The Designers Institute should be applauded for adding the Best Effect award to the Best Awards programme (see the seven finalists here).
We have lagged for a while – across town CAANZ has AXIS and has brought the Effies in to play (they are now a few years on and here to stay) and the MA and TVNZ have been focussing on outcomes and effect in their annual awards, while TUANZ and others have made the ROI of any given entry central to their recognition. These categories and awards programmes have always been spot on when they have celebrated by asking not 'what you can create?' but 'what can creative do for your client?'.
The parallels around the world are the likes of AIGA and DBA in the UK (The Design Business Association) – both of these organisations are champions of effective design that is accountable, delivering both creatively and commercially.
We have too often been seen as just the colouring in guys. Don't get me wrong – there is value and merit in the craft of design delivery that we need to uphold and celebrate – but the Bests have been a bastion of that alone for too long.
The industry has struggled to have top table conversations and be taken seriously by much of New Zealand business, and we have lagged as a contributor alongside the likes of NZTE's Better by Design programme.
That said, there are many smart design thinkers, and some very strong examples of effective design delivered annually – but to me this still signals the need for a growing determination by New Zealand Design Inc (not just by the Designers Institute) to elevate the debate and highlight the success stories we have to prove the effectiveness of design for New Zealand business.
The Best Effect finalists represent a broad, deep and significant contribution to New Zealand business. Amongst the effects are moving primary produce up the value chain, revolutionising pest management, making people care about their power usage, and deploying digital media inventively to enrich engagement whilst slashing costs.
The challenge for design has been to be taken seriously by business for many years. That imperative is all the greater in these constrained times. The effect of any activity is scrutinised in ROI terms. What we do is no longer commissioned because of what design is – but rather because of what design does.
Grenville Main is managing director of customer experience design consultancy DNA, a rabid collector and proud owner of the most obscenely messy desk in each of DNA's offices