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American Design Awards (2)

tasteful, professional, near cutting-edge

In the original review request of American Design Awards, the author commented: We know the importance of eye catching design pieces, and more importantly the people and companies behind them. The American Design Awards was establish to review and reward outstanding design potential by graphic designers, whether just getting started or seasoned professionals.
Reviewed by: Mike Swope
American Design Awards (ADA) offers Monthly Design Contests (MDC) and an Annual Design Contest (ADC) to help designers obtain the much needed recognition that may help them find a career in the visual arts. Anyone involved in design (freelancers, design professionals, students, firms, groups of freelancers, ad agencies, corporations, etc.) is eligible to participate (minimum age 16), and there is no limit to the number of times individuals or entities may enter.
      The MDC is free every month. The ADC has entry fees starting at $80 per entry for agencies and firms, and $40 per entry for freelancers, students and individuals, up to 10 entries. After 10 entries, entry is free. Founded in 2000, ADA has 12,000 members from around the world.
      Obviously, the ADA web site has set high standards for itself to recognize designers across the globe for their design excellence. It is competing with other, better-known and well-established organizations that recognize design excellence (American Institute of Graphic Artists and American Advertising Federation to name only two in the U.S.). But ADA has nearly covered its bet with their web site.
Graphics-heavy, but not gratuitiously
The site's layout is consistent from page to page and graphics-heavy, but not gratuitiously.
      It uses modern design and web layout conventions (rule of thirds): ID and navigation bar at the top takes up 1/3 the browser window at 800x600 resolution, content bar the other 2/3; below the bottom of the window (out of view at 800x600) the footer takes up approx another 1/3 equal to the ID/navigation bar at the top.
      The site uses sliced image rollovers; high-quality professional color photos (with rounded, shaded right edges for a 3D effect on subpages to "break out of the box") as the primary visual on each page; typographic images for page headers and small icons for in-page accents; and limited tiny flashing animated pixel font GIFs (a la and ) in the footer. It also employs sans-serif HTML text and a modern-techno color palette (grays, blacks and bright accent colors such as orange, green, and blue) effectively throughout the site.
      Visitors will also find an animated Flash object bar (the ADA logo) above the footer of every page. The site's tone is easily tasteful, professional, contemporary and near cutting-edge.
Usability issues
There are just two things that might improve the user's experience with the site.
      First, the design is inflexible so page lengths can't grow. For example, the content for the competitions is less than three short paragraphs each, and, as a visitor, I don't feel justifiably rewarded for clicking to read the last two and six bullet points. This information could be condensed and presented on a single page to eliminate a click. Or, as this problem was solved on the Extras page, the content could be placed on a scrolling layer.
      Second, some of the more intriquing content is hidden from visitors BELOW THE BOTTOM OF THE BROWSER WINDOW at 800x600. In the footer of the majority of pages, the site rotates some very useful links to tips/articles contained on the site. I found several useful articles through this feature, but only after scrolling down (I test web sites at 800x600). Although it is likely that most designers run at 1024x768 or higher resolution and this feature will be visible to them at that resolution, I nonetheless believe that this feature would be more useful higher on the page, within the "first gulp" of content at 800x600, to best accomodate a greater majority of ADA's audience (particularly the individual and freelancer).
Meeting designers' expectations
The ADA has taken a large gamble to offer awards to designers in direct competition with the much larger and recognized graphic arts organizations, and have succeeded. The site is clean, well organized, easy to navigate, and meets my expectations of a web site for designers. It employs solid modern technologies and conventions and, fortunately, shuns dangerous experimental javascript and other gimmicks...the true measure of a professional site for professionals.
Editor Notes:
Folks, I believe this is the first review from Mike Swope. Thank you Mike. I, for one, really enjoyed the review.
      Mike frequents the Design Cafe, always contributing lots of insightful suggestions and comments for the enjoyment of other listees! Mike operates along with a number of other sites and activities including an active role in the user group community.
Posted: 5/1/2003

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