Designers need validation.

It’s sad, but I do think designers need validation. Or perhaps, more accurately, it’s clients that seek third party approval of a designer or a design.

How often does a designer present a concept and get a great reception only to be told the client will return with their response at a later date … they just need to ‘ask another’. Could be a boss, a colleague, or even a partner. The client needs the designer to be validated.

What if you could present to a client with validation in place?

Not just validation that you’re a great designer, validation that you are a clear communicator. Proof you have taken audience, purpose, format and language into consideration to package and deliver a succinct, clear message. Validation by the best in the business.

That’s what the Clear Communication Awards can offer.

Carolyn Alexander, Joh Kirby and I co-founded the Clear Communication Awards late last year. It’s interesting that we come from vastly different backgrounds with vastly different skillsets and careers.

Joh’s Head of Governance Risk and Compliance at Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, a non-executive Board Member of Victoria Legal Aid and ex-CEO of the Victorian Law Foundation. Carolyn Alexander is a Communications specialist, writer and editor that’s most recently held senior positions at Department of Health and Human Services and VCAT where she was Manager, Strategic Communications. Their skill sets is quite different to mine, a designer, writer and now co-CEO of the Design Business Council.

Our different backgrounds mean we come to the awards with different mindsets about what makes clear communication. The result is a wide variety of categories and a breadth in criteria. We’ve done our homework, similar awards exist in other countries, difference is we’re putting more of an emphasis on design and the total communication package.

What’s interesting to me is our vastly different reasons for founding the Clear Communication Awards.

Me? I wanted an award that gave designers cred. An award that delivers designers a superpower that could be held in front of a client when they mused whether a serif just might look better in that headline. An award that could be waved above a designers head when sound research stating that millennials really can read is being questioned. An award that could be used as a shield of steel at a pitch. Like accreditation but better.

Our criteria is certainly not just about aesthetics.

The Clear Communication Awards will recognise and promote – funnily enough – clear communication. They will applaud work that combines excellence in design, communication principles and plain language to make it as easy as possible for the user to find the information they need at first read.

Judges are being finalised, but I can say I am stoked by the calibre of the panel. All our judges are specialists in their field: they come from design, plain language principles and communication backgrounds. We’ve got judges like Che Douglas, Head of Design at the Wall Street Journal – a paper acknowledged to be a leader in the design of information graphics. And, more locally Christine Elmer, Head of Communications at Cabrini, and Vice President International Association of Business Communicators Editorial Committee.

Intelligent people that know stuff.

So, designers, I think entering, and winning a Clear Communication Awards will give your work validation. Validation by a panel of specialist judges that should positively persuade a client that you know stuff too.

The Awards open for entries late June. I hope you support them.

Full details on our website


Carol Mackay

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The Design Business Review is Australia’s only online design management magazine. It’s professional development information written specifically for Australian designers by Australian designers. Best of all, it’s free.

Carol Mackay is a graphic designer with 30+ years experience managing Mackay Branson design, a successful Melbourne design studio co-founded with Greg Branson.

In 2018 Carol pivoted from client-driven work to (re)join Greg at the Design Business Council. There she uses her experience to help designers build robust businesses, and help businesses integrate, and profit from, design.

In 2018 she co-founded the Clear Communication Awards, and the Business of Design Week. Both will be run in 2019

Carol has the mindset of a designer and the focus of a business-owner. Her special skill is comprehension – the ability to listen, understand the situation and use design to translate complex messages into plain language.

An archive of her design work at
Her current work can be viewed at and

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