The Procrastinator's Guide to Young Guns
By Brett McKenzie on Aug 04, 2017
Last-minute tips from past Young Guns winners to help get you to the entry finish line
So the initial deadline for Young Guns 15 came and went, with hundreds of creative professionals from nearly 40 different countries all vying for their chance to join that exclusive club of superstars that the global portfolio competition has become.
And then there's you.
You saw the extended final deadline of August 11, and surmised that ponying up the $35.00 late fee was worth it, if it meant having a few extra days to finesse your entry.
Fortunately we managed to wrangle up a little last-minute assistance to help you get your act — and your submission — together and prepare your entry. We reached out to a collection of past Young Guns winners and asked them to offer any advice to those of you scrambling to join them in their collaborative community of creative hotshots.
VP of Design
Young Guns 8 Winner
As far as practical advice, experience and presentation is almost as important as the work itself. I have seen great work die on the vine because it wasn't presented in an effective way. The best advice is to keep it a simple, seamless experience that tells a story.
As far as the actual work goes, remember that every entry should be impactful. I saw 2 Chainz speak once about how he works with his producers. He tells every producer to "give me three beats that you think will buy your Momma a new house!" If your Young Guns entry isn't going to help transform your career, then don't bother.
Now for the psychological boost: remember that Young Guns is an exclusive club, but applying is also pretty badass. It means that you are confident and willing to take a risk. In general, that's how every creative should be. Also, not everyone gets it the first time. Often times it takes up to five or six entries to win. If you have the patience, confidence, and work ethic it could very well pay off.
Designer & Letterer
Young Guns 12 Winner
Young Guns 15 Jury Member
Entering a competition like Young Guns is nerve wracking, I get it, and the most stressful part is probably editing your work down to your very best and most representative pieces. Because it’s so insanely difficult to be objective, I recommend enlisting the help of a friend or two, whose taste and judgement you really, really trust, and have them ruthlessly evaluate your entry as a whole.
It doesn't end there, though; keep in mind that you’re not just curating the projects you want to show, but also how you’re showing them! Take full advantage of the pixels you’re given and show one large, powerful, sexy image instead of ganging up six tiny ones. Whenever possible, show systems, materials, and assets; use this opportunity to finally get that new work properly photographed—you can always use those images on your website later on!
Finally, don’t let insecurity hold you back—we all feel like imposters now and then, I promise! I didn’t win the first time I entered, and I can assure you that rejection is often a lot easier to cope with than regret.
VP, Creative Director
Crown Publishing Group
Young Guns 13 Winner
It took me a few shots to become a Young Guns winner, and I ended up taking advantage of the late entry every single time. Procrastination is a bad habit of mine, but putting that aside, it's worth taking your time with your entry and making sure that you focus your presentation. Having your work professionally photographed goes a long way and can make a great project look even better.
I tried to make sure that I showed range with the pieces that I selected. As someone who works almost exclusively in book publishing, I really wanted to try to show at least as couple of things that weren't book jackets. When all of your projects are the same exact shape and size, that can feel a little boring. Once you sit down and look at all of your favorite projects, you might start to notice patterns and realize that some of them look more similar than you'd like. I ended up cutting things out that I thought I would definitely include just to make sure that I had enough variety.
Lastly, make sure you build in some time to write something about each of your projects. It's easy to overlook this, and it can take a while if you want to do it right. The judges have a ton of entries to look through, so you want to be short and sweet, but some background information or insight into the design process might help them to better understand your work and give them a greater appreciation.
Creative Director, Designer, Illustrator, Dazzle Queen
Young Guns 13 Winner
Young Guns 15 Jury Member
What's the point of starting if you don't finish? For all you 'I will do it tomorrow' people, here's some tips I think might help your application.
Be memorable! How are you going to make the most impression on the jury is a key! Think about all the people are applying, how to stand out from the crowd is extra important. For example, I submitted a personal project about penis~
Be cohesive! All of the Young Guns winners have a distinctive style, yet not be limited to the medium, platform or the size of the projects. Which projects can showcase you as an artist with a specific point of view yet with range so it doesn't feel flat. I picked all my bold colorful projects into the competition, sad that some more tasteful projects didn't get into the application, but my case is much stronger.
Be you! Stay true to yourself and be honest with the work. So the work will feel authentic and genuine. Lastly, you won't die from not getting it this time and you also won't go straight to heaven by getting it. Be chill about this, no one likes drama queen.
Good luck ❤️
JUAN CARLOS PAGAN
Co-Founder & Creative Director
Young Guns 11 Winner
Fellow procrastinators, Cheers for taking the first step and deciding to enter Young Guns. That alone is no small feat. It is without question the most intimidating award show I have ever entered. The first piece of advice I’d like to give you is make sure you follow through and enter. It’s easy and tempting to talk yourself out of entering, but follow though and enter. No one who enters, or has entered in the past truly believed that they had a chance in winning, until they did.
It may seem obvious, but selecting your best work to enter is the most important and difficult task you’ll undertake. Be brutally honest with yourself about each entry. Each project should at once be impressive, and give the jury insight into your approach. Equally as important is the curation of the entry itself. The judges may have never seen your work. Therefore it is crucial that each entry is both displayed beautifully, and is quickly understandable. Share your entry with a confidant to see if they understand each project. I shared my entry with a past winner before I entered. It was hugely insightful.
Lastly, hit the "enter" button, then forget about it. I really truly mean this. Live your life, go enjoy the rest to the summer, make a ton of art. Don’t think about losing or winning. It’s not healthy and won’t help. Keep in mind that you’re doing this for yourself, not a cube, not for the notoriety. You're challenging yourself to think about your work hyper critically, and pull together a portfolio that best represents your best work until this point. That alone is incredibly admirable.
The final deadline for Young Guns 15 entries is next Friday, August 11. All submissions are subject to a $35.00 USD late fee.