Best of Year in a Year Full of Signs

One reason designers are so fond of year-end wrap-ups is the perspective they give on an industry that is all about change. You could write a cultural history of the last 14 years based on Interior Design Magazine’s nominees for the Best of Year Awards. This year’s nominations were especially revealing in capturing the moment, not just in design terms, but socially, politically, culturally. 

What does it say about Western education, for example, that all four nominees in the Bookstore category were in China? What priorities are implied in the Environmental Branding award going to the AKC Museum of the Dog instead of to the Ford Foundation Center for Social Justice? And was it ID’s largesse or a sign of our segmented times that the workplace awards were subdivided not just by size, but by category: tech, creative, corporate and co-working?

O+A’s year at the BOY Awards was itself representative of where our firm is right now. We won in the Large Tech Office category for Slack and with DFM in the Contract Desking category for Blend—and we were nominated in the Social Impact category for Food for Thought Truck. There you have O+A 2019 in a nutshell: still very much in the scrum in our area of specialty—workplace design for innovative companies—but also branching out: to product design and to design activism. 

It all feels like activism now. That’s the spirit of this year. Every choice we make as designers and as citizens has a moral dimension. When furniture design is a vehicle for expressing social structure, when literal vehicles hit the road to make design house calls, when an urban office embraces the textures and rhythms of a wilderness… to paraphrase our well-read friends from China: we are living in interesting times. 

Many thanks to Interior Design Magazine for another great Best of Year gala!