The concept for the awards started with a competition created by events producer Peter Kuchnicki in February 2001. “We wanted to break out and support sustainable design, advanced transportation and universal design,” Kuchnicki says.

“Our friends in the related design disciplines were adamant about one thing – they were just not going to support another highly commercial, peer-to-peer design competition,” says Kuchnicki.

Brent Oppenheimer, principal of OH&Co in New York City, made it clear: “We have dozens of these things – we are obligated to enter them, but they give me no pleasure. We’re looking for a higher angel – a way to promote societal advancement and innovation – not just ourselves.”

A group of talented professionals began to shape the Spark initiative – Kit Hinrichs, a senior Pentagram partner; Sam Lucente, head of all design for Hewlett-Packard; Mike Nuttal, an IDEO founder; and a host of filmmakers, advertising people, architects and designers of all creeds.

The awards’ motto ‘one for all’ reflects the ‘design for everyone’ scope of the program. Simpler yet, the Spark ‘elevator speech’ boils the awards down to four tenets: multidisciplinary, multicultural, global and aspirational.

The winners

Winners of the 2008 SparkAwards provided plenty of diversity, innovation and sustainability, and there was an emphasis on universal design.

Haptica, by David Chavez, is a moveable braille timepiece that can be read quickly and accurately. Current braille clocks and watches help the user orient the timepiece’s hands in relation to the face, but can lead to an inaccurate telling of the time.

Digital devices using sound to communicate the time inhibit the user from checking their watch discreetly. Haptica resolves these problems by providing a braille readout in military time format – the wearer runs their finger along the braille channel to check the time.

GrowBike, by Springtime NL design team, is a sustainable bike that adapts to children’s changing needs as they grow older. The bike is a set of parts from which four different bikes can be built: a ride-on, a tricycle, a training bike and a bicycle.

Transforming the bike to the next stage becomes a ritual the family can share, and the child builds up a relationship with the product. Over the four years, the product stays fresh and interesting for the child with the addition of accessories such as head lights and themed stickers.

Eton Field Radios, by Dan Harden, are consumer field radios also suitable for emergency use where access to information, communication, and product reliability are critical.

The radios feature weather channels, AM/FM, and worldwide multiband channels, as well as a two-way walkie talkie, mobile-phone charger, flashlight, siren and SOS light beacon. Solar panels and a hand-crank dynamo generate the power needed to run each radio.

The One Laptop per Child YoYo, by Yves Behar of fuseproject, also provides a non-grid power source – but for computers. The nonprofit One Laptop per Child (OLPC), formed at MIT by Nicholas Negroponte, is dedicated to creating and supporting an innovative child-sized laptop.

The YoYo allows users in remote locations to power the laptop. It is easy to operate, resistant to the elements typical of a developing nation and extends OLPC’s iconic identity.

The product is drop-resistant and consists of one unified part, re-ducing the size even further, with an integrated handle that acts as a further seal to prevent water and dust from affecting the unit. The YoYo was designed with engineering support from Squid Labs/Potenco.

One Laptop per Child XOXO Laptop, by Yves Behar, is about half the size of the first-generation device and approximates the size of a book. The new design makes the laptop lighter and easier for children to carry.

Dual-touch sensitive displays are used to en-hance the e-book experience, with a dual-mode display similar to the current XO laptop. The design provides a right and left page in vertical format, a hinged laptop in horizontal format, and a flat two screen-wide continuous surface that can be used in tablet mode.

Mobile Performance Venue, by Ibrahim El Hayawan, is a lightweight, transportable venue that includes projection screens and a surround-sound system. It is also a unique and iconic structure. The dynamic oval form is 90 m x 60 m, ranges from 10 m to 17 m tall, and provides 3900 m2 of covered space.

The central performance space (2000 m2) can hold a standing audience of 3500 people. The public plaza containing front-of-house functions such as ticketing, cloak room and restrooms is formed by an arcade of open hexagons.

The structure has been designed to be as lightweight and compact as possible to reduce shipping weight and volume. Water-tank foundations remove the need to transport heavy weights. The entire project can be transported in thirty standard forty foot containers.

Curve was a media sponsor of the 2008 SparkAwards. 

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