The Meaning of Design Awards and Their Influence in Design Business and Education

By Alex Lobos and Deana McDonagh.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Industrial design awards recognize the best examples of manufactured products while setting new bars for practitioners and students. Earning an award has turned into an extremely competitive task. The judging criteria for some of the most prestigious competitions like Red Dot, Good Design, D&AD Yellow/Black Pencil and IDEA gives just as much — if not more — importance to the user relevance of a product as to a dramatic form factor and pristine execution. These elites of products are perceived as role models and directly influence new generations of designers.
An analysis of the actual user acceptance and market performance of awarded products surprisingly shows little correlation. Although there are fabulous examples of design increasing the value of a product, most products in the bestselling lists of retailers are nowhere to be seen in design awards ceremonies and vice versa. This inconsistency raises an interesting dilemma. Should design awards be more sensitive to market performance or should they maintain their actual focus so that the forward thinking and innovation is not limited by the business? A collection of opinions from different segments of the design and business worlds will provide insights into the current role of design awards and their influence in society. These opinions will open up a dialog for a better understanding of the implications of design awards and their role in design education and practice.

Keywords: Design Competitions, Design Education, Industrial Design, Student Experience, Design Portfolio, Material Landscape

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp.165-178. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.414MB).

Alex Lobos

Assistant Professor of Industrial Design, School of Design, College of Imaging Arts and Sciences, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY, USA

Alex Lobos is an Assistant Professor in Industrial Design at Rochester Institute of Technology. He has held faculty positions at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Universidad Rafael Landivar in Guatemala and ISTHMUS Escuela de Diseno in Panama. Alex is a Fulbright Scholar and holds a M.F.A. from the University of Notre Dame and a B.I.D. from Universidad Rafael Landivar. Alex is always curious about the connections that products promote between users and their context. These are complex relationships that allow designers to create a meaningful impact in society. Alex’s interest in user-product relationships has focused widely on home appliances. As industrial designer for GE Appliances, he was able to understand in more depth the importance of products in the complex lives of everyday users.

Dr. Deana McDonagh

Associate Professor in Industrial Design, Beckman Institute of Advanced Science and Technology, School of Art and Design, College of Fine and Applied Arts, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL, USA

Deana McDonagh is an Associate Professor in Industrial Design within the School of Art + Design and a faculty member at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology (University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign). Her research concentrates on the emotional domain of product development and nurturing empathy between the designer and user. She has co-edited four books (Focus Groups Supporting Effective Product Development and Design; Emotion: The Experience of Everyday Things and IMPACT: The Synergy of Design, Business and Technology). More recently she edited REALIZE: Design Means Business. Her PhD was awarded from the Department of Design and Technology at Loughborough University (UK) and concentrated on developing empathic design research methods to support more effective innovative product development through empathic designing. She concentrates on enhancing quality of life for elders and people with special needs through more effective product solutions.


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