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And the Creativity Oscar Goes To…

We’ve all seen the logo – a colourful, fat and funky city moat – on t-shirts, stickers or as a sponsor of one creative event or another. But even after having written about Chiang Mai Creative City (CMCC) a few times in Citylife, and in spite of its huge following on Facebook and solid brand recognition, many people still scratch their heads over what exactly it is.

Simply put, it is an initiative comprised of a loose network of academics, businesses and government organisations which aims to develop and promote Chiang Mai so that it can become an internationally recognised city of creativity and innovation.

The Annual Chiang Mai Design Awards (CDA) by CMCC, now in its third year, is organised to encourage innovation and creativity across a range of design categories.  Launched during the Nimmanhaemin Art and Design Promenade in December 2011, the CDA’s objective is to recognise, promote and celebrate Chiang Mai creativity in exciting new ways.

The benefits for award winners range from large-scale recognition to support for the development of their projects. This support comes in the form of design, development and export offered by numerous organisations including the Thailand Creative and Design Centre (TCDC), Department of Export Promotion (DEP), Department of Intellectual Property (DIP) and the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA). The winning designs are also displayed in exhibitions in Chiang Mai and Bangkok.

I met up with “Mr. Network” himself, Senior Advisor and Judge Martin Venzky-Stalling, at his office at Chiang Mai University to learn more.

“We are a voluntary formed network,” he told me. “We want to bring artists together to contribute to Chiang Mai’s art and design. We want to promote Chiang Mai in a new light, promote designers, promote websites, and promote different designs and products.”

The selection process involves several rounds of discussion, analysis and voting by creative experts from both the public and private sectors. Judges look for entries that demonstrate originality, market appeal, uniqueness, and commercial acumen. The CDA specifies that designs should have a contemporary touch, not just pure arts and crafts.

“Our judges come from all walks of life,” Venzky-Stalling said. “Some even from a non-design background, hence we have some serious discussions because everybody has a different definition of design.”

Currently, there are four categories: Architecture and Interior, Crafts and Furniture, Printed and New Media and Packaging. The only rule to submit a design for the awards is that it must have been designed, produced and sold in Chiang Mai.

Venzky-Stalling hopes to expand the awards in future years, to keep pace with Chiang Mai’s own expansion as a city. “We want to add some more categories,” he said. “You see so many shopping malls in Chiang Mai. We are looking to add a retail design category next year. This will focus on shop designs, window displays and shop and mall interiors.”

Now that this year’s awards have been handed out in a posh ceremony to beaming recipients, CDA is already beginning to look for 2014’s creativity. So, if you admire a particularly creative piece of design, or have even produced one yourself, visit the Facebook page CDA2013, or the website www.creativechiangmai.com/en/ida to submit it.