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A graphic design enterprise that runs a network of blogs, publishes books, organizes live events, and designs for clients. Run by Bryony Gomez-Palacio and Armin Vit in Austin, TX.
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During her conversation at the 2010 Brand New Conference, Paula Scher—a judge in the 2011 Brand New Awards—quipped: Do something, or fake your way through something, three times, and you are an expert. Here we are then, in our third year running the Brand New Awards, as (un)official experts in balancing, expediting, and improving the delicate affair that is an annual design competition. To be honest, we strongly believe we are experts now. Mostly because of achieving a simple, high standard that we've set for ourselves: To not screw it up. And, other than a sudden increase in the temperature of the room that had us all sweating during the last hour of judging, it seems we didn't screw anything up. A significant achievement when you have 714 submissions to go through, an increase of 19% over last year's 598.
Submissions came in from all over the world, with entries from the U.S. accounting for just slightly more than half of them at 56%—a ratio maintained in the 75 winners included in this book, with half of the winners being from the U.S. at a count of 38. The UK (8), Australia (7), and Peru and Canada (4 each) took the most wins home. Every year we make a note (or a big deal) of the amount of our international entrants because we do see it as a point of pride that this competition attracts a truly global audience, giving us a peek at the state of logo and identity design across multiple countries while providing our predominantly American judging panel with points of contrast to what they are used to seeing.
Speaking of our judges, it was once again exciting to see the interaction between designers and clients and how, despite initial concerns of their contribution to the process, the clients end up having some of the strongest opinions about the work. "To see so much brand work in the same medium (11-by-17-inch, 20-pound, white paper) and all in one place side by side" says Greg Benson, "demands an almost supernormal ability to decipher what is just more of the same and what truly stands out as original and good." But that didn't stop him from knowing what he liked, or didn't like: "I don't particularly like frill or flare in anything. I was drawn to projects that conveyed a clear message and that did it in a way that felt pure and pared down to only what was needed. I especially liked projects that made me both think and smile." Karin Fong looked for "Work that has an idea that is specific to the product or service and the story that is being expressed" while Rick Valicenti sought projects where designers "Made their work masterfully compelling", noting that "Today, design is easy." Joe Duffy expressed that, to him, "it isn't merely a beauty contest and I applaud Armin and Bryony for inviting clients into the judging process. Every design show should do the same." (We prefer they don't, as this is one of the twists that makes the Brand New Awards unique).
Not everything was a bed of roses as this year, more than the previous two, it felt like there was a lot of good, decent work but little that presented something truly innovative. Valicenti suggests that "Designers prefer to design nostalgia rather than our time", realizing "how comfortable it was to see work that was so familiar and easy to process" for him, but also how a lot of work "was void of a deep resonance of human presence and soul." Fong added that "the overall quality of the work was decent, but started to blend together" and Duffy considered that "the low percentage of really good design work entered is an indictment of the design business." Consider this paragraph a dare to make better work. (And to enter it).
As usual, the results speak for themselves and the winning projects included in this book are all exemplary in their own way: some are graphically stunning, others are narratively engrossing, yet they all share in common an acute sense of appropriateness and relevance to the client and their brief. "What we chose as a group," concludes Benson "represented success and was an achievement by the designers and the clients to convey a brand identity and to do it well." Indeed. Another year, another hard-fought win for all those included.
Congratulations to the winners and many thanks to all who entered,
Bryony Gomez-Palacio + Armin Vit