2020 National Design Awards Winners

John Hill
2. October 2020
Image courtesy of Cooper Hewitt

New York's Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum has announced the winners of the 2020 National Design Awards, which recognizes design excellence and innovation in nine categories.

The 21st annual awards that honor "the timeless legacy of preeminent design leadership in America" and recognize "the power of design to change the world" were announced during a virtual gala last night, coinciding with the launch of National Design Month, an expansion of its annual National Design Week. Unlike other New York City museums, the Cooper Hewitt has yet to reopen, so the month-long events are taking place exclusively online.

This year's awards differ from previous years, not just in terms of the coronavirus pandemic pushing things online, but in terms of categories. Gone are the awards for Lifetime Achievement, Corporate & Institutional Achievement, Interior Design, and Interaction Design. The Design Mind award appears to have been renamed Design Visionary, and this is the second year for the Emerging Designer award. New this year is Climate Action, an award given to a project that makes "significant contributions to addressing the global climate crisis."

Additionally, this year is different in terms of leadership. The Cooper Hewitt is basically a rudderless institution now, following the abrupt departure of director Caroline Baumann in February over an alleged violation of conflict-of-interest rules. Baumann was at the helm of the museum since 2013. John Davis is serving as interim director of Cooper Hewitt while a search is underway for a new director.

The 2020 awards were selected by a seven-person jury* that reviewed submissions resulting from nominations solicited from "design experts and enthusiasts." Per the Cooper Hewitt, the jury looked for "extraordinary originality in identifying, shaping, and solving problems" and determining if the work "significantly broadens the conventions of their discipline, introduces formal innovation, and exhibits consistently high levels of imagination and insight."

Previous architecture-related honorees include Thomas Phifer, IwamotoScott Architecture, and SCAPE Landscape Architecture in 2019; WEISS/MANFREDI, Oppenheim Architecture + Design, and Mikyoung Kim Design in 2018; MASS Design Group, Deborah Berke Partners, and Surfacedesign in 2017; Moshe Safdie, Marlon Blackwell Architects, Studio O+A, and Hargreaves Associates in 2016; and Michael Graves, MOS Architects, Coen + Partners, and Commune in 2015.

The 2020 winners are listed below, but visit the Cooper Hewitt website for more information on the honorees and to view galleries of their work.

Snøhetta: Powerhouse Brattørkaia in Trondheim, Norway (Photo: Ivar Kvaal)
The 2020 winners:

  • Design Visionary: Kickstarter
  • Climate Action: Sponge Park
  • Emerging Designer: Studio One Eighty Nine
  • Architecture: Snøhetta
  • Communication Design: Scott Dadich
  • Digital Design: Design I/O
  • Fashion Design: TELFAR
  • Landscape Architecture: OJB Landscape Architecture
  • Product Design: Catapult Design

OJB Landscape Architecture: Park at Lakeshore East in Chicago (Photo: Steinkamp Photography)
*The 2020 jury:

  • Sigi Ahl, Creative Director, Eileen Fisher Waste No More
  • Angela Brooks, Principal Brooks + Scarpa Architects, Inc.
  • Shane Coen, Founder, Coen + Partners
  • Arem Duplessis, Group Creative Director, Apple Inc.
  • Ben Ebel, Experience Design Michelin North America
  • Toni L. Griffin, Principal, Founder, Urban American City
  • Jae Park, Vice President, G Suite UX Design, Google

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