“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