2021 National Design Awards

Celebrate the Power of Design

First Lady Jill Biden serves as the Honorary Patron for this year’s National Design Awards. Established in 2000 as a project of the White House Millennium Council, the National Design Awards bring national recognition to the ways in which design enriches everyday life.

Cooper Hewitt connects the public with award winners through free virtual talks, workshops, resources, and more throughout National Design Month in October and beyond. These programs are made possible by design advocates like you. Thank you for your support.

Meet the Winners

Cheryl D. Miller

Design Visionary

Cheryl D. Miller is a graphic designer, author, and theologian who is best known for her advocacy on racial, cultural, and gender equity, diversity, and inclusion. An accomplished, award-winning designer and businesswoman, Miller established one of the first Black women-owned design firms in New York City in 1984. Cheryl D. Miller Design, Inc. serviced corporate communications to a Fortune 500 clientele, including BET, Chase, Philip Morris USA, Time Inc., and Sports Illustrated, as well as nonprofit African American organizations that grew out of the Civil Rights Movement. Miller’s seminal 1987 article for PRINT magazine, “Black Designers Missing in Action,” laid the groundwork for her advocacy, followed by “Embracing Cultural Diversity in Design” in 1990, “Black Designers: Still Missing In Action?” in 2016, and “Black Designers Forward in Action” in 2020. Miller lectures widely. Her work and archives were acquired by Stanford University Libraries in 2018. Miller is the AIGA Medalist 2021, “Expanding Access.”

Programs: Design Career Fair: Pathways to Design

InVert Self-Shading Window by Doris Sung

Climate Action

Designed by Doris Sung, the InVert™ Self-Shading Window uses smart thermobimetal pieces inside the cavity of a standard double-glazed window to shade a building in a magical way—with a kaleidoscope of fluttering butterfly-like pieces. By responding to the sun, it dynamically blocks solar radiation from heating the building and thereby reduces air-conditioning usage by 25 percent, using zero energy and no controls. Given that 40 percent of all energy used is in buildings, far more than transportation or other industries, and 12 percent of that energy is spent on cooling interiors, any amount of reduction has a tremendous impact on mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. Through her work, Sung seeks ways to make building skins sensitive and responsive to the changing environments. She is the founder of Los Angeles-based DOSU Studio Architecture, the Director of Undergraduate Programs at USC, and the recipient of fellowships including from Google’s R+D for the Built Environment, United States Artists and the Rockefeller Foundation at Bellagio.

Programs: Teaching with Design: Taking Action on Climate Change with Doris Sung, 2021 National Design Award Winner, Design Career Fair: Portfolio Review

Colloqate Design

Emerging Designer

Founded in 2017, Colloqate Design is a multidisciplinary nonprofit design justice practice based in New Orleans with a focus on expanding community access to, and building power through, the design of social, civic, and cultural spaces. Its mission is to intentionally organize, advocate, and design spaces of racial, social, and cultural justice throughout the built environment. Through programming, planning, and design projects, Colloqate seeks to dismantle the privilege and power structures that use the design professions to maintain systems of injustice. Colloqate organizes to build knowledge, power, and access in the communities it serves through ongoing community gatherings and workshops to share and build collective knowledge around the process of city-building. Its work speaks to the potential for equitable spaces and attempts to visually and physically represent its collective aspirations for the future.

Programs: Uniting for Design: Design as Protest, National Day of Action with Colloqate Design

Ross Barney Architects

Architecture and Interior Design

Founded in Chicago in 1981, Ross Barney Architects’ mission is to create well-designed spaces for everyone. The studio is dedicated to the design of “noble” projects, without the most generous budgets or the most sought-after commissions, but those that are important to daily life and require innovative interventions. Ross Barney Architects’ best work is often for unexpected, compelling projects that go beyond architecture, and exist on the edges or in the margins where design thought and consideration might not conventionally come into play. Notable projects include the Chicago Riverwalk, McDonalds’ Flagship Restaurants, CTA Cermak-McCormick Place and Morgan Street Stations, and the Oklahoma City Federal Building. The studio has adopted a holistic approach, engaging the client, user, and community to allow a project to grow out of its place, history, and function.

