The Jury Speaks: 2014 SEGD Global Design Awards

What were our 2014 SEGD Global Design Awards jurors looking for as they evaluated the more than 420 entries submitted this year? What did they find, and what advice do they have for future design award entrants? The 2014 winners will be notified soon and honored during the 2014 SEGD Conference June 5-7 in Atlanta. In the meantime, here are a few words from our jurors.

Q: What does the body of winning work you chose tell us about the state of design right now, and specifically about the state of experiential design?

Alan Jacobson, ex;it and J2 Design Partnership (Philadelphia), 2014 Jury Chair

Communication in the built environment is increasingly becoming a design strategy and often the primary design elements of placemaking. Deep integration with architecture is becoming the norm from the outset and design strategies are often being driven by the story of place and direct engagement with the viewers and visitors.

While the digital world is increasingly creating experiences that we have never had before, the simplicity of beautiful type, color, and materials is as powerful as ever.

Functionality still rules. If is isn’t solving the problem or making life a little better, it is often just decoration.

Ken Carbone, Carbone Smolan Agency (New York)/ 2014 AIGA Medalist

The state of design is at an all-time high. More and more talented people are in the game, which raises the standard to a very high level. However, this has a tendency to neutralize work to a level of “really good” which makes getting to “stellar” much more challenging. This is true for experiential design as well. Solid, well functioning, effective work is a very admirable and a necessary goal. But if you add innovative, arresting, and “game changing” to this, that’s how you win awards. 

Zelda Harrison, Global Design Consultant (Los Angeles) / former Director, AIGA Center for Cross Cultural Design

While the jury was very careful to account for impactful design (the effective balance between type, color, message, and form), it became obvious that the effective use of technology plays a key role in engagement and experience. Effective use of technology goes beyond the use of the latest high-tech materials and digital platforms/devices; it requires full sensory engagement in multiple environments—meeting the audience where they live—to enhance the narrative and experience. To this point, I personally would like to encourage future competition applicants to submit their work in video, on mobile devices, or an interactive format so that judges (and consequently the SEGD community) can fully appreciate their work. Additionally, it doesn't hurt to show real-time audience engagement with the submission. 

Alina Wheeler, author, Designing Brand Identity

This discipline has exploded—just like we can’t think of any organization that doesn't have a website, we can no longer think of any organization that doesn't need to pay attention to their place. This represents a huge seismic shift—and SEGD is clearly on the forefront. Wayfinding seems to have dramatically matured, and placemaking rises as the way we communicate who we are and what we stand for.

The state of experiential design is accelerating. I think that the "experience economy" that Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore have been talking about is rapidly entering the public realm. Spaces are coming alive in ways that we could have never imagined—entertainment and light are no longer restricted to theaters, and learning is leaping out of the library. Visual delight need not be contained by a frame. We expect it in all the corners of our lives.

And yet, as we become more and more enchanted and entranced by the digital tools, the quiet spaces (which Ken Carbone spoke about during our jury deliberations)—the ones defined by simplicity, exquisite materials, and beautiful typography—still resonate. I can close my eyes and remember a handful of projects that rose to the top because of their simplicity and clarity.

In a sea of complex environments, I can still rejoice in the power of a simple idea that uses an old medium in a new way. One of the winning projects did just that, using a very traditional sign material in a fun, engaging, fresh way.

Q: What trends did you notice in the submissions? (use of color, typography, materials, etc.)?

Alan Jacobson

Big! Environmental graphics are getting big and bold and brave.

Ken Carbone

No surprise here…the more great work is delivered electronically the more exciting it becomes. Great typography, smart use of color, and cool material integration of experiential design are always part of the foundation.

Alina Wheeler

I loved the materials we saw—from bronze to plywood to neon to LED light and iron and the glow of the digital screen. The vast majority of the typography was of the highest caliber, although I didn’t see any wayfinding systems that utilized proprietary typefaces.

I worried about the vast amount of information that I saw in many exhibits—and I feel that many designers still lack the courage (or the wisdom) to edit, or more importantly to understand how much information is the right amount of information.

Hilary Jay, Director, Philadelphia Center for Architecture

• Yellow—no joke—is a winning color. We were attracted over and again to projects with yellow.

• Funder’s walls are in huge supply. They should be their own category.

• Packing in too much information and too many artifacts, especially in an exhibition, kills it. We saw an abundance of those.

• High-tech, interactive displays are seriously on the rise, but they require videos to accompany the entry.

• Just about the whole story is told through the images. A word to the wise entrant: if you really want to compete, get a great photographer on the case. • Ambiance and placemaking can be created with elegant simplicity.

• Humor is in short supply. We could have used more design that makes us smile! 

Zelda Harrison

Modular, functional design was quite dominant, possibly reflecting budget and time constraints. Colorful, warm color palettes were a central theme, possibly highlighting a trend toward nurturing and the ascendance of user-centered design.

Q: What surprised you about the submissions?

Alan Jacobson

The large percentage of placemaking projects. Again, our work is more about integration of design rather then layering information onto places. Also, the volume of amazing work by students, primarily in the digital realm, was great to see. It was highly innovative and interactive, yet artful.

Alina Wheeler

The hardest thing was examining some of these experiences from a two-dimensional image, or seeing entries that were not well photographed.

What surprised me: very few submissions in healthcare, which I thought would be a crowded category. I was also surprised by an absence of projects (except for one entry of smart phones) which have entered the experience loop.

Zelda Harrison

Paradoxically, there was a dearth of submissions for experiences in social engagement, quality of life, and general engagement in the public space. This low submission rate was also true for strategy and research. I would like to see more of both of those categories in the future.

Thank you to 3M, Program Sponsor for the 2014 SEGD Global Design Awards!

SEGD Global Design Awards Archive

More on the 2014 SEGD Global Design Awards jury

Pictured: The 2014 SEGD Global Design Awards jury included (from left) Ceyda Artun, Anadolu University (Turkey), 2013 student award winner; Ken Carbone, Carbone Smolan Agency; Zelda Harrison, global design consultant; Alina Wheeler, author of Designing Brand Identity; Hilary Jay, Philadelphia Center for Architecture; Clifford Selbert, FSEGD, Selbert Perkins Design; Matthew Littell, Utile Architecture; Min Wang, Beijing Central Academy of Fine Arts; Alan Jacobson, ex;it/J2 Design Partnership.

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