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Art & Desgin

Dezeen Awards judges are on the lookout for entries that “break the mould”

Entrants to the new Dezeen Awards media and sustainability categories should experiment with new ideas rather than rehashing old ones, according to Gary Hustwit and Katie Treggiden.


The filmmaker and the environmental design journalist, who are head judges for the media and sustainability categories, set out what they hope to see from entries in a talk with Dezeen founder and editor in chief Marcus Fairs.

“I’d rather see somebody doing something really original, and maybe not quite executing it, but at least trying to break the mould,” said Hustwit.

“What we need is absolutely everybody working in the little ways that they can towards a more sustainable future,” said Treggiden.

Avoid slo-mo and drones

Broadcast live last month, the talk saw Hustwit and Treggiden discuss trends in media and sustainability and provide pointers for entrants to the new categories.

Hustwit, a veteran producer of 13 documentaries, advised that he favoured originality over high production values, which he said have become cliché.

“Now everyone’s got great cameras, everyone’s got nice drones, everyone’s got beautiful slow-motion photography on our phones,” said Hustwit.

“But for me, it’s always about the ideas and about the concepts.”

Entrants to Dezeen Awards new media categories should leave the fancy equipment at home and take artistic risks instead, Hustwit said.

Design long-lasting products

Author, consultant and circular design expert Treggiden said entries to the new sustainability categories shouldn’t attempt to solve climate change in one go.

Instead, they should demonstrate how small-scale design solutions can contribute to the collective good.

“We’ve run out of time for that big, magical silver-bullet technological solution,” said Treggiden. “What we need is absolutely everybody working in the little ways that they can.”

Designers should focus on making incremental changes that can collectively lead to a better world, she said.

Treggiden is also keen to see designers reject planned obsolescence and instead create products that can be repaired.

“We’ve got to start thinking about ways that we can elongate the lifespan of products,” she said. “And that’s got to be considered at the design stage.”

“Come up with more interesting business models”

Entrants that can tell an engaging narrative around the opportunities for repair in their projects will definitely get extra points from Treggiden.

“I’m interested in this idea of storytelling around repair,” she said.

“With the advent of the 20th century and mass production, we’ve got this sort of veneration of newness,” she added. “This idea that the moment something comes out of the box, it’s perfect. And from that moment on, it starts deteriorating.”

Designers should look into take-back schemes in returns for discounts, or offer repairs for life with their products.

“It’s really interesting to see businesses starting to respond to these changes and come up with more interesting business models,” Treggiden said.

Experiment instead of copying

It doesn’t matter how low-budget or grassroots your project is, the two judges agreed, what they want from entrants is to see how they’re creating original work and truly engaging with the issues at hand.

“My advice is to take inspiration from other places,” said Hustwit.

“Look at art and look at great film, and try to adapt some ideas from those things,” he advised. “Just experiment instead of watching what’s out there and just trying to copy that.”

“I’ve always seen designers’ job as solving problems, and I think the problems are changing,” said Treggiden. “If you look back at 20, 30 years ago, most designers wanted to design that iconic piece that was going to be on the front of magazines,” she added.

“I don’t think that’s what designers want to do anymore. Most designers are concerned about all this.”

Dezeen Awards categories introduced for 2021 include media awards for architecture photography, video and visualisations along with websites for studios and brands, and three sustainability categories for sustainable building, interiors and design.

Entries close on Tuesday 2 June. Click here to enter now.


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