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Editor’s Column

This year's 4,083 design entries were up 12 percent over last year’s competition. Although the addition of a student category accounted for three-fourths of the increase, we were surprised by the uptick in submissions to the brochure and company literature categories, which had been in steady decline for several years. We also saw more entries in business papers (another surprise), posters, packaging and public service work.
Go to Jurors Biographies

“I appreciated having the opportunity to review a great amount of work across a wide variety of categories,” juror Kelly Bjork says. “It was fascinating to see design trends surface. I enjoyed the privileged perspective.”

Speaking of trends: “It’s exciting to see designers push toward the extremes of any given look,” juror Jay Fletcher says. “Minimal design is becoming even more simplistic, and ornate design is becoming even more intricate.”

“In the poster category, I was particularly pleased to see a general move away from the crunchy, grainy, muted-color, gig-poster aesthetic toward a more stylistically varied spectrum of work,” juror Steven Watson says.

Not every category showed such variety. “I know there is a nostalgic, ornate typography movement currently happening, but the sheer volume that was entered was unbelievable,” juror Dora Drimalas says. “It made the competition that much trickier because entries really had to be the best of this particular style to get in.”

“Certainly there was a strong showing of retrograde American design, but overall, I was pleased by the stylistic diversity of the work,” juror Jeffrey Keyton says.

“At the end of the day, the entries that stood out solved communications objectives in smart and compelling ways, were dialed in on the details, and were aesthetically delightful,” Watson says.

“More and more designers are crafting truly beautiful work, but the work that stood out in any given category was different or smart or—in the best cases—both.”—Jay Fletcher

I asked the judges about their biggest disappointments with the sub­missions. Their responses focused primarily on style and execution.

“I was disappointed with the number of entries that appeared to use style over strong conceptual ideas to solve the fundamental communication challenge,” Bjork says.

“Many projects were beautifully designed, but paper selection and printing techniques were lacking,” Drimalas says. “It is unfor­tunate that these details are often overlooked because they can elevate a printed object from a good to an impeccable work of crafts­manship.”

I also asked the jurors how the perceived role of design is changing.

“I think design is transitioning from being seen as a commodity to being seen as a crucial part of a business’s success,” Fletcher says. “People are less interested in being bluntly told what to do or buy and more interested in having an experience they can identify with. The look and feel of that experience is an important—and some­times extremely subtle—part of our emotional connec­tion to it.”

“I am excited to see companies increasingly using design as a way to differentiate themselves from their competition.” —Kelly Bjork

“The best brands in the world have design within their C-suites,” Drimalas says. “I don’t just mean marketing, but product and brand creatives who are involved in business decisions and help steer companies.”

“With companies currently acquiring design firms or growing them from within, I am very interested to see if this trend will raise the bar on their overall communications,” Bjork says. “As for independent design firms, I expect they will need to reevaluate how to differentiate them­selves when the design services they have historically offered are handled in-house by their clients. Additionally, will we notice a change in the type of work internal design groups request of outside design firms? Will it be more exploratory or more produc­tion oriented?”

Lastly, I asked jurors about how the role of designers will change in the future.

“Coding is an essential skill moving forward and needs to be required in all design schools,” Keyton says. “I still love and enjoy a tactile, well-done piece of print design—books will always hold
a dear spot for me. But as far as innovation goes, the digital world is flush with oppor­tunities.”

“Technology will continue to change how we consume media, images and messages,” Watson says. “But the underlying principles of design will always be relevant in communicating effectively, regardless of how the future evolves.”

A minimum of four out of five votes was required for a project to be awarded in this year’s competition. I would like to extend our grateful appreciation to our jurors for their conscientious efforts in selecting our 56th Design Annual.—Patrick Coyne ca

Jurors Biographies
Kelly Bjork
associate partner and executive creative director
VSA Partners
Kelly Bjork is associate partner and executive creative director at VSA Partners, Chicago, Illinois. Bjork joined VSA Partners in 2008 as creative director, leading teams of designers in the development of brand systems, corporate communications and environmental experiences for companies such as IBM, Motorola and First Data. Prior to joining VSA, she worked as a design director for StudioLab, and she has served as programming chair of AIGA Chicago and as director of membership for AIGA Minnesota. Her work has been recognized by AIGA 365, Communication Arts, Print, Graphis, the One Show and REBRAND 100. She earned a BFA at the University of Wisconsin–Stout.
Dora Drimalas
principal and creative director
Hybrid Design
Dora Drimalas is a principal and creative director, along with her husband, Brian Flynn, of Hybrid Design, based in San Francisco. Clients include Apple, Nike, Mohawk Fine Paper, Samsung and Starwood, among many others. Prior to launching Hybrid Design in 2001, Drimalas worked at Nike’s Brand Design Group in Portland, Oregon, and Tolleson Design in San Francisco. She has taught communication design and branding at the California College of Arts and at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Her work has been nationally recognized by such design publications as Communication Arts, HOW and Print and featured in several design books.
Jay Fletcher
J Fletcher Design
Jay Fletcher, originally from Connecticut, has spent the past fourteen years living and working in Charleston, South Carolina, as a graphic designer and illustrator. After graduating from the Columbus College of Art & Design in 2000, he began his career in the newspaper world, honing his eye and learning what the phrase tight deadlines really means. In 2008, an after-hours freelance career became a full-time design job, and now J Fletcher Design has a stable of clients ranging from the NFL to Greenlitscripts. His work has been featured in Communication Arts, Print, and other international design publications and websites.
Jeffrey Keyton
head of design
Jeffrey Keyton is head of design at MTV in New York. He is always on the prowl for new approaches and is committed to the reinvention of the MTV brand. He’s also proud and humbled to work with some of the world’s finest talents, who make MTV visually potent. His work has been recognized by AIGA, the Art Directors Club, Communication Arts and the One Show. A Pratt Institute graduate and a recipient of the Herschel Levit Lifetime Achievement Award, Keyton studied with legendary graphic design and illustration instructor Charles Goslin. Keyton has also taught at the School of Visual Arts.
Steven Watson
founder and co-creative director
Steven Watson was born on a missile range in New Mexico and grew up in Boston. After stints in Arizona and Utah, he now lives in Seattle. Watson is a founder and co-creative director at Turnstyle, a Seattle-based design and branding firm whose clients include Air Seychelles, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Microsoft, Nordstrom, Nike, Teague, the Seattle Times and many others. His work has been recognized by AIGA, Communication Arts, D&AD, the Dieline Awards, Graphis, Novum, Print, Red Dot and the Type Directors Club. Watson previously served on the board of AIGA Seattle. He earned a BFA in graphic design at Brigham Young University.

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