How to Run an Art Contest with Ranked-Choice Voting
Beauty is in the Eye of the Voter
People love to support the arts. They also love ranking things. Plus, they love contests. When you put it all together, you’ve got a recipe for a fun competition that rewards great art.
Whether your contest is on behalf of a school, gallery, coffeeshop, club, or any other group, running a ranked-choice art contest is great way to bolster awareness and engage your community.
Why use Ranked-Choice Voting for Art Contests?
Any time you're making a decision with more than two choices and where voters have equal say, ranked-choice voting is the right tool for the job. To win, a choice must get broad support from a majority of voters – not just the passionate support of a vocal minority. The final result ends up closer to what voters actually think is best.
Plus...there's the built-in drama! The round-by-round eliminations and vote distributions naturally build excitement for who will be the eventual winner.
Check it out for yourself by voting in this example art contest!
Steps to Run an Art Contest with Ranked-Choice Voting
The first step is to collect all the submissions. That means names, descriptions, and ideally an image file that can be uploaded for voters to see while voting. Aim for 5-12 choices in each category. Having more than 12 options to wade through can overload voters.
Create the Contest
Now, you’ve got your categories and submissions figured out. Awesome. Time to create the contest!
RankedVote gives you all the tools you need to easily set up the ranked-choice ballots and calculate the results. There are other options, but you’re signing yourself up for hours of manual work buried inside of spreadsheets. Not fun. The following steps describe how to create an art contest in RankedVote.
Strategic questions to answer first
Will you embed the voting experience directly onto your site?
This is highly recommended. By keeping your visitors on your site, they stay engaged with your content. And, you’re likely to get more responses than if you link off to the voting experience.
The only caveat is that it involves adding an embedded iframe to your site. RankedVote makes the code copy/paste for you. But, if you don’t have privileges to add iframes or custom HTML on your site, you’ll need to ask your website administrator for assistance.
Do you want one voting experience with a step for each category? Or do you want separate voting experiences for each category?
Typically, one voting experience where the voter votes for Category 1, then Category 2, and so on is the best for turnout. In RankedVote, this is called a “multi-category contest.”
If you’re expecting people to only vote in one category and not care about the others, then separate voting experiences are preferable. In RankedVote, this is accomplished by creating separate contests (where each contest is one of your categories).
Add the contest
After signing up for RankedVote, you’ll be walked through a wizard where you create your first “contest” and add the “choices.” If you’ve only got one category, this is all you need to do. If you’ve got multiple categories, then you’ll want to follow your strategy above of either making this contest “multi-category” or creating separate contests.
Flesh Out the Descriptions
Choices start off as just a name. But, they can be further fleshed out by adding a “Group Affiliation,” a rich-text “Description,” and most importantly for an art contest, a "Picture." For a piece of art, you might end up with the following:
- Name – The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh
- Group Affiliation – Impressionist
- Picture – (uploaded)
- Description – The oil-on-canvas painting is dominated by a night sky roiling with chromatic blue swirls, a glowing yellow crescent moon, and stars rendered as radiating orbs.
Descriptions display just below the ranked-choice ballot. However, the group affiliation and picture will display next to the choice's name on the ballot.
Place Onto Your Site
If you’re embedding the art contest on your site, you’ll copy/paste the “Embed Code” for the Vote Page into your website.
If you’re not embedding, click the Vote Link button which will copy the URL to your clipboard. From there you can add it to any link on your page.
NOTE: For a live example of how RankedVote looks when embedded onto a page, check the Demo page.
Promote to Voters
Now for the exciting part – the voting!
To maximize participation, saturate your channels with messaging and links to the contest. That means your home page, social media, email, and any other digital channel you have. You can even use QR codes to bring people in from physical locations.
A best practice is to allow voting for at least one week, but not more than two. This gives enough time for voters to participate, but isn’t so long that the contest loses momentum.
Calculate the Results
If you’re using RankedVote, this is the easy part. Results are automatically calculated in real-time. Each category has a results page that not only tells you who won, but also visualizes and explains how the ranked-choice eliminations and vote redistribution works.
It’s also a best practice to keep these results tight to the vest until voting has concluded. In RankedVote, that means setting the “Results Visibility” to “Only contest creator” until you’re ready for the winner announcement.
Announce the Winners
This is the moment everyone has been waiting for. Saturate your channels once again with the results. Reach out to the winners and encourage them to do the same. Reach out to voters and get them to post, retweet, and otherwise amplify the message.
Prepare for Next Time
Once the excitement of the winners announcement has died down, it’s good hygiene to look back at the contest and assess what happened and where you want to improve. Were there too many categories? Where was the highest engagement?
All of those data points can be used to refine the next art contest. You may find that voters were significantly more interested in “New Artists” than other categories. That could justify a more granular contest where “New Artists” gets further refined into categories by genre.
Whatever it is, follow the data and double-down on what works.