Top design award to undergo redesign

Previous winner Enabling Village is an example of a design that would have made the cut under the new criteria.
Previous winner Enabling Village is an example of a design that would have made the cut under the new criteria.PHOTO: COURTESY OF EDWARD HENDRICKS

Design of the Year entries must show impact on community or quality of life, among others

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 two categories - which is given to products such as furniture, and architecture and interior design projects.

Now, besides well-crafted concepts, designers will have to show a work's impact in one of these areas: economic transformation, such as saving costs; raising the quality of life; advancing the Singapore brand and engaging with communities here; and the design industry, such as with a ground-breaking project.

Designer of the Year criteria are unchanged. Individuals or design collectives will be judged on their body of work, quality and variety, and consistency of design approach.

The changes were announced at a press conference 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.

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 have made the cut under the new criteria are Safeticet, a medical lancet that makes blood tests less painful; and architecture firm Woha's Enabling Village, a community space in Redhill which combines retail, lifestyle and training to better integrate disabled people.

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

Entries are now open and anyone can nominate designers and design projects. Designers no longer need to wait to be nominated but can submit their own projects, as long as these are endorsed by a third party, such as a client.

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

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.

Mr Jackson Tan, 43, who won the Designer of the Year award in 2007 with design collective Phunk, applauded the changes. He said: "We should encourage and recognise impact-based projects as it sends a strong signal to the design industry that (the award) celebrates projects that make a positive difference."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 21, 2017, with the headline 'Top design award to undergo redesign'. Print Edition | Subscribe