until the third day when they announce the winner. It was a great surprise and honor,” said Powers.

What’s in it for you?

Powers says winning awards is helpful for business. “People are responsive. They’ll say, ‘We saw this on the website.’ I’ve found that people tend to like to work with products that they think others appreciate.”

“Winning contests helps with exposure. Anytime you enter contests you get exposure and getting recognized is always good for public relations,” she says.

According to Mandel, “Did winning at Coverings help my business? I don’t think so. But all these things together have a cumulative effect. Sometimes it takes a long time, but it is always good to be recognized.”

“I don’t think the contest directly helped the business,” says Hufft of his Tiles of Italy win. “But it certainly helps indirectly with resume building and with publicity. I would absolutely do it again, of course. This is a great avenue for architects and designers to publicize their works.”

Everyone likes to be a winner, especially if the victory honors hard work and accomplishment. If a bit of publicity or a cash prize come with the honors, all the better.

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