AGDA Awards 2016 Reviewed!

So there were some Australian Graphic Design Association awards announced a couple of weeks ago, I hear the ceremony was even held in my home town of Adelaide (I had a previous engagement booked that evening ;). That doesn’t stop me from coming in late to the party and casting my critical eye over the results though, if not me, who will though?

All joking aside, it looks like it was a pretty good evening, and as usual, some deserving work was recognised. It’s a tough job holding design awards these days it seems, even great design institutions of my youth like the Communication Arts Design Annual seem a little lacklustre these days. I guess design awards have lost a bit of their sting and surprise when nowadays everyone can stick their work online for instant appreciation. I wonder if younger designers put much stock in the whole idea of design awards these days. Looking at the entries for the AGDA Awards, there are certainly a prevalence of a lot of the well known names, also some glaring omissions that questions whether even established studios have much interest in design competitions these days. Are they too expensive to enter? Is an annual event too often? Or do design firms just not see any relevance in it for themselves? These are questions probably best left for another post (indeed, maybe questions that need to be posed about the organisation of AGDA itself in some regards, but in the meantime, let’s take a look at what got the gongs this year, and what, in my humble opinion, should have perhaps received a little more recognition.



Pinnacle winner: Frost* Collective Paper #5


Designer Chris Griffiths
Creative Director Vince Frost
Art Director Anthony Donovan
Typographer Anthony Donovan, Chris Griffiths
Writer Sophia Watson
Photographer Brett Boardman, Tyrone Branigan, Nicole England, Tom Ferguson, Murray Fredericks, Anthony Geernaert, Tim Jones, Mark Neusham, Zahn Pithers, Sooti Tan
Other Producer, Miya Bradley
Editor – Sophia Watson
Paper Spicers
Printer Ligare Book Printers

Finally this year, a winner in the Identity category, but I’m not all that sure about this pick. Don’t get me wrong, Frost do excellent work, and this is an excellent piece of work, but does it fit into the category of Identity? Isn’t it more a publication or self-promotion? (I wish the awards had this category). It seems weird that after a couple of years of having no pinnacle winner under identity that this gets the gong, I guess it’s as broad as you want it to be.


Should have been a contender… Brewster Murray Corp. Identity by Frost* Collective


Designer Ryan Curtis, Louis Johanson
Creative Director Anthony Donovan
Other Project Manager – Simon Wales
Strategist – Jeanne Ogilvie
Strategy Director – Cat Burgess

To be honest, there wasn’t much in the Identity category that particularly stood out to me this year, but this entry by Frost* did appeal to my love of old school aesthetics. You don’t see the old ‘letter-mark’ logo in use so much these days, but I think it works very well here and brought a smile to my face and a nod of appreciation for its swiss style utility. Massimo Vignelli would approve I’m sure!


Should have been a contender… My Kingdom For a Horse Corp. Identity by Parallax


Designer Kellie Campbell-Illingworth
Art Director Kellie Campbell-Illingworth
Finished Artist Kellie Campbell-Illingworth, Josh Jarvis
Printer Digiwedoo

Full Marks to the guys at Parallax for designing an identity for a cafe called ‘My Kingdom For a Horse’ and not actually using any representation of a horse in it. I would have used a horse. That’s why they are winning awards and I’m just commenting on awards. Beautiful work though, and a very nice cafe to visit if you are ever in the vicinity.



Pinnacle winner: 20th Biennale of Sydney Guidebook by For The People


Designer Jason Little, Olivia King, Lauren Barber
Creative Director Jason Little
Typographer Jason Little, Olivia King, Mathieu Reguer
Finished Artist Lauren Barber
Illustrator Ben Walker

It’s a handsome piece, from what I can tell, I imagine it’s pretty impressive when in hand. The ‘Print’ category is such a weird all encompassing sort of beast, it’s really hard to judge what is appropriate or not. Should this be under publications? I don’t know, it seems a handsome piece, so I’ll trust the jurors choice in this case.


Should have been a contender… Supercoach campaign by Cornwell


Designer Adit Wardhana
Creative Director Quan Payne
Typographer Adit Wardhana

Well this is something you don’t see everyday in your design awards, effectively, a newspaper advert. Really well considered for its intended audience, but still manages to keep its ‘designer cred’. I think it probably deserved a distinction recognition for meeting the needs of the intended audience and still keeping its aesthetic soul. Not an easy thing to achieve.


Should have been a contender… Synthia Campaign by Christopher Doyle and Co


Designer Christopher Doyle
Creative Director Christopher Doyle
Art Director Christopher Doyle
Typographer Christopher Doyle
Photographer Pierre Toussaint

I like album cover design, I like black and white album covers, I like Chris’s work. I think this is a beautiful piece of design in a field (album cover design) that seems to be fading fast unfortunately. That’s also some fine photography right there.



