There is much to say about the unique role of design in innovation and improving customer experience, and growing interest in the role of design as a competitive business strategy. And the broad acceptance of design thinking methods in service design and UX design is a center of conversations. But let’s not take our eyes off the value of simply good industrial design and human-centered product design.
Last week I was one of 39 international design experts who convened in Essen, Germany to judge the 2015 Red Dot Product Design Award competition. We were asked to evaluate 4,928 entries from 56 countries, all physically displayed on location and organized into categories with descriptive information. This is a big undertaking to say the least.
The design judging process is an evaluation lasting several days where the international experts test, discuss and assess every single entry without any preselection. We evaluated actual products, so it was necessary for entrants to submit functioning samples. To make it more manageable the judges were paired into teams of three, and assigned to categories of products based on their expertise and interests. My team was asked to evaluate four product categories; Bicycles, Sports, Outdoors and Trekking, and Leisure, Games and Fun. What fun! We were asked to evaluate the products on design quality, based on this criteria:
– Degree of innovation
– Product periphery
– Self-explanatory quality
– Formal quality
– Symbolic and emotional content
– Ecological compatibility
The judging process consisted of four stages, one product category at a time. First, we reviewed the product category individually to preview the entire set of products and get a lay of the land, so to speak, and form our initial perceptions. Next, the three judges went thru the entire category together, discussed each entry, and decided which products would be kept in the competition for the next round, and which product entries would be eliminated. Then we went through a third time to review the remaining product entries and decide which ones would be awarded a Red Dot distinction based on the evaluation criteria. Finally, we went thru a fourth time to select the “Best of the best”, which requires a unanimous vote of all three judges. Only 1% to 1.5% of the products submitted receive the coveted Red Dot Best of the Best designation.
Red Dot design judging is a very thoughtful and professional evaluation process, and one of the best in the world. According to Professor Dr. Ken Nah of Hongik University in Seoul, “Among all the competitions on design, I do not have any hesitation to say that the Red Dot Design Award is the best contest in the world in two perspectives: One is that it is based on the most fair competition of jury, and the way of evaluation. The other is that the winners of the Red Dot Award are the real proof of success in the markets.”
Red Dot represents a global body of good design, no doubt. According to the Initiator and CEO of the Red Dot Award, Professor Dr. Peter Zec, “Economic success is based on good design and its communication. Receiving a distinction at the Red Dot Award confirms the quality and communicates its success in a contemporary way, thus setting it apart from the masses.”
This was my fourth time judging for Red Dot, and as always, it was a very challenging yet rewarding experience. Working with the team of 39 international judges was very interesting, and critiquing the leading designs submitted from 59 countries was a great way to keep current on global trends in product design. More on that in the next post.