Of all the categories of the Core77 Design Awards, the Writing & Commentary category is perhaps nearest and dearest to us.
After all, Core77 has been an outlet for the ever-evolving conversation of design thinking and criticism for nearly two decades now, and we are excited to recognize these signification contributions to the discourse. Led by design writer Alissa Walker, the energetic jury team selected winners that range from
bread-and-butter topics such as typography and scale models to esoteric essays on the likes of Zoolander and Russian sausages.
Professional Winner: Arts and Letters, by Aileen Kwun
Taking a cue from Wallace Steven's "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird," Aileen Kwun's "Arts and Letters" explores 26 different thought processes on typography. The essay was published in Colophone Foundry's "FIVE YEARS," also served as an accompanying catalogue to an exhibit of the same name. The jury appreciated the essay's memorable content: "The innovative format of this unusual essay is what made it such a standout from all the other entries: It's a piece on design that plays with the design of the storytelling, as well. It's a reminder to all writers that the story isn't simply in the words, it's in how they are presented—sometimes in the most literal ways. Although some of us initially felt skeptical about this essay, right around the donuts, we were hooked. This is the line that turned us: 'Not all donuts are created equally; some are unholey.' Also, this was the only essay that had lines we actually wanted to remember: 'Letters are tools for words, and words are tools for meaning. If a house is a machine for living, a book is a machine for thinking, and a typeface is a machine for writing. We are always building.'"
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Student Winner: Super Models or: Some (Scale) Models That I'd Like to Know, by Ian Besler
To many, the scale model is the beginning of a project. To Art Center College of Design student Ian Besler, it's grounds for an entire investigation. His essay, "Super Models or: Some (Scale) Models That I'd Like to Know" is a dive into the bigger topics scale models bring to design, like digital vs. handmade and relative size in digital space. His piece stands behind the idea that scale models are used more as accuracy tools and a means to explore spatial relationships. "Fantastic! A new way of looking at a common thing, smart without using convoluted academic language—hooray! Out of all the entries submitted for the Core77 writing awards (both student and professional), this was the best piece we read. It combined solid writing with the unique exploration of the practical and cultural purposes a scale model serves. The tone was conversational and the observations illuminating. The best part: The reference to Zoolander was quite irresistible."
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Professional Runner Up: (Re)Brand USA, by Eric Heiman
Eric Heiman asked four designers to take a stab at branding the United States, right in the lead-up time to the 2012 Presidential Elections. His essay "(Re)Brand USA" is a look at what those designers put together and is only one part of a four-piece publication that was displayed at an exhibition titled "All Possible Futures." "(Re)Brand USA" is an anecdotal look into the nation's perceived identity and how it all plays into the act of unifying (or dividing) us as a community. The jury noted the personal nature of the writing: "Overall, a strong, well-written piece. We enjoyed the way the personal anecdotes segued into larger examinations of how the U.S. portrays itself to the world. The conclusion—about injecting ambivalence into the way we view ourselves as a culture—was a solid one."
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Student Runner Up: Open Source, Communication and Collaboration: Open Technology's Evolving Relationship with Design Discourse, by Nicola Mitchell
The role of a designer has yet to be defined—and many have come to the conclusion that it's never meant to have a solid definition. Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, student Nicola Mitchell explores the role of open source technology and DIY culture in the undetermined definition. Specifically, she dives into designers' part as a facilitator in the design process. "This was a timely, well-reported, well-sourced and nicely thought-out piece on how something a profession such as design—something so often identified with single individuals—could be crowdsourced, and has been for quite awhile," says the jury.
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Professional Notable: Tsaritsyno Reloaded: Case Study, by "What the Pack?" Media Project
The case study breaks down the history of one of Tsaritsyno, Russia's oldest sausage brands. The writing explores the mistakes the brand made—including elements that are still found in similar designs today and the way sausage is perceived in Russia—and the company's successful transition to more modern ways of marketing. The jury appreciated the unexpected topic of the work: "The subject matter of this case study—about the logo design of a long-time Russian sausage company before and after the disintegration of the Soviet Union—was fascinating."
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Professional Notable: You'll Never Guess the Amazing Ways Online Design Writing and Criticism Has Changed, by Chappell Ellison
Although the meme-inspired image may garner some giggles, the sentiment is serious. Chappell Ellison's "You'll Never Guess the Amazing Ways Online Design Writing and Criticism Has Changed" takes on the past and future of design journalism in three sections: 1) commentary on modern's decision role as clickbait, 2) the history of online design discussion and 3) extrapolations on what's to come and how we can reincorporate the early excitement that surrounded the online design community. The jury found it to be a more-than-worthy subject: "We were glad to see an entry that addressed the issue of criticism and design and the ways in which has been flattened by the internet (paired with stories about eclairs and Corbu desserts.) This was the only entry that took on this issue, an important one in the design community."
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Student Notable: Transitional Spaces: The Reconciliation of Polarities, by Oscar Pipson
In "Transitional Spaces," Victoria University of Wellington student Oscar Pipson reintroduces us to the presence of the contrasting spaces and design details that make up our daily lives. Through images and text, Pipson revitalizes commonplace spaces and brings attention to the "shift of one moment to the next, from one place to the other or just a beginning to an end." The jury found the work to be a "nicely explored the idea of the in-between."
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