How do you gain recognition when great design is everywhere?
The Red Dot Award may be the most prestigious of product design recognitions. The organization behind the award provides a select jury with a continuously updated framework of criteria in nine areas including formal, technical, manufacturing, societal, industrial and ecological requirements. The jury then makes awards in 31 product categories from fashion and accessories, to consumer electronics and vehicles, household helpers and furniture.
Some of the jurors this year offered insights from their scan of more than 5,000 products. At the top of their observations was that the quality of design is already high and getting better across all product categories and no matter where in the world they were designed.
A significant shift in design attention has taken place since the Great Recession. Prior to the credit crisis, companies limped by with incremental improvements on increasingly outdated products. Now, however, "good design is a basic requirement to compete in business."
In this context of globally great design accomplishment, one of the jurors' observations seemed to set the next strategic frontier. He said that "gaining a competitive edge by good design is becoming more and more difficult." What, then, is a design company to do to be successful?
Buried in some of the criteria were two questions that provide a guide –
- What does the product offer the user beyond its immediate practical purpose in terms of sensual quality, possibilities of a playful use or emotional attachment?
- Is the product adapted appropriately to the physical and, if necessary, psychic conditions of the user?
Many of the other questions seemed to go to classical and modern criteria for great design – functionality, clarity, beauty and ecological balance – that seem to stop at the pre-purchase appreciation of the product as object.
But these two questions evoke different qualities and characteristics – sensual, emotional, and psychic – that focus on the extended use of the product. These can only be evaluated over time, through extended experience. How interesting it may be when, in future design competitions, we see products with the patina of use on them. Products that prove that great design wears in, not out.