The elephant that should be in the room

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Our Design Director Scott Lambert reflects on his week in Mumbai judging for this year's Kyoorius Design Awards and shares his five key takeaways to create work that's unforgettable. 

What a privilege to judge design at this year’s Kyoorius awards. Flawless organisation and a feast of culture and creativity to devour alongside some brilliant minds — all surrounded by the wondrous tapestry of Mumbai. So what makes an entry memorable? 

Firstly, the answer is as clear as the judging criteria of Kyoorius. 1) An original and inspiring idea. 2) Well-executed. 3) Relevant to its context. Two of the three gets you a baby elephant. All three will get you a blue elephant. If it does all three and goes above and beyond, you might raise the Black Elephant.

The secret sauce to how the criteria is achieved is actually no mystery at all. Many of the learnings from judging Kyoorius simply underline the approach to creativity that is inherent within award-winning design studios worldwide. Here are five observations from this judging experience which can help us all triumph. Writing them down is easy, but we all know putting them into practice is a whole other beast.

1. An idea with no limbs.

Your idea should be powerful enough to drive everything. Winning ideas are born of human truths, which make them simple (requiring little or limited explanation), emotional (generating surprise, sadness, or a smile in the mind), and purposeful (creating change, motivating, or inspiring). Honing an idea to this point is a long road; it takes humility, too. As a colleague of mine says, “have the courage to cut off its arms and legs and see what you’re left with”.

2. Keep yourself in the idea.

Find originality. This often comes from a personal viewpoint of the world. Your unique twist. An interpretation that elevates an idea, pushes it to a place it’s never been, or just brutally simplifies it. Importantly, make it work in your eyes above all others. The best creativity has subtle human idiosyncrasies that give it an intangible heart and soul – this was evident by its absence in some of the entries that fell away. 

3. Execute the unseen.

Seeing a brilliant idea delivered in a familiar way is a wasted opportunity. I once read an interview with an admired design peer, and he put it really simply. ”I look for design trends, so I can avoid them”. If you’re lucky enough to have an original and inspiring idea, make the most of it. Finding a brilliant way to execute an idea is usually creates a tension between the unconventional and the seemingly obvious – as they often say “the solution is in the problem”. 

4. Present intrigue.

Leave the door ajar. If an idea is too difficult or delicate to open, it might remain closed. If it is trying too hard to be noticed, it’s likely to achieve the opposite. You have fleeting seconds to entice a second look, and if you arouse a judge’s curiosity, the story should unfold but not overwhelm. Have the confidence to let the work speak for itself. Just the right amount of discovery is rewarding, and contributes to recognition.

5. Judge for yourself.

I was amazed that there were so few visitors to the open judging. Understandably, once your entry is in, there is nothing you can do to influence its success. But what you can do is go see for yourself the context in which it is assessed: What you believe will be leaping off the table can actually be receding into the surrounding noise. Likewise, elaborately styled and over-explained motion video pales next to a simple idea, animated with consideration. Seeing first hand how your blood, sweat, and toil is judged is not easy for anyone, but knowing why you’re disappointed this time, helps you succeed next time.

Find out more about Kyoorius Design Awards here