Blue Retail for Kansas City Blue Cross and Blue Shield
Design Biennial Boston
EducationSuperHighway white paper
Herman Miller NeoCon 2013 Experience
HP Chromebook 11
HP Earth Insights
IAVA Visual Identity: A New Way to Celebrate Our Troops
Index magazine (print and digital)
Justified (2014)

Case studies demonstrating the success and impact of the best design. Work in all media that has been produced and used between November 1, 2011 and February 14, 2014.

About the competition

AIGA’s “Justified” competition recognizes case studies that demonstrate the value of design in a clear, compelling and accessible way. Effective design will nearly always reflect the powerful emotional draw of creativity, inspiration and simplicity. And yet today, for design to be truly effective, it must also serve the client’s very specific needs.

Designers’ unique capacity for seeing problems from unexpected angles—as well as their creativity and empathy for the human experience—is in high demand. AIGA believes that a competition built around the case study format, rather than one built around the selection of artifacts, offers a more effective means of revealing how designers have approached clients’ problems, with all of the attendant constraints. With this in mind, the 2014 “Justified” competition honors 19 exemplary case studies of design solutions that successfully demonstrate the value of design.

This year’s jury reviewed all entries based on the clarity of concept or idea, the quality of execution and aesthetics. Questions they considered include: “Did the work do its job? Is it effective? well-crafted? beautifully executed?”

Remarks from the jury chair, Christopher Simmons

2014 marks the fourth year of AIGA’s competition for design efficacy, and the largest number of entries to date (more than the past three years combined). With fewer than three percent of the submissions selected for recognition, “Justified” is the profession’s most selective competition. The 19 winning entries survived three rounds of rigorous evaluation. We present them here as case studies of effective design.

From comprehensive civic wayfinding programs to interactive data visualization installations and K-12 curricula in Peru, the scope of entries submitted to “Justified” has never been broader. Neither has the definition of ‘design.’ It’s tempting to say that assembling a jury capable of assessing efforts as complex and varied as those submitted to this year’s competition was no easy task, but we were privileged to have an exceptionally qualified (and critical) cadre of jurors. They included Kate Aronowitz, director of brand design at Facebook, Cameron Campbell, principal strategist at Teague, Jennifer Kinon, co-founder of OCD (The Original Champions of Design), Jeremy Mende, creative director of MendeDesign, Joe Gebbia, co-founder of Airbnb, Dana Arnett, CEO of VSA Partners and and myself. The diversity of their expertise and the clarity of their points of view (as well as their flexibility in considering others) were central to the success of this year’s competition.

What is Justified?

“Justified” exists to recognize and celebrate the effectiveness of design. But what do we consider “effective” and how do we measure it?


One frame for evaluating design effectiveness is certainly craft. How well is a thing made? How expertly does it employ the formal and imaginative qualities required of graphic communication? For many competitions this is the ultimate benchmark of ‘good design.’ For “Justified,” it’s the minimum threshold.


Clarity is another important consideration. For design to serve as an effective mediator between ideas and people, it must be accessible, interpretable and purposeful. What is this thing? What does it mean? Why does it exist? These seem like basic questions, but it’s surprising how often seductive-looking design fails to answer them definitively.


In addition to craft and clarity, the many contexts in which a designed work exists is critical to determining its value. AIGA describes these contexts as The Living Principles, a framework for environmental, social, economic and cultural sustainability and appropriateness. Some entries, like the compostable packaging for the HP Chromebook 11 or IDEO’s curriculum for Innova Schools, address these issues directly. Others, like Mohawk’s Culture of Craft campaign do so more obliquely.

Over a period of six months, several conference calls and two full days of in-person judging, the jurors evaluated nearly 750 entries against these criteria. We debated, advocated and investigated. We interrogated the entries, each other and ourselves. Though we ultimately reached consensus, we once again committed to including opposing views from dissenting jurors.

Several themes emerged from these conversations. Among them was the realization (and lament) that scores of entries whose beauty and inventiveness clearly advanced the discipline of design were nonetheless eliminated for lack of metrics, scope or comprehensiveness. AIGA acknowledges the need to recognize achievement in design on a formal or experimental level and is working to fulfill that requirement. Systemic design tended to triumph, while entries that addressed a discrete aspect of a larger problem had a more difficult time breaking through. As a result, projects created by larger, multidisciplinary teams are represented with greater frequency—though not without exception.

It’s been my privilege to participate as a “Justified” juror for two consecutive years, and an honor to serve as this year’s chair.

