What I have learned from being on Design Juries

Nandita Abraham
May 31, 2019 · 5 min read

Jury. This term evokes a sense of trepidation & responsibility depending on which side of the divide one is standing. Members of the jury witness mind-blowing ideas, creativity & innovative projects. These are both inspiring and a learning experience which also underscores a sense of responsibility. For a student, a jury’s feedback can have a huge impact and help them develop their ideas as designers who will influence and drive the industry of tomorrow.

As an academic in a design school, I’ve had the privilege to be on juries and really understand the aspirations of young creative minds. This year, I’ve been on juries in four cities evaluating approximately a hundred creative finalists in the areas of communication design, interiors and product design. I have also been on industry juries including the Lexus Design Award jury 2018 in India and studied more than a hundred professional entries across various categories.

Typically, Juries serve two purposes.

In a mentor’s role the jury understands, shares feedback and helps the young designer to explore further rather than an actual grading. The second, is to confer an award or judge the merits of a project. These are daunting, stressful, exciting and often heart-breaking experiences for students. Someone always wins, but everyone benefits from the interactions and feedback provided in the jury process. Additionally, for design students one gets a real-life preparation for the real world. How to listen to clients, how not to get too attached to your point of view and the benefits of peer and external feedback during design process.

For Jury members, this participative experience gives an insight into creative minds and what matters to them. It aids in creating an overall perception about the level, quality and innovativeness of design work. It also defines the direction that design is taking in today’s complex world.

Here are my insights from my Jury experiences this year:

What I have learned — 5 things

1. Design students do a LOT of work — and they often try to show all of it to a jury. It’s a good idea to have a clear brief from your faculty or the competition including assessment criteria and work towards that. Treat the jury as a separate exercise and submit what fulfills their criteria. There are no marks for lots of work.

2. Young designers CARE about the world — Nice looking projects are passé. Problem solving and empathetic solutions are top priorities for young designers. Its refreshing to see projects addressing circular economy, inclusiveness, mental health awareness, equality, polarization, gender etc.

3. A face to face round with the participant MATTERS- As a Jury member it is very useful to have an interaction with the participants. Especially for Industry awards, as the number of entries are large and are assessed online, or in rooms with other jurors. The assessment is based on how well the participant has communicated his idea / outcome.

4. The power of IMPACT counts– Often reams of work is submitted without the actual — Why, How of the Idea / Product / Outcome. The choice of tool for communication of one’s idea / design outcome is critical. Often an animation, a video interview, a 1-page summary or infographic can be more impactful than 30 sheets of layouts or research.

5. MAXIMIZE transparency — In a jury a young designer is vulnerable as he / she is sharing her thoughts and ideas after a lot of hard work. Especially where students are involved it is essential to share a clear set of criteria in advance of the jury so that the participants know what they are being assessed on and why their work is selected or not. Often there are Initial juries and finalists or super juries and once again at each stage it is better to explain the criteria so that participants understand where they stand and why.

What You could do when preparing for a Jury — 5 Tips

1. Ask for CRITERIA — Be sure of the assessment parameters. Different Juries have different criteria and your submission should be customized accordingly. Sometimes cost / commercialization is a criteria and other times no one cares. If they are not looking for research, show them only enough to establish your point. If the focus is circular economy or impact make sure that this and its evaluation, justification gets enough of importance when presenting your project.

2. Prepare, Prepare, PREPARE — Your Jury maybe an online submission or a face to face interview. Either way, approach it as a new challenge and hand the work that will make a point. The Jury doesn’t want to see piles of work. Identify what the Jury is looking for and focus on that. If it is an in-person jury, reflect on what feedback, guidance you would like to get from that session and ask for it. Find out how much time you have and plan and practice what you are going to say. Both in the online submission or in-person you get the first two minutes to really hook the Jury member onto your idea so use it effectively.

3. EMPATHIZE with the Jurors — Give them an experience — Being on a Jury is also time consuming and hard work. Keep the Jury at the center and give them a full experience of your work. Design the experience. Today images, animation, walkthroughs, sound, experiential interactions are very impactful. Don’t innovate for the sake of innovation but select your mode of communication for maximum impact. A summary or abstract could be important explaining why your project is important and how you went about doing it. Remember for this process — they are the consumer so make it a wow experience!

4. Add something about YOURSELF — Personalize your project for a creating a connection: an experience, a family member’s illness, a difficulty faced by you or someone close to you. Mention it. It explains the why of the work being done. This doesn’t need to be a sad experience, it could even be a desire, an ambition or a dream to fulfil. Tell a Story that the Jury will remember.

5. Connect to the FUTURE — Design is a continuous process of creation and progress. Look ahead and say what could happen next and who will implement the idea? How could it be further improved? Reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of your project and how it can be taken ahead. While not seeking a ‘Perfect Outcome’ the Jury is definitely looking for the next Magic and your project can the stepping stone for it!

Other Takeaways

Like the soaring ambitions of creative minds, juries must evolve too. Often juries are divided domain-wise and constricted to silos. The era of multi-disciplinary approach is upon us. This year, at Pearl Academy our Jury undertook a multi-disciplinary, multi geography approach both in mentoring students and assessments of the work of these creative designers from Communication Design, Interior Design etc. We’ve opened some new doors and hope other juries adopt this approach too. After all, this motivation is necessary to craft a future envisioned by our young talent.

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Nandita Abraham

Written by

Seeker, Explorer, Learner. President at Pearl Academy.

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +793K followers.

Nandita Abraham

Written by

Seeker, Explorer, Learner. President at Pearl Academy.

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +793K followers.

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