IDSA Innovation Intro - Fall 2010

From First Date to the Altar - the journey of design excellence.
IDEA is now in its thirtieth year, and each year the IDSA goes through a taxing process to select a jury and ultimately the winners of the IDEA competition.  It is a process that spotlights the great designs of the day, and it is no surprise that it usually inspires vigorous discussion about the winners, the entry process, the judging process, and sometimes even the relevance of design awards! 
Each year the competition also evolves and improves to better capture a collection of design that is not so much a scorecard of relative perfection, but a snapshot of important design today.  If it was practical to objectify every aspect of great design we would probably take it on; but it seems that we have to accept a measure of the subjective and the emotional in our evaluation just as consumers ultimately will in the store.
The majority of the discussion, critique and evolution originates from the jury itself, who wrestle each year with the challenges of recognizing the best designs from what can never truly complete information, or entries that are colored the by the quality of writing, photography, documentary video, research and business reporting.  From this the jury must filter and distil notable and important design.  We should think of the IDEA awards as a process in continuous improvement.  In the 90’s we added ecological criteria, and in the last few years we have moved from pictures and videos to the submission of the actual products for finalists, and added the requirement that the jury chair be selected from the previous jury to ensure stability and consistency while also embracing fresh relevant insights and interactive debate that characterizes the final jurying process.
This year, you will read that the integration of bigger picture responsible design criteria will again be adjusted to keep pace with the expectations of great design.
As rigorous as the process is, for the juror it can feel like speed dating great designs.  You always want more information, and one can be frustrated with an entrant underselling something you may see as exemplary.  
Yet from that chaos, here we have an amazing collection of important and exciting design that represents the best work of our profession in 2010. The work that excited, impressed, surprised and inspired a diverse jury that represents us.
In the next ten years, some of these products and experiences will change the way we live play and work whether sitting in a modern home theatre or a Cambodian latrine.  In that same ten years some developments will fade away and we will wonder what we were thinking!  It is just the way design, business, and the markets ultimately judge the work.  Not perfect, but its just as important to evaluate the moment, as it is to look back over time.
Since this is 2010, and the Designs of the Decade competition is underway, we will soon have a chance to do just that. Chuck Jones and a distinguished jury will sift through the last decade's successes with a filter of exemplary business success.  And we may see what made it from a first date with a design jury to a successful long term marriage with the market.
Alistair Hamilton, IDSA
Innovation Executive Editor
Subscribe to Innovation at www.idsa.org/innovation

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