The winners were the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, an aircraft redefining the aviation transportation industry; Bespoke Fairing, a prosthesis with a greater focus on lifestyle and the emotional needs of the users; and Windows Phone 7, a user-centred phone with a customisable interface, making personalised information available at a glance.

The radical design of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is the result of a close collaboration between Boeing’s design and engineering team and Teague design studio. The Dreamliner represents a dramatic design rethink driven by design research. 

The brave move from an aluminium frame to a plastic composite body, resulting in a greatly reduced assembly time and a 20 per cent increase in fuel efficiency, has made the Dreamliner one of the most successful commercial aeroplane launches in the history of aviation.

To ease the adverse effects on passengers, the interior of the Dreamliner provides more in-cabin space – featuring dynamic lighting systems, larger windows and storage and increased in-cabin moisture levels to reduce air dryness.

“At the beginning of the new millennium, Boeing and Airbus came to a fork in the road. For the first time in history, each took a different turn,” says Ken Dowd, vice president of Teague’s Aviation Studio. At this time, he says, Airbus chose to support the traditional hub and spoke model, developing the A380 Super Jumbo. However, he explains, “Boeing believed the market preferred point-to-point travel and went after the middle of the market with a radically different and efficient airplane, the 787 Dreamliner.”

The design team – which consisted of 10 to12 full-time members – aspired to create a visionary and breakthrough interior with the 787. “To do that we had to shift the focus to people; connecting passengers to the magic of flight. That’s where the Dreamliner’s moniker, ‘a plane for people’, comes from,” Dowd says.

The Dreamliner project was the first to really leverage design research and strategy to influence both the interior and exterior designs. “The unique research techniques used in the program formed a conscious differentiation strategy based on connecting the flying public to the emotional thrill of flying, recalling the magic people universally experience during their first flight,” says Dowd.

As such, he explains, for the first time the unarticulated needs of the market are embodied in the interior design of the cabin. “That’s why the 787 Dreamliner interior is unlike any other.”

Coupled with the design team, completing a project of this scale required a large number of people, who were involved over the duration, and a variety of requirements. Overall, the research, design and prototyping periods took about five years, while the refinement took an additional two. While seven years may seem like a long time, the average lifespan of an aeroplane is around 20 to 25 years.

Dowd explains that the most challenging aspects of the project centred around weight requirements, which are standard in aviation design. “With fuel purchases representing nearly 40 per cent of an aircraft’s direct operating cost, fuel burn is an important cost component. Weight is directly proportional to fuel burn, meaning the more weight, the more fuel is burned, ultimately inflating costs. So weight reduction is always a big challenge,” he says.

In addition, another challenge which they faced was in terms of selling the vision, which, Dowd explains, can often be a factor in leading-edge innovation projects such as the Dreamliner.

“Doing something different involves a certain level of risk,” he says. “All stakeholders need to buy into and live the vision for the program to succeed. We have a certain advantage as designers – storytelling is in our DNA. We can bring the vision to life by building a narrative everyone can understand and believe in, that relates back to the brand.”

With a thorough knowledge of the processes and philosophy of design, coupled with an inventive imagination, Dowd was able to fuse industry and aesthetics to produce some of the most purposeful and powerful designs recognised to date in the field of transportation, helping to redefine – in terms of comfort and style – the way we travel in the modern age.

Another Best in Show winner, Bespoke Fairing by Scott Summit and Chris Campbell of Bespoke Innovations, also represents a major rethink – this time for prosthesis design and manufacture – creating products that allow for individual expression while delivering essential functions to the wearer.

“The fairings and other devices that we now create at Bespoke represent the culmination of interests that I have held since childhood,” says Scott Summit, co-founder of Bespoke. “Admittedly, growing up watching The Six Million Dollar Man may have contributed by seeding the possibility that creativity and design can transform loss into asset. In that respect, I feel that the modern prosthetic limbs represent a half-finished solution, heavily focused on mechanical necessity and less on lifestyle or the emotional needs of the user.”

The Bespoke Fairing is an intimate, not to mention vital, product for the user, Summit says, yet in the current market, designs are mechanical, mass-produced and harsh in the context of the human form.

“I saw an opportunity to use design and technology tools to not only return symmetry and individuality to the body of an amputee, but also to offer design, personality and uniqueness,” he says. “My goal is to transform a product which is often needed but never wanted, into something that inspires.”

Summit says he loves creating products that deeply impact users’ lives. “I tried to infuse this in the mass-produced parts I designed as a consultant. But due to the individualised nature of our process, the fairings that we create now alter a person’s life from the moment they begin wearing them in ways that a mass-produced part cannot.”

He explains that fairings have the potential to change how people feel about their condition and their prosthetic, as well as how the world perceives amputees. “As a designer, this becomes a rich opportunity to sculpt and explore, since fairings fall at the unlikely intersection of mechanics, biology, biomimicry, jewellery, fashion, technology and design,” Summit says.