Programs: Designer Spotlight: Ross Barney Architects

Imaginary Forces

Communication Design

Founded in 1996 in Los Angeles, Imaginary Forces is an award-winning studio specializing in design-based visual storytelling. Led by Peter Frankfurt, Chip Houghton, Karin Fong, Tosh Kodama, Alan Williams, Ronnie Koff, Anthony Gibbs, and Grant Lau, Imaginary Forces takes its name from the prologue of Shakespeare’s Henry V, where the narrator summons us to imagine the humble stage as a grand battlefield. For 25 years, the studio has created work that dares audiences to conjure up entirely new worlds. Known for designing iconic title sequences including for Marvel, Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, and Stranger Things, Imaginary Forces has brought motion design into the worlds of advertising, architecture, gaming, and documentary film production. The studio is proud to have launched the careers of countless colleagues in the motion design industry. Imaginary Forces’ work has won numerous Emmys and appeared in MoMA, Walker Center, Wexner, SXSW, and the Venice Architecture Biennale.

Programs: Designer Spotlight: Imaginary Forces, Design Career Fair: Portfolio Review

Behnaz Farahi

Digital Design

Based in Los Angeles, Behnaz Farahi is an award-winning designer whose work is situated at the intersection of digital design, architecture, fashion, and interactive design, ranging from the scale of wearables to architectural installations. Farahi explores how materials in the environment can be imbued with artificial intelligence and life-like behaviors, incorporating techniques such as EEG brain imaging, facial and gaze tracking, 3D printing, as well as novel actuator systems, such as smart materials and pneumatics systems. She engages with the latest developments in neuroscience, cognitive philosophy, computational design, artificial intelligence, and feminism, in order to spark imagination and foster conversations about the future of design. She is assistant professor of design at CSULB and co-editor of 3D-Printed Body Architecture (2017) and Interactive Futures (forthcoming). Her work is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, and clients include Adidas, Autodesk, Fuksas Studio, and 3DSystems / will-i-am.

Programs: Design Career Fair: Pathways to Design

Becca McCharen-Tran

Fashion Design

Becca McCharen-Tran is a fashion designer, cultural worker, and the founder of future-forward bodywear line Chromat. In her design practice, McCharen-Tran interrogates the cultural hegemony around representation and inclusion. A Forbes 30 Under 30 pick for “People Who Are Reinventing the World,” McCharen-Tran is creating a world that empowers women, femmes, and nonbinary people in fashion and beyond. McCharen-Tran delivered a TED Talk on the urgency of racial, gender, and disability justice in fashion and has lectured at SXSW, Parsons, MIT, CFDA, Pratt, FIT, and MICA. She also staged the “Queer Joy” exhibition at MoMA PS1, a series of performances and installations celebrating the LGBTQ community. Chromat has been profiled in major publications such as Vogue, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal, and has collaborated with Intel, Disney, Reebok, MAC Cosmetics, MIT Design Lab, and Equinox.

Programs: Drop In on Design at Home: National Design Month Edition, Design Career Fair: Portfolio Review

Studio-MLA, Mia Lehrer

Landscape Architecture

Studio-MLA integrates landscape architecture, urban design, and planning to create places that inspire human connection, unite communities, and restore environmental balance. “Advocacy by design” is a foundation of the practice. For more than 25 years, founder and president Mia Lehrer, FASLA, has sparked the team’s inventive thinking to address complex relationships within urban and natural environments. From the master planning of rivers to the design of intimate plazas and gardens, the studio is recognized for creativity, pragmatism, and responsibility across a range of scales and geographies. With offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco, its 45-person team includes landscape architects, planners, botanists, and ecologists from around the world. Diversity and multiple perspectives add meaning to collaborations and value to outcomes. Together, the firm believes in the transformative power of design to recalibrate its shared surroundings for a resilient future.

