RDA 2006

Posted inAnnouncing The Print RDA Winners
Thumbnail for Bill Blackbeard's Final Splash Panel

Welcome to the 26th edition of Print’s Regional Design Annual, the design profession’s most comprehensive competition annual and the only one organized by location. If you’re lucky enough to have work in the issue, congratulations: Of the 25,000-plus entries submitted to the Annual this year, less than five percent made the final cut. For a designer to have work remain standing after a long and rigorous three rounds of judging is an impressive accomplishment.

“I don’t like it when they plunder history.”—ANGELA VOULANGAS, SOUTHWEST

Readers often ask about the inner workings of the Annual, so this time we decided to offer a glimpse. To this end, during the usual color-correcting, caption-writing, fact-checking, and layout-designing frenzy we call magazine production, we allowed New York photographer Michael Schmelling to document our labors for the RDA’s cover and all of itsopening spreads. Beneath the mountain of paper, torn bits of tape, scribbled Post-it notes, and clouds of bubble wrap lies a reasonably well-oiled machine of organization, crafted and honed over the years by advances in technology, the devotion of several obsessive staff members, and the help of not a few tireless student interns.

“It’s a cool concept, but it’s not executed.”—CATHY FISHEL, MIDWEST

The judging of the Annual takes place over the course of three months. PRINT’s editors and art directors take care of the two initial rounds, and our guiding principle is one of elimination. During the first several passes, we pare down work until it’s impossible to reduce the list any further. Only then do we separate the work into regions. During the third round of judging—a day-long process for our art director, Kristina DiMatteo, and a guest journalist—the finalists emerge. This year they numbered 1,110.

“The problem with self-promotion isthere’s no one to tell you it’s a bad idea.”—EVE KAHN, SOUTH

At this stage, a picture begins to form about the general direction design is taking throughout the country, in terms of style, production techniques, materials, color, type, and overall tone. The quality and quantity of entries and the nature of their clientele reveal volumes about the health of the local and the national economies. After writers submit their reports on each particular region, the picture becomes even clearer. Some observations: Business is up, but spending is still restrained. More clients are exploring a broader range of media, from podcasts to outdoor ads to viral marketing, and many want simplified websites. Membership in professional organizations is on the rise. As for birds, well . . .

“The last couple of years it’s been birds, birds,birds everywhere.”—CAITLIN DOVER, EAST

Real estate development continues to grow in urban areas,fueling the need for brochures and identity systems. Ornamentation and craft are dominant motifs, but clean, refined design prevails for conservative sectors such as banking and finance. And while it’s common to find such thematic threads in the Annual, it’s rare to find the same client appearing from section to section. This time there was one: The Red Cross. Designers all over the country contributed work to the Hurricane Poster Project, a collective pro bono effort that has so far raised $50,000 for victims of Hurricane Katrina. These posters appear throughout this issue, and all are currently on display at the Old State Capitol in Baton Rouge through December 20. Viewing the poignant work proves beautifully that in the design community, effective activism never goes out of style.

“I never thought I’d see anything like thisfrom Kmart.” —JEREMY LEHRER, NEW YORK CITY