Next week, thousands of designers will convene in Minneapolis for AIGA’s annual design conference, a three-day affair packed with speakers, workshops, and roundtables (not to mention Eye On Design’s very own, very first one-day conference just before). Seven of the designers in attendance will look more uneasy than most: those will be the young contestants of Command X, the reality show-style, live design competition, and one of the highlights of the conference each year.
Over the course of the competition they’ll complete four briefs; present in front of three judges, three guest judges, and an audience full of designers—all on very little sleep. By closing day, one of them will walk away with a cash prize and massive respect.
Command X is on its ninth year, and if you’ve never witnessed it yourself, our coverage of year’s past will help set the scene. This year’s judges—Ashleigh Axios, Louise Fili, and Marian Bantjes—will offer commentary and critique of each designer’s presentation, which will have been conceived, designed, and put into a pitch deck in the 24 hours prior. Host Sean Adams will usher the proceedings along and check in on our tireless competitors, Tim Gunn-style. Each round will send two designers packing—back to the conference floor, and mercifully, the after-parties—until only one remains.
This year’s contestants have been announced and have already received their first prompt. To help them out—and prep any conference newcomers on what to expect—we asked four former contestants to share their highs and lows, advice, and forewarnings.