Is it time for a new design award?

I just reviewed the 2006 IDEA award winners. Although I’m happy to say that my firm is one of them, overall I am incredibly disappointed by the quality of the selections. Even our firm’s best work was passed over for a project we put in only because it had a good ‘hook’ not a good design.
I’m hoping someone will provide an alternate to IDSA. We need judges trained in design criticism and given ample time to consider the thousands of entries submitted. More importantly, I’m looking for a competition that has a clear definition of design success across categories. The reasons for giving a Gold in one category won’t garner a second glance in another.
The IDEA needs to be fixed.

Well congrats to you and your firm for winning!

Which product was your submission?

Congrats on your achievement!

Not trying to take anything away for the awards or the recipients, but do you think there might be just a little money under the table? Have you ever noticed that the SAME companies continue to receive these awards, and they just happen to have ads in the magazine itself? Crown, HLB, Fitch, Cesaroni, RKS…all great design firms/companies, no doubt. But there are a lot of other submissions that I bet are being passed up because of the almighty dollar.

With all the p2p, social networks, design forums, and common knowledge of design industry players these days - what about a people’s design choice award?

Prizes could be actual real designed goods, submitted by the design firm or manufacturer. Incentives for voting or feedback could range from money to discounts to Bombay Sapphire parties (are you listening, Core77?)

Design is supposed to be making people’s lives better, not raise repeat award winners to the level of design demigods. Would jurors, not knowing the people or history behind a product, be able to discern the BS from the design innovation? At some level, given enough responses, you could even do a “hot or not” design award that I bet would have more of a sympathetic response from practicing designers, than the usual obscurities picked by the dozen jurors recruited to impose their tastes on the pages of BizWeek.

An IDEA award gives the winner some clout. It has a unspeakably large hand in aiding freshman designers toward job placements in the future. Does anyone really give a sh*t that IDEO, frog, Lunar, have dozens of the things on their shelves, and everyone else has few to NONE? Who does that serve? Are those firms really doing better design work than everyone else? And sez who?

Would Behar & Co. get so many awards if the jurors didn’t know him personally, and treated him favorably in print because he’s “photogenic”? (the actual opinion of a design magazine editor)…

Of course once anything is judged, the process of judging will be criticized. Look at fine art or the AIA. Both have professional critics and juries. But talk with any un-recognized artist or architect and you’ll hear the same complaints we would lodge against IDSA.

I think the problem with IDSA is purely structural. I think the people involved have good intentions, however here’s my list of things that need to be fixed;

  • Too many submissions for the time volunteer judges can provide
  • Transparency; How does the IDEA really work, how to judges come to their decisions? It’s a mystery. Judges never have to account for their decisions, particularly the negative. I would like each applicant (winner or loser) receive a scorecard.
  • No clear definition of quality, are submissions judge on aesthetics, problem solving, what. Why did a folding tent win a gold for design, because it had excellent engineering, is that what IDSA is looking for?
  • Not enough awards given out. I think IDSA should recognize more great designs, not limit itself to so few. This would allow judges to more easily recognize the design risk-takers.
  • New categories. I would like to see judges provide some awards based purely on design, how about a category for best form, best proportions, best use of materials, or manufacturing?
  • Need to recognize the design teams. I would love to see a yearly award to the best design team. I think our industry would be better served if we promote how we collaborate and consult, not just highlight the designers who promote themselves as individuals.

“design is like a truffle”…

can I use that as my signature line?

(sorry, long day, still at it…)

you attempted to eat a whole truffle?