So Death to Design Awards because of Egos?

The quality of writing at Design Observer must be dropping.
Through a tweet link that read “Design Observer Spits in its face”, I was lead to an opinion piece written by Maria Popova on how she wishes the “Death to Design Awards”. What a horrid thought? She writes:

Awards are awful. Awards breed ego, create false meritocracies and ultimately stymie innovation at every step of the award-granting process — from entry to evaluation to owning the win. Here’s why: For one, award shows are unbelievably self-selective, like a private school off limits to anyone but society’s upper crust of privilege. Entry fees are often prohibitively high, making it near impossible for emerging designers to even enter.

Is this not reopening the same old tiresome can of worms? And guess what? Not even a credible example to substantiate the allegation. This sure looks like sensational journalism at its best from someone that purports to be a writer for Wired or even the Huffington Post. Then again, it is an opinion piece…
Regardless, it is clear to me that Maria:
1) Has not won a Design Award.
If she had, she would know how difficult winning one would be. Especially if they are the top tier ones like Red-Dot, iF or Good Design (G-Mark) etc.
2) Has not taken part in an awards selection jury.
If she had, she would know that the jury often consists of the most cutting edge and respected designers out there (no Maria, not “old white guys”). She would also know that the Awards selection criteria is not a walk in the park nor subjected to individual whims or fancies, though personal tastes to play a part.
3) Has not even researched the products and companies that have won awards.
If she had, she would know that multi-award winning organizations like Apple, Sony, Samsung, Fuse Project, or Frog Design, are some of the most successful organizations out there. This is because they create products that people vote for with their wallet. Just take the top 5 commercially successful products you can think off, and you will likely find the usual suspects are behind their creation. It really does not look like anyone sitting on his or her laurels to me.
4) Is not a designer.
If she were, she would know that we debated this 10 years ago and have, pretty much as an industry, moved on. (Edit: Just to clarify, I’m not saying that this is an exclusive designer only discussion or that non-designers can’t win design awards. What I’m saying is that this issue was discussed deeply in the design community and non-designers would likely not be aware of this fact.)
I’ve met designers that have won so many awards that the awards sadly start to lose their meaning. The reason is that they know design awards really don’t mean too much but a nice pat on the back. Designers don’t design for awards, what fuels us and pushes us on is our passion, the delight of the users, and achieving that real world market success. Interestingly, designers that lack this sort of motivation will probably not be winning awards anyway.
Indeed, moved on we have.
via Design Observer.
(Edited: for Grammar)

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3 Comments
  • joeri

    September 16, 2010 at 11:06 pm Reply

    5) is not very popular.
    if she was, she would know that in order to convince people with arguments, positivity is the greatest inspirator. And although very eloquent in her words, she will only harvest sour feelings and reactions.
    ha! As a designer, focus on the positive! If you want to join or even win such a contest, aim for it, work hard, fail twice but keep the attitude and WIN!

  • Design Translator

    September 16, 2010 at 11:40 pm Reply

    Hi Joeri,
    That is a good point. A positive attitude is very important, also staying passionate and hungry. Always be hungry!

  • themissingsock

    September 19, 2010 at 2:20 pm Reply

    Maybe she’s disgruntled. Awards are a great form of recognition, a positive assertion all designers need to press on to create innovative, functional, effective design. A whole lot of inspiration gets borne out of award-winning works and it serves an aspirational goal to achieve as well. Just a thought – someone in the past must’ve denied Maria Popova some due recognition she deserved.

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