Regional Design Annual 2014: New York City

The Regional Design Annual is America’s preeminent design competition. View the winners of the 2014 RDA from New York City below.

With more than two decades of keeping one hand on the pulse of the industry and the other creating her own innovative work, Debbie Millman, author, designer, president emeritus of AIGA and president of Sterling Brands, was excited to act as a judge for the RDA. Millman described the role as a “joy,” and the artists representing the Big Apple and its design standards didn’t disappoint.

“The entries were spectacular,” Millman says. “Best in class design. It was a privilege to judge this body of work.” Among this strong pool, work by a few firms stood out. “Pretty much anything designed by Pentagram blew me away,” she says. “I also loved the work by Lippincott, Addison and Wolff Olins — it was all really, really strong.” Many magazine covers also impressed Millman, in particular those for The New Yorker.

This year, Millman observed a move away from strict adherence to popular (or overused) aesthetics in the region. “I didn’t see any trends, but I did see some great style,” she says. “In the last few years, you saw a lot of trends such as ‘hands holding posters’ or ‘handwritten everything’ or ‘super-swirly-scripty-type,’ but this year I was pleasantly surprised to see variety and diversity prevail over trends.”

To pick the best from such a strong region, looking for a combination of aesthetics and a “strong strategic foundation,” she employed a three-stage judging process. “First, I needed to feel a fast visceral reaction of wow; I need that to be followed up with a strong sense of smart and to be impressed by the visual and strategic thinking,” she says. “Finally, I almost always ended up choosing work that makes me feel jealous that the design is far better and more beautiful than I could have ever done.”