“It was a joy to see a high level of design throughout all of the entries,” juror Bobby Martin says. “The work was smart and well crafted. I left feeling encouraged about the future of design.”
“Two things struck me,” says juror Dan Olson. “First, the incredible attention to detail that seemed to span all categories of work. Second, the high level of creative problem solving that addressed difficult marketplace challenges. I found both to be inspiring.”
“A number of the entries returned to a deeply layered, physically and typographically rich approach that has been absent for years,” says juror Christine Celic Strohl. “There were lots of considered details to explore in all categories.”
“I was stunned by some of the elaborate finishing on a few of the printed entries—sometimes appropriate, sometimes not,” juror Roy Burns says. “Who’s paying for these extravagant print jobs, and where can I find them?”
“Spending a weekend with other design nerds and 4,000-plus entries was completely inspiring,” says juror Monique Gamache. “The moments of surprise and pleasure when you get to see how the problem is getting solved reminded me that design truly can change the world—or simply adjust the way I think about something.”
I asked the jurors what they found most surprising about the entries.
“It’s no surprise that the work coming out of Canada is exceptional, but I was surprised by the volume of entries sent from there,” says Martin. “It seems now, more than ever, Canada is showing how encouragement, kindness and compassion are what make a country—and design—great.”
“I think I’ve found another reason to move to Canada besides our current political climate,” adds Burns.
When I asked the jurors about their biggest disappointment with the entries, the most frequent response was about the lack of originality.
“I was taken aback by the sheer volume of entries in the packaging category, but I was dismayed by the sameness of the approach in the spirits and craft beer entries,” says Burns. “While being precisely designed and well crafted, much of it was reliant on firmly entrenched tropes. Whether that’s a reflection of client or consumer expectations or the thinking itself, I’m not sure.”
“I do appreciate that creating original work is tremendously difficult—I struggle with it myself—but there was a lot of work that just felt the same,” adds Gamache.
I asked the jurors which business, cultural and social developments might alter the role of design in the future.
“We live in a world increasingly overwhelmed with data, which can be an important tool for strategic decision making,” Olson says. “Yet data rarely illuminates what can be or unleashes the power of human potential. Designers must take data to heart and use it to inspire their ability to define the future.”
“I’m sure we’ll see how design can amplify the voices of those feeling targeted by this administration, as well as those taking action to support the country’s well-being,” says Martin.
Lastly, the jurors predicted future directions the design field might take.
“The optimist in me thinks that design is getting more integrated, more competitive and more imperative,” says Martin.
“We are seeing more colleagues exploring their own interests, creating their own businesses and championing their own causes, which makes me excited for the future,” says Strohl.
“While the lines between disciplines are blurring and converging, design will always play a vital role if it stays true to its core purpose: clarifying those things that would otherwise be difficult to understand,” Olson says. “The marriage of insights and imagination in moving from the complicated to the simple—that is the ultimate goal of all great design. And that skill set has never been more important or needed.”
A minimum of three 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 58th Design Annual. —Patrick Coyne, ca
Christine Celic Strohl is a cofounder and principal of Strohl, a San Francisco–based firm specializing in brand identity design and development. She uses her degrees in graphic design and psychology to combine thoughtful visual design with an empathetic approach to consumer experiences. Formerly a senior art director at New York City–based Mucca Design, Strohl has been nominated for three James Beard Foundation awards for her restaurant graphics, and her work has been recognized by AIGA, the Art Directors Club of New York, Communication Arts and the Type Directors Club.
Dan Olson is the founder and creative director of Studio MPLS in Minneapolis, Minnesota. With more than 30 years of industry experience, he has been responsible for some of the most highly awarded and widely recognized design work in the world, including global initiatives for brands like BMW, Coca-Cola and Sony. Prior to founding Studio MPLS in 2009, Olson was a creative director at Duffy & Partners and an associate creative director at Fallon. A true Northerner, Olson is a lifelong resident of Minneapolis and enjoys spending time at his Lake Superior cabin with his dog, Tom.
Bobby C. Martin Jr. is a founding partner of OCD | The Original Champions of Design, which has offices in New York City and Oklahoma City. Prior to founding the branding and design agency with Jennifer Kinon in 2010, Martin led a Nokia internal design team in London and also served as design director of the New York City venue Jazz at Lincoln Center. He is a member of the Type Directors Club’s board of directors and previously served on the board of AIGA/NY from 2006 through 2008. Martin graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University and earned an MFA from the School of Visual Arts, where he is also on the faculty.
Monique Gamache is design director and partner at WAX, one of western Canada’s most-awarded creative agencies. Gamache has always been drawn to telling stories through design. Distilling the complexity of a company or brand into simple, cohesive and effective work with a consistent voice is Gamache’s strength. She proudly heads a multifaceted, talented design team, whose working philosophy is to speak softly, but wield a big idea. Her work has been recognized by the Art Directors Club of New York, Cannes, Communication Arts, D&AD, the One Show and the Type Directors Club.
Roy Burns III is design director at Lewis Communications, a multi-disciplinary branding agency with offices across the southeastern United States. Previously, Burns was an art director at SapientRazorfish in New York City and was design director at Stoltze Design in Boston. His work has been recognized by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, AIGA, the Art Directors Club of New York, Brand New, Communication Arts, the Dieline, Graphis, HOW, Print and the Type Directors Club, and his posters have appeared in multiple books and publications. Burns lives with his wife and two children in Birmingham, Alabama.