“I was surprised by the large number of projects submitted, and despite the pandemic and the economic crisis, work continued to be produced,” says juror Oliver Siegenthaler. “I expected more work that had to do with isolation but saw very little.”
“There was an incredible breadth of design, from very classic approaches to envelope-pushing originality,” juror Laura Stein says.
“There was a lovely humanness and frankness to the best of the entries,” says juror Anna Minkkinen. “Perhaps because it was a time of such upheaval and isolation, we were inspired to express ourselves with boldness, honesty and an organic touch.”
“I was really pleased to see that the pandemic had not affected the quality, range and quantity of [the submissions],” juror Debbie Osborne says. “Reassuringly, there was a healthy mix of entries for both large and small clients from across the globe.”
“You could feel the influence of 2020’s events in the work submitted,” says juror Amy Pastre. “I was glad to see designers and studios continuing to react to the world around them with design-based problem solving and communication.”
“We’ve had some very unusual situations around the world these last two years. It’s good to see that many designers tried to use their expertise to draw people’s attention to different issues like human rights and the pandemic,” juror Ray Lau says.
“There were some really powerful pieces that captured what has been happening politically and socially—and that reflected the reality of the pandemic,” says Minkkinen.
I asked the judges which areas of work they found particularly strong this year.
“There were some exceptionally well-designed and crafted pieces in packaging, integrated branding and book design,” juror Ashutosh Karkhanis says.
“On the packaging front, it was clear that a lot of love went into many of those entries,” says Minkkinen. “So much effort and craft went into [some] highly detailed work. You can’t deny that the whole world of craft beer seems to offer endless quirky creativity.”
“The most exciting packaging was created by designers who worked against tropes and created a singular visual language,” Stein says. “We saw some very arresting and brand-defining work in typically saturated categories.”
“The integrated branding category was my favorite category,” says Pastre. “This is actually how people experience the work we do as designers—as a collection of pieces and parts, a whole experience. I think design will continue to move in this direction, stepping outside of its traditional forms and vehicles to convey an aesthetic, message or experience.”
“The animation category has grown and, in general, is of better quality,” Siegenthaler says. “That makes me think that the new generation thinks more in motion than in static design.”
“It was evident in the amount of entries that included motion or logo animation that they are becoming a more important part of design solutions,” says Pastre. “In many cases, seeing that layer as part of a solution was informative and often enhanced the project.”
“I found a lot of mature, solid and creative design among the student entries,” Lau says. “It must be a strong motivational force for our industry in the future.”
“The student submissions were very strong this year, with well-crafted and thought-provoking concepts that tackled some of the important issues of our time. This resulted in some hard-hitting and impactful work,” says Osborne. “I found this all very encouraging on what has been a very disruptive time to be studying design.”
I asked the jurors what surprised them the most about the entries.
“I wasn’t expecting so many packaging entries for cannabis,” Minkkinen says. “I just hadn’t realized how many brands have been built around that industry, and it’s pretty fascinating to see the angles that were being taken on positioning this product to different groups—on giving it an entirely new spin.”
“I was really impressed that categories like animation and books have become very powerful mediums to communicate social issues,” says Siegenthaler. “In contrast, categories like posters—where social content is always very powerful—this time were not.”
“Instagram has become not only the modern-day ‘poster’ but also a vehicle for long reads, such as annual reports,” Stein says.
I also asked the judges to describe their biggest disappointments.
“Both the Poster and the Logo categories had a substantial amount of entries but didn’t stand out from the rest,” says Karkhanis. “Many were well crafted but lacked strong ideas.”
“I would have liked to see more posters and trademarks,” juror Anna Farkas says.
“I was a bit sad to see that the value of annual reports is getting lower and lower,” says Siegenthaler. “I remember a few years ago it was one of the most important categories.”
“It was a little frustrating not to be able to pick up and experience many of the entries, whether flipping through a book, magazine or annual report; seeing a poster full size; or handling a piece of packaging,” Osborne says. “So much of how we feel about design is informed by its scale, its tactile qualities, the material used, its weight and how well it has been crafted. A photograph can tell you a lot about a piece, but handling it and connecting with it leaves a lasting impression.”
Several jurors commented on how the role of design has changed and will change in the future.
“The role of design is always changing in different eras. Sometimes it’s not obvious, but it’s happening all the time,” says Lau. “The position or definition is not decided by ourselves but by how designers influence our society.”
“More and more, technology will change both the design process and the designer’s mindset to a great extent,” Farkas says.
“I think a ‘designer’ in this era is more like a design-thinking project manager,” says Lau. “We have to handle many more things compared to years before, from print to digital, paper to different materials, business to social. You can see design applied in everything nowadays.”
Jurors also discussed design’s role in a rapidly changing society.
“I think that the distinction between online and offline is going to be wider and bigger, and I can see future challenges in the contradiction between the palpable, enduring [real world] and the accelerated virtual world,” Farkas says.
“It’s a little tough to know how much of an anomaly the last year was, simply because we were dealing with such unusual circum-stances,” says Minkkinen. “That said, I do feel that there are trends towards communicating through design in ways that feel human, crafted and honest. I mean, I’d love to think design always wants to capture the essence of things—to be able to be simple and honest. But we now live in a time when people are questioning the corporate monoliths increasingly, and I think there is a hunger for brands that feel relatable and that care about being sustainable, responsible and refreshingly unique.”
“While consumerism will take time to find its optimum, how we consume can surely be improved,” Karkhanis says. “Leading the charge on [adopting] more sustainable practices and finding ways of making it mainstream are some things that I see design playing a big role in.
