This year’s design work featured innovative production and interactivity galore, but what impressed judges the most was strong conceptual thinking.

By Warren Berger

“I took a lot of inspiration away from this show,” says Chuck Tso of DDB New York, one of the judges at this year’s One Show Design. That sentiment was echoed by fellow judge Jon Olsen of Sandstrom Partners, who, like Tso, came away from the show feeling bullish on the state of creativity in design today. Both judges agreed: “It’s a great time to be in design,” as Tso put it.

Tso pointed to the many innovative techniques and executions on display at this year’s show—“we saw huge leaps in printing capabilities and a lot of interactivity, with books that invited you in to play around with them, and posters that were three-dimensional,” he says. But among the winning entries, innovation wasn’t enough: “The work that won also consisted of very strong conceptual pieces,” Tso noted.

Olsen said he was struck by the overall balance of the show, with strong work appearing across categories (“usually one category shines, but not this year,” Olsen observed). And with so much work coming from all around the globe, the result was an eclectic mix of visual styles and influences that Olsen found refreshing. “Sometimes what strikes you at design award shows is that a certain look seems to be dominating that year, but that wasn’t the case here,” he says. Instead, Olsen, says, what drove much of the work was concept. “The execution wasn’t paying attention to other trends, it was just doing what was best for that idea,” he says.

So what were some of the highlights for these two judges? Start with the big beautiful books on display, including one of Levi Strauss Japan. Designed by the Tokyo agency ADK, this oversized, playful book won a Gold Pencil in the booklet/brochure category and earned a special place in Olsen’s heart. “Sometimes when you go away from judging there’s a piece or two you kind of want to tuck away in the suitcase, and for me, this was the one,” Olsen says. “I think it was the material and the unusual size, larger than tabloid. It felt handmade and had an edgy gritty feel to it, thanks to an amazing printing job. It just felt like something you’d want to keep.” Olsen felt likewise about another oversized book, a gold winner in the publication design category created by Voice/Adelaide for client Toby Richardson, which featured old fabric patterns and a cover that was beautifully stitched together.

Both judges praised the “We” logo, created by Brian Collins’ design firm COLLINS: (in a working partnership with The Martin Agency), on behalf of Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection. This was a gold winner in the logo design category. “It was a very powerful use of typography coming down to just one letter,” Tso commented. “It takes this whole green thing that we talk about and turns it onto ourselves—to be able to do all that just by looking at a logo is amazing.” Olsen praised the logo as a “a really simple, smart solution that isn’t overdone or over-thought. It’s unusual to come across something as pure and fresh as that.”

Neither judge could resist the edible business cards designed for Bombay Bakery by Dizzy Design/Mumbai. A Gold Pencil winner in corporate identity, “It’s a clever take on the business card, and both fun and memorable, “ Tso says. Olsen appreciated it because, he noted, “We do a lot of corporate identity and you’re always looking for that special takeaway that kind of represents a business card. In today’s world the question often comes up about the importance of a business card. In most cases, someone’s probably going to take all the information from that card, put it in their digital system and then toss the card—so given that, this certainly provides a great way to dispose of the card, by eating it.” An equally playful approach to corporate identity design came from the Bradford Lawton Design Group on behalf of the San Antonio Zoo. Using the numbers 08 to create a delightful monkey face, the work earned silver and was much appreciated by Olsen because “they didn’t have to distort or mess with typography to get that image to come through.”

Package design was very strong overall, but among the standouts was a gold-winning entry from Iconologic for Coca-Cola. “Coke continues to innovate,” Tso commented. “It’s amazing the design and advertising strides they’ve taken through the years. They’ve modernized the right way—just doing little things here and there that kind of get trickled out, including collaborations with designers and artists that give the brand a sub-culture appeal.” Tso was even more appreciative of another gold-winning package design campaign, this one created by Dentsu Kansai/Osaka for the client Ichida Garden. It used recycled newspaper to create beautiful wrapping paper for the fresh produce sold to customers. “It’s about as green an idea as you can get,” Tso says. “It recycles in a beautiful way and it probably costs little or nothing to do this. It makes buyer and seller feel good about using design.” Olsen adds: “It feels sort of like the ultimate in recycling. There was a fair amount of green-themed stuff in the show, but this is a perfect example of doing something with a green initiative, without telling you so blatantly. It’s about doing instead of talking.”

In the category of collateral design, a gold-winning series of posters for Mitsubishi Estate Company earned high praise from Tso. The campaign, created by Dentsu Tokyo, was based around “the simplicity of taking the moon shape and expanding on that with a series of images that just played with the geometric shapes of a circle,” Tso says. “Amongst a sea of complicated design, something like this stands out, especially when the posters are lined up next to each other. It was also beautifully printed and very tactile.” If the Mitsubishi campaign relied on simplicity, another gold-winning collateral campaign, in the P.O.P./in-store sub-category, impressed with its painstaking detail. For client Schwan-STABILO, a maker of marker pens, the agency Naga DDB/ Rapp in Petaling Jaya created an entire newspaper—by hand, in marker ink. “It was amazing,” says Olsen. “As you looked at it and saw it was completely done by hand, you realized the effort that went into this. It was a really interesting concept, and top quality in terms of following through and executing it. There was a lot of talk and interest among the judges around this entry.” Showing the diversity of work within the collateral category, a gold-winning campaign from BBDO/Proximity Malaysia for Chrysler Korea, again in the P.O.P./in-store sector, featured a series of screen printed images, each one providing a visual surprise, with all of the images tying together to form what Olsen called “a simple, striking, cohesive campaign.” Tso commented: “This was one of my judges’ choice picks. I found myself just going back again and again to look at it. Good design always impacts you, but a really great design piece makes you burn with envy. This is beautiful, simple conceptual design at its best.”

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