Analyzing This Year’s International Design Excellence Award Winners


Have you ever seen that short film The Story of Stuff ? It’s a 20-minute online documentary about the “materials economy” that gives a relatively simple explanation about why our current system of consumption isn’t sustainable or just. I thought of the film when I learned about Nike Trash Talk, a basketball sneaker that won a Gold award at this year’s International Design Excellence Awards (IDEA).

You see, Trash Talk is made almost solely from the materials leftover from the process of making the company’s other shoes. By using the manufacturing waste to create an entirely new product, Nike has “made this shoe the holy grail of consumption.”

At least that’s how design innovator Valerie Casey put it. Whether it’s spectacular enough to warrant a biblical description remains to be seen, but Trash Talk did manage to walk off with the Best in Show title from the other 1,630 entries.

Nike isn’t the only company to wow the IDEA judges; a total of 150 awards — 31 Gold, 47 Silver, and 72 Bronze — were given out. And the contest winners weren’t limited to the United States either. Fifteen countries and 66 designs are represented among the award recipients, and awards were not simply awarded based on sleek style. There were eight criteria: design innovation; benefit to the user; benefit to the client/business; benefit to society; ecological responsibility; appropriate aesthetics and appeal; usability testing; rigor and reliability; and internal factors, methods, and implementation.

“Design is not just about making things pretty,” says Claudia Kotchka, an IDEA judge and former head of design at Procter & Gamble. “Designers are about making the world a better place.”

So what other goodies nabbed the spotlight? Well, they haven’t announced all of the winners just yet, but I was able to dig up a few that may hold some relevance to your life. If you’re tired of the Mac crowd’s monopoly on cool computers, the Dell Studio Hybrid desktop’s ultra-compact, versatile design and multiple color options may just give Apple a run for its money.

Though I don’t fully understand the method by which this works, the publicly placed Energy Seed bin encourages proper battery disposal and provides streetlamp light, all while resembling a potted plant.

Something with the potential to revolutionize HIV testing, particularly in countries where the stigma is quite high, is the Project Masiluleke Home HIV Test, which allows a saliva-based test to be administered outside of a clinical setting.

And perhaps the invention most likely to make you go “why didn’t I think of that?” was Eva Solo Grating Bucket. All these years I’ve been picking up tiny strips of cheese from my kitchen floor, and now my hardwoods can be cheese-free!

I wasn’t impressed with Coca-Cola’s Refresh Recycling Bin, and in fact, I’m a little irked that it even received an award. A folded container made from recycled soda bottles. Come on, Coke, where’s your innovation.

My annoyance was forgotten the second I saw this: ICON A5 Amphibious Sport Aircraft. With absolutely no practical usage and very little chance I will be able to experience its glory, this little land and water plane with folding wings (folding wings!) makes my knees a little weak. I know I should be more critical of A5 — the unnecessary waste it creates, the false hope it gives to the average consumer — but it’s awesome!

If this is what they start with, who knows how this will end? An interactive full list of winners can be found here. Go ahead, waste your Friday afternoon on the job. You know you deserve it.

Note: It’s also worth checking out Fast Company’s IDEA coverage; Valerie Casey notes that many of this year’s submissions look suspiciously like the winners from back in 2000.