Highest design accolade President's Design Award undergoes changes

SINGAPORE - After 11 editions, the President's Design Award, Singapore's most prestigious accolade for designers and design projects, is set for an overhaul.

One major change is more stringent judging criteria in the award's Design of the Year - one of its two categories - which has been given to products such as furniture, appliances or medical instruments, architecture and interior design projects.

Now, apart from putting forth well-crafted concepts, designers behind a nominated work will have to show its impact in at least one of following four areas: economic transformation, such as saving costs or improving productivity; raising the quality of life; advancing the Singapore brand and engaging with communities here; or the design industry, such as with a ground-breaking project.

Criteria for the other category, Designer of the Year, remains unchanged. Individuals or design collectives who are gunning for the title will be judged on their body of work, its quality and variety, and the consistency of their design approach.

The changes were announced at a press conference held at the National Design Centre in Middle Road yesterday. This is the first time that changes have been made since the award was launched in 2006.

The award is conferred by the president of Singapore, and jointly handed out by the Urban Redevelopment Authority and DesignSingapore Council, the national agency for design.

Since then, there have been 39 Designer of the Year recipients and 99 Design of the Year winners.

Ms Agnes Kwek, executive director of DesignSingapore Council, said it was time to update the award's judging criteria to reflect the "critical role" of the changing design scene here.

This means that more areas including multi-disciplinary fields such as design strategy and management, information systems and experience design, will be considered.

She said: "Savvy businesses and governments no longer use design just as aesthetics - to make things pretty - but are instead using design as a process of innovation.

"Design, used in this way, has resulted in innovative new products and services, or helped to address complex social issues such as urban density, ageing, health or mobility."

Examples of previous winners that would make the cut under the new criteria are Safeticet, a medical lancet that makes blood tests less painful with gentler pricks; and architecture firm Woha's Enabling Village, a community space in Redhill which combines retail, lifestyle and training to better integrate disabled people into the community.

The awards will also now switch to a biennial cycle, instead of being given out annually. Winners will receive their awards next May.

A call for entries is now open and anyone can nominate designers and design projects. However, designers no longer need to wait be nominated. They can make a submission of their own projects, as long as these are endorsed by a third-party such as a client.

The organisers also plan to highlight award recipients as "local design heroes" and get them to participate in talks and mentor aspiring designers here.

Their work will also travel overseas. As DesignSingapore Council has tied up with three international awards including the British Design & Art Direction Awards, recipients may serve as jurors or hold masterclasses internationally.