Andrew Jackson

Five years after the Australian Design Awards added ‘International’ to its name and opened entries up to companies around the world, the globally recognised accolade has undergone another rebranding, this time emerging as the Good Design Awards.

Appliance Retailer caught up with Dr Brandon Gien, CEO of Good Design Australia, the organisation behind the awards, to find out what prompted this change and what to expect from the 2014 program.

To say that Dr Gien is a fan of design would be a triumph of understatement. He holds the title of President of the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID), the first Australian to hold the position since the council’s creation in 1957, and was awarded his PhD in Environmental Design in 2013. He has been honoured as Australia’s Design Ambassador to Japan by the Japan Institute of Design Promotion; been named a fellow of the Design Institute of Australia; and he sits on the Advisory Board of the Design Research Institute of RMIT, where he chairs the design challenge program.

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Under his guidance, the award allowed products manufactured internationally to be considered for entry in 2008, the 50-year anniversary of the Industrial Design Council of Australia (IDCA): the organisation responsible for creating the original Australian Design Awards program. This change moved the awards from an exclusively Australian event, celebrating design only on a national level, to a more global event, hence the ‘International’ part of the name.

Dr Gien said the decision to change the name again, to the more streamlined Good Design Awards, represented a move towards what he called a “cohesive vision”. The Good Design Awards are for good design and the oxymoronic ‘Australian International’ part disrupted this clean order.

“Towards the end of 2013, we invested in a new brand strategy that was aimed at encompassing all our brands, activities, events and initiatives into one cohesive brand platform,” Dr Gien said. “We looked at every aspect of the organisation and focused on an outcome that would best describe our core activity.”

The Good Design Awards will retain the strong reputation of its previous incarnations — an internationally recognised mark of achievement — which “promote the value and importance of good design to consumers, business and industry, governments and the general public,” according to Dr Gien.

“Placing everything under the banner of ‘Good Design’ just made sense and captured our core objectives perfectly and succinctly.

“We presented this to the Good Design Council…and the strategy was unanimously approved.”

In 2013, the awards were linked for the first time with the Vivid Sydney Festival a citywide celebration of art and light, which attracted more than 800,000 people over the 18 days. This partnership will be retain and expanded upon in 2014.

“This is a brilliant partnership and has placed the Awards on a whole new platform,” Dr Gien said. “We are planning an even bigger event this year under the Good Design Festival with one of the highlights being an outdoor public exhibition in Sydney’s CBD featuring some of the best products in this year’s Good Design Awards.”

Entering a product in the 2014 Good Design Awards costs between $650 and $1,500, depending on size. Motor vehicle cost a flat $2,000 while there are excess fees for products requiring on-site inspection. Dr Gien said the reason companies should enter their products is to “stand out in a market awash with options”.

“On one hand, there is an abundance of choice in the market, on the other hand, consumers have so much more information at their fingertips through the internet, social media and other means that strongly influence their purchase decision,” he said.

“Businesses can no longer afford to produce inferior and badly designed products and expect to succeed. Consumers are looking for well designed, high quality products that represent value for money.”

“They look for independent endorsement that gives them that extra assurance that the product they are buying does what it is meant to.”

Innovation and exemplary design are certainly the hallmarks of an award winning entry. In 2013 the ceremonies top award, The Good Design Award of the Year (given to the product that, out all entries in all categories, is considered to be peerless), was bestowed to the Australian-designed Blackmagic Cinema Camera. The camera, capable of filming video at cinema quality, is not just a sleek and style-driven way to capture high resolution film. The Blackmagic Cinema Camera overcame significant engineering challenges; fitting a wide range of professional features into a size previously unheard of, all controlled by a custom designed user interface built to make Hollywood-style filming accessible to the general public.

Rather than the traditional price for a cinema-quality camera, which can be in excess of $15,000 for a single standard unit, the Blackmagic Cinema Camera can be manufactured and sold for less than $3,000. The judges considered it a truly groundbreaking feat of design and engineering.

In previous years, awards have been bestowed to a seemingly endless range of products, everything from the traditional home appliances and furniture, to apps, cars and sex toys.

In 2012, the top spot was awarded to the Deepsea Challenger, a revolutionary vertical submarine. Designed to be able to send one person to the darkest depths of the sea, the Australian-designed Challenger was, quite fittingly, was used by Titanic director James Cameron for a benthic adventure.

In total, there are now 15 different categories in the Good Design Awards, with entries falling into definitions such as Housewares and Objects, Babies and Children and Domestic Appliances. In 2013, even more categories were added, a response a broadening of just what falls under the term ‘Consumer Goods’.

“Last year our main change was to split the consumer category into more subcategories, such as Domestic Appliances, Consumer Electronics, Housewares and Objects, Babies and Children et cetera,” explained Dr Gien.

“We also introduced Packaging and Graphics as a standalone category as well as Digital and Online, and Service Design.”

In 2014, two new awards will be added to Good Design Australia’s list of winnable gongs. The first is the Hills Young Australian Design Awards, a national award designed to honour exceptional young Australian designers and engineers. The other is the new Australian Social Innovation Award, which will recognise the role that design is playing in helping to create a better society.

Appliance and electronics brands have long supported the Good Design Awards over the years, something that Dr Gien would like to see continue. His pitch for the 2014 program is simple:

“Good design is becoming ubiquitous in everything we as consumers use and interact with every day of our lives and consumers are definitely becoming much more design-savvy in their purchasing decisions.”

Applications for the 2014 Good Design Awards are now open, closing on 31 March 2014. The Good Design Awards will be presented in Sydney on 29 May 2014.

Dr Gien’s Top Five Designs

  1. HUB Multi-Function Pole
  2. Deepsea Challenger
  3. Icon Playground
  4. Blackmagic Cinema Camera
  5. Tractile Roofing System