Questions & Answers


These questions and answers will help you with many issues. Please check them out. If you still need assistance, send an email via the Spark CONTACT form.

IMPORTANT: If you are asking Spark a question, always put your Name, Design Name and Organization or School in the email. If you have an entry or submission problem, include a screen-shot of the error message.


Questions & Issues For Spark—Click on the link below For Q&A

Category Questions
Technical Problems
What To Enter
Who Can Enter
Series & Multiple Entries
International Issues
Interface, Digital & Multi-media Design
Money & Payment
Judge & Jury
Delivery & Pickup

Category Questions
Please can you tell me what category you suggest we enter under?
We have tried to create a very open entry system, for every possible type of design, so we have listed a large number of categories. Sometimes, a design may even fit more than one category. Don’t worry about choosing the “best” one when registering. Everything is judged on its merits. Designs are not judged within a category, but rather, in the context of our Criteria. There are no rigid divisions–categories are listed here so a designer feels that their work is appropriate and welcome. We can have any number of winners–or none in any given area. All depends on the work, and the design sensibility of jury. That’s why we work hard to find tough, fair and collegial judges.

Please explain the “World-changing” category. Aspirational designs that contribute to the quality of life or “betterment.” Might be a sun-powered lamp system, or water pump, or efficient new entertainment system…

May I enter our high end headphones in the consumer electronics product category? If yes, Do you look more at the design or technical side of the product? Yes, your headphones are a perfect entry in that category. Our jury is multi-disciplinary and changes each year. We do emphasize design, although this year we have added Design Engineering as an area of consideration.

I am a little confused as to which “Design group” we belong to… any ideas? (Glass interiors material.) Which group do you think is correct for our products? And which group for the design software? In your case, Architecture and/or Kitchen & Baths in General Categories and/or Architecture in the Public Sector Categories. We really don’t have a technology category (yet, but we’re listening…) The Categories are meant more as guidelines than hard and fast divisions. The judges will pick the best designs. Could choose 20 Sparks in a given category and none in the next. If a nominee is mis-placed, they can move it to an area they think is better suited. The judges rule!

Technical Problems
Hi Spark! We’re having trouble creating our registration profile. We were successful at Log-In, but it won’t go any further. What gives?
  We have “cookies,” that’s what gives. Your browser is probably set to block cookies, in it’s security settings. Go to the browser Options, find Security and allow all cookies. (We also suggest that you click the “clear all cookies and browsing history when I quit” button. Then turn off and restart your browser. It should work at this point.

Hello from the UK. We’re having a spot of trouble with the online entry form–how shall we proceed? Sorry– bugs happen. Call us at: +0191-4481-6106 or email Spark via the CONTACT form.

Our Firm would rather not put an individual designer on the entry form. Can we say “Design Team” instead?
Yes– no problem. Just put “Design” in for first name, and “Team” for last name on the form. You may log in and change this yourselves.

Is there a place on the entry forms requiring descriptive text of the item entered? and if so, what are the specifications and/or limitations of the text? Yes, we request a good clear description of the design and how it exemplifies some (or all!) of the criteria and/or mission statement. We require a 75 word description. If you have a website, put a link to that media in your description. Also include 3 jpgs or screen “grabs.”

What to Enter?

What size should the entry images be? One mb maximum. We recommend that the first photo you upload is a horizontal rectangle shape, because that is used in the Entry Gallery, and other shapes can distort. The second and third photos can be of any shape. JPG format only–no PNG or PDFs allowed.

For an entry will you need a model?  A model, or the actual product or packaging are all perfectly acceptable. However, Spark:Product is for pre-production, produced or built work only.

Can prototypes be submitted to the competition? Yes, but not in Spark Product. They belong in Spark Concept for both Pros and students. They will be judged on their merits relative to Spark Criteria, against other prototypes or concepts. (However, Pre-Production work does belong in Spark Product.)

I am entering a product in another design competition around the same time as this competition. Can I enter a product in the Spark Awards that I am also entering in another competition?  Yes, Spark welcomes your entries. The Spark criteria and premise are complementary to, not competitive with other design competitions. You should, if possible, enter both. Otherwise, let your design intuition and heart guide you!

