Hot 50 – Introduction

Saying thank you for a job well done is a wonderful thing. It is therefore with great pleasure that we present Design Week’s latest Hot 50, a celebration of people, organisations and movements that have gone the extra mile for design over the past 12 months.


As ever, the array of interests represented here is diverse, ranging, alphabetically, from the ever-present Apple, which is perhaps the world’s most design-led business, to the hugely inspirational Michael Wolff, but taking in educationalists, designers, clients and even venues in between.

Several of the entrants have appeared before. Take Mike Dempsey, for example. The CDT Design founder made his debut last year, on the strength of his prowess as Master of the Faculty of Royal Designers for Industry, where his only bid to be met by staunch opposition from more reactionary RDIs was to change the long-winded name of the organisation. He reappears this year on the strength of poignant work for charities such as the Helen Bamber Foundation in his new guise as Studio Dempsey.

People like Sir Michael Bichard and Sir John and Lady Frances Sorrell similarly re-emerge year on year, because of dogged determination and resourcefulness that continually manifests in far-reaching new initiatives.

Some are there because of exemplary work and commitment over many years. Wolff, Michael Peters and Martin Lambie-Nairn represent this group.

And then there are phenomena that inform design. Last year, we cited blogging. This year, the Web in its widest context makes the grade, because of the way it has democratised communication and spread the notion of debate way beyond the usual confines.

But at the other extreme we have chocolate – and the art of the chocolatier – that won a universal thumbs up from the jury. Design has entered this world at all levels, from the product itself to packs and specialist shops, and its importance as a small luxury in times of recession cannot be denied.

Choosing just 50 design champions is tough, and where we feel it is appropriate we have crammed in the names of the supporting cast to any key player.

There are those, though, who are omitted because the jurors were disappointed with their performance over 2008 when they might have expected great things from them. You can probably spot who they are – and we hope they take exclusion as a prompt to try harder in 2009.

Congratulations, though, to all who made it through. The jury maintains high standards and are not easily swayed. Our thanks go to them for their efforts this year – and particularly to Jane Priestman, the design management doyenne, who has assessed the Hot 50 over several years, and who was secretly voted on to the list this year by her fellow jurors.

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