Regional Design Annual 2014: East

The Regional Design Annual is arguably the most prestigious design competition in the U.S. View the winners of the 2014 RDA from the East below.

Jessica Helfand, AIGA medalist, writer, educator and designer, lent her sharp eyes and expertise to judge the region that serves as home to her Connecticut-based Winterhouse Studios. When selecting winners, Helfand was on the hunt for work that took a fresh approach and landed on a cohesive final iteration. These projects not only showed originality but also executed the concept with meticulous attention to detail—and the design team carried the ideas as far as they could, showing an “understanding [of] how something can be more than the sum of its parts.” Still, Helfand felt that many submissions from the East didn’t take as many risks or push the design as much as they could—and should—have. “I saw a lot of work that was clean and clear but disappointingly timid,” Helfand says. “I wish, now more than ever, that designers would look for inspiration somewhere other than design.”

Helfand cited several pieces that impressed her: The Harvard Museum website, the New Orleans Review cover and the Baltimore posters as, “each, in its own way, exquisite.” In addition to these standouts, Helfand points to the Catherine’s Butterflies project by TracyLocke (page 148) for its important backstory. “The logo for the butterfly would’ve been easy to miss, but when I read that it was for one of the children whose life had been taken at Sandy Hook, I had to vote it in,” Helfand says. “How many designers in their lives will be asked to design an identity program for a dead child? Hopefully none. But this designer did so with dignity and through a simple typographic set of choices. An unthinkable task.”

For those planning to submit work digitally to competitions or feature it online, Helfand reminds designers to focus on storytelling and concision. “The same logo shot from 12 different angles is nothing short of deadly,” she says, explaining that designers shouldn’t use every available image but rather focus on the number needed to tell the full story of their work.

View more 2014 RDA winner galleries.