I always wanted to serve on a jury of one’s peers as it relates to my chosen field of Industrial Design. I was granted my wish in 2015 as it seems to be a banner year for me to be passing judgment upon others. A pseudo pleasure of mine… Let me explain.
This past March, in conjunction with the firm’s “Past as Prologue” 50th Anniversary Exhibition held at the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, New Jersey, I juried along with Michael Graves, a “Design Challenge” to the public at large to create an intuitive product design to be submitted for an award competition. It would be the last design-related activity I would do with Michael, as he passed away 12 days later. It was good to be judging alongside Michael, observing the master in action- conversing and lightly debating, making sure what was before us aligned with our design philosophy of beautiful form, wicked intuitiveness, a dollop of emotion, a dash of character and a whiff of whimsy. Perhaps not in that order or amount, but the recipe is there.
You can imagine our delight when the entries charmed us. Incidentally, a design contestant, whose entry received a top award, professed to me afterwards that he painted his project Graves blue because he felt it would give him a better chance at winning…good tactic. All in all, this starter awards competition was a good a primer for me to judge bigger events to come.
Spring time was upon us and I had been invited to participate as a juror for the Industrial Design Society of America ID Excellence Awards or IDEA. One April Tuesday, the first wave of several hundred submissions for the competition came pouring into my computer for the first round of online judging. My categories were Home & Bath Design and Social Impact Design. I was advised from this year’s Jury Chair, Matt Marysynski, that in order to stay on top of the entries, do several dozen every night, religiously for the next three weeks. Okay…Waiting until the last minute, a past strategy of mine, would not serve me well in this endeavor.
Once in the throes of jurying for my first category, I notice an environmental trend appearing from the Asian submittals.
Once in the throes of jurying for my first category, I notice an environmental trend appearing from the Asian submittals. Every other design was either some sort of air cleaning device, a wall hung compact instant hot water heater, or water purifier geared towards the Asian market. Polluted air, cold and contaminated water appeared to be a chronic concern in these industrialized powerhouse nations and they wanted improved solutions for the health of their people. I felt a sense of responsibility and chose the best ones to move on to the next round.
Early summer, found me in Dearborn, Michigan at the incredible Henry Ford Museum to meet my fellow industrial design peers to narrow down the submissions and select those to win awards. The awards competition has been held at the Henry Ford Museum for years and it makes the most unique backdrop to what we were sent to accomplish. If you have not been to the museum and are interested in all things Americana and the titans of early US industry – GO! They have the actual house where HJ Heinz had his “eureka” pickle moment. Never mind the contribution of Edison and the Wright brothers. It’s all about the food.
Everyone was so able, sharp, poignant and the lively exchange among the jurors made me realize I was in my element with my people.
The jury quickly found its rhythm and we all partnered off in our assigned categories. That is where I met Karen Braitmayer, who runs an architectural consulting firm in Seattle specializing in accessibility and accessible design. She is also an appointee to the US Access Board and spent quality time with fellow Access Board appointee, Michael Graves. Small world indeed. Karen and I hit it off, building our cases for why a submittal was worthy of an award. Building strong support for a winner was necessary in defending your position to your fellow jurors. Everyone was so able, sharp, poignant and the lively exchange among the jurors made me realize I was in my element with my people. It was a moment for me to relish. Judging the IDEAs is a two year assignment and I can hardly wait to do it all again in 2016.
Click here to see 2015 winning designs:
Now it is fall, and next week, I begin active duty as a potential juror in my county’s court system. I am told by others who have experienced petit jury duty, it entails much waiting around, but I am happy to fulfill my civic duty. It is a fitting bookend for my “flurry of juries” this year. I will judge the experience and get back to you.