Regional Design Annual 2014: Southwest

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

Caleb Bennett would be an obvious pick to judge any design competition: While still in his 20s, he was hired at The New York Times Magazine and was quickly promoted to deputy art director. Not long after, in 2012, he was selected as a New Visual Artist, and eventually landed the hallowed job of design director for Wired. Bennett embodies good design. But what makes him the ideal judge for the Southwest region of the RDA is his roots. Hailing from Texas, Bennett has a feel for the region’s aesthetic and culture that has been hard-wired into his DNA.

“I miss seeing much of that work on the regular,” he says. “Judging the RDA let me know there is, as always, still great work being made everywhere.” In particular, Bennett points out that this year’s entries showcased a fair amount of brilliant design from smaller shops. And then there’s the Southwest’s bent toward handcrafted or textural designs: “I’m not sure it’s a trend any more than it’s inherent in the region and nature of many clients, and I am all for embracing it. When appropriate and executed well, it can certainly elevate a project, which many entries have proven. I love a nice genuine texture as long as it avoids gimmick territory.”

As for designers looking to create award-winning work of their own, Bennett says to experiment without fear, and try things you don’t think your clients would ever go for. “Don’t be afraid to stand out or have an opinion. Just be able to back it up. You never know who’ll respond to an idea or help you further it.” Alternatively, if you’re entering a competition Bennett is judging, you could also play to his weakness, as Tocquigny’s Taco Tour (page 81) unknowingly did. “As a result of growing up on the border of Mexico, I love tacos (‘love’ maybe isn’t a strong enough word). So, naturally, [Tocquigny] was off to a good start. In all seriousness, I’ve seen a number of simplistic hand-drawn illustration styles done for similar things that often feel forced. The promotion was polished, but didn’t take itself too seriously and was humorous in the right spots. What a great way to garner attention and have some fun while they were at it.”

View more 2014 RDA winner galleries.

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