The entries are in (all 610 of them), the Nominees announced, and final deliberations are well under way. Anticipation and excitement hang in the air. We’re buzzing!

This year we’ve rolled out some major developments. For the first time ever, we invited a panel of esteemed professionals—from all industries and locales—to weigh in on designers’ work in the six core 99awards categories. Some names you might recognize. Some you’ll definitely want to get to know. Find out how our jury got their start, what really impresses them and their advice for creatives below.

The 2019 jury

Brenda Milis | Adobe

Mercedes Bazan |  Stripe

Jackson Alves | Independent letterer and educator

Ben VanderVeen | Art director and visual storyteller

Stephan Ango | Lumi

Dan Johnston | Culture Amp

 

Brenda Milis

Brenda Milis is the Principal of Creative Services and Visual Trends for Adobe Stock. As a creative director, she leads the Creative Services group in serving top clients, identifying visual trends and curating content. Brenda is a California native and attended UC Berkeley where she majored in Art History.

She’s worked for several media publications (Vox, Wall Street Journal, and Time) and was the founding photo editor of Style.com. In 2018, Graphic Design USA named Brenda on its list of “Creatives to Watch”. We’re so excited to have her judge the 99awards Illustration category.

Brenda Milis Adobe
First up: say hello to Brenda Milis

How and when did you get involved with the work you do today?

I majored in Art History in college, so I’ve always specialized in studying how art movements develop and evolve over time. After college, I worked as a photo editor for editorial and branded media—both print and digital—for many years.

I began to specialize in helping the companies I worked for elevate and evolve their visual brands, so I started focusing on visual trends research and began releasing my own visual trends forecasts for those companies.




Great design to me is always what looks easy and obvious once you see it—that design you wish you had come up with.





At Adobe Stock, I work with clients to help them find on-brand content with our assets and give them strategic tools to do so.

Reflecting on the past year, what emerging design trends have you noticed?

I spearhead the annual visual trends forecast, so I would immediately send you to our 2019 Visual Trends Forecast! While all of the trends very much speak to design, I think the “Disruptive Expression” trend may have the most direct ties to design—intense, original, dramatic style that hits a balance of aggression and aesthetics. It’s a natural attention getter that attracts and retains viewer interest.

What’s one piece of advice you could offer to designers?

Work with as many people whose work you admire as you can, in any way that you can. Understand that you’ll continue to learn a lot all along the way, and allow your style to change over the years. Be confident, yet flexible, always willing to learn while trusting your gut and talent. And keep at it. Persistence pays off!

Check out the nominees for Best Illustration →

 

Mercedes Bazan

Mercedes Bazan Stripe
Mercedes Bazan splits her time between brand design and illustration

Mercedes Bazan is a graphic designer and illustrator from Buenos Aires, Argentina–currently based in Dublin, Ireland. She works as a brand designer at Stripe and a print designer for Increment magazine. This year, Mercedes is judging the Best Print Design category.

How and when did you get involved with the work you do today?

I started working in the industry around four years ago. My first job was as a graphic designer for an underground fashion magazine in Buenos Aires. In addition to being a brand designer for Stripe, I’m a print designer for Increment magazine: a software engineering publication. During my free time I enjoy illustrating.

Reflecting on the past year, what emerging print design trends have you noticed?

I noticed white space giving more rhythm to magazine layouts. I’ve also seen the use of foils, special PMS colors, debasing, embossing and textured covers, among other things. I’m super happy to see more illustrations in new, trending magazines, because it means they’re not only working with writers, but also emerging illustrators.

Risograph poster Behance Mercedes Bazan
Risograph poster by Mercedes Bazan, via Behance

When it comes to print, what impresses and inspires you?

I’m always impressed by beautiful, smart typographic compositions used as openers to articles. It’s great when you can rely on photographic or illustrative material to create a visual, but I think it’s interesting to see how designers manage to play only with typography and create something beautiful and impactful.

I’m also inspired by the different things you can do inside a magazine, like inserts, cutouts and posters. There’s a huge world full of possibilities to explore—if you have the budget, of course! Haha!

