What follows are the winners of the 2012 Innovation By Design Awards. To enter this year’s awards, click here.
Last night, October 16, 2012, Fast Company threw a huge celebration of the past year of design. Technically, it was an awards show for our 2012 Innovation by Design Awards, featuring the best and brightest in the industry, judged by the best and brightest in the industry. 1,700 different entities submitted products, ideas, and interfaces that were narrowed to 56 finalists, then an all-star panel of 27 judges chose the winners. Design innovations from bootstrapping student teams and mega corporations were celebrated side by side. It’s a collection of work we’re incredibly proud to highlight.
Howard Chambers and Bland Hoke, Parsons the New School for Design
Any visitor to New York City has walked through dark, grimy sidewalk sheds under scaffolding. This team created a modular system with a seat, counter, planter, screen, and lighting to turn such spaces into pocket parks. "This has business relevance in the world’s largest cities," judge and Behance co-founder and CEO Scott Belsky says.
This plug-in electric car boasts a solar panel on top and sustainably sourced materials within, such as trim made from salvaged wood. The judges praised the design’s boldness. "The Fisker shows what you can do by taking risks in sedan design," says judge Erica Eden, a Femme Den founder at Smart Design, "and that’s really what consumers want."
Embrace Infant Warmer
Millions of preemies in the developing world die for lack of incubators, which can cost thousands of dollars. The $200 Embrace turns a 30-minute charge into six hours of stable warmth, due largely to space-age materials. "This is an example of design’s power when brought into the engineering process early," says judge Bill Moggridge, Director of the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt.
Leveraged Freedom Chair
Continuum Innovation and the MIT Mobility Lab
"Having ingenuity that’s this low tech is kick-ass," judge and Wolff Olins CEO Karl Heiselman says. This wheelchair has a lever that smooths the ride over ruts—a breakthrough especially relevant in countries where paving is rare. Continuum proposes subsidizing distribution in poorer nations with profits from a higher-end wheelchair made for sale in wealthy countries.
With Mama, cell phones sub for nurses. An expectant mom registers her due date and then gets timely text messages with tips on, say, swaddling or breast feeding. Mama has already rolled out in three countries. "Putting this information into people’s hands is a powerful idea that could affect millions," says service design judge and Path co-founder and CEO Dave Morin.
Prineville Data Center
Sheehan Partners for Facebook
This building is one massive airflow machine: By capturing outside air and cooling it with pressurized mist, no air-conditioning is required for the servers within. Hypergreen, it’s 24% cheaper to maintain than the typical energy-gobbling data center. Also, it looks good. "The idea that infrastructure can be beautiful is a powerful statement," judge and principal at Local Projects Jake Barton says.
Chartwell, judge and Facebook product designer Nicholas Felton says, "is an ingenious hack." This easy-to-use tool could disrupt all manner of chart-making programs, thanks to a clever font system that turns chains of numbers into elegant charts. Tweaking a graph is as simple as changing a number.
The BioLite can turn any biomass into a hyper-efficient heat source and can also charge gadgets. More ingenious: Each sale subsidizes a cheaper model that is distributed in developing countries. "It speaks to a tremendous amount of real-world research," judge and CPO and co-founder of Airbnb Joe Gebbia says.
Kids with cancer often struggle to explain their pain, but, lacking good data, doctors can’t fine-tune treatment. Enter Pain Squad, a data-collection tool in the guise of a simple iPhone game. "This is a strategy you could apply to so many things," judge and Nest CEO Tony Fadell says.
Given that we received so many entries in the categories of Consumer Products and Interactive Design, we also announced two Business Impact Awards to commemorate a duo of notable, game-changing accomplishments in those fields. These are two potentially paradigm-shifting products chosen by the editors of Fast Company.
The Nike+ Fuelband, which tracks your daily movement and workout performance, is designed to make the stats of your physical activity something to check as often as the time. "Networks of objects are going to change everything," Webb says. "Fuelband points to that."
Windows 8 and Windows Phone represent a paradigm shift for Microsoft, and an entirely different design philosophy from Apple’s and Google’s. The UI is all about pristine, touchscreen-friendly tiles—a bet on the mobile-driven future of computing.
Thanks to all of our illustrious judges, talented participants, and all of the entrants who make this entire effort possible. And don’t worry, the finalists, who emerged at the top of a mountain of competitors, all went home with a trophy!