Sonia Greteman, president and creative director, went to California two weeks ago to judge Communication Arts’ 49th Design Annual, the design industry’s most respected competition. During her days, she spent hours pouring over hundreds of entries with eight other industry experts. At night, she and the judges gathered around a table to eat, drink and ruminate on the industry. In the following posts, we’ll get a glimpse into CA and the fascinating conversations.

When you receive a copy of a Communication Art’s design annual every November, its glossy pages are packed with vibrant images of stellar design. But for all of its perfection, you simply don’t realize the process, pain and dedication it takes to weed out, hone, cull and edit down the sheer magnitude of entries to a small, focused, yet inspiring show.

Entries were down this year, I’m told, though I’m sure it has something to do with the economy. Regardless, there are still a lot of design and communication materials being cranked out. The first shock in judging CA is the fact that there is a bunch of bad stuff entered – borderline atrocious, “Joe’s Pawn Shop” kind of stuff. I mean, I’m always so critical of our own work, only entering one or two pieces, but we really shoulda entered a few more this year… We woulda been a contendah.

The second realization is the pure quantity, the mountains of materials and money spent on this stuff. You can’t help but be amazed by the amount of time, energy, resources and manpower spent on design and printed materials. I saw more four-color, glossy, matte, uncoated, translucent, multi-process, die-cut, tipped-on, folded-up, foil-stamped, letter-pressed, metallic-inked, oversized, illustrated, photographed pieces than I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

But here’s the good news: Our business is alive and well… And, if not for the occasional pawn shop ad, flourishing.