Arching into the sky in the city of Essen is a curious architectural wonder. Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex was established in the west German city in 1847. This iconic site has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is an anchor point along the European Route of Industrial Heritage. Shaft 12, built in the New Objectivity style (an aesthetically sober, utilitarian style that became popular in German-speaking Europe between the two World Wars), has come to be known as the most beautiful coal mine in the world.
Located in the boiler house of the strangely beautiful shaft 12 is the Red Dot Design Museum Essen. Built in 1997, it is the annual site for the presentation of the Red Dot Awards: Product Design. This branch of the international competition (Red Dot also awards distinctions in Brands & Communication and Design Concept) was founded in 1955, and it has been annually celebrating the very best product design from around the world ever since.
Submissions for the 2020 competition are already underway, but as 2019 draws to close, we’d like to take a look at the kinds of products that found their way into the limelight this year. More than 5,500 products from designers and companies in 55 countries were entered into the race. 1,549 entries received a Red Dot, with 43 honourable mentions. Of that, the highest distinction of the competition, the Red Dot: Best of the Best was awarded to just 80 products — 1.5% of the total entries. This prestigious list of 80 winners will stand as a testament to the sensibilities and aesthetics of a bygone decade — and boy, what a decade it was. Read on for our 5 personal favourites.
Ferrari Monza SP1
The Ferrari Monza SP1 is a limited-edition series from the iconic luxury car manufacturer. Based on the V12 engine, this vehicle combines cutting-edge technology with the sophisticated design aesthetic of mid-century Ferraris. This single-seat road car (which is also available as a 2-seater) is visually inspired by monolithic form. Incredibly aerodynamic and devoid of roof and windscreen, the vehicle’s most notable achievement is perhaps its patented “virtual windshield,” which directs air away from the driver while still maintaining a pleasurable “en plein air” feeling.
Statement by the Jury: “Fuelled by the maxims of classic sports car design, the Ferrari Monza SP1 has achieved the perfect reduction to the essentials. Based on the Ferrari models of the 1950s, it establishes a novel expressive design vocabulary. Particularly impressive are the beautiful proportions and the quality of the finishes. Captivating with excellent design details such as the sloping waistline, the car establishes an intense relationship with the driver.”
Sony Glass Sound Speaker LSPX-S2
The Glass Sound Speaker LSPX-S2 represents a beautiful, minimalist marriage of light and sound. This tabletop speaker houses an upward-beaming LED, with an innovative lens reflector that diffuses the light and creates a soft surround of illumination, allowing the user to experience music in a unique, synesthesia-like blurring of the senses. It is essentially a speaker that takes a visual cue from candles and oil lamps, making for some serious mood lighting. As a speaker, the cylindrical tube enhances the musical quality and delivers a powerful audio experience. Technical components are housed in the base, giving this speaker an optimal low centre of gravity.
Statement by the Jury: “The LSPX-S2, the second generation of the Glass Sound Speaker, combines — in an outstandingly harmonious way — aesthetics and functionality with a unique visual and acoustic experience. Noteworthy is the integration of sophisticated technology into a well-proportioned housing of nostalgic appeal. Reminiscent of a candle in operation, it embodies the emergence of a new kind of speaker. Light and sound merge into a captivating convergence of seeing and hearing.”
This sleek, aerodynamic helmet is both beautiful and novel. Its wide visor is innovatively integrated into the overall shell, flush with the rest of the helmet and requiring no cumbersome external attachment. The external visor movement has been replaced by a patented internal movement that makes for an extremely comfortable user experience. A special coating on the visor protects it from fogging up and scratching, which increases visibility and therefore, of course, safety. The shape of the helmet is designed to reduce outside noise, and as if that wasn’t enough innovation all-around, it also boasts an intelligent ventilation system, complete with smart control, that maintains a good climate under the helmet.
Statement by the Jury: “The AERO motorcycle helmet has emerged as an example of excellently integrated design elements, resulting in its expressive shape that inspires a high level of confidence in terms of functionality and reliability. This aerodynamic helmet achieves a high degree of wearing comfort and rider safety thanks to the innovative integration of the visor without conventional external attachment. It offers riders an outstanding all-round vision, as well as the benefits of a sophisticated smart ventilation system.”
Petit Pli – Clothes That Grow
This has to be one of the most unique products across the board — the best of the “Best of the Best”! Petit Pli children’s clothing is created with a unique patent-pending structure embedded within the garments. Designed for ages 9 months to 4 years, these clothing pieces grow with the child wearing them. They were created in response to unethical throwaway culture and represent an important breakthrough in the intersection between environmentalism and the fashion industry. And yes, these clothes for tots are even fashionable, not to mention waterproof, lightweight, and highly durable.
Statement by the Jury: “The fascinating concept of growing clothes offers parents of toddlers a highly functional and child-friendly alternative. Made from an innovative material, these smart and lightweight garments can adapt to the growth of children across seven different sizes. Moreover, they are comfortable to wear, breathable, and easy to wash in machines. In the often little sustainable fashion industry, they embody an innovative product solution.”
The Cabiner may, at first, seem more trendy than innovative, another minimalist entry in the world of off-the-grid camping and eco-tourism. However, the thing that makes the Cabiner so worthy of distinction is its primary material — cardboard! A ground-breaking construction technique involving an innovative rotating mould tool is responsible for the unique profile of the structure. Its shell consists of 24 layers of cardboard that have been bonded together using an environmentally friendly glue, which provides impressive insulation. Inside, these tiny cabins — which can be found in Dutch national parks and can only be accessed by foot — provide visitors with clean drinking water, a flushing toilet, a hot shower, and a wood-fired stove.
Statement by the Jury: “Following a modern minimalist approach, these hiking cabins make impressive use of cardboard as a sustainable material for creating a robust and aesthetically appealing construction. The design consistency of both the exterior and the interior is highly noteworthy. Moreover, the Cabiner hiking cabins are also extremely efficient in terms of temperature and climate regulation for comfortable overnight stays. They blend into their natural surroundings and are environmentally neutral.”
Images via Red Dot