This is a key reason why awards and competitions are critical in design and creativity.
A creative community is like the peloton in a long distance bicycle race.
In the race, a large group of cyclists — the peloton — would tactically bunch up to tap the advantage of the slipstreams created by the ones in front. The reduction in drag can save a cyclist as much as 40% of peddling energy.
Nature knows this ‘trick’ well. Migratory birds fly in V formations in which members of the flock take turns at the front to initiate the upwash or “draft” that provides additional uplift to the rest. By just being in formation, the cyclist and the bird attains a capacity to cover a far greater distance than they can achieve by going solo.
A similar phenomenon exists in the creative process. Leading designers in our community, like the lead peloton cyclists, generate the creative slipstreams that help to carry the other designers forward. I believe this is best demonstrated in awards and competitions (closed or open), including curated exhibitions. Clearly, competition for competition sake can be mindless, self-indulgent, and even misleading; many designers shun competitions because of this.
On the other hand, there is no denying that awards and competitions as part of design practice is a good way to recognise the extraordinary achievements attained by our leading designers and creatives. Greater spread and pace set by recipients and nominees can further sustain a strong creative slipstream that will inspire the next wave of leading designers. They will, in time, lead the peloton and help sustain the whole creative community and keep it competitive.