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Inside the judging room

What are the judges looking for in DBA Design Effectiveness Award winning entries?

Having Chaired the Judging panel for the last two years, Clive Grinyer shares insight to help you grab the judges’ attention with your submissions. 

For the last two years it’s been my privilege to Chair the DBA Design Effectiveness Awards. For me, these awards stand out above all others as rewarding the one thing we want to see in design: impact.

markus-spiske-pwpvgq-a5qi-unsplashDesign is something I believe is fundamental to success, in whatever way you want to measure it. That might be profit, or increasing market share for a business, or increasing usage of a public service and changing behaviour to prevent health risks. We can measure impact in many ways, but design is not an activity that you do just to tick a box. It’s not an activity that relies purely on designers, no matter how brilliant they might be. Design is a deeply collaborative activity that depends on people across an organisation, embracing the mechanisms of design to invest in finding out what works, listening, experimenting and imagining new ideas.

The DBA Design Effectiveness Awards are about rewarding the impact of design, in whatever way it has made a difference. The coolly scientific rigour of the judging process delivers incontrovertible evidence of impact, enabling every part of the winning team to celebrate and proudly tell the world – we did it by design.

In judging the Design Effectiveness Awards, the DBA brings together a stellar array of professional leaders, visionaries and experienced consumers of design talent. They bring a depth of experience it is rare to see in one room and this makes judging sessions some of my favourite days of the year. 

The panels combine industry experts from fast-moving goods to manufacturing and digital services, large corporates to small start-ups and private businesses. They are experts in design, marketing, brand, commerce, sustainability, technology and the public sector. Their job on the day is to share their expertise to validate the evidence in the entry submissions, to find the stories that shine and will inspire others through their impact to see how design achieves success.

The stories we hear can be emotional. They can talk about small businesses who thrive against the odds, public services under threat that turn around to become core parts of their communities. They describe moments where life-changing decisions have to be made and moments of elation, when the dials move and success is achieved.

markus-winkler-lnzuok1gxru-unsplashThe DBA entry process is one honed over 30 years of successfully running the competition. It helps applicants tell their stories and bring their evidence, so the judges can investigate and reward success across the wide range of case studies.

There are things that make this easier for the judges and grab their attention. Here are my top three tips for applicants:

  1. Be clear of your original objective(s). The measurement of success is all about the how design has excelled in reaching and surpassing your objective. Make sure the objective is believable. Judges know markets, they understand if holding a market position is a potentially Gold winning achievement or unimpressive compared to your competitors.
  2. It’s about the numbers. You can only win an award (Gold, Silver or Bronze) if the data clearly shows the impact has been achieved and by how much. Keep the data clear and make sure you show the numbers that are relevant. Try not to show convoluted segments of data to enhance the results that don’t reflect the true story; we are expert in spotting this. Help us see the value of what you have done – if you have achieved a positive impact from design and can evidence this, you have a very good chance of gaining an award.
  3. Show the evidence and tell the story. What was the moment of research that unlocked the route to behaviour change or market success? What did design specifically bring that transformed your idea? Design starts with insight, defines the problem (perhaps differently to how you first thought), creates new ideas and delivers them to be impactful, not just to be pretty. There is no better way to prove that impact is the result of design, and not marketing or distribution, than telling the story of how design found the truth, created the new idea and discovered new opportunities.

Appraising, challenging and celebrating the amazing submissions we judge is a great privilege. We are lucky to see so many stories of success by design. Every year the range of entries embraces wider areas from digital, service, innovation and technology with inspiring examples of business transformation and success.  

sergio-souza-j_mgyphgrp0-unsplashIncreasingly entries and their objectives are embracing new topics. Sustainability has become an important factor in measuring success. Membership, customer loyalty and health outcomes are the metrics we measure, as well as market share and profit. In that regard, the DBA Design Effectiveness Awards reflect our priorities and how we measure success in terms of quality of life, our planet and purpose, as well as commercial performance.

Take a look at what you do and then tell us how what you have done has been transformed by design. Then let our judges go to work to give you the acknowledgment you deserve. 

We are waiting to hear your story!

Take advantage of the support available from the DBA

awards_01Find out more about the DBA Design Effectiveness Awards and how to enter: visit and sign up for updates.

About: Clive Grinyer

Clive is Head of Programme for Service Design at the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London. At the RCA he leads the teaching and research activities for the pioneering and influential course that develops human-centred solutions with social, government, healthcare, financial and industrial partners.

He was previously Director of Service Design at Barclays Bank where he introduced service design and built a team that combined customer insight and agile design methodology to transform customer experience and develop new services.  As a consultant, Clive develops digital and strategic transformation for business and public sector bodies including the Policy Lab in the UK Government Cabinet Office, Nesta, Innovate UK and service and data centred businesses and organisations.

At the technology company Cisco, Clive led innovation projects for their major customers in financial services, retail and public services. He set up the European Design Office for Samsung and has also led award-winning design teams for Orange, consultancy IDEO in the US and was the founder of the design consultancy Tangerine along with Apple design chief Jony Ive.

In 2018 Creative review placed Clive in their Top 50 and described Clive as “a passionate advocate for the transformational potential of design for some three decades. Todays focus on the value of digital product design and on design’s value in leading customer experience in the UK is, in large part, due to his work.”

 Clive is an acknowledged expert in design thinking, digital and technology innovation, service design and customer experience, He has published research papers on blockchain and service design, speaks at international conferences, write articles and blogs and has published the book Smart Design” on design and technology. He has been a trustee of the Royal Society of Arts, is a Visiting Professor at Glasgow School of Art and Chair of the DBA Design Effectiveness Award.

Image credit:

Beazy, Unsplash
Markus Spiske, Unsplash
Markus Winkler, Unsplash
Sergio Souza, Unsplash
Clive Grinyer


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