Judging the NKBA Kitchen Design Awards

December 11, 2016No comments

What defines a truly exceptional kitchen design? I consider that question informally every day in my work as a designer, and from a more structured perspective when judging a competition. The process helps me grow as a creative professional.

This August I was privileged to serve on the judging panel for the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) 2017 design contest. Over the course of three days, I and the two other panel members evaluated nearly 300 kitchen designs in three categories – small, medium and large kitchens.

national kitchen bath association nkba logo

Criteria for judging:

  1. Function
  2. Meeting the needs of the client
  3. Life-safety concerns
  4. Kitchen ergonomic standards
  5. Elements and principles of design

I have judged at the local level in the past, but in this contest I was seeing the very best the US has to offer, submissions worthy of competing on the national level.  One design after another demonstrated amazing creativity, style and technical mastery. Submissions advanced through two stages. Judges scored designs independently, then collated their results, keeping in mind that NKBA’s contest is held to identify the best designer, not just the most beautiful design.

Round One. Carl Smith CliqStudios Kitchen Designer

To advance past the first round, an entry had to comply with all technical requirements of contest submission. A failure to comply with any requirement was seen as a lack of professionalism and disqualified a submission from the competition.

One common error was to submit plans that were not scaled or dimensioned correctly. Another was to submit a design without a design statement – the designer’s statement of what problems the design would solve for the client and how they accomplished the solution.

We then evaluated the submission in two categories. First being Presentation, the quality and completeness of the drawings, photos and design statement. The second being, the safety and ergonomics of the design.

Round Two.

Once the submission proceeded to round two, the kitchen now had to be well designed overall in features, product selection and effectively be visually impressive.

Designs were evaluated on use of the elements and principles of design, on creativity, and on planning. And every detail – cabinet hardware, faucet, lighting, flooring, ceramic tile, appliances – had to enhance and contribute to a single stunning effect. Many top entries had a clean, contemporary feel and a creative, almost sculptural use of form and color.

Through both rounds of judging we considered many important aspects of kitchen design:  The second round is where judging was done using a much more subjective manner.  As such, one judge would score a design one way, and another judge would score that same submission in a totally different way, reflecting their own particular preferences.   However, something interesting happened as the cream of the crop started to emerge.  Although all were evaluated independently, the winning designs all received similarly high scores from all judges!  One entry even earned a perfect score, much to everyone’s amazement.

Needless to say, I was very impressed with the winners of this year’s design competition.  I can’t wait for the official announcement in January 2017 at KBIS, and we’ll make sure to share those here on the CliqStudios blog.  Until then, I am sworn to secrecy regarding the results, so don’t ask!

What do you think?

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