“Design works to solve the challenges that are thrown at it,” Karkhanis continues. “As the larger context changes, so do the considerations that dictate design. There are certain themes—like health, sustainability [and] equality—[that] are becoming increasingly important in our world. There, design has the opportunity to help shape the narrative and not just influence, but lead the shift towards a positive future.”
A minimum of six out of ten 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 62nd Design Annual. —Patrick Coyne ca
Anna Farkas established her own studio, Anagraphic, in 1999. A doctoral graduate of the graphic design program from the Hungarian University of Fine Arts in Budapest, her doctoral thesis, the Anaptár, is a lunar-cycle calendar that reveals both scientific and artistic relationships in an interdisciplinary data visualization. Her work has been recognized by numerous international awards, including five Awards of Excellence from Communication Arts and the Red Dot Grand Prix in 2020. In 2006, she was one of the founding members of the Society of Hungarian Graphic Designers and Typographers and remains a member of its managing board.
Michael Hester is the founder and creative director of Pavement, a San Francisco Bay Area–based design and branding studio specializing in crafting strategic packaging and brand identities for wine, spirits, food and luxury goods clients, including Dollar Shave Club, E & J Gallo, Whole Foods Markets and Williams-Sonoma. Pavement’s work has been recognized by Communication Arts, the Dieline, Graphis and the Type Directors Club. Prior to founding Pavement in 2014, Hester had a diverse career in packaging, branding, art direction, creative advertising and editorial design. Hester graduated from The University of Arizona with a BFA in Visual Communications.
Ashutosh Karkhanis is the creative head and managing partner at OPEN Strategy & Design, one of India’s most-awarded brand consultancies. In his more than two-and-a-half-decade career, his work on some of the biggest Indian and global brands has been recognized widely, winning awards at Adfest Asia Pacific, Cannes, the Clios, Communication Arts, The London International Advertising Awards, the New York Festival, the One Show and many Indian awards. Karkhanis also loves to see the world through his lens, and his photographs have been featured in the National Geographic and the Spikes Asia photography contests.
Ray Lau is the design director of Tomorrow Design Office, a Hong Kong–based design company established in 2012 and specializing in visual communication, brand identity, marketing collateral and publication design. Lau has received recognition from many international awards, including Communication Arts, D&AD, Golden Pin Design Awards and Good Design Awards, among others. Lau has also worked with leading local arts and cultural organizations, creating simple, innovative solutions designed to influence society. The studio also created PAPERIST, its own brand that develops paper swatch books and other printing-related products distributed in Asia.
Anna Minkkinen is an Emmy award-winning executive creative director at New York City–based branding agency Loyalkaspar. She has overseen creative campaigns and rebrands for clients like CNN, Comedy Central, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Marvel, MTV, National Geographic and Sesame Street. Minkkinen works across all media and platforms, including digital, on-air and large-scale experiential activations in stadiums and museums. Her Scandinavian roots have not only informed her design philosophy but have also drawn her to collaborative creative studios with an international flavor, as she’s spent many years as a creative leader at acclaimed agencies Trollbäck and Loyalkaspar.
Silas Munro is a partner of Polymode, a bicoastal design studio that creates poetic, research-informed design for cultural and community-based organizations. Munro’s writing appears in Eye, Slanted, the Walker Reader and W. E. B. Du Bois’s Data Portraits: Visualizing Black America. He is particularly interested in the often-unaddressed postcolonial relationship between design and marginalized communities. Munro holds an MFA from California Institute of the Arts and a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, is an associate professor at Otis College of Art and Design, and a founding faculty and chair emeritus at Vermont College of Fine Arts.
Deborah Osborne is cofounder and creative partner at Osborne Ross Design based in London, United Kingdom. Prior to this she spent the better part of a decade working in Pentagram’s London office. Osborne Ross’s clients include The Arts Council, The British Museum, John Lewis, The National Portrait Gallery, RIBA, The Royal Mail, The Royal Mint, Somerset House, The Home Office, The Royal Collection, Vanity Fair and Vogue, among others. During her career, Osborne has won awards from the Art Directors Club of New York, the Clios, Communication Arts, D&AD, the Drum and Graphis, and has previously judged the AOP and D&AD awards.
Amy Pastre is lead designer and cofounder of SDCO Partners, a multidisciplinary studio headquartered in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. A graduate of Miami University, Pastre spent more than a decade in agency design roles before forming Stitch Design Co. in 2009 with Courtney Rowson, a fellow designer and longtime friend. As a creative director and designer, Pastre and a team of writers, designers, developers, and strategists help brands reimagine and redefine their industries through collaboration, design, strategy and story. Their work has been featured in Communication Arts, The Dieline, Fast Company, Forbes, the T-List of the New York Times and New York Times Magazine.
Oliver Siegenthaler is chief creative officer of Bogotá, Colombia–based design firm S&Co. Siegenthaler studied at Jorge Tadeo Lozano University in Bogotá and has a master’s degree in graphic production and packaging from Elisava, Barcelona School of Design. He started working for Misty Wells and later for Lucho Correa, where he was creative director for four years before opening his own design firm in 2012. His work has been awarded by the Bienal Iberoamericana de Diseño, Communication Arts, El Dorado Festival, Lápiz de Acero, Latin American Design Awards, Red Dot Design Awards, Wallpaper* Design Awards and the Type Directors Club.
Laura Stein is a partner and chief creative officer at Bruce Mau Design in Toronto, Canada. Providing overall creative and strategic direction for the studio’s brand and design output, Stein has worked with some of the world’s leading brands across borders and cultures, transforming organi-zations at all scales as well as rallying their respective communities. Her work has been featured in Branding Magazine, Business Insider, Communication Arts, Creative Review and Fast Company, and has been recognized by Cannes and D&AD, among others. Stein holds a BA from McGill University and a BFA from Nova Scotia College of Art & Design.