The jury

Dana Arnett, CEO, VSA Partners, Chicago

Dana Arnett is a founding principal and CEO of the internationally recognized firm VSA Partners, headquartered in Chicago, with offices in New York City and Detroit. Arnett and his colleagues are known for creating awarding-winning design programs, digital and interactive initiatives and brand marketing solutions for a diverse roster of clients, including Harley-Davidson, IBM, General Electric, Coca-Cola, Thomson Reuters and Nike. He and the firm have been recognized by more than 60 competitions and designations to date. Arnett is a former member of the AIGA national board of directors, and he currently serves as a board member of the Architecture and Design Society of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Arnett is also active as an advisor and member of the business development and venture capital group, Cueball Collective, which funds and incubates consumer and socially driven ventures.

Kate Aronowitz, director of brand design, Facebook, Menlo Park, California

Kate Aronowitz joined Facebook as director of design in 2008 and contributed to building a world-class assembly of designers, researchers, engineers and content strategists. She helps brands learn how they can use Facebook’s advertising platform and tools to create campaigns that build meaningful connections with their fans. In 2012, she was featured on Fast Company’s list of the 50 most influential designers.

Aronowitz started her design career at Amerifit brands designing retail corporate identity and packaging. In 2000, she began working at eBay, shifting her career focus to interactive design and user experience. For the next six-and-a-half years, she managed and led design efforts on eBay’s search, merchandising and feedback products as well as eBay’s sub-brands and new businesses. In 2007, she joined LinkedIn as their first director of design.

Aronowitz holds a bachelor’s degree in graphic design from the Savannah College of Art and Design, where she graduated in 1997.

Cameron Campbell, principal strategist, TEAGUE, Seattle

Cameron Campbell works closely with the brand and marketing teams of some of TEAGUE’s biggest clients, developing strategies that drive category growth, increase brand awareness and engage consumers worldwide. Prior to her arrival at Teague, she spent 15 years developing brand and product strategies in the design community, working with clients such as Herman Miller, Apple, Nike and BMW/MINI. Campbell is passionate about defining interdisciplinary teams, identifying user needs and envisioning ideas for new behaviors, products and services. Her interest in connection and intersection extends beyond the workplace to a general fascination with the way we live and interact within our various landscapes, from the urban environment to the comforts of our own homes.

Joe Gebbia, co-founder, Airbnb, San Francisco

Joe Gebbia is the co-founder and CPO at Airbnb. He leads the product team in creating meaningful experiences through intuitive design and oversees Airbnb’s brand and product development. He draws on his previous experience as a designer at Chronicle Books, as well as his development of a green design site and several consumer products. Gebbia earned dual degrees in graphic design and industrial design at the Rhode Island School of Design, where he met Brian Chesky, eventual Airbnb co-founder.

Jennifer Kinon, co-founder, OCD | The Original Champions of Design, New York City

Jennifer Kinon is a designer and educator based in New York City. She co-founded OCD with Bobby C. Martin, Jr. Together they develop brand identity systems for a broad range of clients including the National Basketball Association, Girl Scouts of the USA and Friends of the High Line. Their work has won awards from the Art Directors Club, D&AD, AIGA, Type Directors Club and Print, and was named Best of Show and Judge’s Pick in the 2011 Brand New Awards. Kinon recently served as the president of AIGA/NY. Prior to founding OCD, she worked in the New York office of Pentagram with Michael Bierut, served as design director of New York City’s 2012 Olympic Bid and worked as art director for Graphis Inc.

Kinon graduated from the University of Michigan and earned an M.F.A. from the School of Visual Arts. She is the first program graduate to join the faculty.

Jeremy Mende, MendeDesign, San Francisco

Jeremy is a designer who lives and works in San Francisco.

Christopher Simmons, principal and creative director, MINE™, San Francisco

Chair, Christopher Simmons is a Canadian-born, San Francisco–based designer, writer, design advocate and educator. As principal and creative director of MINE™, Simmons designs and directs brand and communication design projects for clients including Facebook, Microsoft, SFMOMA, Simon & Schuster, Obama for America and a range of entrepreneurial clients.

In addition to writing for design publications and blogs (including his own), Simmons is the author of four books—the most recent of which, Just Design, focuses on design for social change.

Simmons previously served as president of the San Francisco chapter of AIGA and founded San Francisco Design Week, prompting then-mayor Gavin Newsom to issue an official proclamation declaring San Francisco a city where “Design Makes a Difference.” Simmons was recently named one of the “50 most influential designers working today” by Graphic Design USA.

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