This is, of course, a common issue in design competitions – witness for example the recent controversy of Gordon Young and Why Not Associates Comedy Carpet missing out on the D&AD Yellow Pencils. But when you have a scheme as wide-ranging as Designs of the Year – covering everything from architecture to fashion with only one overall winner – then this subjectivity becomes even more apparent.
Visit the Design Museum’s Designs of the Year exhibition and what you get is an almost overwhelming jumble of great designs across all disciplines. As an exhibition it’s superb – but as a competition?
Barber Osgerby’s London 2012 Olympic Torch is stunning, and one of the most beautiful designs to come out of this year’s Games, matched only by Hopkins Architects’ Velodrome, which won in the architecture category.
It looks great, although having never used it (and as I’m not an official Olympic torchbearer I’ll never be able to) I can’t comment on how fit-for-purpose it is.
But is being beautiful enough to make this the design of the year? Better, for example, than the RCA and Helen Hamlyn Centre’s redesign of the emergency ambulance, which won in the transport category?
As you might expect from a scheme of this nature, the winners are frequently controversial – most notably when Shepard Fairey’s Obama posters won in 2009 (a rare victory for Graphics).
And in this Olympics year you can’t help but feel that the Torch, like Fairey’s posters were in 2009, is the most impactful, rather than necessarily the best design of the year.