October 18, 2013
Last night, the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, celebrated innovators of design both large and small with an awards gala, held in New York City. The gala kicks off National Design Week, an educational initiative that recognizes achievement and innovation in American design and honors the impact of design in everyday life. The honorees—winners of the National Design Awards and the People’s Design Award—were presented with a trophy as unique as the celebration itself, handcrafted by the Corning Museum of Glass.
The honorees represent multiple aspects of the industry from architecture to commercial media ventures:
- The lifetime achievement award was presented to James Wine, founder and president of SITE, a New York-based architecture firm founded in the 1970s.
- Michael Sorkin, architect and urbanist, was awarded the Design Mind award. The award for architecture design was presented to Studio Gang Architects, a collective of architects based in Chicago.
- Graphic designer Paula Scher was awarded the National Design Award for Communication Design. Behnaz Sarafpour took home the award for fashion design.
- And Local Projects, a media design firm specializing in museums and public spaces, won the award for interaction design.
- In the realm of interior design, Aidlin Darling Design, a firm based out of San Francisco, was honored, while Margie Ruddick took home the award for landscape architecture.
- NewDealDesign was honored for product design, while the non-profit organization TED (of TED Talks fame) won the Corporate & Institutional Achievement award.
Winners of the National Design award were chosen through a submission process which began this fall, and included suggestions from leading designers, educators, journalists and design enthusiasts. The winners were selected from this pool via a jury, which chose the top nominees over a two-day period.
Here on Smithsonian.com, we invited the public to vote for a design of their choice—chosen from 20 nominees—to receive the People’s Design Award. Past winners of the People’s Design Award have included Marianne Cusato, designer of the Katrina Cottage, Toms Shoes, the Zōn Hearing Aid, the Trek Lime Bicycle, the Braille Alphabet Bracelet and Design Matters, a show about design and culture.
This year, the People’s Design Award was given to the PackH2O Water Backpack, a backpack that allows water to be easily transported from a source to wherever it may be needed. The backpack, easier to carry than jerry cans or buckets is often used in places with little access to clean water, and includes a removable liner that can be sanitized with sunlight.
“Cooper-Hewitt has long been a champion of socially responsible design, most notably for our ‘Design with the Other 90%’ exhibition series,” said Caroline Baumann, director of the museum. “I am truly delighted that the American public has chosen to recognize this design solution for the developing world. Millions of people around the world lack access to a reliable source of clean water, and the PackH2O demonstrates the power of design to address this critical problem.”
July 16, 2012
Buzzy titles like these now populate the TED talks website and attract thousands of viewers the same day they appear. Few people haven’t been told they “have to watch this one lecture on TED” by friends amped on a new idea. But the very first TED conference back in 1984 was a relative flop, according to its creator Richard Saul Wurman.
Though Wurman led TED into more prosperous times, still enjoyed today, he tired of the format and sold the enterprise to Chris Anderson in 2001. He is now preparing to unveil his newest project, WWW, calling it the conference of the 21st century. Wurman, this year’s winner of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Lifetime Achievement Award, is known both for founding the blockbuster conference series and for his propensity to grow restless and move on to the next thing.
Starting in architecture, he hopped from book writing to conference organizing. With each venture, whether he was writing a guide to investing or a foreign city, Wurman used new ways to visualize and communicate information. Sometimes called an “intellectual hedonist,” his work follows his curiosity as it zigs and zags across media.
“I am an unusual choice to win the lifetime achievement award,” insists Wurman. His path to success doesn’t trace the typical vertical route up the hierarchy. Instead, he says he’s worked horizontally on disparate ideas united by his impulse to design and explain.
Along with this year’s nine other Design Award winners, Wurman had a packed Friday dining at the White House with Michelle Obama, but began his day at the Cooper-Hewitt’s third annual Teen Design Fair. Students from New York City and Washington, D.C. were invited to talk with dozens of experts working in architecture, fashion, urban and landscape design, industrial design and communications.
Students circled around Wurman, whose craft was listed as “Architecture/Interiors.”
“I don’t own a suit,” he tells the students. “I don’t own a tie. I never dress up.” Wurman delights in the iconoclast role and drew the students in with his frank way of talking. It’s no coincidence his TED conferences were modeled on the same kind of frank, anti-establishment thought.
Wurman began with one of his five methods of innovation: subtraction. “I subtracted panels of white men in suits, CEOs and politicians, lecterns, long speeches,” recalls Wurman.
By now his signature 18-minute time frame is familiar and the diversity of speakers he attracted introduced new voices to the spotlight. These bite-sized, personal lectures, though held in a very exclusive setting, make online viewers feel they are part of the idea and not just hearing about it. But even that format has grown cumbersome in Wurman’s mind.
On the move yet again, Wurman is working on a new project called WWW, which he describes as the conference of the 21st century. TED now falls squarely in the 20th century, according to him. Subtracting both set presentations and time constraints, WWW will create “intellectual jazz” between two “of the most extraordinary people” Wurman knows. For good measure, musical directors Herbie Hancock and Yo-Yo Ma will add improvised contributions. The whole project is driven by the experimental whims of its creator; “When I’m tired of listening to them, I pull them off stage.”
The first talk is set for September 18-20, but he says he has no clue who the participants will be yet. Once he settles on guests, Wurman will help build an app for each conference allowing viewers to learn as much as they possibly can about each speaker. If the speaker is Frank Gehry, “They’ll see Frank Gehry talking about 30 buildings he never got to build,” explains Wurman, promising interviews, baby photos and even a look at the personal notes and work of each subject.
Branded as the future of conferences, WWW actually draws inspiration from 19th century salons with Wurman playing the role of Gertrude Stein. As TED moves further into the realm of lectures and ideas that “make a difference,” Wurman seems more concerned with the very nature of an idea as a social product.
And, of course, he’s concerned with staying curious. As soon as something fails to hold his interest, he’s on to the next project.
It’s Wurman’s salon, after all, and we’re just stopping by.