Maria Popova should be the last person to join an awards jury. In August 2010, the founder and editor-in-chief of the website Brain Pickings wrote an essay called “Death to Design Awards.” In it, she argued that “awards breed ego, create false meritocracies and ultimately stymie innovation at every step of the award-granting process — from entry to evaluation to owning the win.” She went on to explain how exclusionary entry fees, outmoded criteria and too-old jurors stifle, instead of encourage, new, groundbreaking design. So why would the anti-awards Popova sit on the jury of Architizer's own A+ design competition?
An illustration from The Little Golden Book of Words, featured on Brain Pickings in December 2012
Actually, Popova's the ideal A+ juror. (She has, by the way, served on other juries too, like the CORE77 Design Awards in 2011.) And it's precisely because of her skepticism of the traditional awards system. The A+ Awards, after all, aren't traditional either. Rather than a stuffy panel of experts handing down a verdict from on high, the A+ jurors span a vast array of interests and modes of entering the world of architecture. And instead of critiquing entrants on rigid, dated aspects of their work, they’ll be looked at from entirely new angles -- from how conscious and creative they are in terms of sustainability and durability, to how well they collaborate with architects and designers and the people who encounter architecture and spaces every day. And Popova is integral to the Awards' mission.
Take her own work. Popova writes for WIRED UK and The Atlantic and is an MIT Futures of Entertainment Fellow, in addition to managing her own online publication. Brain Pickings is, according to its mission statement, “a human-powered discovery engine for interestingness”; recent entries include philosopher Francis Bacon's meditations on love, the poem Robert Frost didn’t read at JFK’s inauguration, and a book called This Explains Everything, which contains 192 theories on how the world works. Just as notable as the site’s breadth and depth of content is its model: entirely ad-free and supported by readers, who are invited to make recurring or one-time donations following each post. She’s created a self-sustaining, ever-changing thing that breathes and moves along with the people who consume it. To be a part of that, check out Brain Pickings here, follow Maria on Twitter here, and while you’re at it, sign up to follow (or enter!) the A+ Awards here.
An illustration from 100 Ideas That Changed Graphic Design, featured on Brain Pickings in May 2012