Heartening to see … but.

Designers Speak (Up) on the recent announcement of the annual Best Awards jury.

The other week, the Designers Institute of New Zealand (DINZ) announced judges for the 2019 Best Design Awards. At first glance, it is heartening to see a decent shift in gender balance tip in favour of women for the first time. We counted 26 women, 24 men.

A closer look at the 9 categories, however, reveals the 9 convenors this year are 7 men, with one man appearing in two categories, and 1 woman — as last year.

It is noted that names from previous years remain at the helm, and appear to be on a three-year cycle: Grenville Main, Noel Brown (both from DNA), Matt von Trott and Jef Wong, to name a few. Several though have been engaged for much longer: Tony Parker for Product Design since 2007; Karl Wixon for Ngā Aho since 2012; Fraser Gardyne, convenor for Graphic, 10 times over 11 years from 2003.

Since 2001, a total of 7 women have acted as convenors, with a weighting on Spatial: DINZ CEO Cathy Veninga (Spatial, 2003–2005), DINZ President Vee Kessner (Spatial, 2016–18), Valentina Machina (Spatial, 2009, 2019), Kirsty Mitchell (Spatial, 2006), Bella Ackroyd (Graphic, 2006) and Janelle Rodrigues (Graphic, 2015–16).

One category for 2019, the Ngā Aho Award, notes “Awaiting Judges Confirmation to Invitation”. What does that mean, reading between the lines?

So, while we are heartened to see more women at juror level, it is hard not to be a tad skeptical. We hope 2020 will present a real shift towards more balanced representation (within the Designers Institute’s spectrum).

That said, we wish to reiterate that there be an independent, professional audit to discover where processes have gone so dreadfully astray at DINZ, and led to these unwelcome numbers, followed by clear, functional solutions.

Designers Speak (Up)

Further reading:

Why design needs more than diversity / Sarah Elsie Baker, January 2019
Faces of Design / Jonty Valentine, September 2018
The BEST we can do? / Bron Thomson, September 2018
Can a leopard change it’s spots? / Designers Speak (Up), September 2018
Email Tautoko / Elisapeta Heta, August 2018
Power in the Poster: 1997–2017, 43 Black Pins, 40 men, 3 women / Catherine Griffiths, August 2018