National Design Award Categories
Given in recognition of an individual, company, or organization who has made a profound contribution to advancing the field.
Given in recognition of a design project for its significant contributions to addressing the urgency of the global climate crisis.
Given in recognition of a designer or practice who has demonstrated profound talent in the early stages of their career. This award is bestowed with a $5,000 prize.
Given to an individual or firm for their 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 contributions to interior environments that advance the understanding of our spatial experiences.
Given to an individual or firm for their 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 design of goods, furniture, lighting, and materials.
The defining criteria for the Awards are innovation and impact.
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.
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.
Behind the Scenes
Take a look behind the scenes at the National Design Award recipient selection process.
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 below, nominees for all award categories must have been practicing professionally or established, as applicable, for a minimum of 10 years.
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.
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/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.
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.
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.