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The Australian Graphic Design Association awards for 2017 were held in the nation’s capital the other week with the glitter and pageantry that one would expect of such an event. I wasn’t there of course but in my self-appointed role as arbiter of great local graphic design (long on service, short on achievements) it behooves me, as I have in the last couple of years, to stumble into the party and cast my critical eye over the results. No one else is sticking their hand up this late in the game at any rate.

Once again it looked like it was a pretty good evening, with some well-deserving work being recognised and it seems, Voice and Fabio Ongarato Design being a commanding presence when it came to being awarded the gongs. Design awards are tough to get ‘right’ in a digital world where not too much work comes as a surprise when everything is online for all to see. There is as usual, a prevalence of a lot of the well-known names, also some glaring omissions that leads you to ask whether established studios have much interest in design competitions these days. The obvious questions again are, 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? Personally I’d love to see a bit more diversity, but I don’t have any un-obvious ideas as to how this might be achieved.

Just a note on how I do this. I look at the work of what work won a Pinnacle the highest honour bestowed) offer my opinion, and then check the finalists to suggest some of the work there that might have been in consideration for a higher award listing (may it be a pinnacle or moved up to a distinction placing). It’s all just based on my personal opinion of course, I don’t have any horse to run in any of this – though of course residing in Adelaide, I’m totally going to lean towards any outstanding South Australian entries, ’cause that’s how I roll, it’s not like I’m being paid for any of this. On that note, let’s check out the good stuff.

IDENTITY

Pinnacle winner: For the People, Sydney School of Entrepreneurship

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Designer Jason Little, James Gilmore, Johanna Roca, Olivia King
Creative Director Jason Little
Art Director James Gilmore, Johanna Roca, Olivia King
Typographer James Gilmore, Johanna Roca, Olivia King
Finished Artist James Gilmore, Olivia King
Writer Andy Wright
Other Developer – Phil Havea, Damian Borchok – Executive Director, Andy Wright – Executive Director

Identity is a tough category to crack as you would expect, and this entry does a nice job of turning the typical institute of higher learning look on its head. For the People are fast becoming the experts for this sort of institutional re-invention.

Should have been a contender… Darklab: Dark Mofo

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Designer Megan Perkins
Creative Director Leigh Carmichael
Art Director Megan Perkins
Finished Artist Megan Perkins, Beth Gregory
Writer Luke Hortle, Anna Tutty
Photographer Rémi Chauvin, Jesse Hunniford, Mitch Osborne
Other Mick Fennelly, App Design; Daniel Reid, Website Developer; Art Processors, App Developer; Thomas Hyland, Videographer; Anna Tutty, Project Manager; Isabella Szukilojc, Project co-ordinator
Printer Mercury Walsh, Slick Promotions, Gus Smith, eyespysigns, Saunders Signs, Typeface, Shout Out Loud

The identity for Dark Mofo is threatening, unconventional and also a little ugly in parts are far as a conventional identity system goes – that said, I love it to bits – it looks like nothing else around – especially an expression of what you expect from a festival. As good as the School For Entrepreneurship identity is, it doesn’t push my expectations, make me as uncomfortable, and excite me as much as the work for Dark Mofo does here, so I feel is deserves to be moved up to Pinnacle status. I sometimes feel that the amount of judges involved in the decision process for the AGDA awards categories kick these more left field entries down the winning hierarchy list. Luckily judge Jo Roca knows the score.

Should have been a contender… Work Art Life Studios: St Martins Cafe

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Creative Director Andrew Ashton
Art Director Andrew Ashton
Typographer Andrew Ashton
Illustrator Andrew Ashton
Paper Mohawk Eggshell, Envirocare

The little guy has a hard time being noticed in such an all-encompassing category as ‘Identity’ as well. As far as a complete identity package of custom typography, colour and graphics, for a cafe no less, goes – this package is the bomb, and deserves to be moved up into distinction status methinks.

Print

Pinnacle winner: Impact BBDO: Making Sense of Dyslexia

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Designer Mohamed Samir
Creative Director Ryan Atkinson
Art Director Ryan Atkinson
Typographer Rijin Kunnath
Writer Jamie Kennaway, Stephan De Lange

Thumbs up for the intention, something bothers me a little bit about the execution though – aesthetically, it’s beautifully designed – but maybe that’s what bothers me – is it too attuned to the designers sensitivity than that of its intended audience? It’s clever and fun though, and if it has raised awareness it far outweighs my concerns.

