Earlier in my career, they meant a lot more to me than they do now. I’d win some national and regional awards, and get my work in various annuals on occasion.
It’s to the point now where I really don’t care all that much. I’ve been a judge in several juried competitions, and my experiences there made me care even less. Lots of decisions in these competitions are arbitrary or made without a thorough understanding of the problems being solved.
Most of these shows are money-making enterprises for the sponsoring organizations, and the winners are typically picked based on aesthetics rather than whether or not they accomplished client objectives.
I had a professor in graduate school who regularly had his work show up as a winner in most every national design print competition. His posters were absolutely beautiful, but they all were designed to win contests — none were ever used for anything beside that.
A few years ago, I called up a client to tell them we won a first-place local award on something we did for them. The response went something like this: “Why should we care? We hired you to help us sell things and sales barely budged all year.”
We still enter the contests, and I make sure the people I supervise get all the glory they deserve because they still care and it looks good on their resumes.
Other than that, awards make little difference to me, and honestly, I don’t think too many clients care all that much about how we pat each other on the back either — even though we pretend that they do.