Awards: Why I judge and Why I don’t enter design awards


Photo: Kristine Arth


I’ll answer the second question first:

There are a few reasons why I don’t enter design awards. One is that it’s too hard. There are too many forms and checkboxes and labels and paperwork, not to mention getting together samples and putting it in envelopes with stamp to go in the mail by a specific date. Even writing these words fills me with dread, as these are all the kinds of things I hate doing so much it makes me hide under a blanket in despair. Plus there’s different awards with different rules at different times. It’s beyond overwhelming.

Another reason is that I hate to lose. Those who play board games with me know that I am a sore loser (and gloating winner). I would rather live in a bubble of my own imaginary praise than wait and wait for a verdict, only to find myself not among the winners when the time comes. That is another form of torture.

So does that make it hypocritical for me to judge awards, when I don’t enter? No, because my reasons are practical, not an ideological protest. I think awards shows are important for the industry, to add to the historical record by showing not just excellence, but trends and, over time, movements. And I think they’re a very good vehicle for designers starting out or building their reputation in the design industry. I’m sure it helps people get jobs in the industry as well (though client benefit has always been debatable).



Why I judge

I love judging design awards, mostly for the interaction with the other judges. Of course this is not always pleasant (and I can think of one time in particular when it was hell), but most of the time I really enjoy the different perspectives of the other judges. I’ve learned a lot from them, and I’ve always found that most designers are really nice, bright people.

I’ve made some good pals on design juries, and when you get a good group, sitting around talking about what you’ve seen is piles of fun. I also think it’s necessary for a good awards show to have at least one round of discussion (not on everything, that would be impossible and tedious). Some awards shows don’t allow the judges to talk to each other, which is ridiculous.

Also I’m not a troller of design magazines, so judging helps me keep up with what other people are doing.