What Makes Design Good?

This year’s Shaw Contract Design Award Final and People’s Choice winners have shown us how designers are reacting to evolving needs in the built environment. The very nature of an awards program begs the question, what actually defines good design? How do judges of a competition like this decide on standout talent and ingenuity? We asked two of our Final judges, Karen Daroff of Daroff Design and Sophie Safrin of Hot Black to weigh in on their definition of good design, observed trends and the future of design.



How do you define good design?

KD: It is that balance that you look for as a judge where something truly works on a functional and comfort level but is inspirational on a visual level. A design should inspire but not necessarily in an obvious way, it should be clever in how it combines materials and technology and always strive for design excellence.

SS: For me personally it’s always a two part thing—beginning with the pragmatic, the problem solving arena starting with the user experience, then the other practical issues of site context, brand awareness, etc. But of course good solutions to those aspects only become good design when you also deliver on the aesthetic side and then bring it all back together for a successful user experience, so it’s always a two-pronged affair.

Which trends did you pick up on in the projects you judged?
KD: There was a lot of commonality this year, overall. I saw a strong industrial edge to the general aesthetic, a lot of use of resilient materials, a lot of wood both faux and real. More black and steel than we have seen for a while. The continuing move toward a crossover between sectors where hospitality, retail and workplace now all share common elements. Strong trends toward common and shared areas, the cohesion between textures and colors to create atmosphere, use of natural light. A lot of barn doors, sliding doors, glass partition walls, overall a very clean, modern look. On a geographical note, there was a notably large Australian presence this year.

SS: I didn’t see the space plans or drawings, so my trend observations are from a purely aesthetic viewpoint, but I did notice a strong push on texture and contrast, a real focus across the board on materiality. The majority also had a strong use of color.

What do you think these projects reveal about the future of interiors?

KD: That this crossover of what were once quite separate areas of expertise or experience is going to only grow so that our work as designers and the work of industry suppliers will need to continue this path of adaptability so that the qualities we seek in hospitality will also be present in the workplace and so on. The trends for remote working will continue so residential elements will be added to the general crossover trend.

To view the full list of Final and People’s Choice Winners, visit here

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