EVENT RECAP: PGH365 2014, Opening Night and Awards Ceremony

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust Center’s downtown loft was transformed on Friday, March 28, 2014 to host PGH365, AIGA Pittsburgh’s annual design competition and exhibition. This year, professionals and students submitted 336 of their best print and interactive pieces to be showcased. Fifteen of these submissions were given awards of merit from a panel of outside judges. The selection judges this year were Andrew Blauvelt, design director at the Walker Art Center; Jennifer Visocky O’Grady, chair & professor of graphic design at Cleveland State University; and Kerem Suer, interaction designer. The judges ultimately choose 57 pieces to be exhibited and the remaining works were presented together in a Salon des Refusés. Thanks in part to the event sponsors AIGA Pittsburgh, Andrew Twigg, Portfolio Creative, Lindenmeyr Munroe & Art Groll, Kreider Printing, and Penn Brewery for making the event such a success.

The mood was lively as AIGA members and guests filled the space, some traveling from out-of-state to attend the opening night and award ceremony. In addition to the pieces on display, there was a backdrop of good conversation and music spun by DJ MB (Matthew Bucholz of Alternate Histories). The selected works lined the walls, separated by student and professionals, with some pieces displayed in the middle of the room on beautiful shelves made from reclaimed ladders, designed by AIGA Board Member Chris Roberts. A student who attended the event last year commented that the room felt more open and that it was easier to see the work this year. Guests could enjoy the food and drinks provided by AIGA sponsors and even get their picture taken at a live photo booth by photographer Brian F. Henry, complete with props.

At 8:00pm, attention turned to the front of the gallery as the 15 awards were announced. The vibrant pink awards were custom-designed by Brigette Davitt and a team of students from Edinboro. AIGA Pittsburgh’s President, Doris Short, welcomed the guests and described the show before Anne Bemis, AIGA Pittsburgh Vice President, presented the awards:

Best in Show
Brett Yasko, “Conflict Kitchen Graphics and Wrappers”

Student Best in Show
Eden Weingart, “The Inquisitive Explorer’s Guide”
(included a $500 prize from an anonymous donor)

Judges’ Choice
Wall-To-Wall, “LaunchPGH Website”
Wall-To-Wall, “Pittsburgh Dance Council Integrated Branding”
Brett Yasko, “‘One Brown Shoe’ Card Box for Lenka Clayton”

Design Excellence:
Jenna Breitbach-Eldredge, La Roche College, “Goldmark Branding System”
Katherine Frazer, CMU, “Seized”
Landesberg Design, “Point State Park/Great Allegheny Passage Medallion”
Landesberg Design, “E-Block: Photographs by Mark Perrott”
Marketspace Communications, “Colorama by Fiesta Interactive Place Setting Tool”
Julie Moretti, Edinboro, “Awareness Poster Series”
Strawberryluna, “‘Invasion Of The Bee Girl’s and ‘Handmade For the Hollywood’ Poster”
Wall-To-Wall, “Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts Integrated Branding”
Wall-To-Wall, “PIFOF Rubber Duck Integrated Branding”
Brett Yasko, “‘Lovasik Estate Sale’ Catalogue for Shanghai Biennial”

Doug Dean of Wall-to-Wall Studios commented on his experience after the ceremony, where he was honored with four Excellence Awards: “It’s unbelievable. You come to these things with very low expectations because it could go either way—like, you don’t know the minds of the judges. It’s just really great to be part of the whole community and this [the award] is just a bonus.” He described always following the work of local designer, Brett Yasko, while he was a student and now he and Yasko were exhibited together. Yasko won three awards, including the Best in Show.

Eden Weingart, Student Best of Show winner from Carnegie Mellon University, talked about her own impression of the event for the past three years: “I’ve entered work since sophomore year. It’s great to see what professionals are doing in Pittsburgh and see how it’s such a design city.”

When asked about the judging process, Visocky O’Grady said, “It was so inspiring—I would leave feeling almost high on the design work. Even after a long day, I wouldn’t feel tired.” All three judges felt the quality of work submitted was really strong for both students and professionals. Judges Blaufelt and Visocky O’Grady commented that judging good work is actually easier because they were able to respond to the design more than critique it. The final pieces they selected for the exhibitions were the designs that made them react the strongest—pieces that stood out not just visually, but because of the designer’s approach to finding a solution.

Judge Suer described the work that got his attention as: “Work that showed curiosity and that was able to mirror the feelings of the context it was describing. I was really interested in the way people solved problems.”

Blaufelt said what was unique about the submissions at PGH365 was the amount of local pride apparent in the work, portraying a positive outlook on the city’s future. Visocky O’Grady added that these designs seemed to either be reflecting or encouraging a revitalization of the city. For example, her Judge’s choice, Doug Dean’s LaunchPGH website, is aimed at local entrepreneurs and communities. She felt its aesthetic, functionality, and concise information showcased the value of design to entrepreneurs, who might remember this experience when they start their own business. She felt it was able to “set a tone of quality and clarity for design,” where the designer had really edited down the information in order to help the people it was intended for.

The exhibition showed the value of design through the creative efforts and hard work of designers, but the event provided an occasion for conversation and community among members and guests. As Excellence Award winner Allison Glancy (Strawberryluna) said, “This event is super fun, which is really important in design. I think sometimes it’s easy to take it really seriously cause it’s serious work. But ultimately we are all having a lot of fun doing what we love.”

View more photos from the event on Facebook and Flickr.

Special thanks to guest contributing writer Jacklynn Pham for the PGH365 recap and with help from Vinita Israni for the photos. Jacklynn can be found at jacklynn.com and Vinita can be found at vinitaisrani.com.