Young German designer Johanna Schoemaker was last night awarded the prestigious International BraunPrize during a ceremony at the company's headquarters in Kronberg. Schoemaker's elegant Clam OLED Lamp was among four worthy designs shortlisted by the jury from a field of more than 1000 entries from 54 countries.
The 2009 event marks the 17th time the BraunPrize has been awarded since its inception in 1968 by Erwin Braun, the son of company founder Max. The Award's esteem is influenced by the key role the German company played in redefining consumer product design throughout the 50 and 60's. The strong, minimalist, "Less, but better" design language pioneered by Braun - and in particular Dieter Rams - is still clearly evident to day in modern icons like Apple's iPod (see gallery).
The BraunPrize for young designers is unique in terms of the judging process. The huge task of shortlisting the four finalists falls to a jury of five design specialists, three of whom are from outside the company. The 2009 Jury members were Peter Schneider (Braun Director of Corporate Design), design anthropologist Anna Kirah (CPH Design), Kazuo Tanaka (GK Design Group), Florian Seiffert (Product Design Professor and winner of the first BraunPrize) and Rainer Silbernagel (Director of Braun Engineering and Quality Institute).
Entries are assessed on criteria of design, technology and usability, with reference to a central theme which this year was "Envision conscious design". Once the shortlist of four finalists is established, the winner is selected by a forum of over academics, professional designers and journalists. This year votes were cast by a forum of around 100 (which included Gizmag Editor Noel McKeegan) following presentations from the four finalists on September 16.
And the winner is... Clam OLED LampInterior lighting is by no means a new field and although the Clam OLED - as the jury noted in its findings - "has neither changed the general idea nor the function of the lamp", its integration of new technology, emphasis on function and versatility, undeniably strong aesthetic appeal and the added bonus of energy efficiency saw Johanna Schoemaker's clean, slender design emerge as the winner of the 2009 BraunPrize.
As Schoemaker explained in her final presentation to the Forum, the requirements of interior lighting vary depending on the situation, so the goal was to create a family of lamps that are dimable, able to change color and intensity, and also have the ability to create dynamic light effects.
A number of factors set this design apart from the traditional lamp. The most obvious is form - when in the off position the "petals" of the lamp remain closed and when switched on, the opening angle can be controlled to vary the intensity and color of the light.
The second point of difference is the choice of OLED as the light source. As the designer herself explained, OLED is a technology in development and it's estimated that practical applications of the technology are still around five years away, but despite this it offers a number of benefits that help meet the design brief.
Firstly, OLED is a planar light source that doesn't require a lampshade for diffusion, which facilitates the sleek form of the Clam. OLEDs can also also be transparent in an off state and use a grid that can deliver dynamic light effects - meaning the Clam can be used to mimic the fast moving shadows from clouds that naturally make humans feel comfortable.
Schoemaker receives the first prize of Euro12,000 plus the option to take up a six month internship at Braun's Corporate Design Department. The designers of the remaining shortlisted entries - Stephan Zimmermann's ambitious Anenome cleaning facility for ships, Tobias Stuntebeck's "White Cane" mobility aid for the blind and Karsten Wittmann's Skylino child restraint system for aircraft - each receive Euro5000. We'll take a closer look at the most compelling of these designs, as well as highlights from the pool of International, BraunPrize China and Premio Braun Mexico entries in coming weeks - stay tuned.