I am writing to you in response to the article (DW 26 July) concerning the awards given at the New Designers exhibition.
Why was graduate Mike Simpson awarded 1000 for his pink leather vacuum cleaner? You mentioned nothing of its improved technical performance, lightweight construction technique, innovative use of materials, ease and mode of operation, superior cleaning potential or its unique storage capabilities.
Did this failure occur due to an editorial mistake, a printing error, or bad reporting? No? Did you fail to mention such benefits because they do not exist? If all Mr Simpson has performed on his vacuum cleaner is a bit of cosmetic surgery, shouldn’t he be working in a hospital? I thought an award for a design was for exactly that – not for a styling job.
Design is a tool with which to develop creative solutions to existing problems and for the continual improvement of products for the benefit of all. Has Mr Simpson manipulated this ethic in any sense other than the aesthetic one? Product designers are not simply stylists who initiate seasonal make-overs, despite what some might think. If we are to award people for their designs, let us be clear in stating what the award is for.
I am in favour of awards and have no objection to them being given, although the circumstances under which they are given should be clearly defined. Surely Mr Simpson has developed other skills while at university other than those of dreaming up pretty ideas? If not, I fear he may be letting the side down. More importantly, are judges to blame for confusing the words “stylist” and “designer”? They are not the same. Or is Design Week to blame for not conveying the criteria that the designs were judged on?
It seems the “stylist” has pocketed 1000 for “rounding off the edges”. Is this really the sort of practice we want to cultivate within the design profession? I think not.
The entries were judged on both their technical and visual input. Simpson transformed a dull household object into something beautiful that is highly impressive both visually and technically. It was the most stunning object in the New Designers exhibition.
Anne Sinclair, Fellow of the Chartered Society of Designers and a judge at the New Designers exhibition.