Selection Process

National Design Award Categories

Design Visionary
Given in recognition of an individual, company, or organization who has made a profound contribution to advancing the field.

Climate Action
Given in recognition of a design project for its significant contributions to addressing the urgency of the global climate crisis.

Emerging Designer
Given in recognition of a designer who has demonstrated profound talent in the early stages of their career. This award is bestowed with a $5,000 prize.

Architecture / Interior Design
Given to an individual or firm for their contributions to the built environment that advance the understanding of our spatial experiences.

Communication Design
Given to an individual or firm for the impactful use of design in the service of information sharing, messaging, and overall communication.

Digital Design
Given to an individual or firm for the innovative design of interactive digital products, environments, systems, experiences, and services.

Fashion Design
Given to an individual or firm for the visionary design of apparel, accessory, jewelry, footwear, and textiles.

Landscape Architecture
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.

Product Design
Given to an individual or firm for the design of goods, furniture, lighting, and materials.

Criteria

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.

The Jury

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.

Eligibility

Eligibility is restricted to citizens or current long-term residents of the United States over 18 years of age. Firms, corporations, or institutions must have their corporate headquarters in the United States. Individual nominees must have been practicing professionally for a minimum of 10 years; firms, corporations, or institutions must have been established for a minimum of 10 years. Design Visionary nominees must have been practicing professionally for a minimum of 25 years for individuals and a minimum of 10 years for companies or organizations. Emerging Designer nominees (individuals or firms) must be in the early stages of their career with up to 7 years of professional experience. There is no requirement for years of professional experience for the Climate Action Award, however, the project must be in progress or realized. Winners of a National Design Award in any category will be eligible for the Design Visionary category 10 years after receiving their award. Winners of the Emerging Designer Award will be eligible for non-Emerging Designer Award categories 10 years after receiving their award. All previous National Design Award winners are eligible for the Climate Action Award. 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, that represents the core criteria of the Awards: innovation and impact.

Behind the Scenes

Take a look behind the scenes at the National Design Award recipient selection process.