Every year, an illustrious selection committee comprising established designers, industry commentators and previous winners, sit down and debate possible recipients of The London Design Medal across four categories. Among this year’s panel of 15 distinguished judges are Alexander Payne (Worldwide Director, Design at Phillips), Martin Roth (Director of V&A), Paul Thompson (Rector, Royal College of Art) and Sheridan Coakley (Founder, SCP). The eventual winners are chosen from a wide range of design disciplines and awarded for their exceptional contribution to their field.
“While there are no shortage of design awards, we wanted to do it differently: not just a big dinner that everyone has to buy tables for,” says Festival Director Ben Evans. “So we took the Nobel Prize route – there’s no shortlist, just a winner. So that means there’s no losers either.”
The Medal itself is designed by esteemed jewellery designer Hannah Martin and represents the once ubiquitous London bird, the Cockney Sparrow, in flight. An eminent panel of judges come to their decision entirely independently, with Festival Chairman Sir John Sorrell only getting the casting vote in the event of a tie. “In 2011 there was a big debate as Thomas Heatherwick was arguing strongly for Vidal Sassoon,” recalls Evans. “Ron Arad ended up winning that year, but we decided there and then to invent a Lifetime Achievement award. That particular year it was a stunning evening at St Paul’s, and Vidal Sassoon flew over especially from California despite being in ill health. He spoke in the most eloquent way about the fact that he had countless hairdressing awards but had never been given recognition by the design community before, and talked about how he’d always wanted to be an architect when he was growing up. The room was full of these legends from the design world and many of them were moved to tears.”
“Since then, we have integrated extra award categories to recognise individuals at different stages of their careers. The winners are announced in our Awards dinner, this year was at the top of the new Leadenhall Building with spectacular views across London.”