“I was really impressed with the strength of the integrated branding programs,” juror Lindsay Mannix says. “There were some wonderful examples of brands extrapolating an identity beyond its mark and walking that line between maintaining consistency and creating genuine visual interest.”
“I was surprised at the number of really solid student entries,” says juror Stéphane Monnet. “There was a lot of smart thinking and exceptional execution.”
“I enjoyed the stamps art directed by Antonio Alcalá,” juror Rafael Esquer says. “I applaud the United States Postal Service for embracing new technologies. For instance, the Total Eclipse of the Sun stamp is the first US stamp to use thermochromic ink, which reacts to the heat of your touch.”
“I think the winners of this year’s competition are all excellent and look great as a collection,” juror Christopher Simmons says. “While they certainly demonstrate a superior command of the craft, overall, they reflect the current state of design—which I would describe as less visually adventurous than in past years.”
“The beverage category is in an exciting place,” Mannix says. “Beer, in particular, seems to be breaking out of some of its stale conventions that have held for so long. Beer cans are the new poster.”
Simmons disagrees. “Just about everything we saw in that category was beautiful and seductive, but seemed to fall back on an already familiar visual language,” he says.
Any dialogue about creativity inevitably includes a discussion about the pervasiveness of visual trends.
“It was very interesting to see how trends affect so much of the work,” says juror Dawn Hancock. “With easy access to gobs of inspiration on every device we own, it’s hard not to be influenced.”
“I did notice a fair amount of trend-driven work,” says Monnet. “The dependence on inspiration from the same sources often results in predictable, cookie-cutter work. The bright side of that is that anything original and innovative really stands out!”
“A lot of the work looked like it was rehashing trends we have seen before,” Esquer says. “From the sterile Helvetica Swiss style of the ’50s to the op art aesthetics of the ’60s to the grunge look from the ’90s. Art deco seemed to be the ‘go-to’ design solution for most hospitality entries.”
In addition to asking the jury about this year’s entries, I asked them for their thoughts on how the industry is evolving.
“In the 25 years I’ve been working in this industry, I’ve seen a massive swing towards doing work that impacts people in positive ways,” Hancock says. “Most corporations are changing to adapt, and I expect this to continue and eventually be the way businesses are run.”
“Social media will continue to impact design,” says Mannix. “It’s definitely increasing the general public’s appreciation for and understanding of design, but also the commoditization of it. We’re all trying to stand out in a landscape that’s measured in fractions of a second, which can leave thoughtful work that requires time and depth, well... I don’t know where.”
“Today, design has all but lost its advocacy for being considered a cultural force; instead, its value is defined almost exclusively in commercial terms,” Simmons says. “Design has become more recursive in its influences and more accountable to measurable financial returns, and less respected for its intrinsic cultural, aesthetic and expressive value.”
So, how might design increase its prestige?
“More designers are becoming entrepreneurs and content creators,” says Esquer. “The field of design has great potential to influence the world in more ways than the purely visual.”
“Human-centered design is certainly a buzzworthy phrase that even small nonprofits are beginning to ask for—even if they don’t quite know what it means,” says Hancock. “While it’s not the mainstream approach for most design firms, especially small ones, I do believe it is the future.”
“We’ll inevitably have to evolve and expand our skills, as we’ve done in the past, or risk becoming obsolete,” Monnet says. “Here’s hoping designers don’t get replaced by creative artificial intelligence.”
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 59th Design Annual. —Patrick Coyne ca
Christopher Simmons is a designer and principal of the San Francisco design office MINE. His clients include scientific visionaries, best-selling authors, arts institutions, multinational corporations, restaurateurs, cannabis startups and the president of the United States (but not the current one). Simmons speaks on design issues for colleges and professional associations. His work has been exhibited in museums and galleries, including the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art and the Smithsonian Institution. He is the author of four books, coaches Little League and is a Scout leader.
Stéphane Monnet is the president and creative director of Monnet Design, based in Toronto, Canada. He is also the president of the Advertising & Design Club of Canada (ADCC), has guest lectured at OCAD University and sits on Humber College’s graphic design advisory committee. Monnet Design is a previous recipient of the ADCC’s coveted Design Studio of the Year award. Monnet has received numerous awards from design publications and organizations, including ADCC, AIGA, Applied Arts, Communication Arts, Graphis, HOW, the National Magazine Awards and the Type Directors Club.
Lindsay Mannix is cofounder and creative director of Polygraph, a Washington, DC–based firm specializing in graphic, environmental and product design for local and national brands. An industrial designer by trade, Mannix spent her early career developing products and brands in New York before starting Polygraph in 2010. She has worked with a wide range of clients, including Tumi, Unilever, the United Nations Foundation and the U.S. Green Building Council. Her work has been recognized by the Art Directors Club of New York, Communication Arts, Graphis, Print and the Type Directors Club.
Dawn Hancockn is a troublemaker, a bleeding heart, a designer by trade and a do-gooder by choice. She started Firebelly in 1999 in Chicago, Illinois. Since then, she’s been diligent about hiring passionate people, seeking out fearless allies and taking on projects with the potential to change the world—or at least her local community. While she’s kept the design studio intentionally small, Hancock has kept on hustling to expand Firebelly’s reach and impact. Over the years, she’s founded a community-based nonprofit, an education incubator, a ten-day design bootcamp and a curated showcase of typographic all-stars.
Rafael Esquer, a native of the Sonora desert of México, was educated in México City and Los Angeles. Since 2004, Esquer has operated Alfalfa Studio in New York. His work in communication design won the National Design Award from the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in 2004, and has been shown at the Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Arts and Design in New York. His work is also included in several other museums’ collections, including the Olympic Museum in Switzerland. In 2007, art-book publisher Taschen named Esquer among the world’s 100 most influential graphic designers working today.