We have a new medical design. We are trying to make the prototype. If we do not finish it before deadline, could we send large-format photos? It is not a concept or a study. It will be a real product and we are planning to commercialize it as soon as possible.
Yes–you may enter this—we call it “pre-production.” In both phases of the competition you may use photos if necessary. When you first sign up, they are required– up to 1 mb file size each. And for the live Jury, we prefer more physical designs, but a mounted board is very common.

I would like to send you also my project documentation (pdf format with about 100 pages – 34 MB ). Is it possible?
No. The judges are very busy during this process and unable to deal with this level of detail. If we need further documentation, we will contact you.

I modified our entry pdf file to a .jpg for uploading. However, I would like to keep the other two images as .pdf files. Is this a problem? Yes—big problem, the system will not display pdf’s, and thus the judges can’t review them. Please convert to jpgs. Photoshop, et al, will do this.

The product design I want to participate with is a part of a interior design. Can an entry contain a product that we send as another entry?
  Yes–no problem!

Hey Spark– Where are the barcodes? Thanks! That’s old stuff now. Spark has a new system using smartphones and QR codes, which we apply. No barcodes, yay!

Hi, Spark, do we ship our products to the Croton address?… Also, if we are including a shipping label to have it returned to us, what would be the best estimate as to fill out for the shipment date? Thanks for Sparking! Answers below:
1. Do NOT ship to that address. Everything goes to our Jury site in San Francisco.
2. return dates vary. leave it blank– we’ll fill that field in
3. make sure the shipping return label is pre-paid or has your credit card info on it, includes insurance (your option) and the shipping box is reusable (many are not). Also, don’t use plastic junk or styro foam peanuts for packing materials. Think sustainable!

Hi Spark! I called RIOT Color Imaging (formerly ARC BPS), your suggested board-printing vendor, and they aren’t doing any printing until later in the year. Do I have to send a mounted image before the early or standard deadline? For Phase 1 we only need the low-res images you uploaded. For Phase 2 finalists, we’ll need boards, models or actual work. This will be in early October. ARCS will be accepting spark entries as soon as Finalists are announced. Thanks for Sparking!

Who Can Enter?
Hello!  I want to join in the competition with my friends. Is there limit on number of members on a team?
  No limits. Spark On!

I am interested in entering my graduate thesis in the spark competition, however I graduated in May 2014 so I’m not currently a student. Can I still enter at the student rate, since it was a student project? Yep–no problem! but only in Spark Concept, since this is not a produced or built design.

Series & Multiple Entries

Can a product or packaging series or campaign be registered with one registration or are several registrations necessary?
Most types of series can be submitted with one registration and the entrant will be charged a single Series/Campaign registration fee—this will incur a one-time fee. In the case of over-size or over-weight entries, to avoid extra handling charges send one representative design as your exhibit, and the remaining designs of the series as images.

How much do we need to pay for multi-product submission under one company’s name? Will that be considered one entry? Or do we need to pay for each one?
  Each design is considered a separate entry, unless they are part of a clearly linked series or campaign, such as a line of similarly designed kitchen appliances, or an ad campaign where the theme or look is the same, but the ad sizes are different. Each one needs to be paid separately, or by special arrangement with Spark.

Would we be required to send all physical pieces of the series for judging?  The line consists of a crib, toddler bed, dresser, nightstand, and bookshelf.  We would like to enter the line as a whole, but would prefer to only have to ship one piece as the larger pieces would have to be assembled on site.  Is there support available for such assembly?  It’s $150 for any number of additional pieces. You are not required to send them all–but if you can, it’s more impressive. No, sorry, we can’t assemble it ourselves. However, we always have willing young interns who will do so for a reasonable fee. (Some things are monsters to assemble, so they can’t be responsible. Best idea, fly in for the set-up, use our helpers as hands and oversee their work. Then visit Frisco!

International Issues

We would like to know if it makes sense to apply for the Spark Awards having design solution with interfaces in German?
Any language is OK, but please provide an English-language translation for our judges. A written one is fine.

I am a student from Brazil– are international students eligible to participate in the competition?
Yes–all designers everywhere are welcome in Spark:Concept (Spark:Product is for produced work, not concepts). We accept payment by credit card, Paypal or by bank wire transfer when necessary. Your work will be entered directly online in Phase I. For Phase II, a model, the actual design or mounted displays are suggested.

