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Marberry: How to be selected to serve on a design awards jury

by Sara Marberry

Have you ever wanted to serve on a design awards jury? Are you wondering how design and facility professionals get selected to serve on a design awards jury?

Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s not all that easy. But there are some things you can do if you don’t want to wait around to be asked.

How Are People Selected for Design Awards Juries?

First of all, it’s helpful to know how people are selected for design awards juries. Often it’s the association or nonprofit partner of the sponsoring organization that does the choosing.

For example, the Healthcare Environment Awards are sponsored by Healthcare Design magazine in association with The Center for Health Design (CHD). CHD staff is responsible for selecting most of the jurors. Same with the Healthcare Design Showcase issue, which is a juried publication with awards of merit and honorable mention.

Professional associations also sponsor competitions. The American Institute of Architects Academy of Architecture for Health (AIA/AAH) and the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) both have national Healthcare Design Awards programs. Many local AIA and IIDA chapters also have healthcare design awards programs. Staff and committee members at those associations choose the jurors.

The American Society of Healthcare Engineers (ASHE) Vista Awards are run the same way.

Usually, juries meet in-person to select the winners. But not during a pandemic. I expect the judging of all these design awards programs to be conducted virtually again this year.

Other Awards Competitions

Don’t forget about the two major healthcare product awards competitions, which also need qualified professionals as jurors — Best of NeoCon and The Nightingale Awards.

The Best of NeoCon jury has been expertly sourced by Eileen McMorrow, the Director of the Best of NeoCon for 30 years, and also editor of The McMorrow Reports Facility Management & Design Insights.

McMorrow puts together jury teams of interior designers and facilities managers for Best of NeoCon. Every year, there is a healthcare jury team that evaluates products in seven healthcare categories at The Merchandise Mart in Chicago.

McMorrow has also directed The Nightingale Awards for more than 10 years. She brings together healthcare facilities managers and interior designers to judge 14 categories of products during the Healthcare Design Expo + Conference, sponsored by Healthcare Design magazine.

But who knows whether we’ll have in-person conferences in 2021? If not, these product awards programs will probably be suspended again this year.

Isn’t It Always The Same People?

You may also have noticed that often the same people serve on these design awards juries. That’s because they are recognized leaders in the field, are active in the association or organization or may have served on the jury before. Sometimes it’s just too hard for the sponsors to pick a whole new set of people.

That said, I’m sure that these associations and organizations would welcome some fresh faces, as long as they have a reasonable amount of experience designing healthcare projects and/or specifying products. It’s also helpful if you’re a member of the sponsoring association/organization.

Strategies for Getting on a Jury

Here’s what I suggest to do to get on a design awards jury:

  1. Find out which staff person at the AIA/AAH, CHD, or IIDA manages the awards program by calling them or submitting an inquiry on the contact form on their website. Or if your local AIA or IIDA chapter has an awards program, contact staff there.
  2. Email staff at these associations/organizations and tell them you’re interested in being a juror and for which awards program. Share why you’re qualified, but more importantly, why you want to be a juror, and what you think you’d bring to the process.
  3. If you’re a design professional, let it be known to the leaders in your firm that you want to serve on a design awards jury. If they get asked and can’t do it, maybe they’ll suggest you.
  4. If you plan to attend NeoCon and/or the Healthcare Design Expo + Conference (if they are held this year), email Eileen McMorrow. Again, share why you are qualified, why you want to be a juror, and what you think you’d bring to the process.

Also, if you’re a design professional, you may want to reach out to your architecture or interior design school alma mater and offer your services to critique student healthcare projects.

How To Become Better Known

If your goal is to serve on a design awards jury and you don’t think you’re well enough known in your profession, start working on your personal brand.

  • Update your LinkedIn profile and start sharing more things that you find interesting or relevant to healthcare design (this will also help build your connections)
  • Become more active in a professional association
  • Write a post for your company’s blog or an article for a magazine

Finally, if there are other healthcare design awards competitions that I’m forgetting, please share them in the comment box below. Or if you’ve served on jury, share your thoughts on how to get selected.

This column originally ran on Sara Marberry’s blog on Jan. 15. Marberry is a healthcare design expert who has written/edited five books and is a regular contributor to Healthcare Design magazine. Marberry also is a former Executive Vice President of the nonprofit Center for Health Design.