Have any advice for designers?

My advice to designers is to explore and play! Give yourself time to ease into exploration mode. Don’t judge your work while you’re in the process. Judgment stops creativity.

Be inspired by the Print Design nominees →

 

Jackson Alves

Jackson Alves hand lettering
Jackson Alves, AKA @letterjack, is known for his gorgeous, custom lettering

Jackson Alves is a Brazil-based letterer, calligrapher and educator. He has over 15 years experience working with international clients. Jackson’s background in calligraphy has shaped his lettering style: fluid and graceful curves, bold style choices, and a keen eye for aesthetics.

Jackson was awarded at the 10th Graphic Design Biennial in Brazil in 2013, the Type Directors Club “Certificate of Typographic Excellence” in 2016, and was featured as the Type Directors Club’s “Member of the Month” in December 2016. He continues to grow as an artist and teaches at workshops around the world. Can you guess which category he’s judging?

How and when did you get involved with the work you do today?

Thanks to the begging of a friend—who was also my classmate in design school back in 2000.

In 2010, my friend came to town to teach a lettering workshop. At the time I didn’t exactly know what lettering was, so I decided to take the class to better understand what my friend was doing. In the end, I fell in love with the type world. I started to study more about typography, calligraphy, and lettering. Two years after that, I left my job at a design studio and began to work exclusively with calligraphy and lettering in my own studio.

Reflecting on the past year, what emerging lettering and typography trends have you noticed?

What just popped up in my mind is that I’ve started to see more “iPad lettering”. It’s a kind of hand lettering made using an Apple iPad Pro, with a handmade appearance and sometimes featuring tons of colors, including gradients. When it comes to typography, variable fonts and color fonts are the new trend.

Jackson often shares his work with his 66k Instagram followers

In your opinion, what’s the key to creating a great design?

To make a great design, you have to start with research. Learning more about a project’s theme always helps with inspiration and achieving excellent results. I always say, “enjoy the process”—because it’s the process that supports me to push further.

What’s one piece of advice you could offer to designers?

Be curious and persistent!

Fall in love with the Typography nominees →

 

Ben VanderVeen

Ben VanderVeen Moss and Fog
Ben VanderVeen is judging the 99awards Best Branding Design category

Ben VanderVeen is a designer and art director living in Portland, Oregon.  As a visual storyteller, he’s worked for large and small agencies and has a thriving design and video business of his own.

His art and design website, Moss and Fog, has a growing following—which keeps him inspired and on top of emerging artists and trends. An avid traveler, Ben explores as much as he can with his wife, his son, Quill, and his corgi, Louie.

How and when did you get involved with the work you do today?

I started designing logos on a very early version of Photoshop when I was still in high school. I had a sister who was in art school, and she inspired me to want to be creative.

Reflecting on the past year, what emerging branding trends have you noticed?

There are definite trends around embracing nostalgia—either with Mid-Century style, or by capturing some of the tiki-craze of the ’50s and ’60s. I’ve seen a strong return to serif fonts, but in a thoughtful, stylized way. I’ve also noticed some companies embracing pure minimalism, from Google’s “G” to Mastercard’s simplistic circle shapes.

Ben VanderVeen runs Moss and Fog, an award-winning design blog

You run an award-winning design blog. What impresses and inspires you?

I’m impressed by the plethora of young talented designers and the quality of work being done by small firms. I live in Portland, and there are countless small design firms that create really stunning, polished work.

What’s one piece of advice you could offer to designers?

My advice is to be courageous and adventurous. I think the worst thing you can do as a designer is try to fit in. Embrace your individuality. because it’s the inspired, driven, unique people that push the field of design and do exciting work.

Be wowed by the best in Branding →

 

Stephan Ango

Stephan Ango Lumi
Lumi co-founder Stephan Ango turned his passion into a profession

Stephan Ango is the co-founder and Head of Product of Lumi. He also hosts the Lumi podcast, Well Made. Stephan studied industrial design at Art Center in Pasadena, where he met co-founder, Jesse Genet. After firsthand experience with the fragmented packaging supply chain, Stephan and Jesse started building Lumi to fix it. His expertise makes him the perfect judge for the Best Packaging Design category.