Should have been a contender… Creature Design: Lux Night Light Festival

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Designer Janelle Rodrigues, Hannah Dollery
Creative Director Janelle Rodrigues
Other Niels Hunefield, Wayne Holmes, Ali Jamieson

In a category filled with art catalogue finalists, it was difficult to pinpoint anything that really blew me away as far as uniqueness and skill of execution. The pieces for Lux piqued my interest though with some great typography and unusual graphics. This really seems more suited to be positioned under identity though don’t you think?

Publications

Pinnacle winner: Voice: Land Sea You Me

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Designer Anthony De Leo
Creative Director Anthony De Leo
Typographer Anthony De Leo
Finished Artist Anthony De Leo
Writer Che Chorley
Photographer Che Chorley
Illustrator Aona Hayashi
Paper Stephen, Pacesetter
Printer Finsbury Green

Anyone who says you cannot be moved by the combination of typography, illustration and photography in a simple printed package needs to have a good hard look at this piece. A worthy Pinnacle winner and my pick of the whole show. Now I just need to dig this up somewhere so I can drool over the actual book!

Should have been a contender… Frame: Lux Krass Journal III

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Designer Simon Pearce
Photographer Sven Kovak

Starting to sound a bit like a broken record here, but, the third year Krass Journal has been a finalist in the awards, and the third year it hasn’t progressed from there. Publications was a tough category this years, lots of really great work, but I’m a little disappointed Krass wasn’t awarded at least a distinction, especially with this issue being the best produced yet (it was already at a pretty high standard). It’s a great mag and deserves the support. Once again I think it’s a victim of the ‘too many judges’ diluting the left field entries.

Should have been a contender…Design by Toko: My Sister Is a Martian

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Designer Eva Dijkstra, Michael Lugmayr
Creative Director Eva Dijkstra
Art Director Eva Dijkstra
Typographer Eva Dijkstra
Finished Artist Eva Dijkstra
Writer Beau Neilson
Illustrator Hudson Christie
Printer 1010 Printing

This won a Distinction for its cover, but I think the judges missed the boat a bit by not awarding that particular gong to the whole book instead. While the cover is obviously a typographers wet dream, the insides are at a whole ‘nother level – this is a beautifully designed all-over package – and what a surprise – produced by Toko!

Packaging

Pinnacle winner: No Pinnacle awarded

Should have been a contender… Band: Jeanneret Wines

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Designer Shane Keane
Creative Director Chris Cooper

With so many great wine bottle design, the judges obviously couldn’t pick a worthy Pinnacle winner, but if anything perhaps stands out, it’s these beautifully atypical designs by Band. There’s a lot going on in the design of these than might immediately catch the eye on just a cursory examination. There’s obviously the stunning typography that Band seem to produce so effortlessly, but there’s also some sublime colour choices and textural embellishments that really speak of the thought that has gone into producing an outstanding package. I would want to just keep these on my shelf and never drink them!

Should have been a contender… Black Squid: Opulent Moon

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Designer James Bobridge
Creative Director Derek Butler

Black Squid have been producing some great packaging design of late. I really like the fun edge of these labels – the name alone is enough to produce something cool from – the treatment goes a step further and really makes the design speak.

Should have been a contender… The Company You Keep: Love Tea

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Designer Luke Brown
Creative Director Rhys Gorgol

It’s a brave studio that pits some simple tea packaging against the might of the countries best wine label design in this category, but I really like the simplicity of these handsome tea package designs. Black Squid also had some lovely tea packages as finalists, but I think I like these just a little bit more.

Digital

Pinnacle winner: Houston Group: UTS Brand Visualiser

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Designer James Calpis, Gian Lacanilao, Dana Rogers, Nathan Wren, Michelle Whitehead
Creative Director Alex Toohey
Typographer Eduardo Manso, emtype
Other Account Management; Anne-Louise Carlon, Kyle De Raedt. Strategy; Stuart O’Brien, Joanna Lilley, Cara Meade, Kalina Gondevska, Allison Sims. Software Development; Mentally Friendly

This kind of neat, the identity system was already pretty good, and this looks like it lets you remix the elements to suit your needs – a glimpse into the future of how identity systems will evolve I imagine!

Should have been a contender… Sons & Co: Mary Gaudin Website

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Designer Matthew Arnold, Paul Bright, Josh Wilson
Creative Director Timothy Kelleher

Sons & Co just seem to have an uncanny knack for turning expectations on websites on their head. This is an oddly endearing presentation using an unusual digital colour palette and seemingly random typographic approach that all pulls together into a rather comforting and homespun feeling. An expert execution in making a gallery site into something quite sublime.

