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The National Design Awards were conceived by the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum to honor the best in American design. First launched at the White House in 2000 as an official project of the White House Millennium Council, the annual Awards program celebrates design in various disciplines as a vital humanistic tool in shaping the world, and seeks to increase national awareness of design by educating the public and promoting excellence, innovation, and lasting achievement.
The National Design Awards is one of the few programs of its kind structured to continue to benefit the nation long after the Awards ceremony and gala. A suite of educational programs will be announced this summer in conjunction with the Awards by Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum’s award-winning Education Department, including a series of public programs, lectures, roundtables, and workshops based on the vision and work of the National Design Award winners.
Awards are given for a body of realized work rather than for a specific project. Eligibility is restricted to citizens or long-term residents of the United States and corporations or institutions headquartered in the country. Individuals or firms must have a minimum of seven years of professional experience in order to be considered.
Award candidates are nominated by a national committee of more than 2,500 design professionals, educators, critics, and patrons. Candidates proposed by the nominating committee are invited to submit materials for review, including resumes, portfolios, publications by and about the candidates, and visual samples.
Cooper-Hewitt convenes a jury of design leaders to review submissions each year. The jury gives careful consideration to the designers and firms whose work best embodies the Awards’ mission and portfolios are judged based on excellence, innovation and enhancement of the quality of life. Jurors are asked to consider the broad spectrum of the design community–geographically, culturally, and artistically.
Extraordinary originality in identifying, shaping, and solving problems is valued highly, and nominees whose work significantly broadens the conventions of their discipline, introduces formal innovation, and exhibits consistently high levels of imagination and insight are given special consideration. Finally, in keeping with Cooper-Hewitt’s definition of design as a force of change, the jury weighs the extent to which the general public has benefited from the explorations and achievements of each nominee.