National Design Award Categories
Given in recognition of a distinguished individual who has made a profound and long-term contribution to the contemporary practice of design.
Given in recognition of outstanding support and patronage within the design community. Unlike the jury-selected awards, the recipient is chosen by Cooper Hewitt leadership.
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.
Given to an individual or firm for exceptional and exemplary work in public, commercial, or residential architectural design.
Given to an individual or firm for exceptional and exemplary work in graphic or multimedia design.
Given to an individual or firm for exceptional and exemplary work in clothing, accessory, or footwear design.
Given to an individual or firm for exceptional and exemplary work in the design of interactive digital products, environments, systems, and services.
Given to an individual or firm for exceptional and exemplary work in domestic, corporate, or cultural interior design.
Given to an individual or firm for exceptional and exemplary work in urban planning or park and garden design.
Given to an individual or firm for exceptional and exemplary work in the design of consumer goods, technology, or home and office furnishings.
The defining criteria of the National Design Awards are excellence, innovation, and enhancement of the quality of life.
Nominations & Submissions
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 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.
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 teach 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 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.
Browse a list of previous jurors.
Behind the Scenes
Take a look behind the scenes at the National Design Award recipient selection process.