A friend of mine loves to play Unreal Tournament, one of those multiple-player-first-person-kill-everything-in-sight-with-extreme-prejudice online games. For him, its all about the most kills in a row, most kills in one shot, and finding a good sniper position. In his words, its all about the awards.
I finished design school in 1990 and, during the next ten years as a print designer, I was enamored with all the awards and the resulting design annuals that populated the shelves where I worked. I spent hours pouring over Communication Arts and Print magazine looking for inspiration to finish a logo design or print ad. Id see the same names every year on the awards list and, year after year, mine was not among them. After a while I became disillusioned and stopped answering the call for entries.
Now Ill occasionally troll the site of the week or 40 best web designs sites, but Ive found most of the featured sites to be self-published portfolios, blogs or flash-only micro sites for high-end organizations. And it seems web design awards follow a similar route: all-flash sites with mystery meat navigation and very little compelling content. Mark Boulton, a designer across the pond in Wales, has a similar lament. Ive witnessed the high-gloss fad of web 2.0 give way to grunge design and deconstructivism. And, due to the social nature of the web, site content is now being given awards (digg, technorati, StumbleUpon).
As Ive spent more time as a blue-collar designer Ive come to understand that awards are nice, but its only a pat on the head from your peers (yes, Ive won a couple of awards). The real rewards of design are meeting a big challenge head-on, exceeding the clients expectations (as well as your own perceived limitations) and getting paid for a job well done.
I once received a client e-mail that read, I love my new site! You guys are f***ing awesome! You wont find that quote on Newfangleds testimonials page, but Ill take it over a Webby any day. Along with a paycheck.