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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.
design, layout, and production
UnderConsideration, LLC: Bryony Gomez-Palacio, Armin Vit
Banco ITC by Phill Grimshaw (who added matching lowercase letters to the original Banco by Roger Excoffon for Fonderie Olive)
Trade Gothic Next Soft Rounded by Akira Kobayashi for Linotype
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Sometimes no matter how much you want to spin something into an optimistic yarn that may give one a fictitious sense of success the better alternative is to accept the facts and assess. This year's Brand New Awards had the lowest participation of all four editions with only 411 submissions, down from 714 at the height of last year and down from 547 in the inaugural year in 2010. The one redeeming glimmer of improvement was that, despite all categories in both professional and student level coming in in vastly lower numbers, the Comprehensive Identity Projects category remained the same numbers-wise. From day one, this has always been the strongest category in the competition so it's was rewarding to see it staying bullish.
We attribute the decline in entries to a couple of factors. The first being our decision to not publish a traditional book like in years past and not providing a free copy of said book that we wouldn't be publishing to the winners. This decision was not taken lightly and it wasn't on a whim: book sales for the awards books have declined steadily each year, with last year barely pushing 500 sold copies. The quality of the books has remained the same and the quality of the winners has been consistently good which leads us to the conclusion that awards books full of content you can find easily online — and most likely have already seen online — are not the most coveted products. This is the second factor. Of the 39 professional winners this year, 17 were shown on Brand New (the blog) in the year between this and the last awards. In a way, this is like when two Starbucks three or four blocks apart in Manhattan are competing for the same audience with the same product. We may be biting into our own product. It's not just us broadcasting this work before our judges take to it: it's on Behance, on Creative Review, on The Dieline, on Design Week, on It's Nice That, and on Pinterest boards twelve times over. This ongoing online publication of work doesn't have an affect just on readers or consumers of design annuals but on the designers who typically submit work.
For them it's more instantly rewarding and promotionally beneficial to have their projects appreciated on Behance tens of thousands of times — the audience (designers) have voted and awarded them with the click of a button. Satisfied, at no cost, there is less impetus for entering a paid awards competition. You really can't blame anyone for this line of thinking. What we are able to do with the Brand New Awards and continue to push for is a more critical and arduous process for celebrating work that withstands deeper analysis beyond the superficial appreciation of well-photographed applications. As is the case every year, our judges were almost criminally hard to please with many really good projects being denied an award for not reaching their expectations or standards — it isn't just about design and it isn't just about solving a brief, it's about going above and beyond on every aspect of the project. As Clement Mok notes on work that earned his votes, "aesthetics and craftsmanship certainly play an important part in the decision but in the end, it's all about effectiveness and the ability to differentiate itself." Masoud Gerami, one of the clients in this year's jury said he evaluated whether he would be satisfied with the solution — adding that he "would've questioned our investment for most of the work [submitted]" — and that "the best solutions are those that are simple yet succeed in communicating the brand's story and identity with a simple glimpse."
Even within the lower number of submissions, the judges noted some tiring trends that made much of the work fail to stand out. "The problem wasn't the dearth of good design," explains Charlie Cronk, the other client in the jury, "it was the vast array of sameness." Something Tom Crabtree picked up on as well in the form of work that displayed "the continued over-use of the 'retro-nostalgic-Americana-handcrafted' aesthetic – particularly when it comes to restaurants and food brands." He urges designers to "Move on! It's time to look forward, not backward." Even we, your cordial organizers and Salvagers of work not selected by judges, were left wanting more, salvaging only 11 projects, none of them from the standalone Logo category which was particularly weak this year. Nonetheless, we all did manage to select 46 projects that survived the different gauntlets thrown at them by the judges.
Sagi Haviv reminded us that although "the concept of good design is subjective" and that "solving the client's problem and creating a mark that works well for the client is not enough" his choices represented "something about the design that moved me" and "something that I would remember." Charlie also looked for more meaning in the work, "I was much more drawn to work that expressed some hint of the human element, with emotion, humor or intellect working in tandem with the hand, and intent, of an artist." And for Tom it came down to work that "[hinges] upon a single core idea, beautifully executed." This year's work, represented by a significantly international group — only 30% of the winning entries were from the U.S. — combined the best traits of design making and design thinking into relevant logos, identities, and brands to give us a glimpse into the best practices across industries, markets, and cultures.
Congratulations to the winners and many thanks to all who entered,
Bryony Gomez-Palacio + Armin Vit