Founded in 1897, Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum is the country’s only museum dedicated solely to historic and contemporary design. As part of their mission to educate the public on all things design-related and spread awareness of the many ways design can enhance our lives, each year the museum organizes the National Design Awards. As the name suggests, the awards are given to U.S.-based designers “in recognition of excellence, innovation, and enhancement of the quality of life,” with categories in architecture, fashion, interaction design, product design and more. Awards are determined by a diverse jury of prestigious design professionals that this year includes, among others, Jury Chair and Curator of Architecture and Design at The Art Institute of Chicago Zoë Ryan, architect Tom Mayne, of Morphosis, Kickstarter design director Charles Adler, and you. Yes, you.
Cooper-Hewitt wants to know what you think makes for good design and one prize, The People’s Design Award, is determined by a public vote. For once, we’re not talking about designing the vote, but voting for design. Until this Friday, October 11, you can choose your favorite life-changing design innovation from among twenty potential candidates representing all the above mentioned categories.
Nominees include a hand crank to charge your gadgets, portable medical equipment, an artful video game designed to be played but not won, a mobilized telepresence device that reminds me of an episode of the Big Bang Theory, a device that transforms your hands and fingers into the ultimate computer peripheral, an emergency cell phone that runs on a single AA battery, a snap-together circuit boards that offers to do for engineering what Legos did for architecture, slick-looking technological handlebars with built-in with lights, navigation, and speedometer, a bike helmet vending machine for the urban bike-sharer, and of course, a few apps.
I only have experience with a couple of these, so I’ll keep my opinions brief:
The iOS app Mailbox has completely changed the way I handle email and has helped keep achieve –and maintain!– the once-mythical state of “inbox zero”. Mailbox’s major innovation is a method of archiving email that seems so obvious it’s surprising that it wasn’t widely adopted by other services long ago. Instead of letting messages pile up in your inbox or filing them into folders to be forgotten, Mailbox lets you reschedule an email to respond at a more convenient time. It’s like a snooze button for email that keeps unnecessary messages out of your inbox. A super-clean user-interface and shallow learning curve only make the app better.
Medium is a blogging platform and publishing network founded by two of the minds that brought you twitter. They call it a place to “share ideas and stories that are longer than 140 characters and not just for friends.” There are a few things that make the platform standout from similar services: its clean design, it’s promise to help writers find an audience “through a combination of algorithmic and editorial curation,” and a unique comment system that doesn’t relegate reader input to the bottom of an article, but alongside it, like annotations. Thus, commenters become collaborators rather than a collection of people yelling in vain from a soapbox at the end of an alley. Right now the service is still in beta, so only a few invited writers can use Medium (but you can request an invite on the site).
All these products and services that have been nominated offer something new. But which design matters the most to you? Which design has the potential to change lives around the world? Which one offers an elegant solution to a problem? Which one will improve your everyday routine? However you decide whats important, cast your vote before this Friday, October 11, to help decided the winner of the People’s Design Award. The winner be be announced at the National Design Awards gala and online on October 17.