DBA should switch on to Stirling Prize approach

Congratulations to all the winners in the 2002 International Design Effectiveness Awards, announced on Friday, and particularly to Williams Murray Hamm, which took the Grand Prix for the Hovis packaging it created for British Bakeries.

Congratulations to all the winners in the 2002 International Design Effectiveness Awards, announced on Friday, and particularly to Williams Murray Hamm, which took the Grand Prix for the Hovis packaging it created for British Bakeries (see News, this page). It is no mean feat to persuade a client to open its books to scrutiny at the best of times, let alone to get through the rigours of the Idea judging process, organised by the Design Business Association. But at a time of stringent financial constraints it is particularly tough, yet proving the effectiveness of design is the ultimate way of winning over clients.

Of course, the true effectiveness of design rarely shows just on the bottom line. It touches intangible aspects such as customers’ perception of a company or brand and experience of using it. It is therefore good that the DBA plans to promote its winners more thoroughly this year through case studies. It is interesting too that it adopted a more business-like approach in its lunch presentation, rather than the more usual dinner. But is business-to-business promotion enough to get the message across to the widest possible audience?

Ironically, the results of architecture’s top awards, the RIBA Stirling Prize for the ‘building of the year’, came in the wake of the Idea announcement. Named after the late architectural great James Stirling, its organiser, the Royal Institute of British Architects, stole a march on the DBA by broadcasting the results on prime-time TV. Channel 4 devoted an hour-long programme on Sunday evening to the six shortlisted entries, before naming the Gateshead Millennium Bridge by Wilkinson Eyre Architects as the winner.

The choice of a bridge has caused controversy among architects who maintain it isn’t a building or even architecture, but a feat of engineering. And because of Channel 4’s involvement that debate is already in the public arena, engaging interest in the subject beyond architectural circles.

It is not the first time the Stirling Prize has been televised, nor is it the first ‘design’ award to attract TV coverage. Years ago, the judging of the old Design Council’s Schools Design Prize hit the screens, warts and all. Meanwhile, the stories behind shortlisted entries in craft’s top accolade, the Jerwood Prize, made fascinating viewing when it turned its attention to fashion design a couple of years ago.

So why hasn’t the DBA, with its heavy client involvement, made this connection? By hooking up with TV, building on the Design Council’s contacts with Channel 4, it could get across the idea of process and effectiveness as well as celebrating its awards. What more effective way to promote design?

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