Since 2000, the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, has celebrated the best the American design industry has to offer with the National Design Awards. Created to help recognize “excellence, innovation, and enhancement of the quality of life,” this year’s award winners feature a who’s who of architects and designers like Moshe Safdie, Bruce Mau, and Geoff McFetridge, to name a few.
While names like those certainly ring a bell among the design community, the 2016 National Design Awards is enjoying the rare ability to appeal to America’s Hollywood fan base as Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation took home the esteemed Director’s Award. Don’t roll your eyes just yet — the nonprofit he created in 2007 constructs homes and buildings for people in need. In other words, Pitt and Make It Right deserved the award.
Aside from Pitt’s inherent star power, the National Design Awards also doled out a handful of acclaimed honors to the best and brightest in the field of design. As touched on above, Moshe Safdie nabbed the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award for his continued innovation as an urban planner and his propensity for socially responsible design. Additionally, New York City’s Center for Urban Pedagogy took home the Corporate & Institutional Achievement award for its work to increase meaningful civic engagement, most notably among historically underrepresented neighborhoods.
“The National Design Awards program celebrates design as a vital humanistic tool in shaping the world,” reads the Cooper Hewitt website. “[It] seeks to increase national awareness of design by educating the public and promoting excellence, innovation, and lasting achievement.”
Cooper Hewitt also recognized winners in the design fields of architecture, communication, fashion, interaction, interior, landscape, and product. While the winners in those respective categories no doubt have had a major hand in advancing the industry in new and inventive ways, this year’s product design winner — a studio named Ammunition — is responsible for an array of products that are used by millions of people every day. Known mainly for their work creating Beats by Dre, Ammunition also designed Lyft’s pink mustache branding, the Square Stand iPod dock, and the insanely popular Polaroid Cube.
“This year’s class of winners reflect design’s remarkable empathy for contemporary social concerns: from promoting workplace productivity to preserving vernacular traditions to encouraging civic engagement,” said Cooper Hewitt director Caroline Baumann, during the announcement. “These designers and design firms cross disciplinary boundaries, explore innovative materials and develop new models of problem-solving in pursuit of these goals.”
The official National Design Awards gala is set to take place October 20 at the Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden at Cooper Hewitt in New York City. Moreover, First Lady Michelle Obama will serve as the 2016 Honorary Patron during National Design Week, which takes place the week before the gala from October 10-18.
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