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Bright Ideas

Design a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door; design a more energy-efficient lamp, and maybe win some cash. Such is the promise of the Bright Ideas Lighting Design Competition, sponsored by Philips and the design site Inhabitat. The field of more than 400 entries has been narrowed to 40 finalists, and online voting is now open for the people's choice winner (and to assist the judges in selecting their top picks). Designed to showcase energy-saving LED bulbs, each of the creative lamps featured incorporate green and/or recycled materials, ranging from aluminum scraps and plastic bottles to egg cartons and an old blender. You have through Sunday, June 15, to shine a light on your favorite.

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Cause/Affect

The San Francisco chapter of AIGA is out to celebrate the efforts of designers and organizations who aim to positively impact our society with Cause/Affect. Open to designers and design students around the world, the biennial competition seeks design work created over the past two years that promotes or supports social good and actively engages in enriching our lives. (If the work contributes directly to the profit of a commercial organization, don't bother entering it.) An all-star jury that includes IDEO's Adam Reineck and Karin Hibma of Cronan Design will select the winners, and online voting planned for this fall will decide the People's Choice Award. Entries must be received by June 24.

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Earth Confessions

Grist has been a proud provider of environmental news and commentary with a wry twist since 1999, and so the Seattle-based nonprofit greets each Earth Day with some eye rolling. This year, the organization is calling out the nonsense of what Hanna Welch, Grist's special projects coordinator, describes as "a singular day when the faithless are moved to buy reusable grocery bags" with Earth Confessions. She promises that the "extra snarky" new site offers the opportunity to confess your sins against the Earth and swear off your evil ways forever. Those not comfortable airing their dirty laundry in public can peruse the Sin Gallery.

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The Art of Video Games

In March 2012, the Smithsonian will debut "The Art of Video Games," an exhibition exploring the 40-year evolution of video games as an artistic medium, and the curators are asking the public to help select the 80 games that will be represented in the show. You have through April 17 to cast your online votes for the likes of Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Super Mario World, SimCity, Halo Wars, Flower, and dozens of other contenders in five distinct eras of gaming. Just try to resist the pull of sentimental favorites: "This is an art exhibition," notes the website, "so be sure to vote for games that you think are visually spectacular or boast innovative design!" The winning games will be revealed on May 5.

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Seed Your Creative Career

Recognizing that evocatively named crops such as Long Island Cheese Pumpkins, Double Yield Cucumbers, and Mammoth Grey Stripe Sunflowers are ripe for illustration, the Hudson Valley Seed Library created Art Packs, recycled-paper seed pouches that feature the work of artists from New York's Hudson Valley. Now, the company is expanding the popular product line and inviting creative types from neighboring regions (metro NY and areas that border New York State, including western Connecticut, western Massachusetts, western Vermont, eastern Pennsylvania, and northern New Jersey) to apply to become a seed pack artist. Those working in everything from paint and paper to textiles and stained glass are invited to submit two images of pieces that best represent their style. Garden-related work is not required. "We are looking at your work -- originality, craftsmanship, composition, medium, consistency -- not necessarily the subject," note the judges. The deadline for entries is April 29.

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Will Eisner’s New York

Marvel at the career of Bronx-born comics pioneer and graphic novel master Will Eisner (1917-2005) in a new exhibition at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art (MoCCA) in New York. Opening Tuesday, March 1, "Will Eisner’s New York: From the Spirit to the Modern Graphic Novel" will showcase work inspired by and featuring the legendary artist's hometown. From his trailblazing comic superhero, The Spirit, to his autobiographical novels, Eisner portrayed New York as only a native of the city could know it, according to curators Denis Kitchen and Danny Fingeroth. Adding context to original comic art and paintings by Eisner will be works by creators who were influenced by him, including Art Spiegelman and Harvey Kurtzman.

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20 Awesome Billboards

Sick of boring advertising? Get inspired by 20 eye-catching billboards. Swiss designer and blogger Mirko Humbert rounded up these standout specimens, which range from IKEA's three-dimensional ode to joy and a bright idea from The Economist (a giant light bulb that illuminates when someone walks under it) to chameleonlike IBM billboards and Adidas's literal take on going green: a giant Samba shoe comprised entirely of plants and flowers. "Most of the time, billboard ads are an annoyance, filling the side of the road with cheap design and poor concepts," says Humbert. "However, these billboards are funny, creative and/or well-thought ads that really stand-out."

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Etsy Teams Up with NASA

Etsy in space? The online craft marketplace has teamed with NASA to creatively commemorate the Space Shuttle Program, which will take its final flight early next year. Behold the Space Craft Contest, for which Etsy is scouring the cosmos for designs inspired by NASA, its programs, and the wonders of space exploration. Entries will be accepted in the categories of 2D original art (painting, drawing, hand-pulled print, mixed media, flat collage), 2D art reproduction (photographic or computer-generated print), and 3D art (anything not 2D, including wearable art and soft sculpture). One grand prize winner will receive a $500 Etsy shopping spree and an all-expenses-paid trip to attend the shuttle launch at Kennedy Space Center as NASA's VIP guests. Unfortunately, you don't have light years to enter, only through Tuesday, November 2.

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National Design Week

Tomorrow marks the beginning of National Design Week, an annual initiative of the Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, to spread the word about fields ranging from graphic design and architecture to fashion and product design. Among the week's highlights will be the National Design Awards gala, and the celebration is not limited to those on the star-studded guest list. Tune in online this Tuesday, October 12, at 7:00 p.m. EST as graphic designer Stephen Doyle hosts a panel discussion with his fellow National Design Award winners, including Lisa Strausfeld (interaction design) and Tom Dair (product design). Wondering how good design can also be good business? Don't miss the museum's live webcast of its "Business of Design" event on Wednesday morning.

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Old-School Posters Revealed

A team of workers renovating London's Notting Hill Gate subway (tube) station recently unearthed walls of colorful posters that have been there since the last round of major repairs—in the late 1950s. The postwar posters include highly stylized advertisements for films of the day (Around the World in 80 Days, Too Many Crooks), events including the Daily Mail's annual "Ideal Home" exhibition, and consumer products such as Pepsodent toothpaste ("You'll wonder where the yellow went"). Don't bother crossing the pond to examine the treasure trove of vintage graphic design, which remains inaccessible to the public. Just head to Flickr, where you can view the London Underground's photos of the inspiring posters.

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