“I’ve always had an interest in the body and skeletal structure and the vast complexity of shapes that must perform perfectly in order to allow a normal life. And parts truly designed for the body tend to be sculptural and fluid, yet entirely purposeful. I love products that balance the needs of the body with mechanical constraints. Electric guitars, motorcycles, chairs, bicycles – products express a special beauty when their form communicates its origin in the body.”

Summit has designed many parts that are mass-produced and enjoys breaking away from the conventional mould. “When you create a single product for an individual user, the process steps more into the world of craft – though fundamentally digital – and the client becomes less abstract and more human,” he says. “I like to infuse the design with elements of the individual user’s personality and taste, allowing them to take the wheel in certain aspects of the design.”

While right now they’re focusing on legs only, Summit says he hopes to evolve the concept into arms and hands as well. “The research that we’re doing beyond the prosthetic fairings dives into many other parts of the body, and addresses physical challenges of all kinds in addition to amputations.”

The parts are ‘3D Printed’ using Selective Laser Sintering, which fabricates in Polyamide 6 and 12 (Nylon). “We prefer this material, since it’s strong, accurate, lightweight and even dishwasher safe. And it’s about the greenest way to create a product, since there is little energy used in fabrication, and generates almost no waste,” says Summit.

“The raw polymer comes standard in a charcoal or an ivory colour. But we also plate parts in nickel-copper, which gives them a warm, chrome-like finish that can be mirror or matt. And we can clad the parts with leather, ballistic nylon, or whatever material the wearer prefers that is suitable for the part. We’ve been able to laser-etch the leather with a black and white image, giving the fairing a tattoo-like embellishment. I’ve tried to use wood veneer, though without success.”

Expense is one of the challenges the project has faced. “The costs of fabrication, finishing and shipping are out of our hands. Although we’ve managed to reduce costs significantly by rethinking the technology and using 3D scanning. Our fairings cost around US$4K for all-polymer versions, and go to around $7K for all options. That said, a prosthetic leg will range from $30K–$150K, depending on hardware and options,” says Summit. Currently, the demand is quite high and, as such, they’re facing an extensive backlog.

The third winner, the Windows Phone 7 by the Windows Phone design team, was designed around who users are, rather than what they do, to focus on making the end user ‘king’. Users can quickly get in to the phone, get out and back to their lives without using traditional user interface conventions of windows and frames. The Windows Phone 7 also took home the IDEA People’s Choice award.

“The Windows Phone 7 design began with a total reset on how we approached the entire design process,” says Chris Acker from the Windows Phone 7 design team. “The Start screen with Live Tiles defines the new Start experience. It’s where users go to kick things off, to get to all the things they want to do. It lets them launch into dynamic and real-time information when they need it – stuff like unread messages, current music, pictures of people they care about, and a lot more,” he says.

As such, it’s easy for the user to customise and surface their priority areas, making the phone uniquely theirs.

“It wasn’t until we focused on who we were really building our experience for, that we were able to move forward and build it right,” says Acker. “We call it BXT. We had to unite business, experience and technology and stop thinking feature by feature so that our users would have a connected end-to-end experience.”

They redesigned the platform, explains Acker, “not only to do the heavy lifting of technology, but to support the visual look and motion we wanted to create”.

David Stowell, CEO and founder of Smart Design and chair of the judging panel of IDEAs, reflects on the judging of the awards: “The judging focused on eight areas of industrial design excellence, ranging from innovation and benefit to the user, to strategic value and implementation. The intention was to take the debate far beyond just visual appeal, highlighting the importance on the craft of design with excellence.”

Stowell believes this may explain why no Gold awards were given in the Home Products category. With over 300 entries, it was the largest category.

“The reality is the home products market is highly competitive, and design and innovation must be accomplished within price points that have little elasticity. As a result, great design is often quiet in its expression and may not seem revolutionary. So as designers, we need to challenge ourselves to get better at creating the products we use in our daily lives.”

In the Medical and Scientific category, Stowell says the jury grappled with the definition of design. “While the jury was enamoured with the entries that showed very clever use of technology, this showed little evidence of the aesthetic skill of the designer, where there was clear opportunity. This made it difficult to give top honours in this category also,” says Stowell.

Stowell explains that with the elimination of the Eco-design category this year, the emphasis on purely environmental sustainability was dialled down and replaced with Responsible Design, to cover both cultural and economic responsibility.

“The jury panel was disappointed with how few could be marked with a Responsible Design distinction. This highlights how difficult responsible design is to achieve, but it’s another call for us to do better,” says Stowell. “Overall however, the IDEA winners are proof of the unmatched ability of designers to solve the toughest problems, to bring simplicity to the complex and to truly make a difference in a world filled with need.”
 

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