Devising the IxDA Interaction Awards

San Francisco — February 2013

This is the first installment to recount and share the learnings of devising, pitching, launching, and chairing, twice, the IxDA Interaction Awards – the first ever award program dedicated to the discipline of interaction design, with Jennifer Bove.

Three years ago in the lobby bar of the Andaz hotel in Savannah, Jennifer Bove and I thought it would be a great idea to start an awards program solely dedicated to the discipline and practice of interaction design. It was about 2am; Mike Kruzeniski, Andrew Crow, Bill DeRouchey, Samantha Soma were not too far.

While I don’t recall the exact conversation at the Andaz, the gist of it was that:

  • there wasn’t anything recognizing and celebrating works of excellence in interaction design, besides the IxDA conference once a year.
  • interaction design was being rapidly pigeon-holed as “digital” or “apps” by other awards programs such as IDSA, AIGA, Webby, etc.
  • the fast-paced evolution of the discipline was not being recorded. Only ACM was arguably documenting it partially.

A few weeks after returning to San Francisco, it still seemed like a good idea, so Jennifer and I created a one-page draft of a high-level timeline and milestones for getting the awards off the ground. We emailed it to Janna DeVylder, then President of the Interaction Design Association, on April 27, 2010 concluding that  it “seem[ed] pretty feasible”.

You’re crazy, but go ahead. Put together a pithy proposal I can bring to the Board.

Janna DeVylder, President of the Interaction Design Association

With that, we started drafting a plan on GoogleDocs. Four weeks later, we posted it to the IxDA Basecamp for the Board. The document included 9 sections: Mission Statement, Organizing Principles, Schedule, Timeline, Value Proposition, Budget, Potential Categories, Jury, Committee, Next Steps.

Here is a summarized, redacted  and annotated version of the plan.

1. Mission Statement

The IxDA Awards is an international competition which aims to:

  1. Recognize, promote, and celebrate excellence in the discipline of Interaction Design.
  2. Position IxDA as the premiere international Interaction Design association.
  3. [Redacted].

2. Organizing Principles

The guiding principles for the Awards were based on IxDA’s mission.

  • Globally inclusive
  • Encourage plurality, not popularity
  • Share, Learn and Discuss
  • A point of reference and lighthouse to advance the discipline of interaction design

3.  Schedule

This section described the ideal schedule for the awards and how it would complement other initiatives from IxDA – conference, local chapters, etc.

4. Timeline

The timeline listed monthly activities with the goal to launch at Interaction12 in Dublin. We had things like: Pre-announce awards at Interaction11 conference, Open calls for entry (2 months), Select Finalists (3 weeks), Collect finalists’ materials / collateral for website (~3 weeks), etc.

4. Value Proposition

The value proposition contained our assumptions of the tangible and intangible benefits for participants, winners, sponsors, and partners. The core of it the revolved around recognition, celebration, publicity, and exposure which drives most awards programs.

5. Budget

The budget section included three things: ballpark costs, entry fees, and break even point.

Without going into too much details, we calculated our “ballpark costs” with the following six line items: IxDA Conference (winners’ comps, awards ceremony), Prizes, Printing, Jury Travel, Jury incentives, and Miscellaneous.

The entry fees only differentiated students and professionals and was based on an average of other awards programs. We later changed the fee structure to be more affordable overall, and more inclusive of other parts of the world.

Needless to say that we were way off both in terms of number of line items to consider and projected costs. In the end, the budget of the first edition of the Interaction Awards ended up being three times more than this initial back of the envelop estimation. In retrospect, I don’t think we would have continued if we knew how much it would really cost… and how much work it would consequently be.

6. Categories & Awards Structure

While we knew it wasn’t “right”, our initial working assumption was to investigate medium-focused (mobile, desktop, product, etc.) and/or context-focused (healthcare, education, etc.) categories. We also devised the awards winners structure and defined the number of winners based on the number of categories, percentage of winners vs. participants, budget, entry types, and entrant status.

7. Jury

In this section, we defined the role of IxDA and the Awards committee in the selection of the 7-person jury and jurying session. It was paramount for us to have an unbiased jury of experts to judge the awards, so we agreed upon the following rules.

  1. The Awards co-chairs will nominate the jury chair.
  2. The Awards co-chairs and jury chair will select the remaining members of the jury.
  3. IxDA President will nominate one IxDA Board members to join the jury.
  4. All together we will ensure an equal gender and regional split.
  5. All together we will strive for a broad diversity of thoughts and experiences.
  6. All together we will ensure a balanced representation between academia, corporations, agencies, independent contrators, and thinkers.
  7. The Awards co-chairs will ensure complete integrity and independence of the jury.

8. Committee

The award committee will develop and launch the first two editions of the awards.

Jennifer Bove Co-Chair
Raphael Grignani Co-Chair
Advisory board member
Advisory board member
Advisory board member

I’m not sure what we were thinking at the time but it became clear that a two-person team and three advisors wouldn’t be able to pull it off.

8. Next steps

Our next steps were to recruit an advisory board, determine the categories, define the entry process and judging criteria.


This first draft outlined most of the areas you have to consider while running an award program, but it did it rather superficially. Thankfully the Board was able to read past the omissions and showed a lot of enthousiam and support.

I’m really happy with the initiative as it has been outlined, and excited to be able to host the first awards ceremony at Interaction 12 :)

Steve Baty, Interaction12 Chair

Jenn and Raphael, there is definite support for this. The Board has definite support for the idea, and agree to move forward.

Janna DeVylder, President of the Interaction Design Association

I agree – this looks really great.

Nick Gould, Interaction Design Association Board Member

So, this is how the IxDA Interaction Awards started.