Pinnacle Winner: The Greedy Hand + The Gentle Eye: An Everyday Baroque Practice In Architecture by Catherine Griffiths

Pinnacle Winner: Gary Heery Bird Book by Alphabet Studio


Designer Catherine Griffiths
Typographer Catherine Griffiths
Other Dr Rachel Hurst, Author
Paper Mohawk, Flying Colours, Gilclear, Chromolux, via BJ Ball Papers
Printer Press Print Limited, Bookbinding Press


Designer Tim Kliendiest, Paul Clark

Wow, the jurors really went to town with this category, two pinnacle winners! Both pieces are just dandy, look beautiful and I’m sure are very deserving winners, i’d love to own them. But  this category drives me crazy. You’ve got books magazines, Annual reports, even a digital piece in the finalists. Does it seem fair to stack those pieces up against such beautifully produced books? What distinguishes this category from Print really? I also get the feeling that the category maybe doesn’t receive a lot of entries which is unfortunate, there seems to be a lot of nice ‘published’ stuff out there, though book designers do have their own awards competition in this country as well I recently discovered 😉


Should have been a contender… Krass Journal #2 by Frame creative


Designer Simon Pearce
Creative Director Simon Pearce
Art Director Simon Pearce
Typographer Simon Pearce
Finished Artist Simon Pearce
Photographer Sam Pearce
Printer New Style Print

I’m really disappointed that for a second year in a row, Krass Journal wasn’t awarded a higher ranking. It’s a beautiful and uniquely designed magazine with an individual point a view which is really pushing the boundaries of content and design, I really feel this is the sort of work that should be receiving greater recognition and to see it overlooked again surprises me. Maybe better luck next year?



Pinnacle winner: The Old Bloke & Three Young Blondes by Voice


Designer Kieran Wallis
Creative Director Anthony De Leo, Scott Carslake
Typographer Kieran Wallis
Finished Artist Kieran Wallis
Writer Tash Stoodley
Illustrator Kieran Wallis
Printer Collotype and Glassprint

Well, no arguments here from me! A deserved winner of the highest honour and it’s finally nice to see something crack what seemed an impassable barrier to score a packaging pinnacle. The work Voice have produced for the D’Arenberg brand has been consistently impressive, and this labelling is perhaps the ‘pinnacle’ of that work (see what I did there? 😉


Should have been a contender… 36 Short by Studio Band


Designer Chris Cooper, George Randle
Creative Director Chris Cooper
Art Director Chris Cooper
Typographer Chris Cooper

Sad to see this didn’t receive a higher gong, I really love the simplicity and instant impact of these labels, they really stand out in a busy market and the typography is beautifully considered and non-fussy without just being a ‘swiss-style’ template.


Should have been a contender… Artis Clear Valley Riesling by Todd Engelsma


Designer Todd Engelsma
Creative Director Todd Engelsma
Illustrator Todd Engelsma
Printer Impresstik Labels

I love this label by Todd Engelsma as well because it doesn’t look like any of the other wine label finalists. It features some beautiful illustration and the typography is subtle with a quirky edge to it.


Should have been a contender… Palmetto Wine Co by Frame Creative


Designer Simon Pearce, Sam Pearce
Creative Director Simon Pearce
Art Director Sam Pearce
Typographer Simon Pearce
Finished Artist Simon Pearce
Writer Simon Pearce
Photographer Sam Pearce
Printer MCC

These range of labels from Frame Creative again offer something different from the usual look. There’s some very impressive typography at play here and that Palmetto word-mark is just awesome. Beautiful use of colour palettes across the whole range as well.



Pinnacle winner: Streamtime app by For The People


Designer Johanna Roca, Melissa Baillache, Sam McGuinness, Jason Little
Creative Director Jason Little
Art Director Johanna Roca
Writer Mat Groome
Illustrator Ben Walker
Other Andy Wright, Director
Damian Borchok, Director
Aaron Green, Founder – Pius Jeon, Developer – Kevin Liu, Developer – Alan Whitby,Developer – Jonathan Gregory, UX

Ok, I’ve had a pretty good look at this app, seems like a good option for a studio management system, with the right amount of designer looking cool to make you feel like you’re not doing boring admin stuff – I find the writing style in it a little annoying though, I’m sure it works fine for the cool kids.


Should have been a contender… The Practical Man website by Sons & Co


Designer Matthew Arnold, Greg Brown
Creative Director Timothy Kelleher
Other Garbett

There weren’t a lot of pieces in the digital section where a consumer would have to actually use it to view and purchase items. The Practical Man website really stands out as both an aesthetically pleasing visual experience as well as an easy to navigate systems to spruik the wares across various devices.