Motion

Pinnacle winner: No Pinnacle awarded

Nothing really stood out for me in this category to make a further comment on.

Spatial

Pinnacle winner: Fabio Ongarato Design: QT Melbourne

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Designer Nuttorn Vongsurawat, Ben Kluger, Sarah Cope.
Creative Director Fabio Ongarato
Photographer Mark Roper
Other Illustrator: Stuart Patience. Interior Designer: Nic Graham & Associates.

This was definitely the ‘Fabio Ongarato Design’ category of the award, not only pulling in the Pinnacle, but also four distinctions as well. ‘Lavish’ is probably the best way to describe this design for QT Melbourne – all of their entries in spatial are obviously stunning, and it was probably a toss-up over which of the five would be chosen to collect ‘the big one’.

Should have been a contender… Fabio Ongarato Design: Kisumé

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Designer Mami Sugano, Tim Royall
Creative Director Fabio Ongarato
Photographer Mark Roper
Other Architects & Interior Designers – Wood Marsh Architects. Artist, Photographer – Nobuyoshi Araki.

I’m not sure why the judges didn’t just give them the even half-dozen by awarding Kisumé a distinction as well. I think it’s actually my favourite out of their 6 finalists.

Design Crafts

Pinnacle winner: Havas: The Bottom 100

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Designer Darren Cole, Nic Adamovich
Art Director Jeremy Hogg, Darren Cole, Nic Adamovich,
Writer Kevin Masters
Photographer Danny Leclair, Eliza Crosbie, Finch, Gita Buga, Mark Leaver, Natasha Stoughton, Prakash Daniel, Thomas Rens Leask
Other Executive Creative Directors – Seamus Higgins, Stuart Turner

Retouching – Cream Studios, Lee Hulsman

I really love this whole project and the photography is obviously stunning and on point.
I would love to have seen this nominated in either the publication or identity categories where I feel the depth of the project might have had more of an overall impact and made a larger statement over the awards. More stuff entered like this please!

Should have been a contender… Juicebox: Feral Fest 2016

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Designer Vaughn Hockey
Creative Director Joel Pember
Typographer Vaughn Hockey

In a year where the overwhelming amount of the finalists featured very clean austere no-nonsense design, it’s nice to see that someone got through who doesn’t mind getting a bit grubby with the typography where appropriate.

Student

Pinnacle winner: Alistair McCready: Type As Monument

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Institution Auckland University of Technology
Programme Leader Peter Gilderdale
Designer Alistair McCready

Hey! A Pinnacle awarded to a student for the first time. Well done to Alistair, the book looks like a mammoth effort!

So there’s another years AGDA Awards done and dusted. overall, another good showing of work – if I had any minor criticisms it would be that most of the finalists consisted of very neat, tidy and considered design work, I would have loved to have seen more pieces that boroke out of that mold a little more. I also think, and this is a long-standing opinion of mine – there are too many judges for each category, which, in any design awards, tends to dilute any dissenting, out-there work. I’d rather see something wild and strange creep in to the finalists, than overall homogenous, but cleanly designed work be the constant norm. It would also be great if more people entered of course, so we could get that greater range – there’s lots of fantastic work out there around the country that deserves the recognition.

Make sure you check out all the finalists work of the AGDA awards site, as well as the finalists and winners from previous years. Please feel free to leave your opinions in the comments section and suggest any other pieces that you think were standouts from the awards.

If it’s links you want, then it’s links we’ve got. Start your working week on an inspirational and aspirational note with some great design articles to brighten the Monday morning blues.

After a tough week I can relate (I am a snowflake too). On creativity and depression – more often than not they go hand in hand unfortunately.

Sometimes just seeing some fantastic design work can brighten your day. In that regard, I really like this book cover by Erik Carter.

I like looking at some fancy, schmancy beautifully designed websites too!

I seem to remember these guys being ‘kind of a big deal’ in the ’90s. Great to see that Why Not Associates are still kicking along at 30 years strong.

The history of the involvement of women in the growth of graphic design has been sorely lacking, luckily that is slowly beginning to change with the help of articles like this.

The Casual Optimist delivers the good stuff every 30 days with their review of Book Covers of the month.