Programs: Design Career Fair: Portfolio Review


Product Design

BioLite is on a mission to empower people and protect the planet through access to renewable energy. A social enterprise that develops, manufactures, and markets advanced energy products for off-grid communities around the world, the company creates novel cooking, charging, and lighting solutions that serve both outdoor enthusiasts and rural communities without access to the grid. Headquartered in Brooklyn, New York and Nairobi, Kenya, the company was founded in 2009 by Jonathan Cedar and Alec Drummond. BioLite is proudly a carbon neutral company and a founding member of Climate Neutral, an independent nonprofit dedicated to helping companies measure, reduce, and offset their carbon footprint. To date, BioLite has impacted over 1.7 million people across Africa and Asia and avoided over 400,000 tonnes of CO2e through its clean energy solutions—equivalent to taking 100,000 cars off the road for a year. The company is the recipient of numerous recognitions, including the Red Dot Design Award, Fast Company’s Innovation by Design Award, Core77 Design Award, and BusinessWeek’s Most Promising Social Enterprise.

Programs: Design Career Fair: Pathways to Design

October is National Design Month

Learn from the winners and more.

Meet the Jury

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Kofi Boone, FASLA is a university faculty scholar and professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning at NC State University in the College of Design. Boone is a Detroit native and a graduate of the University of Michigan (BSNR 1992, MLA 1995). His work is in the overlap between landscape architecture and environmental justice with specializations in democratic design, digital media, and interpreting cultural landscapes. Boone’s teaching and professional work have earned awards, including student and professional ASLA awards. He serves on the Board of Directors of The Corps Network as well as the Landscape Architecture Foundation where he is president-elect. Boone serves on the advisory board of The Black Landscape Architects Network. He has published work broadly in peer-reviewed as well as popular media, including The Conversation, Journal of Landscape and Urban Planning, and Landscape Architecture Magazine.
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Billy Fleming is the founding Wilks Family Director of the Ian L. McHarg Center in the Weitzman School of Design, co-director of the “climate + community project,” and a former senior fellow with Data for Progress. Fleming is co-editor of A Blueprint for Coastal Adaptation (Island Press, 2021) and a co-editor and co-curator of the book and now internationally-traveling exhibit Design with Nature Now (Lincoln, 2019). Fleming is also co-author of “The 2100 Project: An Atlas for the Green New Deal,” “Field Notes toward an Internationalist Green New Deal,” and “The Indivisible Guide.” His writing has been published in Places Journal, The Atlantic, Dissent Magazine, and The Guardian among others. Fleming has also worked on a range of Green New Deal-related policy projects, including the introduction of the “Green New Deal for Public Housing Act” by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in 2019 and “A Green New Deal for K-12 Education Act” by Rep. Jamaal Bowman in 2021.
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Joe Gebbia is an artist, designer, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is the co-founder of Airbnb and chairman of Airbnb.org. Gebbia led Airbnb’s early efforts to design for trust, which was integral in growing the platform to over 4 million hosts who have welcomed over 800 million guest arrivals to about 100,000 cites in almost every country and region across the globe. In 2020, Gebbia founded Airbnb.org to enable hosts to house people in times of crisis, helping over 75,000 people in need find temporary housing. Gebbia is among the youngest members to join the Giving Pledge, and his enterprise and charitable footprint expands to initiatives including education, refugee relief, and entrepreneurial empowerment. Gebbia holds dual degrees in graphic design and industrial design from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) where he currently serves on the board of trustees.
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Kristine Johnson holds a BFA in Bio Communications, a Master of Associated Medical Science, and several years of post-graduate study in visual communication design focused on the science of visual cognition. Her role is one of aggregator/filter/editor/curator within any client engagement. A constant awareness of the complex considerations inherent in working with scientifically inclined clients keeps her engaged; a thirst for constant learning keeps her asking the right questions. She sees her role to be one of outside advocate for the intended audience. Johnson brings her natural talent for design strategy, whole systems thinking, brand communication, design, and knowledge transfer to the studio. Focusing heavily on client engagement, problem solving, brand systems design, and thought leadership, she leads her team to solve complex problems with highly successful results. A top award-winning designer and lecturer, Johnson is an active volunteer and a leader within several design-related organizations.
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Grace Jun is a designer and assistant professor of graphic design at University of Georgia. Her research explores the intersection of accessibility and inclusive design. Named RISD’s Emerging Leader of the year, Jun has made a commitment to designing with disability groups and health organizations. This work is reflected in her latest publication, Universal Materiality, which was featured in Forbes, New York Times, and recently the Washington Post. As CEO at Open Style Lab (OSL), an award-winning 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to making style accessible for people of all abilities, she continues to connect her creative practice to her inclusive philosophy. In 2019, Open Style Lab was recognized as the inaugural winner of Cooper Hewitt’s National Design Award for Emerging Designer.
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Patricia Saldaña Natke, FAIA is president and design principal of UrbanWorks Ltd, a visionary award-winning architecture, planning, and interior design firm in Chicago. UrbanWorks, Ltd has won over 40 design and planning awards locally and nationally. Natke has a passion for cities, neighborhoods, and especially the most vulnerable sections of cities and their population. She is a firm believer that well designed spaces and places galvanize urban transformation. Natke imbues her firm with a strong civic design ethic. She has taught and lectured in the U.S., Europe, and South America. Natke has served as a past adjunct professor at the UIC Graduate School of Architecture, facilitator at Archeworks, lecturer for the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and visiting instructor at IE School of Architecture and Design in Spain. She is currently an adjunct professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology College of Architecture.


