Cooper-Hewitt just announced the winners of its Sixth Annual National Design Awards and it's really time to say out loud what so many design and innovation professionals have been saying for so long--the contest doesn't work. The winners are all wonderful designers who have done excellent work. But they are obvious choices. Most appear to be recipients of life-time achievement awards, which is really what the National Design Awards has mostly become.
What is wrong. I think design has quickly evolved far from the original conceit of the awards program. Just giving attention to great designers is really beside the point today. The great struggle for respect in society and in the corporate world is over. Design has won. It doesn't have to sell itself. It does have to prove itself, however. Design has to create better methodologies, better processes and better results for the people who use it. And design contests have to reward this ongoing effort, not simply recognize those in the past who have achieved greatness.
The Cooper-Hewitt is a wonderful place and I visit it often. It's most recent exhibit on Extreme Textiles was brilliant. But the folks who put together the National Design Awards show rethink the program. What was once worthy, is now mundane.