Photo by «H2E»

Until February 8, designers are invited to submit their entries for the National Design Award of Latvia 2018, which will take place for the second year in a row. Looking back at the first year of the competition, the organisers have created a yearbook, devoted to the events of 2017.

Stories Jeļena Solovjova January 26, 2018

«The National Design Award of Latvia (NDAL) is not only a new competition of national importance but also, in our opinion, an important social design project, in whose development we, the competition’s organisers, are involved, along with everyone who has played a role in making the award a reality. We believe that a meticulously devised competition, enriched with meaningful discussions, is an instrument that not only highlights the best design solutions created in Latvia but also helps us to make the design environment in which we live and work easier to understand, clearer and better; in other words, more favourable for us, as designers, and for each and every design user,» say the organisers of NDAL in the introduction of the book. The design studio «H2E» is responsible for the competition in its first three years, in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture, Art Academy of Latvia and Museum of Decorative Art and Design. In parallel to organising the competition, the team set itself the goal of encouraging a meaningful debate — informing the public about the need for and importance of quality design through exhibitions, lectures, conversations and yearbook of the award. «It is now more important than ever before to define the annual state of the industry in a manner that provokes active debate and informs the public about the eclectic nature of design,» emphasise the authors. In the yearbook of The National Design Award of Latvia 2017, the reader can find information about the first competition and its results, along with conversations with award winners, jury members and supporters. Besides reviewing the participation and judging process, these interviews reveal what local and foreign design practitioners think about the current state of Latvian design, and remind readers of the jury’s message to society. A yearbook will be published this year as well.

Latvian design in numbers

Last year, 147 design works were submitted for the first National Design Award of Latvia, representing a total of 10 design sub–sectors. In terms of the representation of individual sectors, product design was most heavily represented, followed by interior, exposition and graphic design. While the jury’s decision awarded first prize to data visualisation tool «Infogram» showed the potential future development of the industry — although digital design was represented only by 3% of last year’s participants, the achievement of «Infogram», as well as its successful performance not only on the national but also on a global scale, demonstrates that the design industry is rapidly evolving. Operating realms are expanding, new interdisciplinary forms for the manifestation of design are being created. «As a member of the jury, I was, first of all, most pleasantly surprised by the diversity and quality of the projects. Designers in Latvia are highly productive. Secondly, designers are highly focused on the development of material objects. Many of the competition entries were interesting, and some were very good, but it seems to me that Latvian designers would do well to focus more actively on the development of service design, digital design and social design. It is always captivating to design a new chair or table, but this is not the way how to make the fullest possible use of the opportunities offered by design today,» emphasised chairman of the NDAL 2017 jury, Associate Professor of Design, Doctoral Advisor and Research Leader, University of Nîmes, Stéphane Vial.

Jury’s message

The yearbook features brief interviews with the first year’s jury members: Hringur Hafsteinsson, Creative Director of the award–winning agency «Gagarin», Stéphane Vial, Vēsma Kontere McQuillan, architect and Professor at the Westerdals Oslo School of Arts, Communication and Technology, Inese Baranovska, Head of the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design, Rihards Funts, designer, curator and founder of the International Design Summer School MAD, as well as Barbara Ābele, Associate Professor at the Art Academy of Latvia. The interviews reveal what jury members think about the current state of Latvian design and offer an analysis of the competition results and ideas for the potential development of the industry.

Speaking about the design in Latvia and globally, several jury members note that the industry is changing rapidly. For example, Vial points out that the traditional model of industrial design is losing its relevance and a new industry direction is evolving — social design. More and more people want to view design as a socially responsible field of activity. Hafsteinsson agrees and emphasises that today opportunities are diverse mostly because attitudes towards design have changed a great deal and that contemporary design has become a process that is primarily aimed at the development of innovations.

«In Latvia, we react to global events, but it is vital to be able to utilise these reactions in raising the quality of our economy, society and individual life. We need to understand what and how people are doing elsewhere, but at the same time also to objectively evaluate what we can achieve here with the resources available to us, including our intellectual potential, appreciation of design, technological base and possible investments. One must remember that production cannot exist as one designer’s wish — it is a complex process of joint creativity,» Barbara Ābele highlights in her interview. Robert Thiemann, too, emphasises that in Latvia, it is important to initiate a debate about design — the form that design can take, the impact that it can have on the national economy and on the quality of life of Latvia’s population. He indicates that the most important message that the jury wanted to convey to society is that design is very diverse and can be used in vastly contrasting industries in the development of both material and virtual products.


The National Design Award of Latvia 2017 Yearbook is available at the concept bookstore «Mr Page», Miera iela 4, Riga. The deadline for submissions for The National Design Award of Latvia 2018 is February 8. More information can be found on competition’s webpage.