According to local and international judges on this year’s judging panels, the standard of submissions ranged from good to world-class excellence.

Judges were impressed with the wide range of products entered in the awards, from an artificial heart to a new car. There were 230 entries in total (including student entries) in a range of categories.

Curve invited members of the ADA judging panel to share their judging experience:

I have had the honour of being a judge in several national and international design competitions, so I was able to look at the standard of the entries in the ADA from the perspective of other competitions.

The first thing that I observed was the wide scope of products. Although it is not always easy to compare from such diverse fields, it makes the judging really exciting.

I would say that the overall standard of the work ranged from good to very good, but I believe some of the products could be further developed with the help of professional industrial designers.

The first phase of the judging process was the ‘Internet short-listing’ where more than 200 industry professionals from around the world were involved.

Registered judges were invited to vote for products to proceed to the second stage of assessment by reviewing product application forms on the web and making a professional judgement.

The short-listed products (about ninety in total) along with accompanying support material (e.g. story boards) were displayed in a large assessment room and reviewed by a dedicated, multidisciplinary panel of judges over the course of one week to ensure consistency of results.

In some cases supporting multi-media presentations were reviewed as well. First round scores and judges’ comments were also provided and used as a guide to the industry’s rating of the product. For products too large to exhibit in the assessment room or on-site in the building, off-site evaluations were arranged. 

This year two international designers were invited to participate on the panel to provide a global perspective. By having a full week for judging we had the time for a rigorous, hands-on assessment of the products, and we were encouraged to pull products apart and scrutinise every detail.

Detailed records, including photography/video footage, were taken by the Australian Design Awards’ team at this stage to accurately record judges’ comments.

It’s difficult for me to talk about emerging trends in Australia, but in all modesty I have to say that, in comparison to more European focused design trends,

I observed a lot of products with extremely pronounced curves (during the judging process we talked about ‘the boomerang styling’) and a rather conservative attention for colour (a lot of grey products). 

I was impressed by the high level of preparation work done by all the applicants and the Australian Design Awards’ organisers. On the level of design qualities, a remark made by one of my colleague judges possibly illustrates the position of industrial designers in Australia.

Looking at a product whereby the ‘final touch’ was clearly lacking he said: “Hans you’re looking at the client’s choice and not at the designers proposal”, indicating that Australian designers often still play the role of a consultant instead of being fully integrated members of product and/or business development projects.

Hans Robertus
Senior Branch Director, Philips Design, Eindhoven, Netherlands

The standard of the work was generally good quite a few examples of design genius. To assist with the judging an excellent manual of entries was provided as well as an extremely well collated digital presentation.

The superb organisation by Brandon and Stephanie of the Australian Design Awards made for a pleasurable judging experience. The judging process entailed a comprehensive evaluation of each entry starting with pre-judging on the Internet narrowing down the field.

The remaining entries were then scrutinised by the judging panel with some extended debate, almost heated at times, with the varying areas of expertise of the judges coming into play.

An iterative short-listing procedure was then followed until final responsible results were achieved. 

The official criteria were innovation, intelligence/smartness of design, visual impact/form, functionality, originality, appropriateness, longevity, quality/design for ergonomics/semantics, safety environmental considerations, presentation/ packaging. 

I found the trend of most of the products to not be very adventurous with a fairly conservative but competent design approach. There were however quite a few paradigm shifting products which challenged some boundaries of normality and mediocrity.

On the whole I would say that Australian industry and the design/engineering sector has got an enormous amount of successful achievement to be proud of.

As an outsider and visitor I was totally amazed at the heights that have been achieved and the level of competence that exists in this impressive country.

Brian Steinhobel
Managing Director,
Steinhobel Design Pty Ltd
Johannesburg, South Africa

The standard of work varied significantly and again there were a few truly inspirational designs, ones that inspire you to head straight back to the office and get cracking on your own projects.

At the other end of the spectrum there were still a number of products where there was little evidence of a cohesive design approach.

The process was a holistic one where all aspects of the product were considered, including visual form and aesthetics, environmental friendliness, function and performance, ergonomics, durability, and appropriateness for purpose.

We were given the physical products to inspect, the applicants submissions in the ADA format and in some cases component parts and supporting documentation such as operator manuals or marketing information.

Generally the products were operated and put through their paces. In many cases we disassembled the products (resorting to a hacksaw on occasions!) to assess function, manufacturing and safety issues.

I suspect applicants tend to underestimate the thoroughness of the evaluation and the level of expertise of the panel. I don’t think that there was a single product where at least one of the judges did not have some first hand knowledge of the product area.

The quality of the submissions varied considerably, from provision of sectioned products, component parts, user manuals, packaging, marketing information and standards compliance and testing data to those who supplied only a single product sample and minimal supporting information in their submission in ADA format. 

There were no real emerging trends, with many products somewhat safe and conservative in their design, but there was an emphasis on lifestyle type products and incorporating lifestyle features into products.

Paul van de Loo
Director, Applidyne Pty Ltd
South Australia

The judging methodology had been overhauled and refined considerably. There were seven full-time judges from various disciplines, assisted by part-time experts in particular fields.

We were given excellent background information in written form, presentation boards, multi-media, real products and components for detail examination. All were compiled and presented to the judges by ADA staff in a thorough and professional manner.

Each product was carefully assessed by judges individually with input from subject experts and marked in accordance with the set criteria. At the end of each day every product was discussed by all the judges for the pros and cons and a final decision made as to the level of award it was to be given on a unanimous vote basis.

There was substantial amount of discussion all around and where necessary, the manufacturers were contacted to answer questions and clarification. Several site visits were arranged for products which were too large or awkward to move.

It was very difficult to spot any particular trend across the board with such a huge range of product types. However in product categories certain styles were evident, for example, in the medical and scientific areas certain characteristic forms, colours and details emerged.

This was also evident in the business and communications areas. Stainless steel was very strong in the small domestic appliance group while plastics replaced metal in several commercial products.

Robert Pataki
Principal, Neo Technics,

There were a number of criteria that products had to address, but the strongest entries were those that displayed a synergy between form and function.

The criteria and judging process has changed slightly this year, which has resulted in the even weighting of product design and engineering.

Where as in previous years a brilliantly engineered piece that displayed no product design input was eligible for an award, this year we assessed the products on the completeness and strength of the product package. 

We contacted and visited manufacturers /designers when appropriate to clarify details of products and in the case of the Qantas Skybed, a plane was provided for us to investigate the product at first hand. 

There was a diverse range of product types but there seems to be quite a few medical and furniture pieces with sleek simple lines and sensuous curves dominating the styling of successful products.

The more appealing products displayed simplicity of form and a refined balance between aesthetics and practicality. Warm and inviting colours seem to be emerging as a trend.

Brian Steendyk
Managing Director, Steendyk,

Selecting Australia’s number one student designer for 2004 from a shortlist of thirty-five finalists proved a challenge for judging teams.

The coveted Australian Design Award – Dyson Student Award this year attracted 110 entries with many innovative designers vying for the $10,000 in prize money.

Judges evaluated entries based on complete design, focusing on the entire product, how it will be used, how it will be made, how reliable it will be and the level of impact.

According to Brandon Gien, Director of the ADA, all finalists designed something that provided significant and tangible advantages over existing products beyond aesthetic appeal.

“The finalists focused on medical innovation, with designs ranging from an artificial pancreas to a toilet seat for rehabilitation patients. 

“Sports in product design featured highly, and the quest for safer sporting was clearly high on the design agenda in 2004. Snowboarders, skiers, boatmen, rock fishers, pool players and cyclists were all catered for.” 

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