How and when did you get involved with the work you do today?

I first started poking around a pirated copy of Photoshop as a teenager around 20 years ago. I was bitten by the bug immediately, and since then I don’t think a day has gone by without having some kind of creative project open in a window on my computer. From Photoshop I started learning how to code so I could build websites and put my projects online.

For whatever reason, it took me a long time to realize these hobbies could turn into a profession. It wasn’t until I graduated from college that I started pursuing design as a career. At the time I thought I would become an ecologist or zoologist, and graduated with a degree in biology.

In 2008, I met Jesse Genet who quickly became my best friend and business partner of the past ten years. Together we have founded two companies. What I love about Lumi is that I get to take all my passions across design, software and sustainability and bring them together to help ecommerce companies with their packaging.

Reflecting on the past year, what emerging packaging design trends have you noticed?

Packaging is the new storefront. As the economy of consumer goods shifts online, more and more we find that the first interaction people have with a product is when they receive it in the mail. For that reason, the unboxing experience is much more important than ever because it is an opportunity for brands to tell a story.

Practically, this also has major implications for the manufacturing supply chain because the printing technologies used to print shipping materials are totally different than what is used in retail packaging. This leads to new graphic design and manufacturing challenges that we at Lumi are helping ecommerce brands navigate.

Stephan Ango talks shop (and branding) on his podcast, Well Made

When it comes to packaging, what impresses you?

I care most about simplicity and cohesiveness. The packaging should feel consistent with the purpose and the nature of the product. It may sound counterintuitive coming from a guy who runs a packaging company, but I want to see less packaging in the world—not more. I am always impressed by designers who can make creative choices that help reduce the amount of packaging while enhancing the experience.

What’s one piece of advice you could offer to designers?

Be more weird. Be okay being weird. There is too much uniformity in design today. Design has a tendency to move in waves, but you don’t necessarily need to be part of that wave. Express your emotions, your soul, your point of view. Be you.

Celebrate the best in Packaging Design →

 

Dan Johnston

Dan Johnston Culture Amp
Dan Johnston makes great design happen at Culture Amp

Dan is Director of Design at Culture Amp, an employee feedback platform which lists Netflix, Airbnb, and InVision as customers. Previously, he held UX Director roles at BigCommerce and Domain Group, makers of Australia’s most popular property app. It’s safe to say he knows great digital design when he sees it.

How and when did you get involved with the work you do today?

I kind of fell into it. At our startup, in addition to running sales, I was also doing user research and product design to move the company forward. I didn’t realize at the time that was really a career option. It was only when I moved to Australia that I change careers and start work at a UX consultancy. After a few years of consultancy/agency, I decided I wanted to move back in-house and haven’t looked back since.




Build your narrative. Find what you bring to the table from your current life that makes you stand out from the crowd and weave that into your story.





When it comes to on-screen design, what catches your eye?

While the ways that people interact with their screens are always evolving, how we define great experiences doesn’t change as quickly. At its core, on-screen design is a conversation between the user and the product. Like any good conversation, it should be effortless, engaging and fulfilling. It draws the user in and tells a compelling story that they care about. It knows when to let the user drive, and when to step in. Most importantly, it leaves the user feeling good about the experience.

So what does that really mean? It means that the designer has created compelling, personalised hooks that pull the user into the product at the right time, for the right reason. That the product experience has been designed for low cognitive load and to minimise time to value through experimentally validated shortcuts. That copy is clear, valuable and strikes a consistent tone. That workflows have been designed with the user’s emotions in mind, utilising things like animation to reinforce critical narrative beats. And all of these things have not been crafted in isolation but as one interwoven experience.

Do you have any advice for designers wanting to break into UX/UI, or digital design in general?

Learn as much as you can, through reading, through doing and, if possible through a mentor. Network as much as you can to try and find opportunities.

See Digital Designs that leap off the screen →