Pinnacle winner: The Innovator animation by Buck


Designer Lucas Brooking, Josh Edwards, Mathijs Luijten, Colin Bigelow, Elijah Akouri, Gareth O’Brien, Matisse Gonzalez
Creative Director Gareth O’Brien
Art Director Lucas Brooking
Other Audio House – Antfood
Executive Producer – Erica Ford

This is pretty good I guess, kind of hard for me to gauge, it looks quite Aardman-esque, which is never a bad thing!


Should have been a contender… 2016 Adelaide Cabaret Festival by Culdesac


Designer Kathryn Sproul
Creative Director Marco Cicchianni
Art Director James Parker
Photographer Randy Larcombe
Other Marco Cicchianni, Director
Ali McGregor, Artistic Director
Nicola Tate, Producer

I love a clever typographic solution, and this one is beautifully crafted as a moving brand expression of the festival itself. Everything about it is just right and it pulls it off without being overtly cliche as these things can sometimes descend into when they try too hard.
One of my favourite design pieces of the year.



Pinnacle winner: Pop Marble Run by Alt Group


Designer Dean Poole, Dean Murray, Aaron Edwards, Adam Ben-Dror, Clark Bardsley
Creative Director Dean Poole
Other SJD, Musical Composer
Design 360

Well, this is different and quite interesting when you read up about what it actually is (I’d encourage you to look up more info on the web). This is the kind of work that expands the boundaries of what we define as ‘graphic design’ and I’m pleased it’s been awarded accordingly, of course it’s by Alt Group!


Should have been a contender…. Vic’s Meats Office Fitout by End of Work


Designer End of Work with Those Architects
Creative Director End of Work

There wasn’t a lot in the spatial category that really blew me away this year other than the obvious Pinnacle winner above. I did like this fitout for Vic’s Meats demonstrating a very ‘against expectations’ subtle and beautiful approach to their office graphics though.



No Pinnacle winner

This is a tough category to crack (let alone decipher what it really encompasses) Not too much that caught my eye other than the photography for the Synthia album cover and The Adelaide Cabaret Festival typography, both of which I have mentioned before.



No Pinnacle Winner

These last two categories I really have travel getting my head around, I sort of get where they trying to come from with the ‘Design For Good’ category, but I just can’t help thinking that all design is produced with ‘good’ in mind – this category tries to judge a designs merit on its particular ‘social agenda’ – very hard to judge on just looking at it’s visual impression rather than it’s impact (and how do you gauge that anyway?)


Should have been a contender… Thankyou Track Your Impact by Yump


Designer Yuan Wang, Holly Bartholomeusz
Creative Director Yuan Wang
Other Simon East, Technical Director
Brian Truax, Digital Producer
Wei Lin, Developer

This isn’t any great design revelation, but I can appreciate its usefulness in being able to view where your donation goes and I can imagine it is also a useful as a fundraising device in that regard, it does what it does without bells and whistles.



No Pinnacle Winner

See above category for my opinions on this. I really don’t know the criteria this is judged on, so can’t offer any more comment than ‘I really don’t understand why the category is included’.


So there you have, as always, feel free to leave any comments on your own views of the awards and the winners, I’d love to hear them. Don’t forget to go and look at the full list of finalists at the AGDA Awards site.


1 thought on “AGDA Awards 2016 Reviewed!

  1. Nic Eldridge

    Hi Chris,

    Great write up.

    I thought I’d take a moment to clarify a few things regarding how the awards are assessed.

    re: Categories

    Each of the ten main categories have different sub-categories. The sub-category is indicated on the entry page underneath the Category title. The entries are assessed within their respective sub-category so there is a like for like comparison when the jury os assessing the work. These sub-categories are constantly evolving so that we can remain relevant with the ongoing changes within our industry. In the case of the Frost* Pinnacle entry, it was within the Self Promotion sub-category of Identity.

    re: Trophy Levels

    Pinnacles are the top 1% of finalists. They need to achieve a unanimous high score to be awarded. in the case of the two winners in Publications, the two entries were inseparable based on the scores so we made the decision to award two Pinnacles in this category this year. Distinctions are the next step down and are around the top 8-10% of finalists. With a diverse jury of designers, achieving either of these levels is incredibly difficult. In fact, being included as a finalist is a significant achievement.

    Re: Design Effectiveness/Design for Good

    These two categories are assessed by their own juries and the entries take the form of a case study document so there is a lot more information at hand for the jurors to assess than can be shown on our online gallery. The aim is to provide a method of benchmarking more than just aesthetics and craft, and with two seperate aspects, business outcomes and social outcomes. These categories have been created based on feedback from entrants over the years and form a large part of our ongoing strategy to benchmark design within a business and social context.

    Hope that helps clarify your understanding of the awards results this year.

    We’ll be working on making these things more apparent in the next iteration of the website in 2017.

    Nic Eldridge

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