By Yash Egami

International agencies were well represented again at this year's One Show Design competition. Now in its fourth year, design entries were up by approximately 18 percent over last year with over three-quarters of the finalists coming from overseas.

'The interesting and diverse final selection was made possible, in part, by the number of great international entries we saw,' says Robynne Raye, design chair and founder of Modern Dog Design in Seattle. She notes that Latin America, Sweden, Germany, Japan and South Africa made a particularly strong showing this year.

Design Judge Jorge Alderate, a freelance illustrator in Mexico, agrees. 'Overall, I was impressed with the wide variety of submissions from very different places, because I was expecting them mainly from the U.S.'

But the increasing number of international firms vying for attention in overseas markets doesn't always translate into a wider variety of designs. 'While I was impressed with the number of international entries, I saw very slight differences between them,' observes Alderate. 'I think globalization is very evident.'

While Raye agrees, she feels the difference between designs that maintain a cultural identity and those that don't has more to do with economics.

'The more modern countries seem to be moving away from global trends,' says Raye. 'For instance, the Swedes, who always produce great work, create things that seem very Scandinavian. They're simple and smart. But when you start talking about lesser-developed countries where their economies are totally dependent on U.S. business, they obviously become more influenced by U.S. culture. In places like Europe, there's a lot of effort to not emulate us.'

While western influences were clearly evident in some of the design entries, there were a few outstanding pieces that maintained their distinct roots. All pointed to Afro magazine by South African agency Daddy Buy Me a Pony as an example of a design that was accessible and universal, yet clearly African. The work features a colorfully-wrapped package that, when opened, contains the 'pages' of the magazine.

'Even when they were using international codes, which were very clear to all of us, these codes were exquisitely combined with vernacular elements I would expect to see on the streets or different parts of the continent,' says Alderate.

Design judge Sally Morrow of Sandstrom Design also liked Afro magazine for its strong cultural identity. 'The type treatments became the images or symbols in some areas and other pages were pure image with the type acting like small jewels,' observes Morrow. 'The repetition of symbols like rabbits, monkeys, soccer balls and dice, to name a few added humor and brought to it a strong sense of the country that it came from. It was a piece that really captures your imagination; it was hard to put down.'

One of the other big winners in this year's design competition was la comuni-dad's work for MTV in Latin America. Many of the judges praised the Miami and South American agency's entry for its international flair.

'I loved the MTV ad because it looks like something that you'd never see here,' explains Raye. 'The video stood out for its surreal idea, unexpected soundtrack and art photography images.'

Sally Morrow enjoyed the MTV spot because it was 'so strong and funny that it hit you in the face.'

Other Pencil winners include Target stores' campy Halloween campaign by Charles S. Anderson Design in Minneapolis and a product packaging design titled 'Pancakes' by Happy Forsman & Bodenfors. One concept that scored high on the judge's scores was a campaign featured on shopping bags for the BALS Corporation in Tokyo. It features a pixellated image that turns into various forms when seen from afar such as a woman resting on her side or an animal.

Overall, Raye feels that this year's One Show Design had an interesting mix of winners that the judges feel comfortable with. 'I'm used to seeing a lot of U.S. and Canadian designs when I'm at other awards shows, so the wide variety of submissions here make it more fun to look at,' she says. 'The whole thing seemed more idea driven than style driven. It made me more excited about design. I think 'wow,' someone's out there doing this, someone who I could admire. But overall it was just fun and super easy.'

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