Some North American processors seem to have the ability to make plastics do everything but speak and fetch the newspaper. The designs cited in the Industrial Design Excellence Awards annual competition, including those highlighted in the story starting on Page 1 of this issue, include some fantastic examples.
What makes a winning design? Sometimes the key is to give a product a fresh look by using colors or textures that haven't been tried before. (When is the last time you saw a plain black, rotary-dial telephone!)
Other times a winner is more radical, like when a designer comes up with a product that's brand new, or a completely different way of doing something.
Many of the companies honored by IDEA credited their designs for boosting sales. That's important. But something else is even more important: whether a new product passes the value test. After you've purchased it, is it functional? Durable? Would you buy it again, or recommend it to your mother? We've seen our share of flashy, award-winning designs that didn't work quite right. These product failures come and go.
Every year we report on a variety of new product contests: the Society of Plastics Engineers' thermoforming and automotive divisions are notable, as is the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.'s Structural Plastics Division contest. The IDEA competition is a little different for us, in that it's not limited to plastic products. Still, the designs that it honors are extraordinary, and many involve plastics.
Congratulations to all the winners this year, and to all the designers, processors, mold makers and resin suppliers who were involved in the projects. We encourage more processors to get involved in design contests. It's a good way to find companies that are actually out there introducing new products, which is a key to survival. And it's also a great way to pick up insights on improving existing products, whether they're for you or your customers.
The IDEA competition, by the way, is sponsored by the Dulles, Va.-based Industrial Designers Society of America and BusinessWeek magazine.