May 15, 2007

Quo Vadis, Spark! Where Are You Going—
And Where Have You Been?

Many people have asked “What is this Spark competition?” “Why are so many designers–and just ordinary folks–excited about this?”

Some even ask, “Why do we need another competition–there are so many already?” “Why should we care?”

Because there are important things happening to our world, and innovation and design can help. This recognition– that design can make a difference, and that design has responsibilities beyond selling products–this is what Spark is about.

The story of Spark began in 2001 with a competition named Designing Worlds.

In prior years, we had produced many different business conferences and events. These were good events, but we wanted to explore the great issues of our time, like sustainable design, advanced transportation, public architecture and universal design.

We chose a competition format as our platform, because awards are interactive, they help find and encourage new talent, they shine a light on innovation and they are fun!

So we assembled a brilliant Advisory Council of designers, architects and experts. Over the months that followed we had many meeting and discussions.

Our friends were very clear about one thing—they were not interested in another highly commercial design competition. As one friend said— “We already have many of those. We’re looking for something better—a higher cause—a way to promote advancement and innovation—and not just ourselves.”

We wanted to support design that is aspirational, multi-disciplinary, multi-cultural and global—Design that makes a difference. We were trying to create a showcase for designs that can help save the world.

Spark became a competition and community for all types of designers, and all levels of skill.

We included every discipline—graphic design, product design, interface design, architecture and so on.

We support creativity at all levels, from non-professionals to the highest professional.

The whole world is now participating in design—let’s help the best formgivers to rise to the top.


We strive to have a very fair Judging process. We have a large number of Jurists—from 12 to 25, chosen from each discipline of design, as well as journalists, teachers and other experts.

No Spark staff participates, nor influences the vote. There is a new jury every year. This prevents the same group from dominating the results over the years.


Inventiveness and innovation
Does the design enhance the human experience in a tangible new way?

How environmentally sustainable is the design, from manufacture, through packaging, to use and final disposal?

Elegance & beauty
Of course!

How well does the design perform its function—and work? Is it efficient, economical—essential?

Does the design fit the system? Does it mesh well and achieve more than the concept alone?

Is the design’s lifespan appropriate to its usage and good sustainable practice?

What was the design strategy—how was progress measured—was the process itself innovative? Was the process multi-disciplinary? Did the design sell or fulfill its goals?

Safety and ergonomics
Is the design safe and user-friendly? How well does the design suit a wide (and appropriate) range of users?

Personal connection
Does the design help create feeling? Joy, delight, pleasure, inspiration or reverence?

Does the design contribute in significant ways to overarching societal goals? Is it truly “design that makes a difference?”

This last one, Aspiration, really sums up what Spark is all about.

Not every criterion will be achieved by the Spark entrants. They are ideals to strive for. The Spark Winner Gallery images represent designs that the jury liked, and met several of these criteria.

They are the works of people just like you!

In closing, we hope you will become part of Spark too. Remember, Spark is for everyone.

In Summary, Successful Designs = Better World.

Creativity and innovation exist at all levels. Help us shine a bright light and Spark these dreams, wherever they are found.