naomi miller, president | naomi miller lighting design
There are too many awards programs. It dilutes the value of getting a design award if you can send a project to numerous programs with the hope of getting an award somewhere. I tend to pay less attention to the newest awards programs because they don't have the long-standing reputation of those that are established.
I would prefer some differentiation among the programs: One that focuses on environmentally sensitive design; one that focuses on aesthetics; or one that focuses on residential projects, with awards for low-income, middle-income, and high-income residences. Wouldn't it be fun to see a winner who designed a 1,000-square-foot apartment with only portable lighting? Or someone who illuminated the same apartment with less than 1000 watts of connected load? Unfortunately, those kinds of projects seldom reach the top because it takes gorgeous interiors and photography to attract the eye of the judges.
Over the years I have kept track of both the time and cost of entering awards programs, from writing the entry and accompanying the photographer, to buying photos. Generally, it costs between $2,000 and $6,000 per project. If the resulting award is not regarded as a major accomplishment, the effort and cost is wasted.
Some design awards programs tend to be beauty pageants. The judges don't understand that the project couldn't possibly have met local energy codes, or that the fixtures can only be reached for relamping by hiring intrepid tree climbers. It is so important that judges have enough experience in the business, that they understand the technical challenges of lamps, ballasts, controls, luminaires, and the physiological and psychological needs of the people who use and service the spaces.
I'm also concerned that I'm competing against photos that have been photoshopped, a practice that is routine today, even among the finest photographers. This is a serious issue that judges and program sponsors will soon have to consider.
carrie knowlton, associate | horton lees brogden lighting design
As co-chair of the IESNY Lumen Awards, I am truly inspired each year by the award-winning designs that we acknowledge. Not only do the awards celebrate our peers' outstanding achievements, they also educate young and future lighting designers, as well as the public, about the value of lighting design. Every year, I see new awards programs cropping up. While I think that it is terrific to celebrate lighting design, I do feel that having too many awards programs dilutes their overall benefits.
For a lighting designer, receiving an award can be an excellent marketing opportunity. In many ways, it is now necessary for firms to present their list of awards when going after new projects. On the downside, it requires a huge effort to complete a submission. I'm afraid that as the number of awards programs grows, the number and quality of submissions will naturally deteriorate as a result.
For a manufacturer, an awards program can provide an opportunity to support the lighting design community. It also provides them with a portfolio of projects designed with their products that can be used for their own marketing purposes. It is no wonder that so many manufacturers are jumping on the awards bandwagon!
While manufacturers' awards programs have definite merits, I'm more impressed with those that also offer student design competitions, which demonstrate an investment in the future of the lighting design industry. I am also loyal to the independent awards programs sponsored by the professional organizations and magazines that can evaluate a much larger pool of submissions that aren't restricted by product usage. I feel that they inherently attract a higher caliber of lighting design and are more effective overall.
rogier van der heide, associate director | arup lighting
Lighting design awards are important in the process of making lighting design a mature profession. There are not too many, and there could be more attention for lighting design in other non-lighting awards programs, such as interior design awards and retail design awards. The awards stimulate innovative lighting design when they are accompanied by a good PR program and good press coverage. They also form a channel to promote the quality and unique contribution of lighting to the built environment.
The industry will recognize the real value of the different awards programs anyway. The most prestigious is the IALD International Lighting Design Award, with the IALD Radiance Award as the Association's highest honor. The various IES awards are much appreciated, and so is the Edison Awards Program (sponsored by General Electric). In the UK, the British Lighting Design Awards are well recognized. Other programs seem less significant, which can only be changed by themselves, by awarding better quality projects and having prestigious judging panels.
derek porter, director, mfa program in lighting design | parsons
I would choose to direct the question to a subject that is less about the quantity of awards programs but rather, how do the various programs distinguish themselves and truly contribute to the future of design? The current awards programs are sponsored by organizations that are uniquely different; however, there seems to be a constant theme that involves a handshake, and the exchange of a trophy. This gesture has value, but is also finite. At the end of the evening when the spectacle is complete, what is remembered? Recently, I took part in a round-table discussion event in conjunction with the second annual A|L Light & Architecture Design Awards, which I believe is a first step in offering a different path for such awards programs (see 'Prominent Designers Discuss the Role of Competitions,' page 26). A group of the award recipients were invited to participate in a round-table discussion. The focus of this event, cosponsored by Parsons, was to use this select group of projects as reference for critical dialogue. This lively interchange involving professionals, students, and writers was a real opportunity to engage one another and plant a long-lasting seed of possibility. I encourage all awards programs to consider such an opportunity. When we join together to celebrate the beauty of work completed, we should equally measure its value for the future. A fresh idea or a new potential that can be invested the next day or shared in a classroom will truly fuel the future of our industry.
sam gumins, president and ceo | luxo
There are arguably too many design awards programs when they require a line item on a manufacturer's marketing budget. In the past year, Luxo won six design awards competitions. Was it flattering? Yes. Did we appreciate the recognition? Without a doubt. Did they encourage our design? Not directly. Did we enter only a small percentage of competitions? Yes. Do we wish there were fewer programs, and feel that the total number generally dilutes the overall significance of awards? Very much so.
Today's design awards programs are often directly or indirectly tied to follow-on advertising. The value in recognition is inherently linked to the opportunities to promote such recognition in the sponsoring publication. Many architectural lighting design awards programs also continue to recognize form with no respect for functionality. Awards are often given for aesthetics, fleeting trends, or fashion. Such programs should instead emphasize that technical excellence underlies great design, and reward manufacturers whose products combine both novel design and great performance.
Having written this, I genuinely hope not to alienate those who may be judging Luxo products for future design awards programs. We really do appreciate the consideration and acknowledgment.
stephen blackman, director, design and product development | american fluorescent
I don't think the average professional realizes the large number of awards programs that are currently ongoing in the lighting industry. Despite the growing number of competitions, it seems that people on both sides of these programs still benefit. These competitions can now be tailored to highlight specific problems (i.e., a lack of decorative energy-efficient fixtures), causes (design for accessibility), or even for the obvious-a manufacturer trying to promote its products. It also gives many magazines great applications to print in their publications.
In addition to the attention a sponsor will garner, more importantly, awards programs help many designers or design offices with recognition of their design talent. It gives the small guy some visibility and credibility in light of the plethora of images from magazines, websites, and other advertising that we now see so much of every day. I don't think the industry will ever have too many awards programs. It still seems like a win-win situation for all involved.
I feel that the architectural lighting industry should have a balanced amount of awards programs to feature both great applications and great lighting products. The product competition would be for either functional considerations (efficiency/ease of use/new technology) or for purely aesthetic criteria. This type of competition would also be a good way to let specifiers know about all the new and remarkable products out there that are now available for their projects.
As an industrial designer working for a manufacturer, these types of product competitions give us real incentive to develop better products. When it is important enough, we sometimes design products with the competition in mind. The results in our sales are often very positive. Exposure from the right competition could also help to encourage other manufacturers to improve their products. The bigger the audience and the more prestigious the competition, obviously the better entries you will receive. And that is good for the industry.