Top Designers Strut Their Stuff at Cooper Hewitt Gala | At the Smithsonian


As the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s 21st National Design Awards gala kicked off Thursday evening, host Bobby Berk told a story about his own introduction to design, which paved the way for his eventual fame on “Queer Eye” and beyond. He recalled visiting a Target store, where he observed the results of the iconic collaboration between the retailer and architect Michael Graves: ordinary, affordable household projects designed to delight their users.

“Right then and there I thought to myself, I want to have a part of that,” he told the event’s audience last night. “I want to work in design and make people’s lives better through design.”

The impact of design on ordinary lives and the world around us was everywhere at the annual gala, which moved to an online format this year. In place of cocktails and fancy dresses, virtual attendees watched short films showcasing the work of the award winners.

Studio One Eight Nine, founders Abrima Erwiah and Rosario Dawson
Studio One Eight Nine, founders Abrima Erwiah (r) and Rosario Dawson (l)

(Photo: Joshua Jordan)

Accepting the National Design Award for Design Visionary on behalf of crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, CEO Aziz Hasan spoke directly to all the creators thinking about launching a new venture but wondering whether—especially at this moment—it was possible.

“I want to tell each of you, you should definitely take a shot,” he said. “These ideas are what society thrives on.”

Since its start in 2009, Kickstarter has helped hundreds of thousands of new ideas get off the ground. The platform allows anyone to seek support for their project directly from the public rather than from banks or venture funds. More than 18 million people have paid over $5 billion to support innovative products, businesses and other projects through the site. In 2015, Kickstarter became a Public Benefit Corporation, reflecting its prioritization of its