The National Design Awards program was launched in 2000 as an official project of the White House Millennium Council, with the goal of increasing awareness and understanding of how design improves everyday life. Presented each year by Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, the awards recognize innovation and impact in design. Nominations are made by the general public, and winners are selected by a diverse jury of design leaders and educators.

Do you know an individual or organization who has made meaningful contributions to the world through design? Nominate exceptional candidates for the 2022 National Design Awards!

Throughout National Design Month in October, Cooper Hewitt hosts a series of free virtual programs—talks, workshops, resources, and more—that make the work and vision of the National Design Award winners accessible to learners of all ages. We invite aspiring designers, current design practitioners, and design enthusiasts everywhere to engage in authentic conversations with the award winners, get a behind-the-scenes look at their design process, and receive real-world advice on how to pursue education and career opportunities in design.

Cooper Hewitt is America’s design museum. Inclusive, innovative and experimental, the museum’s dynamic exhibitions, education programs, master’s program, publications, and online resources inspire, educate, and empower people through design. An integral part of the Smithsonian Institution—the world’s largest museum, education, and research complex—Cooper Hewitt is located on New York City’s Museum Mile in the historic, landmark Carnegie Mansion. Cooper Hewitt welcomes everyone to discover the importance of design and its power to change the world.

Special Thanks

National Design Awards programming is made possible with major support from Facebook, Inc., Shelby and Frederick Gans, Helen and Edward Hintz, The Hirsch Family Foundation, IBM Corporation, and Crystal and Chris Sacca.

Generous support is provided by Kim and Mac Schuessler and Lisa Roberts and David Seltzer.

Support is also provided by Agnes Gund, Alexandra and Paul Herzan, Jamestown LP, Margery and Edgar Masinter, Richard M. Smith and Dr. Soon-Young Yoon, and Esme Usdan and James Snyder.

National Design Award trophies are created by The Corning Museum of Glass.

Design Career Fair is made possible with generous support from Adobe.

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