The Design Process Behind Fast Company’s First-Ever Award Trophy

A peek at the trophy, created by NewDealDesign, which we’ll be handing out at the Innovation By Design awards.

With more than 1,700 entries and 56 finalists, our 2012 Innovation By Design Awards were graced with a mountain of interest and superb entries. Tonight, we’ll finally be unveiling the winners at an event in New York. But what is a fancy award party without a brilliant trophy?


Here’s a look at the celebratory chunk of metal we’ll be handing out to nine winners and all 56 finalists at a ceremony this Tuesday in New York. And as is our habit here at Co.Design, we thought we’d take a moment to reveal the story behind the award’s design.

Four months ago, we invited several studios to pitch us their ideas for the perfect trophy. The award had to work for nominees and winners, and it had to leave space to put names, years, and categories. We also wanted a design that would last beyond 2012–something that could be easily re-imagined in other materials or tweaked slightly from year to year. And we thought something modular could be cool.

Our biggest request was for the form to reflect the specific values of the reward:

It should arise from a story about what design means in the context of innovation. It should be a form drawn from a viewpoint about what innovation is. As a guideline, the awards were judged on six dimensions: business impact, beauty, originality, functionality, social impact, and depth of user insight.

Of all the proposals, we chose to go with the industrial-design firm NewDealDesign, which is perhaps best known for designing the Fitbit and the Lytro Camera (the latter of which is a finalist in this year’s awards). They worked with us to refine a timeless monolith that combined the profile of a bolt–whose six sides represent our six award categories–with a cube, the perfect primary form. The finalist trophies are open-aired sculptures, symbolically in-progress. The winners feature a finishing topper. “The extruded hex column is cut in a unique way to project an image of a cube if seen from the right angle,” NewDealDesign’s Gadi Amit tells me. “I like the idea that we looked back at the industrial process, metal extrusion.”

It didn’t start this way, of course. A peek through NewDealDesign’s concept art shows everything from stereotypical gold cups to geometric honeycombs to what I’m fairly certain is a riff on a toilet seat. They ultimately got our attention with a tiered version of the hexagonal trophy, which was eventually simplified into one seamless edge.

With the shape finalized, the only remaining challenge was the size. While six-foot-tall, karate-tournament-style trophies would be awesome, they’d be just as gaudy and even more impractical. “We wanted something that is comfortable to the hand, yet prominent enough on the shelf, yet not overwhelming or too much of an ostentatious statement,” says Amit. “We had a lot of calculations of weight. In the end, we scaled it up and down until we found the perfect size.” The final product is a few hefty pounds of aluminum, finished with copper plating–small enough for a shelf but large enough to satiate an above-average ego. We hope this Tuesday’s winners and finalists like it as much as we do.


About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.