We’re a small company, so here is no English speaker now.  But, we want to try this award. If we could enter 2nd stage, then we will employ the person who understand English well. Before employ the person I’m in charge of English. First, we do our best!
Your best is very good indeed! Thanks for your interest in our great adventure, Spark.

Interface, UE, UI, & Digital Design Questions
Will submitted digital images be printed out, or viewed on a monitor?  Viewed on a computer monitor–unless you send display boards (in Phase 2).

We are submitting a short video and board. How do we do this with your upload setup? Great question. We have a fine solution for all digital designs. In your My Submissions page, there’s a field for a Youtube link. Put a link to your video there, so the judges can view it. Please do not upload the file to Spark or send it on a disc. It can’t be viewed. Only use Youtube. Vimeo and the other services can NOT be used in our system. Check out our Youtube channel >HERE

Money & Payment Questions

How are the overall costs calculated in case I win an award? You are responsible for shipping, insurance, etc. If you become a Finalist, there is a “hanging fee” just for those entries. If you win a top award (Bronze, Silver, Gold or Spark), there is a Winners Circle Services fee, which includes promotion, license rights to Spark name, the Yearbook and other benefits. Don’t worry–all our fees are far less than the other big competitions!

We’ve had a change in plans— is it possible to cancel our entry and get a refund? 
Yes and No, of course! Yes, hurrah—refunds are available, but there is a $10 handling fee. No, sorry, not after 4 weeks prior to late deadline.

Hello, I was wondering if Is there a cash award for winning the SparkAwards?
Like most of the other major competitions, designers enter Spark to get their work into the public eye. It is the main means of promoting their skillset, and getting more assignments. Movie stars don’t get cash prizes at the Oscars–they get to work in more movies.

I am in between jobs. I would like to submit my design but truly cannot afford the entry fee. Can I send $50–all I can scratch up? If I didn’t believe that you would be impressed with my design, I wouldn’t bother asking!
  We definitely commiserate– but no can do. It wouldn’t fair to other designers. You might look for a local sponsor.

I am trying to submit my projects for the Spark Awards, but you do not accept American Express. How do I proceed from here? Sorry–their fees were just too expensive for young Spark. Please use Mastercard, Visa, JCB, Diners Club or Paypal. If you’re in US/Canada, it’s even better to send a check. You can register on line anytime and upload your pix and copy. Send us a note when finished and we’ll approve the financial side after the check has cleared. Voila!

When and for how long can the winner’s logo be used in our marketing communications?  If you have paid the Winners Circle Services fee (which licenses the use of the SparkMark logo), you may use the SparkMark as soon as you receive your notification of winning. The SparkMark can be utilized as long as the original design is being featured, sold, marketed or published. Please inquire for details.

When can the winning of an award be publicly announced?
For a uniform release of information, we ask winners to wait until the Awards Exhibition premiere before announcing their winning of the award. However, should you have planned a special occasion, please let us know—exceptions are possible.

I would like to promote Spark to our staff. Are you able to supply posters or other materials for distribution?
Spark is delighted to send either bulk posters or Spark postcards (in English) for staff or students, as long as supplies last. Please send us an e-mail with your address and the number that you would like.

Judge & Jury
Our project weighs over two tons. Can we deliver it to your Jury? 
Not to our lovely Autodesk Gallery! 2D mounted boards, 3d software simulations, video “fly-overs” and models are the most common solutions.

How many works are chosen as winners in this event? Each of the categories only 4 (Bronze, Silver, Gold, Spark)? Each of the ranks only 1? There are no limits to how many are awarded in each level or category. It could be zero or many. This is entirely up to the judges.

Criteria Questions

Do our concepts necessarily have to fulfill both criteria together? No, but judges are hoping–and looking for the best. Focus on your design’s merits. Any single criteria might win.

Timing Questions
I have created a design that has not yet been produced, should I wait till next year after it’s out, or can I enter this year?
Enter now. This would be called “Pre-production” design in the car biz. You can state the ultimate use in your entry materials. (If it wasn’t destined for production, it still may be entered in Spark>Concept.)

