The value of design prizes

Award Winning Company 750+. Over the course of 30 years, one accumulates many things – experiences, memories, awards. When we received our first design awards back in 1989 for hansgrohe products, we were simply proud to have made it. That’s when we knew: our work is being understood. Then, there was the next award … and the next … and with the success, there comes the claim to keep this high level of achievement. A task at least as difficult. Still, we have been able for years to hold the first place at the iF Ranking Creative as the best independent design studio. By now, we have won a stunning total of 763 awards for Phoenix Design – more of 500 of them over the past 6 years.

But so many awards don’t come all by themselves. Apart from the extraordinary design, it is first and foremost our clients who know and promote the value of these awards. Not least thanks to their high level of design intelligence. After all, you need courage to stand up to a high-calibre international panel of jurors and have them evaluate your product. When we designers talk about the products we’ve created, it all too soon smacks of advertising. That’s why it is important for us to leave the evaluation to a neutral institution. Particularly the organisers behind the iF Design Award, the German Design Award, and the Red Dot Design Award are doing a great job in taking highest design standards out into the world. And with the Focus Open, the state of Baden-Württemberg also plays on par with the Big Players.


Andreas Haug, Phoenix Design; Roland Heiler, Porsche Design; Andrej Kupetz, German Design Council, Tom Schönherr, Phoenix Design; Prof Dr Dr Dr Werner Sobek, Werner Sobek Group (from left to right).

Another thing that has changed over the past years is the attention awards receive. While an award used to be “nice to have”, today you reach global publicity and are able to differentiate yourself from competitors’ products. The award competition organisers not only publish travelling exhibitions and catalogues, they also present the winners on web pages, in the Social Media, via PR activities and in glamorous award celebration shows. Design awards are an important factor in the marketing mix today, and they also have a positive internal effect in the development departments of the respective companies. This holds equally true for the attractiveness of design studios.

That’s why we appreciate each and every award, for we know how important they are. However, after more than 750 awards, there is the question which ones we remember particularly – because we associate a special moment, an exciting phase, or sometimes onerous efforts.

I’m particularly thinking of Care-O-bot 4 here. Together with the Fraunhofer IPA in Stuttgart, we were honoured with the Red Dot Product Design Award for this service robot: Best of the Best in 2015. Although robotics is an absolute trend topic, there are hardly any design approaches for using robots in a service environment. Consequently, the design for our service robot was more the creation of a new archetype serving as a research platform – realised without a multitude of role models for finding ideas. A piece of hard pioneering work, which eventually was honoured by the best prize. Which of course made us all the more happy. Today, this robot is called “Paul”, and it helps customers looking for products at the SATURN electronics store in Ingolstadt.

1998, only eleven years after founding Phoenix Design, we received a personal prize for the first time honouring our lifetime achievement – the Lucky Strike Designer Award. At the time, it was a pleasant yet strange feeling! What was judged was a relatively short period of our life, and you ask yourself: “What is still to come?” But first and foremost it is of course a great honour and a confirmation for having done a good job for many years. And this feeling of happiness carries the day. The newspaper Berliner Zeitung at the time applauded the Raymond Loewy Foundation for “promoting design by pulling it out of anonymity.” Back then, we only had a team of 15 and were not as well-known as we are today; especially not next to legends like Karl Lagerfeld or Peter Lindbergh. But that’s precisely what makes this award so special. And in 2012, even the German Design Award ‘Personality’ followed!

In my opinion what makes a product rewarded, is the overall design appearance first. What is the innovation? It’s important that the design and its individual components form an harmonious whole. The first impression – which also counts, as it so often does – builds up a certain expectation. Yet, a product can still surprise me in its very own way, e.g. by unexpected variability or because of its sustainable aspects. In any case, it must be self-explanatory: does it really work for the user? Physically and digitally? Really? When an emotional message is then conveyed on top of it all, great successes may be celebrated – for decades.

Andreas Haug
Andreas Haug

Founder, Managing Partner

In 1987, Andreas Haug founded the design studio Phoenix Design in Stuttgart, together with Tom Schönherr. After completing his design studies at the “Akademie der Bildenden Künste” (Academy of the Fine Arts) in Stuttgart, Andreas Haug was co-founder and co-owner of frogdesign, from 1984 to 1987 as Design Consultant and Vice President. Phoenix Design has developed to become one of the top addresses worldwide for product and interaction design.