design awards

Do design awards have any business value?

Of course - if you are actively seeking new clients. I assume that is considered of value to someone looking to grow their business…

If you’re featured in a magazine like BusinessWeek as a winner, you have just secured free advertising to BusinessWeek’s entire reader audience.

Absolutely. Advertising and publicity, normally you would pay for those. Win an award and you get them for free.

prob not so much for big corporations with established businesses (unless a group was trying to prove their value to the larger organization), but for firms and individuals I would see it having a lot of value.

Good question.

Mark, maybe you can weigh in on this one. HLB has won numerous awards over the years… have they brought any business value in your experience?

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We have received phone calls from clients because we appear in the box in the Businessweek/IDSA awards. One has the idea of a corporate exec throwing the magazine down in front of another and saying…“here call one of these guys in the box”. In many cases that has lead to pitch opportunities, and that has led to business.

That said, I often wonder what others think regarding which awards carry similar weight or can be traced back to actual business.

Also, what about internal to corporations. Does winning awards lead to prestige and advancement?


Great topic, had to put my two cents in. As a new start-up design consultancy, our awards (awarded while working/consulting in previous positions to trapset, and used with their permission) have definitely given us a base of credibility and a solid marketing tool to get us started. I would have to say that the varying levels and prestige of awards are hard to pin down, and change from client to client. Most of our clientele don’t know what an IDSA Gold Award is (even though it is arguably one of the highest honors in our field), but getting to state that our work has been published in Business Week or has been deemed worthy by Consumer Reports seams to validate it to them. Honestly, I believe that a well written and smartly placed Press Release targeting your target market is extremely effective and there are no entry fees.
What I don’t believe is that the companies who are winning/have won all the awards; IDEO, ONe & Co., Ziba, Fuseproject, etc., are in any way producing the best product designs. What they are doing though is turning those awards into very good marketing and promotions campaigns which is securing them business.
My two cents, thoughts?

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any more discussion? anybody?

I’m curious re the evolution of awards. As more work goes to experience and interactions and, let’s say intangibles, how will those be recognized by awards competitions?

Also if the Larger share of the world’s objects will come from places in the east is that where most of the awards will go also?

Awards always have as their basis intellectualism. As such they are all valuing something intangible. As the bulk of intellectual quotient comes from North America and Europe, that’s where the awards will continue to be located.

The worth of awards is dependent on the industry you are targeting.

I think design awards awarded by design organizations are of marginal commercial value: I am paraphrasing carlsson70 “Most of our clientele don’t know what an IDSA Gold Award is”. As these awards also are generally applied for by the owner, they aren’t realy awards per se. I think these awards may have commercial value, as Mark Dziersk relates, to like companies in like markets.

I have seen awards awarded by industry bodies then used promotionally targeted back to that same industry, negating the conundrum carlsson70 describes. In most industries, companies are most interested in your level of direct experience with their product and market, not awards.

Within an organization, work related awards are equivalent to “employee of the month”, quickly forgotten.

But my curiosity, peaked by the recent Nobel award to the micro-credit Grameen bank guy, is the effect of awards on “sustainable” anything. It seems all such sustainable____ work is itself unsustainable, more in the realm of nice concept. Will only time change this, legislation, what about many or big awards?

Absolutely. Like others have said, these awards are probably more valuable to a consultant as it lends a level of credibility and expertise to their portfolios. However, it would be interesting to compare how many leads are generated by an award winning product in a magazine vs. a regular ad placement in same magazine? Does an award carry alot of weight, or is it more about the PR?

Working for a large corporation, I think the awards are less important. If nothing else, it’s also good PR for the corporation, and shows a belief in design. It could also be used as a recruiting tool. “See, come work for a design-award winning company!”

17 years later…

Had a discussion recently about the irrelevance of design awards.

My thoughts-

  • Placement in magazines is irrelevant as nobody buys/reads magazines.
  • Laurels from the established design community are irrelevant when everyone is an influencer
  • Exposure from a design award is irrelevant when there’s likely more eyeballs to be had on some social accounts
  • Costs of design awards and promotion is expensive and irrelevant in comparison to CPC and ads on social
  • Design awards given when the jury hasn’t even seen/handled the product in real life (most just submit fancy PR photos), is irrelevant when some random Youtuber will review a real product in detail



I’m with Richard on this. The only thing I care about and promote is the amount of sales my products have generated. Top line rules the roost. Until you start talking with ops, then you can talk bottom line, but they are influencers, S&M are the decision makers.

Awards are weird. Case in point - I recently discovered that the Academy Awards were at least partially, if not mainly, created by Louis B. Mayer (the second “M” of MGM Studios) to give actors and directors an opportunity to pat themselves on the back and forget about the objectively abusive system the studios forced them to work under.

I have felt the same Richard - last submission was late 70s – useless then, no different now.

