Last week we brought you five of the nine National Design Awards from the Cooper Hewitt Museum. Here we present the promised final four, rounding out the designers selected by this year’s museum jury as the best of 2020.
Digital Design: Design I/O
Design I/O LLC, with studios in Brooklyn NY and Petaluma CA, is focused on development of immersive, interactive digital installations — and the new forms of storytelling they make possible. Its designers devise digital experiences for museums and public spaces, exhibitions, and events. Their works have been installed at the New York Hall of Science, the Cleveland Museum of Art, Philadelphia’s Franklin Park Conservancy, the Frost Museum of Science in Miami, and the TELUS World of Science in Edmonton, Alberta. Some of their exhibits have been displayed as far afield as Amsterdam and Singapore. With more than 15 years’ experience, Design I/O and its partners continue to push the boundaries of what is possible at the intersection of design and technology.
Still images of the firm’s works offer appealing depictions of natural processes, but in the actual installations the actions of viewers – most often children – can alter these images in dynamic and meaningful ways. As viewers direct water to animated clusters of trees, for instance, they respond by visibly thriving. To see some of Design I/O’s products in action, the reader can visit design-io.com.
Product Design: Catapult Design
“We imagine a world where everyone has access to well-designed products and services that stimulate and sustain better lives.” Thus the nonprofit consultancy Catapult Design defines its mission. Based in Denver, Catapult works with organizations worldwide to develop market-based solutions contributing to sustainability and resilience. Challenges addressed by its products include food security, water supply, sanitation, healthcare, and mobility.
Along with design and engineering skills, the Catapult team brings to the task research, education, and business skills honed through decades of experience in the areas of the world that it serves. Among its notable clients and funders are the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, World Bank, Peace Corps, National Endowment for the Arts, and Mastercard Centre for Inclusive Growth.
Design Visionary: Kickstarter
Since its launch in 2009, Kickstarter has served as a powerful tool for designers and other creative people to take their ideas directly to the public for funding. By now more than 19 million people have pledged over $5.5 billion to projects across the creative spectrum—from art, design, and technology to theater, games, and food. Based in Brooklyn NY and led by CEO Aziz Hasan, Kickstarter’s team of some 92 people works to help creators realize their proposals.
A distinctive aspect of Kickstarter funding, behind its remarkable success, is that the contributions of would-be supporters become actual (their credit-card charges are put through) only if creators’ fund-raising goals are met by an announced date. Backers receive no monetary reward, only the satisfaction of supporting promising projects – and the people initiating them. Kickstarter earns a modest fee only for those projects that meet their fund-raising targets.
For over 30 years, Snøhetta has been creating notable architecture on five continents. Its practice has extended into landscape, urban design, product design, and branding. Founded in Oslo, Norway, the firm has long had a busy office in New York as well. The Oslo office is led by Kjetil Thorsen and the New York office by Craig Dykers, along with partners Elaine Molinar, Michelle Delk, and Alan Gordon.
Snøhetta gained international attention back in 1989, when it won an international design competition for an extraordinary library in Alexandria, Egypt. Its works in North America include the September 11 Memorial Museum and the reconfiguration of Times Square in New York, the major expansion of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Calgary Public Library in Canada. In Norway, the architects have completed the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet in Oslo and the small but unique Under restaurant burrowing into the sea bed at Lindesnes.
Design Diversity Celebrated
The Cooper Hewitt’s 2020 honors reflect not only expanded variety in the ethnicity and gender of designers recognized this year, but also a greater variety of clients and purposes of design accomplishment, even – in the case of Kickstarter – the inclusion of support for design, as well as products of design. May the recognition of greater diversity continue!
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