2011 National Design Award Winners

Celebrate design

The National Design Awards program celebrates design as a vital humanistic tool in shaping the world, and seeks to increase national awareness of design by educating the public and promoting excellence, innovation, and lasting achievement.

Matthew Carter

Over the last fifty years, Matthew Carter has designed some of the most recognizable typefaces used today. His experience with typographic technologies ranges from hand-cut punches to computer fonts. After a long association with the Linotype companies, he cofounded Bitstream, a digital type foundry, in 1981. He is now a Principal of Carter & Cone Type, a foundry that designs and produces original typefaces for the retail font market and for clients including the New York Times, Boston Globe, Yale University, and Microsoft, for which Carter designed the screen fonts Verdana and Georgia. Named a MacArthur Fellow for 2010, he teaches type design at the Yale University School of Art.

Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the author and editor of over 130 books on graphic design, satiric art, and popular culture. Lying at the intersection of editorial design, design history and criticism, and design education, Heller’s work has focused on building foundations for exploring and preserving design as a social and cultural force. Heller cofounded several graduate programs at the School of Visual Arts, including the MFA Design Program (Designer as Author and Entrepreneur), of which he is also cochair. He served as art director for thirty-three years at the New York Times and continues to contribute as a columnist for New York Times Book Review and other leading publications.


Knoll’s history is the history of modern design in America. In 1938, Hans Knoll founded the company based on the conviction that good design enriches our lives. In 1943, he was joined by his wife, Florence, founder of the Planning Unit, a consultancy devoted to office interiors—the first of its kind, and revolutionary for being run by a woman. Its pioneering analysis of work patterns continues today as Knoll reimagines furniture for the ever-changing workplace and sets standards for sustainable design. Throughout its history, Knoll has fostered innovative designers with one constant goal: a genuine balance of art and industry.

Architecture Research Office

Architecture Research Office is a New York–based firm led by Stephen Cassell, Adam Yarinsky, and Kim Yao. Its work spans from strategic planning to architecture and urban design. Since 1993, the firm has worked with leading universities, cultural institutions, global corporations, government agencies, international fashion labels, and nonprofit organizations, utilizing research and analysis to drive the design. From a prototype for thousand-square-foot low-income sustainable housing to a proposal to reinvent the role of ecology and infrastructure in New York City, ARO uses design to unite the conceptual and the pragmatic within a strong, coherent vision.

Rick Valicenti

Rick Valicenti’s graphics bristle with innovation, imagination, curiosity, and craft. He has been a leading presence in design as a practitioner, an educator, and a mentor. In 1988, he founded Thirst, a Chicago-based design collaborative devoted to art, function, and real human presence. The firm has received numerous awards for its self-initiated and commissioned projects. In 2006, Valicenti was honored with the AIGA Medal and was included in Cooper-Hewitt’s National Design Triennial: Design Life Now. He is the editor of a monograph on Thirst, Emotion as Promotion, whose suggestive title evokes the wit and passion that invariably animate Valicenti’s work.

J. Mendel

J. Mendel is a fifth-generation luxury brand established on the principles of high quality, style, and craftsmanship. Applying his unique skills and design aesthetic, Gilles Mendel transformed the company from a luxury furrier into a full-fledged fashion house with the launch of its ready-to-wear collection in 2002. His penchant for maintaining the highest standards while manipulating luxury fabrics in unexpected ways has attracted top-tier clients who appreciate his timeless, cutting-edge, and exquisitely produced fashions. In recognition of his achievements in women’s fashion, Mendel was inducted into the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 2003.

Ben Fry

Drawing on a background in graphic design and computer science, Ben Fry pursues a long-held fascination with visualizing data. As Principal of Fathom Information Design in Boston, Fry develops software, printed works, installations, and books that depict and explain topics from the human genome to baseball salaries to the evolution of text documents. With Casey Reas, he founded the Processing Project, an open-source programming environment for teaching computational design and sketching interactive-media software. It provides artists and designers with accessible means of working with code while encouraging engineers and computer scientists to think about design concepts.

Shelton, Mindel & Associates

Established in 1978, Shelton, Mindel & Associates is a leader in architectural, interior, and product solutions for corporate, cultural, academic, retail, and other clients. Founding partners Peter L. Shelton and Lee F. Mindel have applied their passion for building unified environments to the firm’s portfolio of projects, which includes the design of the Polo/Ralph Lauren headquarters. A member of the AD 100, the firm has garnered numerous awards, including over thirty AIA Awards, for its simple, strong, elegant designs. Shelton and Mindel were recognized as Deans of American Design in 2005, and both are in the Interior Design Hall of Fame.

Gustafson Guthrie Nichol

Gustafson Guthrie Nichol is a Seattle-based landscape-architecture practice that works throughout the Americas and Asia. Founded by partners Kathryn Gustafson, Jennifer Guthrie, and Shannon Nichol, the firm offers special experience in designing high-use landscapes in complex, urban contexts. The landform of each space is carefully shaped to feel serenely grounded in its context and comfortable at all times, whether bustling with crowds, offering moments of contemplation, or doing both at once. Gustafson Guthrie Nichol’s prominent projects include the Lurie Garden in Chicago, the Smithsonian’s Kogod Courtyard in Washington, D.C., and the new Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Campus in Seattle.


Founded in 1983 by Gianfranco Zaccai, Continuum is a global design and innovation consultancy that endeavors to improve people’s everyday lives. With its integrated team of researchers, strategists, designers, and technical specialists, the studio has created such innovative and successful products as the Pump™ line of athletic shoes for Reebok and the Swiffer™ line of floor cleaning products for Procter & Gamble. Its medical innovations include the Nala™ Patient Recovery chair and Compass™ Patient Room System for Herman Miller. Continuum has received extensive recognition throughout its history, including the 2011 Medical Device Excellence Award for its Avedro Keraflex Vision Correction Device.

Design Matters with Debbie Millman

Design Matters with Debbie Millman
Launched in 2005 on Voice America Business Network, Design Matters is now exclusively published on Design Observer and all broadcasts can be downloaded for free on iTunes. Under the editorial direction of William Drenttel, Design Observer encompasses five channels of programming and publishes more than 400 essays and features a year on design, urbanism, social innovation and visual culture. “Design Matters harnesses the power of online radio to communicate insights about design, great design minds and the lives of designers,” said Bill Moggridge, director of the museum. “I’m thrilled that the public has chosen to honor it.”