With the International Design Forum Hannover (iF), red dot Design Awards, I.D. Magazine‘s Annual Design Review, and the International Design Excellence Awards (IDEA) award winners released in the last few weeks, we have ended the industrial design award season for the year. It has been a good one for my studio as well as the industry as a whole–we have seen an amazing display of ingenuity and class by many designers and companies. It’s tough to underestimate the impact these awards have on the design community, and yet it’s easy to overestimate the accuracy of such judgments of quality and intent.
But that’s exactly the thing about with design awards: love them or hate them, you’ll always be puzzled by the results. With that in mind, here are five observations I had after watching this year’s winners be declared.
2. The multidisciplinary approach doesn’t work. One of the biggest problems with award programs is their tendency to mix it up. They seek to cover all bases and serve all constituencies, and the result is confusion. It is quite common for an interaction designer to be assigned an industrial design panel and vice versa. It is also common for writers and educators to be assigned to jury to spice up the scene… and they do. Industry wonks are added to bring in “the real world.” As a result the last day is a full-contact fight for ideas, agendas and egos where the jury is engaged in a very interesting discussion about design, quality and intent. The end result is usually a direct testament to the strength and stamina of the head jurist.
4. Marketability is not a priority. My other problem with award programs is that they are skewed against ‘real market’ physical products. The endeavor associated with creating a real physical product for mass market is so long and so complex that controlling the design quality through all the phases of development is next to impossible. Next to that, concepts and ideas requiring much less effort are presented on equal terms before the jury. As a result the chances of winning awards for concepts or boutique work is far higher than for mass market. I think there should be a serious discussion and revision of rules related to such phenomena. Plus, jurors should take note of such slant and form our opinions accordingly.
Gadi Amit is the president of NewDealDesign LLC, a strategic design
studio in San Francisco. Founded in 2000, NDD has worked with such
clients as Better Place, Sling Media, Palm, Dell, Microsoft, and
Fujitsu, among others, and has won more than 70 design awards. Amit is
passionate about creating design that is both socially responsible and
generates real world success.