National Design Awards: Rick Valicenti Greets Win with ‘Surprise and Delight’

Rick Valicenti and an installation view of the 2010-2011 exhibition “Curiosities: Rick Valicenti and the 21st-Century Thirst” at Florida Atlantic University’s Schmidt Center Gallery. (Photos from right: FAU students and Bud Rodecker/3st; courtesy Rick Valicenti)

In the wake of this morning’s announcement of the recipients of the 2011 National Design Awards, we’ll be spending the next few days tracking down a few of the winners, thrusting a non-functioning microphone in their faces, and breathlessly asking, “You’ve just won a National Design Award, what are you going to do next?” First up: Rick Valicenti, the winner in Communication Design, who the jury lauded for “graphics [that] bristle with innovation, imagination, curiosity, and craft” as well as his “leading presence in design as practitioner, educator, and mentor.”

The founder of Chicago-based design collaborative Thirst is no stranger to major honors (he received the AIGA Medal in 2006) or the Cooper-Hewitt (his work has been included in the musem’s National Design Triennial), but word of his NDA win still came as a pleasant shock to Valicenti. “Both surprise and delight,” is how he described his reaction as he prepared to follow Ingo Maurer to the podium at the Gravity Free conference today in San Francisco. “To be recognized at this level is an indescribable professional reward which both validates the circuitous path I made through design as well as reminds me that the time practicing design is about more than simply the artifacts,” Valicenti told us. “It’s about being passionate, curious, generous, humble, and hanging out on some edge.” Any celebration plans? “All in all, I am soaking it in and enjoy the supportive outpouring of so many friends and colleagues.”