Interview With 2010 DBH 10K Winner Yonil

I had a chance to chat with the big winner of the Design By Humans 2010 $10,000 design contest, Jonathan Lax (who is better known in the design circles as YONIL). YONIL talks about the stress of competing, the inspiration behind We Did This To Ourselves, and what he’ll be doing with his big cash prize!

Coty: Yonil, congratulations on winning the Design By Humans $10,000 contest! What has the last few weeks been like having to wait to find out whether you had won?

Yonil: Thanx a lot man! I’ve been saying this to anyone who would listen from competition-day one: This was the most intense and challenging competition I have ever took part in.

A true mind and emotion rollercoaster. From the second you submit your designs up until the final stages there are almost two months of promoting & introducing your designs to friends, family and even strangers.

Then there’s the anticipation for every phase of the competition, seeing if you got up a stage or not. The last couple of weeks were really really hard to handle – no jokes – I personally, never actually thought I would win. fantasized, yes, but at the same time tried avoiding the thoughts about the whole thing. Winning was an absolute shocker for me.

Coty: You pretty much dominated the 10K contest having had 2 designs voted into the final top 8. What was your reaction like when Design By Humans announced you as the 10K winner?

Yonil: I wouldn’t say I dominated anything. Yes, I did have 2 designs up there in the final 8, but if you ask me if it made me feel any safer than all the others then the answer is one definite “No way”. After two failed attempts (in 2009 and 2008) to make it through the first elimination round at the DBH 10K, I was so happy to find two of my designs in the final 24 – you can’t imagine how happy. Then the final-8 day arrived and I had good faith that one of my designs will make it through. I wake up to see both made it through.

How do I handle this? What do I do next? Obviously I didn’t have such great promotional skills like others in the competition had, so I just went with spreading the word in any way I know of possible.

When they announced my design as the winner I was kind of shocked. My reaction was opening up a beer bottle (it was 9am here), sitting back on my sofa at home, letting all the stress wash away and simply enjoying the feeling. Good moment.

Coty: What was your inspiration for your winning design, We Did This To Ourselves?

Yonil: “We did this to ourselves” is a statement about what we do to earth. Us humans have to start realizing what is happening and face the facts that none are responsible but us and that is also why we’re the ones who must fix it. One plastic bag at a time.

Instead, it seems like we’re only getting more and more tangled in our problems for all the wrong reasons, rather than changing our ways.

Coty: The last two DBH 10K winners came from the Philippines. Are you happy to bring the prize home to Israel?

Yonil: I guess it’s nice and all, but it doesn’t work that way for me really. I judge a designer by her/his ability to create something I can relate to, appreciate and that changes my state of mind or emotion.

The country we live in isn’t really a factor you know…

Coty: Both Zerobriant and Christian San Jose/Archan Nair did an amazing job at promoting their designs. But at the end of the day, they didn’t win and you did. What did you do to promote We Did This To Ourselves?

Yonil: Can’t say I did something completely new here but here’s the list of my exact actions:

  1. I obviously emailed every single person I know about the competition asking them to vote for the design and comment. Some friends and family members helped by spreading the emails around to their circles of friends.
  2. After making it to the final-24 I designed a minisite so that people would know exactly what I’m talking about when asking for their vote and so that they could find instructions on how to register to DBH easily. This is the address: http://yonilatdbh.weebly.com/
  3. Posted pics on my website (www.yonil.com), on Flickr, Emptees and Deviantart requesting people’s help if they like the designs.
  4. Using facebook in every way possible, posting the links to the minisite and directly to the design at DBH, opening events for every round of the competition and posting pictures of the designs everywhere I could.
  5. Also on Facebook I uploaded a picture of the designs asking people to tag themselves in it so that as many people as possible would see it and read the info. I promised to have a raffle for all the people tagged and give out a free shirt to five people in case I got 1st place, and so I did.
  6. I printed out little business cards about myself in the competition and handed them out at the local Pecha-Kucha night in Tel-Aviv.
  7. Friends obviously helped a lot posting the links on their facebook walls and promoting my designs on their blogs.

Coty: Some critics say that contests like these are more so a popularity contest than about the art. That is, the most and original and unique pieces do not always win. What would you say to these critics?

Yonil: I don’t really like competitions based on popularity only where “most votes=win”.

If you go by votes, my designs in this competition were far from first place – I’m 110% certain of that – so I wasn’t the most “popular”.

I think that DesignByHumans have found themselves a very good formula for picking out their winners. Yes, one of the elements for judging a design is the number of times it’s been voted for, I think that’s mainly what makes this website a community alongside it being an online store, but the votes are merely one factor in the whole formula, and if you ask me, far from being the most important one.

I’ve seen designs with as much as 30 votes get printed and vice versa, designs with tons of votes that didn’t print. I’ve seen designs that I like get printed and designs that I don’t. What’s important is that the DBH staff get the final say – and this is exactly how I believe it should be – it is their business, it is their store and the public opinion is important, but it’s only an indicator for finding out where the wind blows.

Coty: Of course, people want to know what you plan to do with the big $10,000 prize. Do you have anything crazy planned for the cash?

Yonil: I just got engaged last week. So most of the prize money will probably go into the whole “getting our life started thing” I dunno – Ikea furniture maybe? How whack is that??? heh…

The one thing I do know I will be getting for myself is a Wacom Cintiq LCD screen/tablet. Been fantasizing about this one for too long.