The New Procrastinator's Guide To Entering Young Guns
By Brett McKenzie on Jul 20, 2021
Last-minute tips from those who have been in your shoes... and won
The final deadline for Young Guns 19 is almost here, when hundreds of young creative professionals from across the globe and a multitude of disciplines put it all on the line, all in hopes of being named to this elite family of superstars.
So of course you left things to the very last minute.
You definitely wouldn't be the first to do so. Traditionally, the overwhelming majority of Young Guns entries are submitted in the last few days, as creatives obsess over every single detail. They know that the difference between Young Guns glory and disappointment can be measured in millimeters, and so everything needs to be absolutely perfect. Still, it's hard to know if you're doing the right thing, causing many creatives to hover over that "submit" button with trepidation.
Fortunately for all of you in the final stretch, we've gathered valuable advice from people who know exactly what you're feeling. These creatives have all won Young Guns before, with some of them taking several attempts to finally succeed. So if you're at all hesitant about finally wrapping up your submission, we know you'll find words of wisdom from those who've already walked in your shoes.
*By the way, there is an old procrastinator's guide as well...
If you don’t procrastinate, there is a strong chance we can’t be friends (half joking. sorta). I’ve procrastinated as long as I can remember. And at every stage. Elementary school book reports, university term papers, client deadlines, grant proposals… all of it. Look, I get it. Besides, everything is a little spicier when the clock is ticking, and the pressure is on.
But don’t let my fondness of chaos come off as an endorsement to craft an entry in disarray. I have had the honor of jurying three winning classes and I want to help position yourself to stand out in a hyper-competitive field.
When compiling your entry, my first point of advice is stylistic consistency. I want to be able to look at work and immediately say “That looks like the work of so and so.” Second is to think about the uniqueness of you. Think about how only you see the world the way you do; this is your most valuable currency. These sensibilities should consistently spill into both your client and personal works. I will always value a fresh and unique point of view over awards and high-profile client work with stylistic inconsistencies. Embrace your vision and push your creative currency, the awards and clients will come later. And often.
Lastly, just enter. Don’t wait until you think it’s perfect or ready…. It will never be. That feeling doesn’t goes away, and if it does, you’re in trouble. It’s a lifelong process rooted in creative evolution with fleeting feelings of contentment and accomplishments… a beautiful endeavor.
Best of luck and looking forward to seeing your work.
"Think about how only you see the world the way you do; this is your most valuable currency."
If you're still hesitant about applying to Young Guns, it is okay! I was in the same predicament when I applied as well: second-guessing my portfolio, wondering if my work was 'professional' enough — the imposter syndrome was at an all-time high for me. If almost all you have left to do is click 'submit', here are a few tips!
My biggest piece of advice is to be very thoughtful with the small paragraph that goes with your works. Why did you make this? What was the need, the inspiration, the thought process? Who did you work with it on? Although you don't want each entry to be too long, be sure to be impactful in this area.
My other tip is to not worry too much about not having all of the submissions be professional pieces; share the personal work that you want to see out in the world, as that is the work that will help future you get projects you'd love most to work on. These personal projects also accurately show who you are as a person and an artist.
Best of luck!
"My biggest piece of advice is to be very thoughtful with the small paragraph that goes with your works."
Motion Designer, Creative Director
Thinking of entering Young Guns? Just pull the trigger. Overcoming self-doubt and the fear of losing was probably the most difficult part for me. I asked myself ‘How could you win if you never tried?’, that's the question that pushed me to enter.
If you’re asking what to enter, look at the work you’ve done and be honest with yourself. What are you most proud of? What’s the work you've done that has moved you the most? Those are good places to start. Another thing you may be thinking is what type of work is needed — professional work, personal projects, or both? Personal work is key, as it’s the work that reflects your voice and vision, and shows who you are as an artist. Client work is also important because it shows what creativity you can bring under constraints. You should also consider how all of the pieces you're submitting work as a whole; try to keep the quality and thoughtfulness consistent with each project you select.
What was also important for me was understanding that winning or losing doesn't determine my worth as an artist. Keeping that perspective is important. If you don't win this time, it just means there is more road to cover on your artistic journey. You're still creative, you're still badass, just keep pushing and gradually keep getting better. Many people win after multiple tries. If you do win, it's recognition of the work that you’ve invested and encouragement to keep forging ahead with excellence. Both ways it's an experience that will help shape you and push you to be a better creative.
"If you don't win this time, it just means there is more road to cover on your artistic journey. You're still creative, you're still badass, just keep pushing and gradually keep getting better. "
Partner & Designer
Winning Young Guns — the gift that keeps on giving! I entered Young Guns twice. The first was a fail, but in every possible way, it was also a gift. It gifted me resilience, reflection, and motivation to DO THE WORK — to make every project count, no matter how big or small.
By the time take two came around, I was in a whole different place than the previous year. That was maybe the bigger reward than the accolade itself. I’ve always found confidence a little tricky. Young Guns gifted me this and has opened doors I didn’t know existed.
The entering part is always last minute, but it really isn’t rocket science. Just get your best work and put it in. Trust your gut.
