Every design stems from a unique challenge: to create something that not only works, but is instantly understood, looks beautiful and fits with your client’s needs.

It’s no easy feat to reach this sweet spot, as any designer will tell you, and just looking over the end results never communicates the complete picture of what went into creating a successful design. This is why AIGA, a massive US-based organization for professional graphic designers, started its Justified competition — to select 18 excellent designs, detailed through case studies that show how and why decisions were made.

Now you can see the contest’s 2012 winners, and look inside these great works to find out what makes them tick. In other words, you’re going to want to check out some of these projects, a few of which we’ve included below.

Nick Cave:

 Dive into the winning projects from AIGAs “Justified” design competition

The campaign for “Meet Me at the Center of the Earth” centered on a strong call to action and the energy and color of Nick Cave’s unique set of suits. The call to action on the press ads and wheat-paste campaign screamed “MEET ME,” encouraging everyone who saw them to come to the Seattle Art Museum to meet the Soundsuits and encounter the work of this incredibly unique artist.

THINK, An Exploration into Making the World Work Better:

 Dive into the winning projects from AIGAs “Justified” design competition

“THINK” played three different roles often considered to be at odds. It was a selling tool used to explain IBM’s capabilities to clients and business leaders. It was an educational experience used by schoolteachers to explain the role of technology in making the world work better. And it was an art installation that brought to life real-time data and was photographed by thousands of visitors and passersby.


HTML & CSS, Design & Build Websites:

 Dive into the winning projects from AIGAs “Justified” design competition

The main strategy was to create something highly visual, and to have it appear as at-home in the graphic design section of a bookstore as it did the computing section.

AIGA Executive Director Ric Grefé explains how design often reaches far beyond presentation, directly into creating solutions for complex business challenges:

So many people tend to think of design as the final step—making a website to launch a product, producing a brochure to announce a new service. But these results show not only that design can make a positive impact on the bottom line, but that designers can play a strategic role in solving business challenges.

Check out all the winning projects, their explanations and the judges remarks via the link below.

➤ Justified Competition: 2012 Selections