Once in awhile, a designer could fail submission screening or a submission upload process (due to system error or deadline burning), it can happen to anyone. If I had a penny for every time I failed to upload a submission because of running out of time, I would be still poor but there would be at least $4.65 extra in my solitary bank account. More importantly, I’ve heard failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently, it’s wise to learn from these small defeats and take advantage of them.

I’ve witnessed the evolution of Studio, the creation of rules and policies that have changed over time. There are certain rules to keep a balance in the force, however the Jedis who created these rules are merciful lords that can understand some scenarios. We’re lucky today that there are things we can do if we fail somehow in any of the mentioned cases (screening or submitting). I hope my fierceless readers (12 and growing, yay!) can use any of these tips to save the day IF POSSIBLE. You have to know that I’m not encouraging you to fail because of the fact that there are workarounds out there, no at all, only in some cases you can do something about it, be careful.



Yes, yes, let it happen. This is the inner monster inside of us that makes us react. So when you realize you failed you need to drain out all of the excitement of what’s about to come. You realize that you are OUT of the competition, that you probably wasted a lot of time that you used to complete a project. So, it’s ok, freak out.

Freak out monster

Secret found footage of the freak out monster.


Ok, now you’re calm, at least a bit more. It’s time to think. Why did you fail? You will notice you failed a submission screening because you received an email. If you remember well, the third mistake a noob can avoid is misreading the submission notification email. You will find a scorecard link there that will lead you to the reason of the failure. Notice that even when your submission gets approved, it may have warnings for forgetting any elements that you must provide in a second round in order to keep competing. You must always check the scorecard!

There are several reasons why you could fail screening, such as missing assets declaration, copyright violation, and others. If you read the design section of the help center it might be too technical, so I’ll translate them here for you in the practical field for easier digestion.

I traced icons

We may say, hey I liked this icon from this site and I’m just going to recreate/trace the shape and I’m going to claim them as mine because I’m not going to get caught. WRONG! First, you must know you’re violating very sensitive rules, and secondly, Studio counts with a brilliant artificial psychic that can detect traced icons from multiple sites. This is one of the most commons reasons for failure and you should not appeal for this, you’ll probably be rejected. What you can do is admit the fault and don’t do it again.

Brilliant Artificial Psychic

Brilliant Artificial Psychic in action.

I forgot to add my photoshop/illustrator files (sources)

Sounds simple, but yes, this is important. This is how the brilliant artificial psychic verifies you actually created the design, so it HAS to be there. You can save your time invested if you prove you created the design by providing the source files, so yes, you can appeal for this.

I didn’t declare my fonts, stock artwork or images

If you don’t declare the source of your external assets the brilliant artificial psychic can not know if you took them from one of the sites allowed in the policies. It’s important to provide this information. Sensitive, yet you can still appeal. The rules are not that severe to make you waste a lot of time you used to finish a project because of this innocent mistake.

I did declare stock artwork and images but they were not allowed in the challenge

You need to be aware of the stock artworks permission in the challenge description page. There are challenges that allow this as well as many others that won’t allow this. If you want to use artworks you should ask in the forum first. Yet, if you still use them your submission will fail screening.

I submitted only one screen of nine required

If you submit a “placeholder” just to earn a checkpoint prize or to keep a “safe” placement in a challenge, you will fail screening. With placeholder I mean a submission with only one or two screens out of the whole required set. There is probably no way to come back from this, since there is practically nothing to review, either for the brilliant artificial psychic or the client.



This is the part when you send a request, cross your fingers and let the force to decide your fate. If you’re lucky and you’re not cheating, you will probably receive a warning and approval of your request. Here’s what you must do.

  • Write an email, explaining your case. If it is a submission deadline failure, explain why you couldn’t submit on time, if there was a downtime in the site or anything. If it is about a screening failure, be aware of the type of failure according to your scorecard, also gently explain why it happened and the reasons you think you’re right.
  • Address this email to support@topcoder.com and VERY important, cc the copilot that’s running this challenge. If he/she is not aware of a missing submission, then the review process might start without considering yours. Here you can find the contact method of all copilots in Studio at this moment, thanks to my fearless reader maroosh.
  • Create a new forum thread in that challenge, just mentioning you started an appeal process for a submission. This way you make sure the copilot considers your submission for the client presentation.



Once upon a time, I didn’t have internet service at my house (I was a student, happily broke). When I competed, I went to a coffee place (without wifi by the way, LAN instead), downloaded the requirements, forum pages, took everything back home, I worked when I could on that, and then when it was ready I went back to this coffee place to submit my work. It happened to me – MANY freaking times – that I waited for last minute to go to this coffee place; sometimes it was closed or the internet connection was so slow that if there was an speed competition between a sloth and venezuelan internet, I would be praying to sloth gods now. As you can expect, I failed to submit on time, and also, I failed to appeal because the platform wasn’t as flexible as it is now.


SlothNET employees at work (mahestro’s internet provider back in 2007)