Air NZ's long-haul redesign has netted it high praise at the International Design Excellence Awards, taking out a gold prize in the research category as well as a silver award for the Skycouch (commercial) and bronze for its new cabin interiors (transport).
Run by the Industrial Designers Society of America, the 2011 IDEA jury consisted of 20 international experts coming from design consultancies, corporations and universities.
“The IDEA programme is considered by many as the ‘Oscars’ of design competitions because the judging process is rigorous and judged by the experts in their field,” says IDSA chief executive Clive Roux.
The panel said this year's competition was the most intense in its history of the awards; so many entries were received that IDSA had to appoint three additional judges.
"At the beginning of 2007 the executive team at Air New Zealand set down a challenge to the project team to design a customer-driven innovation approach to the design of the pending 777-300ER aircraft," says Anton Andrews, director strategic experiences at IEB Design.
"The research project was powerful not only in the clarity of its insights, but also in its visible impact on the design and, significantly, on the way the airline now does business. Airlines usually treat economy passengers as a single category, and the design research team did a great job of shattering this myth. They really unearthed the acute differences in wants and needs between single travellers, families and couples.
"I love how the team complemented their research with method actors—stuck in their rough polystyrene seats in early cabin mockups for hours, I can imagine the actors took on the roles of the passengers and made issues pop much more clearly."
Other notable Kiwi inventions honoured were the Springfree Trampoline (see Idealog story here), named a silver winner in the leisure and recreation section. It features a four-step safety system, replacing springs with a flexible composite rod system and removing hard edges to reduce the risk of injuries.
New Zealand agritech company Simcro also picked up a silver gong in the medical and scientific category for its Optiline sheep drencher, designed to administer treatments more efficiently and safely. According to chief executive Will Rouse, specialising in customised animal health delivery systems to the pharmaceutical industry has become a "very successful business model".
This year entries came from 39 countries, and judging criteria focused on innovation; benefit to the user; benefit to society; benefit to the client; visual appeal and appropriate aesthetics; usability, emotional factors and unmet needs for the design research category; and internal factors, methods, strategic value and implementation for the design strategy category.