This year’s National Design Awards have been announced. In its second year as a category, the Interaction Design award went to Lisa Strausfeld. Local Projects and Potion were finalists. Smart Design was the winner in the Product Design category with Continuum and Frog Design as finalists.
The National Design Awards are a little odd in that, while the awards are given annually, they don’t necessarily reflect the best of the previous year. They are approached much as the curation of an exhibit, which is understandable, given that the awards are given by the Cooper-Hewitt. Furthermore, they don’t award a specific design, but rather a body of work from an individual or firm. It seems more a “Hall of Fame” model. Lisa Strausfeld and Potion were both finalists last year, with Perceptive Pixel the winner. I suppose, given this perspective, it makes sense that they would still be in the running for the award this year.
In the NDA’s explanation of the selection process, they explain “Extraordinary originality in identifying, shaping, and solving problems is valued highly, and nominees whose work significantly broadens the conventions of their discipline, introduces formal innovation, and exhibits consistently high levels of imagination and insight are given special consideration.” I’m not particularly familiar with the work of Local Projects or Potion, but they do appear to meet the above criteria. Not so with their final statement:
“Finally, in keeping with Cooper-Hewitt’s definition of design as a force of change, the jury weighs the extent to which the general public has benefited from the explorations and achievements of each nominee.”
This is where I think the selections don’t make as much sense. I don’t believe the example work depicted has significantly benefitted the general public or had a large influence on the Interaction Design field. Don’t get me wrong, I am in full agreement that Strausfeld deserves recognition for her body of work. However, I think the Cooper-Hewitt is sending mixed messages about what the NDA’s are.