No one knows what it means, but it’s provocative.

Good design is elusive. It morphs and changes from culture to culture, time to time and place to place. However, the presence of good design awards points to the idea that there is a universally agreed sort of design excellence. I personally think that these design awards represent a snapshot of what is considered good design at the time, the zeitgeist of good design, if you will.

So with that in mind, what are the criteria for good design? We see products being judged based on many factors such as sustainability(quite a popular one nowadays), form, function. Yet, what is one mans junk may be another mans treasure. With each shift in culture, place and time, the scale in which these criteria are measured against changes ever so slightly. As such, I feel that to discern what is truly good design, we have to cross examine the three governing facets of time,culture and place.

We start with the first facet, culture. Culture is the ideas, beliefs, customs and behaviour of a particular group of people or society. In my opinion, culture affects design greatly as if it were the material in which what is considered good design for that particular group of people. It is the basis of their design, and it is the reason why different countries have different design priorities.

The next facet to look at is place. Place is similar to culture, but more as if it were a branch on a tree than a different tree itself. Some places may be similar to others, and it is possible to argue that place is a part of culture, but I feel that geographic location is big enough a factor to be considered a facet on its own. This is why we have different styles for the same product, and why we assign “places” to products, e.g. Hokkaido desserts versus Japanese desserts.

The last facet to look at is time. Time governs good design in the form of relative needs. To be more explicit, design from the 1940s and design from the 1950s varied greatly due to the events of the world, specifically, the world war. With that said, perhaps it would be easier to look at time as a sequence of events, rather than a whole chronological period. Thus, the general notion of good design can be divided chronologically into periods such as modernism, post-modernism, so on and so forth.

With that in mind, the next logical step is to look at international design awards and analyze the winners within a particular category, picking comparisons based on culture and place, and then comparing it against previous winners to put time into context.

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