Fred Woodward on Why I Enter

Fred Woodward on Why I Enter

I was working at Texas Monthly, almost thirty years ago now, when I received a poster in the morning mail announcing the 'call for entries' of The Society of Publication Designers competition. It was designed by Louise Fili. Of course, it was beautiful, that poster. I had never heard of The Society of Publication Designers before that day, but I was a publication designer--had never been anything else in my brief career--and I felt the pull. I edited my best stuff, trimmed and taped those tear sheets, inked in the forms on the back, wrote a personal check and FedExed it to New York City the last night before the drop-dead deadline. My motivation at the time was as basic as it gets--I just wanted to see how I was doing.
I started out at a city book in Memphis and spent the first decade of my career at one regional magazine or the other. As is so often the case when you're working in regionals, it was usually the only magazine in town. While I had friends who were terrific graphic designers and art directors, they weren't doing what I was doing. Not really. I realize now, that when I sent that first package off to SPD in NYC--as cliched as it's going to sound--I was searching for my tribe. I found mine that year.
Just a few months earlier I had asked 20 different illustrators to 'Draw the Cowboy.' It was a simple enough idea taken straight from my childhood. Because I loved to draw as a little kid (OK, because I wanted to be a famous artist) I took the 'Famous Artist School' test, the one you always saw advertised in the back pages of your comic book. I thought it might be fun to have some of the best illustrators in the world draw that same little quick sketch cowboy. I had the gumption to ask the likes of Brad Holland, Marshall Arisman and Matt Mahurin to do spots. They were all gracious enough to accept. It won a gold. And when my editor heard the news, it won me a trip to New York to accept that sweet, sharp curve of Massimo Vignelli-designed precious metal in person.
The Gala took place in the cavernous front hall of The New York Public Library: Town & Country's Melissa Tardiff was president, Cipe Pinelles was honored 
with the Lubalin Award that night, Robert Priest was the art director of the moment in a Casablanca Bogart white dinner jacket, and Paula Scher (a personal hero then, still) came over and whispered enough encouragement to fuel me the whole of the next year. And seeing the work on that big screen for the first time (and later printed in the annual alongside some of my other heroes and my new peers), well, that's for all time. 
So every year, ever since, I enter. 
I still enter to see how I'm doing. And to see what everyone else is doing. I enter for the love of the organization, and for the pure competition of it all. I enter to help build the careers of the gifted team I'm lucky to work with everyday--for the opportunity to simply give credit where credit's due. I enter to better follow the ones who've moved on, and to watch for the new names coming up. I enter for the inspiration to do better, and for the motivation to keep going. I enter for the long row of heavy books on the shelf that document where I've been, and how I got here.
There's more--much, much more--but, you get the idea. 
To paraphrase the immortal Chico Escuela (aka Garrett Morris) of 'Saturday 
Night Live' fame: "SPD has been berry, berry good to me." I sincerely hope it 
will be/has been/will continue to be for you, as well. So if you haven't already, please pull it together today and send us all your best work--because you 
cannot win if you do not play.
Fred Woodward
January12th, 2015 

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