L to R: Edinburgh designer Emma McDowall; Sweetdram director Daniel Fisher; Local Heroes founder Stacey Hunter

The Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) Award announces the 2019 Design Commission curated by Edinburgh’s Local Heroes and supported by Sweetdram.

Developed by The Scottish Music Industry Association (SMIA), The Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) Award is one of Scotland’s most ambitious and lucrative arts prizes.  With £20,000 awarded to the winning album and nine runners-up prizes of £1,000, The SAY Award champions the strength and diversity of Scotland’s musical output and the vital, enduring relationship it shares with the world of design, celebrating emerging and established artistic practice.

A unique feature of The SAY Award is its Design Commission. From flip books and ceramic bells to Jesmonite discs and handmade quilts, each year a designer is commissioned to make bespoke prizes for the Shortlisted artists, offering a creative and exciting complement to the award’s musical counterpart.


3 of the concrete totems specially designed by Emma McDowall and curated by Local Heroes with support from Sweetdram
With The SAY Award moving to the capital city for the first time, The SMIAnaturally wanted to reach out and engage with the talented local design community, so approached Edinburgh-based renowned design curators Local Heroes, who create platforms for presenting and experiencing design based in Scotland. They develop curatorial projects, commissions and events with modern cultural institutions and brands, and have even just completed a curated collection of 10 pieces going on show in the First Minister’s office at Holyrood.

Local Heroes work tirelessly to create opportunities for high quality design from Scotland to be presented and promoted to the public and industries, at home and on the international stage. They support designers to develop exciting new work through commissions, and pioneer cross-sector partnerships uniting expertise in design, culture, cities, creativity, enterprise, entrepreneurship, travel and tourism. Through exhibitions and events they provide unique opportunities for people to appreciate Scotland’s contemporary design landscape. Find out more about Local Heroes here.

Stacey Hunter, Design Curator + Producer at Local Heroes said: “It’s such an exciting time to be in Scotland as the quality of the creative projects taking place here is so high. We are delighted to partner with The SAY Award to curate the totems for the winner and shortlisted musicians. Emma McDowall is a designer who can expertly bring together tactile materials, distinctive colour palettes and the element of surprise – an aspect that is often so key to successful design projects. Her UV reactive concrete totems will look just as dynamic in daylight as they do in the dark and will be treasured objects for this year’s Shortlisted artists.”

Hilary Goodfellow from The Scottish Album of the Year Award said: “In our fast-paced world, we are blasted with static noise on a daily basis. It is so refreshing to work on a project that exists solely to reward artistic endeavour, and celebrates the album as an artform, and the ritual involved in taking time out to listen to an album in the order that the artist intended.

“The Design Commission is one of my favourite parts of The SAY Award, it’s a chance to explore the special reciprocal relationship between art, design and music. To reward creativity with creativity, and to shine a light on the incredible design talent making world class work here in Scotland. We are delighted to be working with Edinburgh based design curators Local Heroes, who introduced us to Emma McDowall’s work, and greatly appreciate Sweetdram’s support which facilitates the Design Commission.

“For me, art, design and music have always been inextricably linked – an appreciation of one undoubtably enhances the other, and the challenge for all three mediums is the same, to make their carefully crafted messages relatable and memorable enough to resonate with strangers. Emma’s totems certainly do this, they are beautifully crafted, bold and statuesque, and we love how they reflect back the unique geology of the Salisbury Crags, which themselves have been a leitmotif in our designer Martin Baillie’s creative during all stages of The SAY Award campaign.”

Local Heroes commissioned designer Emma McDowall to create 10 distinctive cast concrete awards inspired by the basalt cliffs of Edinburgh’s Salisbury Crags for the Shortlisted albums. The design and production of these awards is facilitated by support from Sweetdram, The SAY Award partner and trailblazers of modern distilling based in Edinburgh. Sweetdram make progressive, flavour-driven spirits in Edinburgh so it was a symbiotic partnership propelled by shared values of innovation and the will to do things differently. Sweetdram’s support covers the artist fee and materials required to produce the totems.

Artist Emma McDowall said: “I was delighted to have been chosen to design and manufacture this year’s SAY Award – this commission really gave me the freedom to be expressive, sculptural and experimental without any of the commercial pressures. The brief was to take inspiration from Edinburgh and specifically the Salisbury Crags – dramatic cliffs located in the middle of the city centre which truly makes our city unique. I mimicked the textures found within the Crags by carving and chiselling plaster which I then translated into the concrete objects. I took colour inspiration from Scottish landscape too – deep grey-blues and forest greens dropping into a natural sand tone, creating interesting details where they blend together. I also incorporated a UV element on the textured face of the object to add something unexpected and honour the exciting nature of the awards and the nominated artists.

“I listen to music in the studio on my radio. I really love Young Fathers who won the award last year, I have been to see them live a few times and met them, they live around the corner from my studio! I love music where the artist’s emotions and passions really translate and resonate with the listener.”

Sweetdram co-founder Andrew MacLeod Smith said: “The Design Commission epitomises what it means to be Scottish today by actively encouraging collaboration, mutuality and, above all, creative community. And while we feel extremely fortunate to be a part of it, since being a sponsor doesn’t merit one of Emma’s stunning sculptures, we plan to steal Auntie Flo’s at the ceremony.”


Emma McDowall designs and makes colourful concreate vessels and objects that celebrate the naturally occuring surface pattern and textural imperfections. All are moulded and hand cast in Edinburgh. Each product is completely unique in its colour, texture and design, with many pieces still moulded using found or recycled materials. Emma focuses on the interplay between colour and material, celebrating the naturally occurring surface pattern and textural imperfections.

Comments are closed.