This is the week when those who have done well in the Design Awards rightly trumpet their success around town, while less fortunate contenders try to convince themselves that awards don’t matter.
The reality, of course, is that they do – to consultancy staff, clients and the industry at large. They raise your profile and show what you’re capable of, given the right brief and a great client. Astute incomers such as Dutch group Una, a finalist in several categories this year, use awards to position themselves and build a reputation. Established winners, such as Fitch and Interbrand Newell and Sorrell, need to keep reminding folk that whatever business deal is taking place, they are still up there with the best and are producing great work.
Creative awards tell only part of the story – schemes such as the Design Business Association’s Design Effectiveness Awards put an equally important business slant on the performance of design. And that is a key part, given that its creative output sets design apart from other marketing services businesses.
Also, creative awards give a snapshot of a year, highlighting trends and talents that aren’t as easily glimpsed in any other way. And this year’s picture is clear for anyone complacent about their future: communications is once more the thing, with great work coming from print and electronic media across a variety of platforms.
Meanwhile, product design goes from strength to strength, and there’s a timely reminder from JCB that consultancies aren’t the only operators in this field. The next challenge could come from the better in-house set ups. Product throws up too the increasingly global nature of the business. The outstanding success of Californian group Lunar Design with its three shortlisted industrial products reflects the design strength of the West Coast of the US; even Ideo’s best-of-show Nike Vision sports specs had input from designers on both sides of the Atlantic. Then there’s Una, scoring in graphics and new media. The challenge is patently there.
Let’s not delude ourselves that the best has to be British. We are great at design, but we don’t have the monopoly. And with the high-level of global acquisition in the industry, what do we mean by British anyway? Even Royal College of Art rector Professor Christopher Frayling would probably be hard-pushed to venture a definition, given the number of high-calibre overseas students who complete their design training here.
The Design Week awards will continue to honour the best in design and in future talent – wherever it comes from.