We've received an enormous amount of positive feedback over the years to our annual feature “Young Designers to Watch.” It provides other aspiring designers with something to shoot for, it gives manufacturers a heads-up on who may using a lot of their products, and it offers established designers a peek at their future competition. We're so pleased with it we have some ideas for expanding it in 2003.

Still, there's always room for improvement. We recently received a letter from Tom Burch, a young student designer based in the Chicago area — you can read it below — which addressed some concerns he had in such a thoughtful way that I wanted to both share it with our readers and respond to it as completely as possible.

First of all, Tom, thanks so much for your letter. All of your points are valid, and I'd like to take them one by one:

There are a couple of reasons we don't include images of the chosen designer's work. The most important is the one you hit on: we simply don't have the space. The other reason is that, obviously, you can't really show the work of the sound designer in the pages of the magazine, and we want this to be as fair and equal to all designers as possible. Still, we will consider including shots of next year's winners on our website.

As for point two, you're absolutely right. The majority of previous honorees have either worked or lived in the New York area, and we need to do a better job of selecting designers on a national level. However, it's also fair to say that less than 50% of their work occurs in the region; the rest happens in regional theatres around the US and in many cases opera houses and other venues around the world. Having said that, we intend to make every effort to consider those designers living and working in other parts of the country, and will be enlisting educators from across the country to help us in our selections in the future. Though I can't say that future winners won't also be based in New York — it is arguably the theatrical capital of the country — I think we can do better to broaden the search, and I hope our choices next October and in future years will reflect that.

As for the last point, the reason we always promote the NYU Designer Showcase is simple: they send us the information every year. No other school or university does that, and I would urge all students and teachers reading this to remember that next spring when preparing your showcases. It's a great way of spotlighting young talent. By extension, I would also ask that all aspiring and working young designers send me information on your upcoming projects. Our goal is to spotlight and celebrate all the best work of young and established designers, but the bottom line is we can't include you in that mix if we don't know who you are or what you're working on. So keep us informed. And Tom, that includes you, too.