Cooper-Hewitt Weaves Program Graphic Into National Design Awards Decor

By Anna Sekula October 20, 2010, 12:30 PM EDT

Photo: Richard Patterson

Cooper-Hewitt's National Design Awards Gala
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When relocating its National Design Awards gala from its Upper East Side home to Cipriani 42nd Street last year, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum was, for the first time, able to synthesize the design of all the event's printed materials, a look inspired by producer David Stark's decor scheme for the evening. This year, the process was flipped, with the graphics for the programs and such created first, and Stark using that as the basis for the adornments added to the former banking hall on Thursday night.

The image created by Tsang Seymour Design involved a crisscross pattern of lines accompanied by bright orange lettering. From this, Stark and his team conceived a straightforward but vivid installation using thousands of yards of ribbon. Strung from the centerpieces of each table and threaded up to the ceiling, the orange and white fabric strips formed a striking visual that didn't detract from the evening's award presentation and honorees. In line with the Cooper-Hewitt's mission to support the arts, the rolls of ribbon were donated to Materials for the Arts after the gala.

Although the event's design was relatively simple in look, the installation was more complicated. Not only are Cipriani 42nd Street's ceilings 65 feet high, but as the gala is broadcast live on the Web, the ribbons couldn't be allowed to block cameras or their movements. Also taken into consideration was concern that the fabric could obstruct the view of the award presentation for seated guests. So each ribbon was strategically placed, rather than clustered for dramatic effect, and producers replaced the upper sections of strips with thin string for the tables in front of the stage.

Paula Zahn returned as M.C. for the 600-person affair, which honored Design Research's Jane Thompson with the lifetime achievement award, celebrated Rodarte designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy's work in fashion, and selected Philadelphia-based firm KieranTimberlake as a top contributor to the field of architecture design. As with last year, the gala's after-party was held in the venue's chapel area, drawing 350 additional guests. In total, the gala raised $1  million for the museum.

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