Less Surprise, More Design

Less Surprise, More Design

Courtesy Cooper-Hewitt

The usual gala-night suspense has been lifted for this year’s seventh-annual Cooper-Hewitt National Design Awards, which was held on October 18. The winners in each of the major categories were announced in a comparatively anti-climactic press release in June. But where there is less anticipation, there is more recognition: The traditional award categories of lifetime achievement, corporate achievement, architecture, fashion, product and communication design have expanded to acknowledge three new areas—design mind, landscape design, and interior design—making ten juried categories total.

The early announcement is tied to a new Cooper-Hewitt initiative called National Design Week, which takes place from October 15 to 21. Museum admission is free all week and education outreach programs aim to bring designers, teachers, and students into contact with each other. By announcing the winners in advance, the winners are able to participate in the education programs during their tenure, including studio visits, and a panel they will host at the Cooper-Hewitt the day after the gala.

2006 National Design Award Winners (left to right, top to bottom): Dodgers Stages coat-check signage by 2×4, 2004; dress from Maria Cornejo’s collection Zero, Fall 2003; Top of the Rock Grand Atrium by Michael Gabellini, 2005; camouflage made of football player silhouettes by Nike, Inc.; Bill Stumpf’s Caper Chair, 1999; illustration for Seoul arcade by Syd Mead, 1991; Thom Mayne’s CalTrans District 7 Headquarters, 2004; rendering for Grand Canal Square, Dublin, by Martha Schwartz, currently under construction; Paolo Soleri (whose experimental town Arcosanti is pictured on the front page); Craig Robins; Paola Antonelli

There will be one surprise announcement for the crowd on October 18: the recipient of the newly inaugurated People’s Design Awards. “We’ve had a fantastic response,” said museum spokesperson Laurie Olivieri. “In just a couple of weeks, we had more than 300 nominations.” There are no restrictions on the type of object that can be nominated, and users can suggest as many entries as they want but can only vote once. The nominees represent design of every shape and size, from a temporary shelter built in New Orleans by Marianne Cusato, to Deborah Adler’s revision of the prescription bottle for Target, to classics like the Eames lounge chair, and under-recognized everyday design like contact lenses. For some of the NDA finalists, the People’s Design Awards is a second chance to win. Designs from Chip Kidd, Apple, and Peter Som have all popped up in this category.

A handful of this year’s winners have been nominated in years past. According to juror Michael Beirut, a partner at Pentagram, “Sometimes the biggest surprise as a juror was that some of the finalists had never won before.” If there’s a bonus to the awards being announced early this year, it’s that pioneering designer Bill Stumpf’s 40-year career was recognized before he passed away on August 30 at the age of 70.