This Tuesday saw the 11th annual awarding of the prestigious "Excellent Product of the Year Award", a prize which recognises, as well as promotes, excellence and innovation in Czech design on both the professional and student levels. Out of this year's 172 entries, 11 designs received the Excellent Design award, while one entry was given the National Prize. My colleague Jan Velinger attended the award ceremony:
It was in 1992 that the Czech Republic's Design Centre held its first annual Excellent Product of the Year competition, (then known as the Good Design Award): its aim to recognise, promote, and encourage excellence in Czech design, among both design professionals and manufacturers, as well as the general public. The competition has grown in significance and meaning ever since, and this year the Czech Republic's Council for Product Quality took the project under its auspices. On Tuesday the awards ceremony took place at Prague's Bethlehem Chapel: along with invited and honoured guests, the ceremony was attended by members of the government including the Trade and Industry Minister Miroslav Gregr. But it was the Head of the Design Centre Karel Kobosil who got things underway. He stressed the continuing importance of design in daily life as well as in the overall culture, and emphasised the fact that many of this year's contributions serve not only functional and aesthetic purposes, but fulfil humanitarian needs as well. By now you shall be wondering who won and for what design: well, there was certainly no shortage of winners... Out of 172 submissions, 11 received the Excellent Design Award, while just one entry got the National Prize. A further 15 items received lesser prizes for Good Design.
In the first category winning entries included diverse products such as a glass tea set, a playful clothes collection, and a new luxury sedan built by the Skoda car manufacturing company. Another winner was a tubular metal door handle designed with dynamic vertical grooves, which the competition's judges compared to the work of American artist Donald Judd. A door handle - one of those items which one can take for granted - but what a difference a detail can make, especially in the world of design. Anyone who doubts it, can remember the less than exciting Bakelite plastic door handles which continue to adorn so many Czech offices... And what about a hospital bedside table which allows users to move a specially tilted desk only one hand: intriguing in its simplicity...
Not all winners in the first category won for existing products - the competition judges three categories of entry, categories based on existing products, student proposals, and visionary concepts. Among some of the winning student designs was a proposal for a modern city information hub, as well as the design for an elegant egg-shaped rattan bath. Finally, one of the one most impressive student proposals was an ultra-modern hand-driven wheelchair: this last item presented by a student from the Department of Industrial Design in Brno. Although it remains a plastic mock-up it captures the essence of function with grace and style, and it is one proposal which would certainly deserve to go into production.
Finally, what about the National Prize? This year the subsidised award was given to the very prolific designers at the Czech company ADR, who submitted an office table system that offers a variety of different uses and set-ups: it can be an individual work station, a series of partitioned desks, even a CEO conference table. The folks at ADR have been responsible for some very lucrative contracts in the past, including the design of interiors for Prague's famous Dancing House, or Ginger and Fred Building, as it is affectionately known. The designers at ADR got the National Prize, and pocketed 100 000 crowns...
And if you find yourself in Prague any time soon you can check out this year's winning products on display at the Design Centre's gallery in the city. The Design Centre's web site is www.designcentrum.cz
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