Before we get into it, a few counts on the weekend (best estimation):
Cups of coffee downed: 13
Poppy see bagels with savory cream cheese consumed: 6
Submissions seen: 500
Rejects pilfered: 25
Weird, design-related dreams: 2
It was a great weekend, but SND treated me like a freshly snapped Polaroid picture. By the end of it I felt mentally and physically shaken about. And that’s not to mention the jitters of caffein withdrawal I continue to suffer. Which brings me to the first of my three weekend realizations; if there’s free coffee readily available and easy to get at, I will drink cup, after cup, after glorious cup until I’m dizzy with it.
Realization two hit me just before dinner on Saturday while the long-form judges had their first medal discussion. At this point dozens of designs had been rejected, removed from the tables and piled against a wall. And some of the submissions the judges were discussing for silver and gold medals, though I recognized that they were good, seemed less good to me than some of the other submissions buried in that pile. Though I probably aught to have known this going in, it hit me pretty hard that I don’t see what the attuned eyes of experienced designers see.
Now I think I have good taste, and I have no problem explaining the reasons I like something, but, as I’ve learned in subjects other than design, experience informs reason. It gives reason a backbone. And therefore I have to admit that my opinion that worthy designs were rejected while less worthy designs were given medals is spineless.
And now for my last and longest realization.
At seven or so Monday evening, the judges finally gathered around a table covered in gold medal designs to pick a best in show. Six designs became three finalists. Then another was cut off, and the final two were discussed at length. In the course of the discussion one judge suggested that the design aught to be considered best in show because of the very important topic it covered (the Snowden, NSA data mining story). Another judge suggested the opposite, that they look at the design as though it were written in a foreign language or in dingbats, that, essentially, they should look at it as content neutral.
At this point I had left the country club for an afternoon class and come back. The huge amount of energy I spent during the weekend had put me into that jittery, manic state of mind you get midway through an all-nighter. So when the two judges made these suggestions I had an irrational, overblown feeling of shock. How could they say things like that!?
I’ve come to think of design and content as being inseparable, dependent on one another. Hearing otherwise from SND judges was like getting slapped in the face. But it lit a fire under another idea which had been taking shape in my head all weekend – that the judges didn’t seem to have any particular framework for judging designs, and that the judgement of the submissions deserves a framework. Here’s what I furiously scribbled down in my notebook about a framework for judging design:
Most Compelling Photo:
Best Magazine Cover:
Favorite Foreign Language Paper:
Classmate I was around the most:
Iconic SND Scene:
Me and the Rejects: