“Such a range!” says juror Elaan Ventura Bourn. “Sometimes you feel that when looking at industry publications or going to events, there is a uniformity to design or a current trend. It was refreshing to see so many different sensibilities and approaches in these submissions.”
“I’m delighted to see the ubiquity of design has led us to a place where no clear trends are apparent,” juror Rich Hollant says. “This year, the visual languages were quite varied, and that’s refreshing.”
“Stylistically, while there are trends, there’s really just everything all at once—new takes on old motifs. And there’s room for everything,” says juror Matt Titone.
The exuberant use of color was also cited by several jurors.
“The color palettes across the categories had a freshness that felt rich and alive,” juror Jennifer Mahanay says. “For me, there was this element of psychedelic escapism in the projects.”
“It was wonderful to see some bold expressions with color and type coming through and tempting to think this joyful visual approach is a result of the world slowly returning to normal after the last few years,” says juror Adam Giles.
I asked the jurors what surprised them most about the entries.
“How Canadian they were,” juror Jason Mannix says. “I was exposed to a lot more of Ontario’s and Quebec’s visual cultures than I was expecting.”
“The amount of CBD companies entered,” says Giles. “It’s clearly a huge growth industry, which the United Kingdom has yet to enter.”
“It is always surprising to see threads of similarity in submissions,” Mahanay says. “Sexy illustrative typefaces utilized just right. The creative application of a simple concept bent and pushed to the limits. Something that feels old becoming new again and sparking so much delight!”
“There was a really strong ap- proachable tone of voice in a lot of these works,” says Bourn. “[It was] a notable shift from wanting to sound or read like an authority and much more to be on the same level as each project’s intended audience.”
Several jurors commented on the quality of the submissions by students.
“The high caliber of the thoughtfulness in the student work was surprising,” Hollant says. “There’s a lot of hope in that and a testament to the strong advocacy for change in design education.”
“Many of them stood out in their concept and quality of execution,” says juror Chany Lagueux. “In several projects, a desire for sustainability could be noticed no matter the subject.”
“I was extremely surprised to find that the level of design was very much on par with the professional categories,” Titone says. “I don’t remember my own student portfolio being nearly as advanced.”
“I was impressed that the student entries were often visually stronger than the professional entries,” says juror Kristine Matthews. “However, I could see that quite a bit of this may be attributed to the fact that students can be very savvy with mockup tools, which can make ‘fake’ projects look more compelling than real projects [with restraints like] clients, budgets and the number of applications.”
When asked about their biggest disappointments with the entries, the judges cited a reliance on mockups more than once.
“A large portion of entries used digital mockup tools to show applications that were clearly not part of the actual deliverable of the project,” Matthews says. “For example, many branding projects were shown applied to poster series, canvas bags and packaging, etc.”
“For projects with a certain materiality, I think it is part of the job to see them produced and physically completed when possible,” says Lagueux. “I would love to see more final projects, materiality and maybe even slight imperfections!”
Other disappointments? “There were some really interesting intellectual thoughts and ideas that unfortunately had been let down by the level of craft used to bring them to life,” Giles says.
“At times, it felt that some of the entries cared more about style over substance,” says Bourn. “There was an eagerness to try out an aesthetic without examining if it worked for the actual brief.”
“My biggest disappointment was with some of the excessive per-piece budgets that businesses continue to spend in order to buy hearts and minds,” Hollant says. “While many of these types of pieces can be lovely, the overdrawn lobbying for attention was sometimes iniquitous.”
“So many of the entries were well polished and highly produced—but they were so safe,” says Mannix. “Graphic design has always been an imitation game of sorts, so repetitive tropes, trends and styles are expected. I wanted more visual poetry, authentic attitude, swagger and delight.”
“I would like to see the level of sophistication and visual poetry applied to even more diverse products and media,” Mahanay says. “We should constantly push to elevate in every arena because everyone deserves the respect of smart design.”
I asked the jurors what business, cultural and social developments will alter the role of design in the future.
“Artificial intelligence and robotics will have a strong impact on design,” says juror Sophie Rubin. “The challenge for designers will be to keep a creative and imaginative spirit that the machine won’t be able to replace.”
“Socioeconomic turmoil—from mounting inflation to continued supply chain issues—will lead us to re-evaluate our relationship with objects and purchased goods,” Hollant says. “Design will have to come to terms with its role in how we got here. With these dire conditions, design is poised to lead our various cultures through a global exercise in introspection, simplification, empathy, care and maybe even capitulation.”
“In my design teaching, over the past several years, I’ve started to see a real backlash—or at least pushback—against technology and tech companies in my college-aged students,” says Matthews. “Before, everyone wanted to work for a big tech company—aside from high salaries, it was the ‘it’ place to be. Now, there’s more questioning of that goal.”
“It seems as though the world is changing faster than ever with social media, AI, pandemics, cryptocurrency and political discourse,” Titone says. “Design plays such a big role in communicating all these changes, making them palatable and relatable to the world at large. It’s our job as designers to interpret the roles and functions of these new products and movements and translate their intent to the masses. It’s a lot to keep up with and a big responsibility that continues to be more important as these new products and platforms make bigger impacts on our world.”
Lastly, I asked jurors where they think the design industry is headed.
“As our cultural skepticism about all designed systems increases, I think we will see a more restrained economy of expressive methodology emerge,” says Hollant. “Our next generation is open- eyed and demands a level of inclusivity that will challenge the protected class of design-system creators.”
