Award-winners succeeding in a confused marketplace

Congratulations to our award-winners this year, and particularly to the team behind the Best of Show, the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at London Heathrow Airport.

Awards give us a great opportunity to celebrate design’s innate creativity. Work that impresses your peers gives everyone a creative benchmark to aim for in the often cut-throat world of commercial design.

But awards also point to the direction design is taking in addressing shifting markets.

This year’s positive signs include a surge in collaboration, not least with the client, in effecting schemes such as the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse. Virgin Atlantic, architect Softroom and lighting consultant Isometrix were entwined on this one.

There is also strong evidence that digital design is realising its potential at last. It’s not just about websites and we are seeing a high level of interactivity in winners such as Poke’s risqué Cock-a-Doodle site.

But awards can also strike a note of caution, manifested this year in two main ways.

On the one hand, we have the ‘interlopers’ – architects and an ad agency – taking prizes for stunning work in furniture, interiors and point-of-sale. This, arguably, is healthy as disciplines converge to set new standards.

But less encouraging is evidence that traditional branding and communication design are going through a sticky patch. It is almost unthinkable that we should have no literature winners, save in the editorial design category, or for stationery – the usual place for beautifully crafted small projects. The judges applied the same standards as ever and the entries were found lacking.

The poor showing in packaging is due in part to confusion in the market. With retailers launching ‘brands’ that are separate from their own-brand lines and brand-owners struggling to compete, nothing new is really happening.

There are issues to be addressed, but they don’t belittle the success of our winners though. We hope you approve our selection.

LYNDA RELPH-KNIGHT, EDITOR

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