Expert Judges Reflect back on Outstanding Design Competition

“I was very proud to be invited to be involved in the future” – Judges Reflect Back on the Tremendous Blackwood Design Awards 2017/18


It was only a couple months ago that the Blackwood Design Awards 2017/18 (BDA), an international competition, came to a climactic finale in Glasgow when ingenious designers and inventors video-called from around the globe to pitch to an expert judging panel.


First launched in 2013, the BDA seeks to discover and champion brilliant new concepts and designs that have the potential to change lives and help people who have disabilities live life to the full.


Meet the judges


(Pictured clockwise from top left: Fiona Thwaites, Gavin Neate, Lorne Crerar, Richard Neville)

The 2017/18 contest brought together a panel of expert judges from varied backgrounds. Richard Neville is quick to acknowledge, “I was the layman’s voice among the judges. I have no expertise in design or as a service user but my ability to learn information quickly and identify good ideas really helped me to choose the winners”.


The editor-in-chief of Morning Newspapers for the DC Thompson Group, Richard has twice served on the judging panel for the Blackwood Design Awards – bringing with him a wealth of experience that comes from working with a wide range of people in different fields as well as his ability to quickly grasp concepts and ideas.


“It has been a fantastic experience learning about the challenges faced by people who use the products that come forward through the awards”, Richard says.


A newcomer to the panel was the CEO and founder of Neatebox, Gavin Neate.


“Having spent 18 years working directly with blind and visually impaired people I have seen first-hand the challenges they face daily.”


Gavin’s knowledge of both practical and technological solutions, as well as his experience in setting up and running a technology company, made him an invaluable member of the panel.


He was especially impressed with the winner of the Best New Concept, Andrew Taylor, and his idea for a headset that guides visually impaired runners.


“I really enjoyed his presentation. His attitude in the short video he submitted was very good. He was well prepared, and he had great ideas about how the product could be developed in the future.”


The value of the Blackwood Design Awards


Two other new-comers to the panel this year were Fiona Thwaites and Professor Lorne Crerar.


Fiona Thwaites (who is a wheelchair user) has decades of experience in the housing and care sector and is also a Member of Blackwood. “I’ve seen life from both perspectives, so I was able to look at the designs and consider if that type of project or product would be useful for me. However, I was also thinking more about a bigger picture in terms of how it might work for a larger number of people.”


Professor Lorne Crerar is the founder and chairman of Harper Macleod LLP, one of Scotland’s leading law firms. “I was pleased to be invited to join the panel. I was very interested in what the panel was considering in terms of innovation and helping those who need it. I saw it as a privilege to be asked to judge and was happy to give time to do so because it is a very worthwhile course.”


Electronic voting made the judging process straightforward for the panel who used digital tablets to vote on each entry in all the different categories.

“We all came together as judges, talked through the entries, had a general discussion and the judges tended to come together in a kind of consensus”.


Fiona shares the same enthusiasm for the BDA, “[The designers] might have the opportunity to get in touch with people who might offer funding or advice on how to develop their product. It’s an opportunity to bring it to a wider audience and finding a way onto the market.”


Gavin’s parting advice to inventors who are thinking of taking part in Blackwood’s competition: “working in the world of innovation and development, we have to be aware of what already exists and whether we are repeating what somebody else has done before. The idea of invention is to come up with something new that hasn’t been done before and then you have other challenges such as funding, development, the right people and right time, engagement and marketing.”

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