Best of Canada

What began as a notion that this country should come together nationally to celebrate excellence in design is now a major design event marking its 10th anniversary. The Best of Canada Design Competition has grown in importance and prestige, and the gala celebrating its winners has been deemed by some (and we modestly agree) one of the best annual parties for people involved with design.

So there we were at the end of May: a judging panel of seven, plus competition organizers, charged with whittling down 151 entries into a respectable and reasonable selection of winners.

Judges were invited for their experience and expertise. We were fortunate to have regional representation, thanks to Shelley Penner, of Penner Design, Vancouver, and Robert Ruscio, of Ruscio Studio, Montreal. The other judges that participated, all based in Toronto, are Colleen Baldwin, principal, business development/strategic services, Straticom Planning Associates; Jack Diamond, Diamond and Schmitt Architects; Joan Eiley, Joan Eiley & Associates; Mark Muller, design director, Nienkmper; and David Oleson, Oleson Worland Architect.

The judges were given broad discretion and limited rules – their role was simply to choose entries that show excellence and innovation in design. Introduced this year were two new categories, landscape design and student design. While these categories and one for lighting application, where lighting is the key design element, were judged separately, all other project entries were viewed as one category to succeed or fail on the quality of work presented. Products were judged independently on their own merits.

Entries were not identified. The judges only learned the names of the winners when the judging process was completed. If a judge had a conflict of interest, he or she either left the room or refrained from debate when that entry was discussed.

While the judging process was tough, the results, we believe, provide a realistic view of design in Canada today. There are winners from across the country, a few dual winners, but overall a broad picture of the accomplishments of many design firms.

Winning entries will be on exhibit at the Design Exchange from Sept. 24 to Oct. 28. The winners will be feted Sept. 26 at the Design Exchange, with Best of Show top project and product winners (as determined by the judges) and People’s Choice winners announced at that time. For more on voting for the People’s Choice winners. please see

We salute the winners and acknowledge the excellence of many of the entries that were not selected this year. Congratulations to everyone who strives to achieve good design. It is a worthwhile pursuit to help make the world a more livable and interesting place.