The whole experience judging Communication Arts was pretty darn cool. I saw a lot of work and was inspired by a good chunk of it. There truly are some amazing shops out there creating stimulating, knock your socks off work.

But what I really enjoyed were the other judges. What an interesting, smart, funny (Insert Graham Clifford here), insightful and opinionated group. Engaged and current, focused and detail-oriented… and each oh-so-good at what they do.

If you ever wonder why CA is the show of all shows, the answer is Jean and Patrick Coyne. I have to hand it to them; they really do their homework when selecting judges. In only nine people, they manage to find just the right mix – people from different parts of the country, of different ages, genders and styles. It’s this mix that produces such a stunning retrospective and celebration of the best-of-the-best in communication materials from the previous year.

The days started at 8:30 sharp. Jean herself would crack the whip and call roll each morning. A couple of judges, who shall remain nameless, got 8:31 knocks on their doors as Jean, that little spitfire, practically goose-stepped down the hall to round us up. We worked a solid eight hours each day, looking, disseminating, rewarding and dismissing entries. At the end of one particularly frantically paced day, Jeri Heiden summed it up… “my eyes hurt.” I think we all felt her pain, but we quickly washed our fatigue away with evening drinks and laughter. Let’s just say we moved into the hotel bar.

The days were long and tiring, but I feel energized – like I have a new lease on design. There were some fantastic designs, and I think this experience has given me a sense of perspective. Entries were submitted from across the globe, so I was able to get a feel for trends; not only in design, but in the types of projects being created as well. Was I inspired? You betcha!

On July 15, I celebrated my 50th birthday while judging CA. I have to say, this experience was just the shot in the arm I needed as I wrapped up my 50th trip around the Sun.