New Designers | 2015 | Designer of the Year Award

New designers; the annual platform from design graduates from all over the UK from a huge spectrum of courses. 2015 was the 30th anniversary of the exhibition. With a long list of successful alumni.  

Split over 2 weeks: Part 1 (Textiles & Fashion, Costume Design, Jewellery & Precious Metalwork, Ceramics & Glass, Contemporary Design Crafts) and Part 2 (Furniture, Product & Industrial Design, Spatial Design, Graphic Design, illustration, Animation, Motion & Digital Arts) and One year On. 

For week one I was kindly invited to be part of the panel by Isobel Dennis (director of Upper street events & New Designers) to judge the coveted BDC New Designer of the Year award...I couldn't believe it had been 12 years since I was a fresh faced graduate manning my stand optimistically talking to every passer-by with fingers crossed for my "big break". 

Thankfully I wasn’t alone in the task; the other panel members were:

Laurie Robertson Director of Anorak .

Marlene McKibbin director of Marlene McKibbin Jewellery

Carolina Calzada-Oliveira; MD and Publisher for Global Colour Research & Mix Magazine.

Kathryn Hobbs Head of product at Oliver Bonas. 

Grant Gibson Editor at Crafts Magazine

I hadn't met any of the judging panel before (quite unusual for the small creative world) but was a lovely, diverse, knowledgable group; that I truly intend to keep in touch with in the future.

Arriving at 8:45 to a breakfast and large tea; I was prepped and ready for the day. Little did I know how exhausting a difficult coming to the final decision would be. Especially as it was one of the hottest days of the year and we were in a large greenhouse! (It was originally the Royal Agricultural hall from 1862).

After introductions we addressed the task in hand; how to pick one winner and one runner up out of thousands of graduates; that we all agree on!

To guide us we had a Judging Criteria:

PASSION

This person’s work should reflect their personal values and incorporate this into the thought processes of how their work might develop from here.  They should be able to demonstrate their passion for what they do and have an understanding of its potential future and commercial viability.

INNOVATIVE

Through a blend of personality, talent and drive, innovation should sit at the very core of this individual.  They will display a proactive way of looking at things in fresh and original ways. 

QUALITY

This individual’s work should demonstrate quality of making, drawing, composition and presentation.  Clarity in their thought processes demonstrating cohesion within their collection ensuring a common thread, style or story.

INSPIRING & ENJOYABLE

The candidate to have an open, ‘can do’ attitude towards their work and achievement.  Be able to bounce back when obstacles or disappointments face them enabling them and their work to thrive.

With the judging criteria in mind and only a limited time, we split up and covered the vast space of graduate stands.

Spotting work that caught our eye, chatting to the graduates about their work and process behind it and picking up postcards making sure to note that stand; as my brain quickly started to get overloaded with all these creative delights.

Highlights from my allotted areas were:

Emily Baddeley

Emily Baddeley

Abigail Britton

Abigail Britton

Mohammad Mujahid

Mohammad Mujahid

Hannah Townsend

Hannah Townsend

Marian Ripoll Vaquer

Marian Ripoll Vaquer

Eva Radulova

Eva Radulova

Lynn Tunney

Lynn Tunney

Shannon Bartlett-Smith

Shannon Bartlett-Smith

Kate Timson

Kate Timson

Chenchen He

Chenchen He

Aelita Pliushyte

Aelita Pliushyte

Sarah Tran

Sarah Tran

Vanessa Kelly

Vanessa Kelly

Then the first round of discussion and coffees began; poring through the mountain of postcards; collating the shortlist.

After another round we had the final 6;

Marcia La Madrid - Textiles

• Hannah Rafaat - Textiles

• Olivia Qi - Textiles & knitwear

Natalia Lees - Knitwear

 Amy Stringer - Jewellery

Megan Falconer - Silversmith

En Massé we surrounded each shortlisted designer to find out the process behind the design and have an insight of the person and their future ambitions. It was so interesting to hear more about their work.

Hannah Rafaat

Hannah Rafaat

Olivia Qi

Olivia Qi

I loved Olivias colour books, she was so methodical and had a great eye for tone and hue.

I loved Olivias colour books, she was so methodical and had a great eye for tone and hue.

One of Amy's pieces beautifully modelled by fellow judge Marlene

One of Amy's pieces beautifully modelled by fellow judge Marlene

Then back to the final coffee! 

By 4 pm we had actually come to a decision, with a few passionate pleas, but no arguments! 

We even had a lovely surprise gift of some special edition Absolute vodka and a sketch book; both of which will come in very handy with the creative process!

At 6 we joined the other guests in the executive centre to enjoy the extremely tastes Absolute Vodka cocktail reception!!

The buzz and excitement from the graduates and their special guests was palpable; I was excited for them and to hear their cheers of glee as their names were called out.

The award was presented by Director General of the CBI, John Cridland CBE. A Big congratulations to all.

The runner up was Natalie Lees from Ulster university. 

‘The judges commended Natalie for her restrained but brave use of colour. Her pieces are sophisticated, mature, elegantly constructed and resolved.’

The Winner of the BDC Designer of the Year 2015 was Olivia Qi.

‘The judges admired her innovative use of material, tenacity, depth of research and subtle use of colour. She has massive potential.'

Award Prize:

Winner Receives

£1,500 cash prize sponsored by the Business Design Centre.

£1,000 worth of legal advice & services from specialist intellectual property lawyers, Briffa, including a year's free membership to their DesignProtect insurance service.

£2,030 worth of invaluable accounting and taxation advice from Creative industry accountancy experts; Rhodes & Rhodes.

Dedicated ½ day focus with creative sector PR consultancy Four Colman Getty, worth £500.

I even popped back at the weekend; just to make sure I hadn't missed anything! Visiting One Year on and even making a purchase on Jake McCombes stand!