Does the submission need to be made at the time of registration? Is it possible to get information on the uploading method of submission material before the actual submission?
You can register once, and then go back and enter as many submissions as you want later—up until the final deadline.

Our new product is due for launch in December, after the SparkAwards. Does the fact that it will only be on sale from October exclude it from the current awards program? Not at all. Your product is in  “pre-production” and totally acceptable. Congratulations on your launch!

We have a Spark coupon we’d like to use. It expires soon, but our design is not quite finished. What to do? Enter and pay the fee, and apply the coupon before it expires. You can put in design samples during the process, and change them later with the final design.

Delivery & Pickup Questions
Where should Finalists ship their work? We only need physical entry materials from Spark>Product; Spark>Communication, Spark>Mobility and Spark>Spaces entrants. We do not need anything from Spark>Concept entrants except for the images and descriptions, uploaded to the website.

Spark Awards, c/o:
Autodesk Design Gallery
1 Market Street, Ste 200
San Francisco, CA 94105-1306

Contact Person for Deliveries: Albert Hoffman, Albert.Hoffman @ 415.420.1463
Contact Person for All Other Concerns: Spark, +1.914.481.6106

Will my model be returned after the judging? Only if you put a Fedx or UPS number into the entry form, or include a prepaid slip with your design. You may also make arrangements to pick up, or have your designs picked up. Display boards are not returned, although with prior arrangement, they may also be picked up.

We’re certainly open to taking care of any details or expenses related to the shipping of our physical products back to us, but do you have a preferred service that you go through (such as UPS or FedEx)? Or do you not use a service at all? How do you anticipate the return shipping process will work?
We don’t have a preferred service–wish we did. Many entrants use a “white glove” shipping service, which delivers, uncrates and takes the crate back to their warehouse., then returns and does the reverse. Another approach–ask a local friend to come by and do the same. Finally, you could hire one of our college interns. Friendly and cheap! Do try to use UPS, Fedx or DHL, since they are familiar with our loading dock and have proper insurance credentials. If you use another service, please notify us in advance.

I have a beautiful, but fragile pre-production model I’d like to submit. What kind of precautions should I take? Please–don’t! Spark can’t be responsible for breakage. Competitions are hard on stuff. Think of all the un-boxing, moving, setting up displays, judge-handling, re-boxing–not to mention the woes of shipment. No, this is not the place for fragile things. Send something robust, or else send a nice board depicting the design. And insure it! And pack it very well.

Awards Questions
May we ask where will the Award winning celebration be held?
The Celebration and launch of the exhibition will be in San Francisco, at the Autodesk Design Gallery. It won’t be a typical awards show, more a happy gathering of people who believe Design Can Make A Difference, and a first chance for entrants, winners, VIP’s and Press to view the winning designs.

I went through the homepage and was deeply impressed by the competition. What kind of media exposure, online exhibition, yearbook or other benefits do entrants get? Do you charge any fees concerning the above benefits? Good questions—in a nutshell: there is extensive media coverage of Spark, and publicity towards that end. Media outlets have included Curve Magazine and the great websites, Yanko, Dexigner, Product Design Hub, ArchNewsNow, Bustler, Archinect, Death By Architecture and many more. We have a permanent exhibition at the Autodesk Design Gallery in San Francisco, and traveling exhibitions in places like Guangzhou, Shanghai and Taipei, with Seoul possible in 2013. We also have long-term, searchable archive-galleries of all entries on the website, and new for 2011, the Spark Yearbook. Yes, of course we have to charge a fee for all of these winners benefits, but it is less than 1/6th the charge of the least expensive major European competition.

Miscellaneous Questions

I have an idea, but am not sure how to put my idea in motion. I am regrettably not an engineer or anything of the sort, and I have no idea how to get this product rolling. Any information that you can provide me will be greatly appreciated.  We always suggest contacting a local design teacher at a college. They know the ropes!

I need to replace the switching adapter for Halley desk lamp.. I would greatly appreciate your assistance.  We’re a design competition. like the Oscars… we don’t do switches… sorry.

I still have questions!
OK, send Spark your questions via e-mail to the CONTACT form above, or call Spark at +1-914-481-6106.