Selection Process

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Award Categories

Reflecting the ever-growing scope of design, the National Design Awards program now includes ten jury-selected award categories:

Lifetime Achievement: Given in recognition of a distinguished individual who has made a profound and long-term contribution to the contemporary practice of design.

Design Mind: Given in recognition of a visionary, such as an educator, author, critic, curator, or designer, who has had a profound impact on design theory, practice, or public awareness.

Corporate & Institutional Achievement: Given in recognition of a corporation or institution that uses design as a strategic tool as part of its mission, and has consistently exhibited ingenuity and insight in the relationship between design and quality of life.

Architecture Design: Given to an individual or firm for exceptional and exemplary work in public, commercial, or residential architectural design.

Communication Design: Given to an individual or firm for exceptional and exemplary work in graphic or multimedia design.

Fashion Design: Given to an individual or firm for exceptional and exemplary work in clothing, accessory, or footwear design.

Interaction Design: Given to an individual or firm for exceptional and exemplary work in the design of interactive digital products, environments, systems, and services.

Interior Design: Given to an individual or firm for exceptional and exemplary work in domestic, corporate, or cultural interior design.

Landscape Architecture: Given to an individual or firm for exceptional and exemplary work in urban planning or park and garden design.

Product Design: Given to an individual or firm for exceptional and exemplary work in the design of consumer goods, technology, or home and office furnishings.

Created in 2001, the Design Patron Award is selected by Cooper Hewitt leadership rather than the jury process.

Design Patron: Given to an individual in recognition of outstanding support and patronage within the design community.

Created in 2006, the People’s Design Award is held each year in conjunction with National Design Week and is selected by the public rather than the jury process.

People’s Design Award: Given to a design that emphasizes how innovative design makes a difference in our everyday lives.

Criteria

The defining criteria of the National Design Awards are excellence, innovation, and enhancement of the quality of life.

Nominations & Submissions

Each fall, the process begins with an open call for nominations, which are solicited from leading designers, educators, journalists, cultural figures, corporate leaders, and design enthusiasts from every state in the nation. Nominees are invited to submit materials for the jury’s review according to specifications provided by the National Design Awards office. Submissions generally consist of resumes, design statements, portfolios of work, and professional-quality visual samples.

Eligibility

Eligibility is restricted to citizens or current long-term residents of the United States. Firms, corporations, or institutions must have their corporate headquarters in the United States. Individual nominees must have been practicing professionally for a minimum of seven years; Lifetime Achievement nominees must have been practicing professionally for a minimum of twenty years. Firms, corporations, or institutions must have been established for a minimum of seven years. Winners of a National Design Award in a Design Category will be eligible for the Lifetime Achievement, Design Mind, or Corporate and Institutional Achievement categories ten years of receiving their award. Cooper Hewitt employees and trustees and their families and household members are not eligible. Awards are given for a body of realized work, not for any specific project.

Jury Process

National Design Award jurors are chosen for their prominence and expertise in the design world and their ability to serve in a knowledgeable and statesmanlike manner.

The jury meets over a two-day period to thoroughly review every submission and consider each nominee, with the challenging task of determining the work that best embodies the Awards’ mission. The jurors assess portfolios in terms of the works’ relationship to and impact on contemporary daily life. Extraordinary originality in identifying, shaping, and solving problems is highly valued, and nominees whose work significantly broadens the conventions of their discipline, introduces formal innovation, and exhibits consistently high levels of imagination and insight are given special consideration. Finally, in keeping with Cooper Hewitt’s definition of design as a force of change, the extent to which the general public has benefited from the explorations and achievements of the nominee is weighed.

The jury is briefed by the Museum staff on the mission of and review criteria for the Awards, but Museum staff does not participate in the selection process. Jurors are asked to base their decisions primarily on the core criteria: excellence, innovation, and enhancement of the quality of life. They are also asked to consider the broad spectrum of the design community—geographically, culturally, and artistically. All jury deliberations are kept confidential.

2014 Jury

2014 National Design Awards Jury

The 2014 National Design Awards Jury was composed of a diverse group of designers and educators from around the nation:
  • Eric Anderson, associate dean, College of Fine Arts, associate professor, School of Design, co-director, Integrated Innovation Institute, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Kate Aronowitz, former director of design at Facebook and LinkedIn
  • Celerie Kemble, principal, Kemble Interiors
  • Tom Kundig, principal/owner, Olson Kundig Architects
  • Bruce Mau, co-founder, Massive Change Network
  • Ivan Poupyrev, technical program lead, executive, Google
  • Lucinda Sanders, CEO and partner, OLIN
  • Anna Sui, fashion designer, Anna Sui
  • Armin Vit, principal, UnderConsideration LLC

Behind the Scenes

Take a glimpse behind the scenes to learn more about the process from the 2013 National Design Awards Jury:

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