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard don’t really produce my sort of music, but as far as pushing the creativity of their releases go, they are one of the most exciting musical groups around. Their latest album titled Polygondwanaland, (their fifth release this year alone!) is completely free to own, use and manipulate, including a toolkit of long-time collaborator Jason Galea’s artwork.

We should be encouraging diversity in the design industry. Here’s some ideas on how to do just that.

The Great Discontent has the best interviews with varied creative talent you will find anywhere. This article, with one of my personal design idols, Gail Bichler, is a prime example. Seriously, if you are of a creative persuasion, this site should be at the top of your favourites list.

Can logos become their own legends? The BBC thinks so!

I am a comic book nerd and I want to read these comics badly.

I am also a science nerd. If any of you are looking to buy me a Christmas present this year, I have a suggestion.

Sometimes it’s a good idea to step back and ask yourself some questions. These are some pretty good ones to consider!

The Rules of magazine design are changing it seems.

And on that note, digital is dying apparently. We told you so.

Why good design alone won’t attract millennials to your company. You need balloons as well don’t you know.

Sheila Levrant de Bretteville is an amazing graphic designer that enough people haven’t heard of.

There were some Australian Graphic design trophies awarded the other week. All the winners are up on the awards site now. Keep an eye out for my totally unbiased overview on Facing Sideways soon!

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Motiv are one of  the great Adelaide design firms that seem to have been around forever. They continue to produce great work. Longtime company director Keith McEwan has recently retired and the reins have been taken over by his daughter Hannah and longtime employees Peter and Leo. Their website has had a major upgrade as well, and features many stunning pieces that run the gamut of graphic design mediums. If you are looking for examples of good, solid, honest design work, the Motiv site is the perfect place to start.

Ease into your Monday with some great design reads from far and wide

Do designers limit themselves by favouring a handful of typefaces?

Seth Godin always has something interesting to say, feeling like an imposter?

I always love to browse through the Muji store down Broadway when I’m in New York, check out how they accomplish just the appropriate amount of branding.

Michael Bierut has a new book out, check out this excerpt on how he chooses a typeface.

The subtle art that differentiates good designers from great designers. It’s not beards.

The Design Kids is a great resource not only for design students and recent graduates, but also for old codgers like me. Frankie Ratford has been (and continues to be) on a long, strange journey to how she put together her amazing site.

Dumbo Feather is a great Australian magazine that always features incredible interviews with amazing people. This interview with Humanist Jaron Lanier is a particularly thoughtful, standout piece.

Paul Sahre is one of my design heroes and he has a new book out. This is a great discussion with him on the process.

A look at the work of Jamie Hewlett, one half of the Gorrillaz project.

Design is Kinky was one of the very first dedicated Australian design sites. It turns twenty this year and is celebrating with a 200+ page book. You can help support its release and be one of the first to receive a copy, by pledging to the Kickstarter campaign.

The age old question for designers, to code or not to code.

Speaking of which, I’ve been polishing up on some of my online skills set and Superhi has been a great teaching resource.

I love arabic calligraphy, this is simply sublime.

The process that goes into designing an appropriate book cover.

Whenever I’m feeling anxious or in a low mood, this picture (and the video at the top) have been my go to distractions of late.

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I’m really loving the collaboration between Cul-de-sac Creative and illustrator Chris Edser for the Australian String Quartet’s Season brochure. I used Chris’ illustrations in a similar way for a fashion spread in The Adelaide Magazine I did a few years back (I think he’s stepped it up a notch or two here though :). His style seems to interact really well with such beautiful photography. Well done to both parties for producing something fun and engaging for what could typically be a pretty staid solution in lesser hands. Cul-de-sac are really on a roll with this and the beautiful work they’ve also produced for the Adelaide Fashion Festival. You can check out more of the work on the ASQ’s website, or of course, just pick up a copy of the brochure!

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I haven’t written much about the numerous digital agencies that inhabit the great metropolis of Adelaide, slackness on my part, because as you would imagine, there is a lot of well designed content being produced by these aforementioned creatives. I’ve had my eye on local firm Lightbulb Digital ever since designer extraordinaire Dan Vaughan mentioned  his work with them to me. They’ve recently uploaded a dedicated website displaying some of their work,  the aesthetic is a pared down design style that is instantly pleasing and pleasingly functional. It’s easy to get carried away with the bells- and-whistles possibilities of the modern digital medium, but these guys seem to have their heads around it, it’s a refreshing  experience to view these locally produced websites, built and designed to be functional, easy to navigate and also beautiful to look at. They work with an interesting and diverse range of clients, take a look for yourself at their link above.