Famed design awards highlight excellence since 1953
While the iF Design Awards were attributed several months ago, project managers from iF International Forum Design GmbH are visiting IFA where a veritable concentration of award recipients are to be found. Heike Meier and Anja-Martina Kirschning spoke to IFA International about the growing importance of design as a differentiating factor for manufacturers.
AMK: We are visiting the 2017 award winners in the categories of home appliances, TV and video, photo, home entertainment and so on. It has been important for us to come, as so many of our prize winners are here this year. Over a hundred winners are here, of which there are more than ten gold award winners, including the LG CordZero A7 cordless vacuum cleaner, the Nespresso Expert coffee machine, Leowe klang 5 active speaker, and the very striking YEV electric violin from Yamaha. We are meeting here at IFA with the head of design for Yamaha, and they are very eager to show the iF label, as for them it’s a marketing tool.
How are the awards decided?
HM: Each year, we assess around 5,500 products that are judged by 60 jurors – international designers from around the world, and around 2,000 design awards are decided. The awards have been in existence since 1953. The iF design award is given in seven disciplines – product design, communication design, packaging design, service design, architecture, interior architecture and professional concepts. Of course, here we are talking about product design. The design and production quality of the entries is getting better from year to year. In formal aesthetic terms, the majority of entries in some categories are very similar. These include computers, printers and smartphones. This makes it extremely important to distinguish, identify and evaluate relevant details. This can only be done by experts who aspire to be objective, and to thus judge the world’s most important design award.
We are seeing more and more Chinese brands winning awards. Is this a key trend?
HM: All of Asia, in particular South Korea, Taiwan, China and Japan are very prominent. Our top participants came from Taiwan and China this year, and Germany is in third or fourth place. We have branch offices in Taipei, Seoul and Hong Kong, as this facilitates the contacts where there are big language differences.
WE ARE UNDERLINING THE FACT THAT A PARTICULAR DEVICE IS INNOVATIVE AND WELL ADAPTED TO A SPECIFIC MARKET
What are the key points of evolution in design?
AMK: If you look at smartphones, they all tend to look the same, so we are looking at the interface and usability. It is also important to look at the cultural differences. In Asia, for example, women like huge smartphones, as they make their faces look smaller. For us it sounds strange, but this is part of the decision-making process for the awards… taking account of these cultural differences. They look for developments for specific areas. For example, if a smartphone is made for the Chinese market, they will look at what the companies did in the past, how they have evolved, and how the smartphone looks today. Is it really innovative for the market? Is it good for this market? You get a lot of poor design, with little cultural background, from brands that are not really developed. But we are underlining the fact that a particular device is innovative and well adapted to a specific market. When they apply, the manufacturers have to explain which market and demographic they are targeting with each product.
Photo: Heike Meier & Anja-Martina Kirschning, iF International Forum Design GmbH