High excitement at the consumer electronics manufacturer Braun this week, as the finalists of BraunPrize 2015 were paraded in front of an audience at their HQ in the small German town of Kronberg. The prize started in 1968 under the stewardship of Braun’s then design director Dieter Rams. Since the departure of that influential visionary in 1995, and Braun’s purchase by US brand P&G a decade later, Braun seems to have lost its aesthetic way. But this year’s BraunPrize injected some thought-provoking conceptual ideas into the building.
The competition brief called for product concepts that put 'the extra in the ordinary,' because 'we surround ourselves with things we don’t really value, instead of focusing on fewer but better solutions that contribute to our lives,' says Braun design director Oliver Grabes.
The jury had whittled down more than 2,500 entries to just three finalists in two categories - students, professionals and enthusiasts – who would share the $75,000 prize money. After each presented their concept, the outright winner was chosen through an audience ballot – an unusual twist for such a competition. Roel Deden of Design Academy Eindhoven in The Netherlands came out on top of the students for Printhesis, an ingenious cheap, lightweight, 3D-printed prosthetics concept.
In the second category, Helsinki-based designer Mats Lönngren won with Ahti X 1, a life jacket with built-in mobile technology to locate a man overboard and speed up rescue. For its Rams-like minimalism, perhaps, a smart fuse box for homes called Fuse by DCA Design International in Warwick, UK, was awarded silver.
If votes had been cast for presentation style alone, the three-strong industrial design team from China’s Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts would have won hands down. Looking unfeasibly young and dapper in dark suits, Dong Ding, JinCai Ma and JunXi Huang (one of them sporting a chic bowtie) gravely stood to attention while an English-speaking companion delivered their entry. Wiper Barricade Lights, an LED warning concept for car rear windows was rewarded with bronze.