Interesting to hear I’m not alone. I’ll admit that as a younger designer in a different era I was enamored.

Then I realized that the “best” isn’t really the best, it’s the best of the entries submitted and paid…and that “great design” is hardly ever something you can tell from a photo (“use cycle” was the number one lesson from school!), but yet most awards are solely judged by a photo!

I’ve entered. I’ve won. I’ve juried.

It’s just a different world I suppose now where some stupid impossible rendering of a NFT product can be more successful/popular/commercial in design than something that exists, is made, sold and has a function?


A hundred million years ago, I was there (here) watching while this took shape

My own post was written after a brief but impactful conversation with one of Finland’s design leaders while we were both standing outside during our respective smoke breaks. It was the summer of 2009 and I’d only left San Francisco 2 years previously and Chicago in 2005 (for context). I asked him why was this world design capital award for Helsinki such a big deal? After all, San Francisco wouldn’t dream of going up for such an award, it didn’t need it. And, looking around HEL it was clear it was as much of a design city as SF, if only a different more Nordic flavour. Did it need this label? Wasn’t not needing it more of sign that it was indeed a world design capital? That is, wasn’t the title of world design capital just the icing on the cake?

My listener, who prefers to remain nameless as he hangs over my shoulder while I write this, rocked back and forth for a moment and then said, “But it would make them so happy

So I crafted this blogpost for Core77 after identifying and discussing the key points that made Helsinki stand out with him and posted it.

Later, after Helsinki won the award over all the competition such as the Dutch city of Eindhoven, the IDSA’s newsletter subtitled the news with “Icing on the cake” ;p It did make the people happy, but this nostalgic journey down memory lane (muistitieto) was simply to come in here and say, I am conflicted about what has just been said, so many years later, about the value of awards.

I’ve never entered and I’ve never won. But I’ve juried.

I probably should enter my master’s thesis student’s work of art for me ( because it will make her day. Both my team are in their 20s and about to graduate. They love entering competitions and winning awards. The artist just brought home a prestigious embroidery prize from London. We forget in our old age with decades old portfolios what it feels like to be a n00b starting out. Awards help students and fresh graduates and new designers demonstrate recognition and credibility where job experience and portfolios might still be thin.

So, I’d say both viewpoints are valid. Milan and SF didn’t need the award that tiny little Helsinki (650,000 people) did to make a name for itself on the global stage. And, similarly, maybe none of the commenters in this thread need awards the way students and fresh graduates might do.

Let’s not denigrate them, I find myself now, a million years later, agreeing with my partner.

Design awards in the 21st century are a signal to the CEO to begin cutting budgets. The J&J Velys project is a case in point.

I generally agree with the above, but of course there is more nuance to it then that.

I have two clients that actively go after design awards.

The first has a primary customer of interior designers and architects, so awards from publications like Metropolis have a some weight and get them more press placement in the publications they want to be in. They won 6 design awards last year for something we worked on together and even the press release about winning that many awards ended up turning into some media opportunities. I work closely with their PR partner here on the strategy to make sure we feel like it continues to be worth it each year.

The second client is a start up, and they won 5 design awards last year, their first full year selling their first product. The resulting PR was positive and ended up with some press in places like Fast Co. Here I think it was a way to show the board and investors the potential, that the company was on the right track. This strategy was pursued alongside high profile people using the product (John Cleese was one example) as well as getting the product out to folks for reviews.

So short answer, for me personally they don’t really matter that much, always nice to be recognized by one’s peers though.

Strategically, for brands, it really depends on the strategy of how to use them. Few things are binary…

Having been on the jury of several of these like @Niti_Bhan I got to see how it goes behind the scenes and it is a difficult job. We have to review sometimes hundreds of entries in a short amount of time. Your entry might be great but it might be the last one before lunch! So I try to keep that in mind and coach clients if they loose one. At least with the IDSA IDEAs on round 2 of the judging entrants can submit a physical product which helps a lot, and on that one, the deliberation amongst the jurors is pretty fierce.

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Design award get-togethers always strike me as very parochial and seem to have more value for peer recognition rather than any serious worth to industry or marketing strategies. Great to win a gong, but without any serious metrics to evaluate by, nice little footnotes to a resumé…

I was once on a panel when we had to review a car, which we drove enthusiastically round the parking lot. Fun to drive, but we concurred that the design was unnecessarily pastiche and over-detailed so we gave it a collective thumbs down. Since then, that car (and its derivatives) is ubiquitous and a fantastic commercial success.

Dynamics within judging panels can also be funky: On a panel once, where the jury foreman clearly had personal baggage with the designer of one of the submissions which made for awkward and unsettling discussions, so the entry ultimately went nowhere regardless of merits.

So yeah, entered, won and juried too, but take a huge pinch of salt with design awards.