“There is a strong desire and demand for inclusivity, sustainability and equity in my students, which was not even on the table when I was in design school,” Matthews says. “This is a positive thing that will help to push some bottom-up change in the industry for the better.”
A minimum of six out of ten votes was required for a project to be awarded in this year’s competition. Judges were not permitted to vote on projects with which they were directly involved; I voted in their stead. I would like to extend our grateful appreciation to our jurors for their conscientious efforts in selecting our 63rd Design Annual. —Patrick Coyne ca
Elaan Ventura Bourn is a New York City–based design director who believes in creating custom visual solutions and identities for a wide range of clients. She values intelligent and considered approaches supported by strategy, research and collaboration. She started her career at advertising and branding agency AR New York, specializing in international fashion, luxury and hospitality brands. She then moved on to the design firm Gretel, working both on broadcast packages as well as identity work. She now works at design agency Character’s New York office, bringing her curiosity and expertise to everything from design systems to experiential design.
Adam Giles is a creative director at Interabang, a London, United Kingdom–based design agency cofounded by Giles and Ian McLean in 2010. With more than 20 years of professional experience in the creative industry designing large-scale brands, small-scale postage stamps and everything in between, Giles passionately believes his cross-pollination of insight and knowledge brings tangible benefits and memorable, impactful work to his clients and collaborators. He currently works with clients including International Rescue Committee, Macmillan Cancer Support, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount and Royal Mail and gives talks on graphic design at universities.
Yiyang Hei is creative director of SenseTeam, a Shenzhen, China–based branding, exhibition planning, spatial design and publishing consultancy he established in 1999. Through SenseTeam, Hei brings graphic design, contemporary art, advertising, architectural space, city and society together to make work interesting, meaningful and valuable. His work has been awarded by ADFEST, Cannes Lions, D&AD, Hong Kong 4As, New York Art Directors Club, Red Dot, Spikes Asia and The One Show. Hei has also been a judge for multiple international creative competitions and was elected a member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale in 2012.
Richard Hollant is the principal, strategist and design director at Hartford, Connecticut–based design firm CO:LAB. Working on initiatives in the public interest, Hollant blends comprehensive strategic thinking with resonant execution in his approach to support meaningful change in communities. He also established the Free Center, a group of community spaces providing free access to arts, culture, trauma healing and advocacy in forgotten communities where that access is conspicuously missing. He also teaches a master’s course on ethics at the Hartford Art School’s Nomad Interdisciplinary MFA program and is the chair of the City of Hartford’s Commission of Cultural Affairs.
Chany Lagueux is cofounder and associate designer at CRITERIUM, a Quebec City–based design studio. Founded in 2012, the studio specializes in visual identities, editorial design and packaging for institutions, cultural organizations, artists and businesses. The studio also runs a small gallery that presents the work of locally established and emerging artists and designers. Since 2002, Lagueux has received many national and international awards, including from Applied Arts and Communication Arts. A member of the Société des designers graphiques du Québec, Lagueux spends his spare time drumming, skateboarding and publishing a skateboard zine.
Jennifer Mahanay is a graphic designer and the creative director at Wright Auction, Rago and LA Modern Auctions. Across locations and disciplines, Mahanay works with her team to ensure that the creative branding, digital user experiences and photography meet the high standard of bespoke presentation that the world has come to expect from Wright and its partners. Her work has been recognized by Communication Arts, the New York Art Directors Club, STA Design Archive and Under Consideration, among others. In 2016, Wright was awarded the corporate leadership award from the AIGA for dedication and leadership in promoting excellence in design.
Jason Mannix is a creative director at Polygraph, a Washington, DC–based design studio he cofounded in 2011 with his two favorite people: his wife Lindsay Mannix and Gavin Wade. He started his career in New York at design agency Addison before joining design firm Doyle Partners. He then left New York for a research fellowship in Germany, where he designed Enzian, his award-winning blackletter typeface. As a designer, Mannix has an affinity for poetic brands and elegant editorial design, which Polygraph works hard to produce. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Vanity Fair and Wired, and he has taught design at American University and Maryland Institute College of Art.
Kristine Matthews is founding principal of Seattle-based Studio Matthews, a practice known for its sustainable, award-winning design as well as its focus on environmental responsibility. A leader in experi-ential design, including exhibitions, installations, wayfinding systems and interpretation, Matthews has had her work published internationally. Prior to establishing Studio Matthews in 2008, she co-led thomas.matthews, a sustainability-led design practice based in London, United Kingdom. Matthews also serves as associate professor of design and chair of the visual communication design program at the University of Washington.
Sophie Rubin is a Swiss designer, art director, educator and cofounder of the creative design studio WePlayDesign. From art direction to type design, visual identity to motion design, interactive design to generative design, WePlayDesign’s work covers all areas of creativity. The studio focuses on work that promotes experimentation and encourages innovative projects that extend to the entire range of its design capabilities. WePlayDesign has won numerous design awards and has its work regularly exhibited in Switzerland and abroad, notably in international poster competitions in Bolivia, China, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States, among other locations.
Matt Titone is a principal of ITAL/C, a multidisciplinary branding and design studio based in Los Angeles and founded in 2012 by him and fellow creative director Ron Thompson. ITAL/C’s diverse clients include Google, Head-space, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Meta, Netflix, Patagonia, Proper Hotels and Reebok. In addition to his studio work, Titone is the principal of surf culture brand Indoek and recently authored his second Surf Shacks book featuring creative surfers and their homes. Distributed by Gestalten, Surf Shacks has seen more than 60,000 copies printed to date. He also co-authored On Surfing, which features his portraits of 25 surf luminaries.