The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York has announced the winners of its 2021 National Design Awards, recognizing a winner in nine award categories. This year's class of winners will participate in free virtual events throughout October, helping the museum celebrate National Design Month through talks, tours, workshops, and other educational programming. This year, first lady Jill Biden served as the honorary patron for the National Design Awards, which were established in 2000.
“The 2021 National Design Award winners challenge the boundaries of their fields—from community and future-focused to socially responsible design, these designers fill us with an optimism for the future by demonstrating the transformative capacity of design,” said Cooper Hewitt interim director Ruki Neuhold-Ravikuma in a museum press release.
The 2021 National Design Award winners are Cheryl D. Miller for design visionary; InVert Self-Shading Window by Doris Sung for climate action; Colloqate Design for emerging designer; Ross Barney Architects for architecture and interior design; Imaginary Forces for communication design; Behnaz Farahi for digital design; Becca McCharen-Tran for fashion design; Studio-MLA for landscape architecture; and BioLite for product design.
Know for her advocacy on racial, cultural, and gender equity, Cheryl D. Miller is the National Design Awards' design visionary. In 1984, the graphic designer, author, theologian, and businesswoman created Cheryl D. Miller Design, Inc., one of New York's first Black woman-owned design firms, providing corporate communications to Fortune 500 clientele and nonprofit African American organizations with roots in the civil rights movement. In 1987, Miller authored “Black Designers Missing in Action" for PRINT magazine, continuing her work in advocacy through "Embracing Cultural Diversity in Design” in 1990; “Black Designers: Still Missing In Action?” in 2016; and “Black Designers Forward in Action” in 2020. She also lectures across the country.
This year's climate action winner is InVert Self-Shading Window, a smart shading system created by Doris Sung, Assoc. AIA, co-founder of New York– and Los Angeles–based TBM Designs, associate professor at the University of Southern California, and principal of Do|Su Studio Architecture. Also a winner in ARCHITECT's 2020 R+D Awards, InVert actively mitigates solar heat gain through thermobimetals that curl and shade when exposed to sunlight. "By responding to the sun, it dynamically blocks solar radiation from heating the building and thereby reduces air-conditioning usage by 25%, using zero energy and no controls," states the Cooper Hewitt release. "Given that 40% of all energy used is in buildings, far more than transportation or other industries, and 12% of that energy is spent on cooling interiors, any amount of reduction has a tremendous impact on mitigating greenhouse gas emissions."
The New Orleans–based Colloqate Design was named the National Design Award emerging designer. Led by design principal Bryan C. Lee Jr., the nonprofit design-justice practice focuses on "expanding community access to, and building power through, the design of social, civic and cultural spaces," according to the Cooper Hewitt release. "Its mission is to intentionally organize, advocate and design spaces of racial, social and cultural justice throughout the built environment." In 2018, Lee talked to ARCHITECT about Colloqate's work to reimagine sites that once housed statues of Confederate leaders, explaining that “the goal is to establish a system of memory that explores histories that haven’t been part of the main narrative.”
The Chicago-based firm Ross Barney Architects was named the National Design Award winner in architecture and interior design. Founded in 1981 by Carol Ross Barney, FAIA, Ross Barney Architects "is dedicated to the design of 'noble' projects, without the most generous budgets or the most sought-after commissions, but those that are important to daily life and require innovative interventions," states the Cooper Hewitt release. The firm has been recognized with honors including a 2013 AIA COTE Top Ten Award for the James I. Swenson Civil Engineering Building at the University of Minnesota, Duluth.
The Los Angeles– and San Francisco–based landscape architecture firm Studio-MLA is the winner of the National Design Award in landscape architecture. Founded by firm president Mia Lehrer, Studio-MLA "integrates landscape architecture, urban design and planning to create places that inspire human connection, unite communities, and restore environmental balance," according to the Cooper Hewitt release. "From the master planning of rivers to the design of intimate plazas and gardens, the studio is recognized for creativity, pragmatism, and responsibility across a range of scales and geographies."
The 2021 recipient of the National Design Award for communication design is the Los Angeles–based Imaginary Forces. Founded in 1996, the studio is led by Peter Frankfurt, Chip Houghton, Karin Fong, Tosh Kodama, Alan Williams, Ronnie Koff, Anthony Gibbs, and Grant Lau. It specializes in "design-based visual storytelling" and "has brought motion design into the worlds of advertising, architecture, gaming, and documentary film production," according to the Cooper Hewitt release.
BioLite, a cooking, charging, and lighting solutions company based in New York and Nairobi, Kenya, is the winner of the Nation Design Award in product design. Founded in 2009 by Jonathan Cedar and Alec Drummond, BioLite "develops, manufactures, and markets advanced energy products for off-grid communities around the world," according to the Cooper Hewitt release. The company is also carbon-neutral and a founding member of Climate Neutral, a nonprofit dedicated to helping companies reduce and offset their carbon footprints.