Lastly, back your UNIQUE crazy self. In you, I see the adventure about to begin. I see ideas I have never seen before. I see the future. I don’t know who you are but I can’t wait to find out.
"The entering part is always last minute, but it really isn’t rocket science. Just get your best work and put it in. Trust your gut."
Designer & Letterer
Being a Young Guns winner is an incredibly prestigious notch in your creative belt. It means being able to say you’ve graduated and are now in a class with the world’s most creative powerhouses.
Young Guns was something I entered and lost out on several years in a row. It was not until my last opportunity to enter that I was awarded a spot and forever cemented as a Young Guns winner. Looking back at my work, from the first to the last and final submission, I can say that it made total sense. As the years progressed, my work found its voice and I stopped looking at what others were doing so closely. I started trusting my gut and made my work more diverse. Not because I felt I had to in order to win, but because I wanted to start doing things differently.
That’s what I think the Young Guns jury is looking for, something different. They want to see that you are adding and evolving whatever your art form is. You’ll need to select work and be critical of yourself while doing so. Show that it does not mimic what is already being done in your field several times over. Show your range, speak from the gut, and execute it in a way that’s beautifully disruptive.
"Young Guns was something I entered and lost out on several years in a row... looking back at my work, from the first to the last and final submission, I can say that it made total sense."
JOYCE N. HO
Director & Designer
Congrats on taking the leap and entering Young Guns! I entered three years in a row before I finally won YG17 in 2019. And each year I entered, I kept refining my entries. Here are a few things I learned through the process.
First, think about entering with projects that resonate with you or your audience and write concisely about them. The written description is actually a big part of your entry because it helps judges get context about your work that they can’t glean from the creative. Why is this project a big deal? Provide some background info. Did you work with someone cool on it? Or maybe your audience loved it and picked up some awards? Name drop those! This is all-important information that should be presented or written about.
Secondly, be explicit about your role in the project. Did you have a huge influence on the creative and steered it to its end result? Did you lead a team? Design the typography which made the project? Your specific contribution to the creative and the end result is something that weighs heavily, especially in team projects.
Finally, if your project is a big one, consider editing a short showreel of the highlights. Judges are looking through thousands of projects from hundreds of entrants. A short, punchy 1-2 minute reel of the best work is much more memorable than a super long video or a vast collection of stills to scroll through.
"Be explicit about your role in the project... your specific contribution to the creative and the end result is something that weighs heavily, especially in team projects."
WENDY W. FOK
Stay true to yourself. Submit work that represents you and your repertoire — your lineage of representation. As a past jury member, the best work that I have reviewed presented by an eventual Young Guns winner has always been their own passion projects, ones that have a deeper meaning to their own larger research, and work that demonstrates their larger interests. My suggestion to you is to show the breadth and depth of your abilities through thoroughly researched projects, making it evident that you have done that deep-dive research. Client work is useful, in order to show the big brands that you have worked with, but it is the smaller more unique aspects of technique mixed with concept that will get you to the next level.
"As a past jury member, the best work that I have reviewed presented by an eventual Young Guns winner has always been their own passion projects..."
Group Design Director
Procrastinators! You’re not alone. I submitted my entry on the last day too. I think probably most of us do, so you’re in good company.
At this point in the process, my advice would be to get a second set of eyes on your entry. It can be tough to be self-critical enough when you’re so close to the work. Find someone you trust, whose taste you respect, who will be honest with you and give you their unfiltered opinion.
Submit only your best work. You have six projects, two of which can be personal. I spent a long time debating whether or not to include personal work in my entry. You’re trying to showcase your talent and ability, and if the limits of a client’s taste means that one of your personal projects does a better job of doing that, that’s the project you should submit. Every project needs to hit that level, and there are no bonus style points for submitting only client work.
Finally, take the time to really craft your presentation and write-ups. Presentation matters a lot. Shoot your work professionally and make sure your images look great and communicate the project clearly and simply. And take advantage of your ability to include supplemental images. For your write-ups, remember you’re talking to other creatives. Be direct, and to the point. Judges are going to be looking at a lot of entries. Craft, and focus in your presentation will make your work a quicker read, and help you to stand out.
"You’re trying to showcase your talent and ability, and if the limits of a client’s taste means that one of your personal projects does a better job of doing that, that’s the project you should submit."
Artist, Illustrator & Letterer
There’s nothing like a deadline to zap you into action! I think the best part about entering Young Guns is you’re in the driver’s seat — YOU get to choose which pieces of work represent YOU. What kind of creative are you? What’s unique to your voice and work? What projects have you completed and truly felt proud of? What’s something you have made that doesn’t look like everything on social media right now!? What is the gap in the creative world right now that your work fills? Answer these questions and let them guide you into curating a body of work that you’re proud of. Why not buddy up with a fellow creative and decide to enter together? Make an edit, critique it, refine it, and ENTER! NOW!
"I think the best part about entering Young Guns is you’re in the driver’s seat — YOU get to choose which pieces of work represent YOU. "
The final deadline for Young Guns 19 entries is Monday,July 26.