Long, long ago, when I was hunting down dairy products in the concrete maze of Manhattan, I made a detour to the offices of Print for a day to help curate the magazine’s Regional Design Annual. I was responsible for the introduction to the Far West, which includes the Californias (north and south), the Northwest, and Rest of the West, which is everything west of Colorado’s eastern edge, including Alaska and Hawaii. (Don’t tell the other writers but the Print editors entrusted me with what is by far the largest geographic area in the annual.)
Watching how the awards process works was eye-opening (or perhaps Eye opening), to say the least. It involves the recycling bin far more than any other tool you can find in the office. But there was something remarkable about seeing all the work from the same region stacked and sorted together. Especially for me, being able to see, say, all the work from Los Angeles, whittled down into this tabletop and then some, and then being able to watch the same colors and patterns spill out from one piece onto another. You could watch one trend ripple west from Eagle Rock and another float north from Costa Mesa. And that made me really excited. Because even though you’d think we’re all operating in isolation, plugged directly into this world wide web, this was proof that the process of relating to where you live and knowing who you work near is very much intact. I could actually see that sense of community.
But one thing I will tell you is that judging design work is no cakewalk. We were on our feet, squinting at 6-point copy, holding people’s fates in our hands for eight hours straight (don’t worry, we were allowed to eat, but only uncooked fish). It was so excruciating, Print’s stylish creative director Kristina DiMatteo had to change her footwear to meet the strenuous demands of the day. I, of course, was wearing my TOMS.