National Design Awards
About the Awards
The National Design Awards is a Cooper Hewitt initiative launched in 2000 as an official project of the White House Millennium Council. The awards and its associated public programs seek to increase national awareness of the impact of design in our everyday life.
Cooper Hewitt plans to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the National Design Awards in Spring 2025. The nomination process is now open until April 1, 2024 and winners will be announced and celebrated in 2025. Between now and then, you can expect to see our programming calendar populated throughout the year with the contributions and voices of our roster of over 200 renowned winners from the past 25 years.
National Design Award Criteria, Categories, & Eligibility
Reflecting the ever-growing scope of design, the National Design Awards program currently includes the ten award categories below. The defining criteria for the Awards are innovation and impact in improving our world, including by addressing sustainability, equity, and diversity.
Given to an individual or firm for their meaningful contributions to the built environment that advance the understanding of our spatial experiences.
Given to an individual or firm for the impactful use of design in the service of information sharing, messaging, and overall communication.
Given to an individual or firm for the innovative design of digital products, environments, systems, experiences, and services.
Given to an individual or firm for the forward-thinking design of apparel, accessory, jewelry, footwear, and textiles.
Given to an individual or firm for their innovative contributions to interior environments that advance the understanding of our spatial experiences.
Given to an individual or firm for their meaningful contributions to the integration between the built, urban, and natural environments and for advancing the understanding of our spatial experiences.
Given to an individual or firm for the forward-thinking design of objects, products, and materials.
Given in recognition of an individual, company, or organization who has made a profound contribution to advancing the field. Design Visionary nominees must have been practicing professionally for a minimum of 25 years if an individual or established for a minimum of 10 years if a firm, corporation, or organization. Previous winners of a National Design Award in any category are ineligible to win in the Design Visionary category until 10 years after receiving their first National Design Award.
Given in recognition of a design project for its significant contributions to addressing the urgency of the global climate crisis. Climate Action Award nominees do not require a minimum number of years of professional experience, however, the project must be in progress or realized. All previous National Design Award winners are eligible for the Climate Action Award.
Given in recognition of a designer or practice who has demonstrated profound talent in the early stages of their career to contribute to the future of design. This award is bestowed with a $5,000 prize. Emerging Designer nominees must be in the early stages of their career with up to 7 years of professional experience if an individual or established for a maximum of 7 years if a firm, corporation, or organization. Founders and/or leadership of the firm, corporation, or organization must also be in the early stages of their career with up to 7 years of professional experience in the work of the firm, corporation, or organization. Winners of the Emerging Designer Award are ineligible to win in any other award category until 10 years after receiving the Emerging Designer Award.
Eligibility is restricted to citizens* or current long-term** residents of the United States over 18 years of age and firms, corporations, or organizations with corporate headquarters*** in the United States. Except as otherwise set forth above, nominees for all award categories must have been practicing professionally or established, as applicable, for a minimum of 10 years.
A National Design Award nominee may be considered for multiple award categories but may only win in one award category per year. A previous winner of a National Design Award is ineligible to win a National Design Award in the same award category. Cooper Hewitt employees and trustees and their companies, organizations, families, and household members are not eligible. Awards are given for a body of realized work, not for any specific project (except for the project-based Climate Action Award), that represents the core criteria of the National Design Awards: innovation and impact.
*Citizen: any individual who is a citizen of the United States by place of birth, nationality of one or both parents, or naturalization.**Long-term resident: any individual (other than a citizen of the United States) who is a lawful permanent resident of the United States in at least 8 taxable years during the period of the last 15 taxable years. ***Corporate headquarters: the place where the organization’s officers direct, control, and coordinate the organization’s activities.
What are the National Design Awards?
What are the National Design Awards? What makes the Awards unique and important to the country and the world? Acclaimed designers and design thinkers Massimo Vignelli, Debbie Millman, Steven Heller, Walter Hood, Davin Stowell and Isabel & Ruben Toledo explain in this short piece about the National Design Awards, its meaning and legacy.
Nominations & Submissions
The National Design Awards are based on an open call for nominations process. Nominations are solicited from around the country from leading designers, educators, journalists, cultural figures, and design enthusiasts alike. Eligible nominees are invited to submit materials for the jury’s review, which ultimately result in the creation of a shortlist and final roster of winners. Interested in nominating? Learn more here.
National Design Award jurors represent a wide range of design fields and are invited to serve annually for their prominence and expertise in the design world and their ability to provide knowledgeable, fair, and critical assessments on each category’s nominees. Browse a list of previous winners and jurors.