Shaggy at Core77 reports that the Design Council’s Hilary Cottam has won the Design Museum’s (UK) 2005 Designer of the Year award and the resulting controversy around her selection. It illustrates the confusion and emotion possible when designers of the intangible mix it up with the traditional sort.
The Observer reports two points. One is that Cottam didn’t work alone. But what designer does these days?
The other point is that she’s not a designer. This assertion can get us into a long semantic debate, but the design community has persistently pushed for larger and more inclusive defintions of design. Now that someone who embraces that larger definition and applies design thinking to intangible problems wins a traditional design award, we’re surprised.
I needed to ask, why was she actually nominated? The Design Museum says,
Hilary Cottam has been nominated for the Designer of the Year prize for her achievements in championing a more inspiring and efficient approach to public sector design by demonstrating how design can be used as a tool to “tackle some of the more intractable social problems of our day”.
and the chair of the award committee says of the award decision…
‘Hilary Cottam is not a designer in the traditional sense, but she is a wonderfully worthy winner of Designer of the Year for the imaginative and innovative way she uses design as a strategic tool to modernise schools, prisons and other critically important areas of our lives.’
I applaud the Design Museum for taking such a progressive stance. It’s unfortunate they may make a few enemies along the way, but hopefully the award will act to widen our understanding of how design thinking helps solve problems and not just make things.