Vassiliki Giannopoulos National Design Awards Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum 2 E 91st St, New York, NY 10128
Dear Ms. Giannopoulos, Regarding your December 23rd email notifying us that Designers Without Borders has been nominated for the 2014 National Design Awards, we have this response.
We assume that a well-meaning friend made this nomination, which of course is no reflection on CHNDM. This friend could not have known that we can no longer justify participating in award events for a variety of reasons. In the first place, they reinforce the status quo notion that creative initiative is best rewarded through pageantry, while pretending that reasonable adjudication of these events is possible and assuming that such acknowledgement is desirable. We disagree on all points. It’s not that we consider ourselves better than others in the design community. On the contrary, we recognize and appreciate the valuable work many people are doing. But we conceive ourselves part of a larger, more encompassing world community, one that is often forgotten by the affluent north.
Consequently, we seek recognition of a different sort. While we realize most creative practice is not driven by the allure of prizes, we feel American designers are already awash in competitions and are far from needing any further commendation for their accomplishments. In fact, right or wrong, we’d like to believe that the work we do is its own best reward, regardless of what any other institution thinks. Finally, while most organizations are more than the sum of their founders, DWB is a small voluntary organization. Our modest accomplishments can hardly compete with the likes of past institutional winners Google, the Walker Art Center, or TED. “It’s not a matter of size, but of quality,” you’ll argue, but there’s more than quality in play when this years’ judge becomes next years’ winner. Under such circumstances we feel like Lear shouting into the gale, convinced most of those who seek gains through competition reap the whirlwind long before a windfall. In the event the Cooper-Hewitt should take the truly radical path of discontinuing these conventional awards, and channel the equivalent resources in a direction that might do some real good, DWB would be first in line with helpful suggestions. Rather than a competition, we’d like to see the Cooper-Hewitt sponsor a National Design Cooperation Event. Such a rare and winsome gesture might go a long way toward addressing a few of America’s most debilitating problems, and would certainly be a great way to celebrate design.
Respectfully Yours, Designers Without Borders