Cologne: 20.–23.05.2025 #interzum

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interzum award 2023: „Interplay of design and technological innovation“

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The interzum award honours the best products developed by international suppliers to the furniture and interior design industry. A jury of international experts selects the most exciting innovations from the sector. Already in its twelfth edition, the competition is organised by Koelnmesse in collaboration with Red Dot. We spoke with Vito Oražem, Managing Director of Red Dot, about what makes this year’s interzum award special and what he expects to see from design in the future.

Jurors meeting interzum award

Jury meeting for the interzum award 2023 (Source: Koelnmesse GmbH)

Important detailed solutions

Mr Oražem, how important is the interzum award for suppliers to the furniture and interior construction industry in your view?

At the interzum award, we highlight products by honouring the interplay between design and technological innovation. For the companies, it’s very important to get feedback on their new launches. In detail, the jury examines such important detailed solutions for the furniture industry as the choice of materials, functionality and usability, but also the feel and look. We have observed that wherever we are dealing with voluminous materials or material combinations such as panels or upholstery, companies are working on recyclability. These are invisible aspects of products that have to be communicated.

interzum award

At the interzum award, the jury highlights products by honouring the interplay between design and technological innovation. (Source: Koelnmesse GmbH)

New perspective on digital media

Have you noticed a change in this year’s entries compared to the pre-pandemic period?

How they are presented has changed. The importance of communication on digital media has increased enormously due to the pandemic. The digital material accompanying the submitted products is becoming more and more professional, not just because the technology is constantly improving, but because companies have a new perspective on it. But we insist that the jurors meet in person for the deliberations because it’s virtually impossible to have a lively discussion about the entries without meeting face to face. After all, we aren’t just looking at the products from a purely quantifiable perspective, but at that their designerly, technological and haptic qualities.

interzum award

Entries awarded with the interzum award “Best of the Best” distinction will be exhibited at interzum 2023. (Source: Koelnmesse GmbH)

Jury of various experts

How do you assess these diverse qualities and the very different product categories when choosing the prize-winning new developments?

Because the spectrum of entries is so vast, the jury is formed of various experts. There is, for example, an expert in the mattress manufacturing industry, but also a designer who creates beds as well as a material expert, all of whom bring their own perspective to the evaluation of the products submitted. While the designer considers design issues, the other two experts assess aspects such as the material properties or the possibilities for recycling and upcycling.

The new as an alternative

You’ve mentioned the issue of sustainable design. This year’s edition of the interzum award is placing a special focus on this aspect with the introduction of the new Neo-Ecology category. Where do you see the most exciting developments here?

Political pressure is now being exerted through new standards. Not to forget the social pressure altogether. This new reality restricts the use of - let's call it "traditional" - materials and fabrics, but at the same time opens up the willingness to accept the new as an alternative. That’s why the question of how and where specific materials can be replaced with other more sustainable ones is coming up more and more frequently. This also applies to the material development itself: When a new surface is developed today, alongside aspects such as scratch resistance and avoiding fingerprints, product life cycle issues play a key role.

Jury meeting interzum award

Jury meeting for the interzum award 2023 (Source: Koelnmesse GmbH)

Simplicity in design

What other focus areas have you noticed under the heading of sustainability?

Today, it’s not just about product characteristics, but about how the resources used can be reduced with the aid of technology and design. But this reduction must be in line with the product’s function. The current streamlining of many products is closely linked with a simplicity in the design, which is something I find very interesting. This year's entries include, for example, a table that can be used multifunctionally as a work, dining or desk thanks to its adjustability and reduced design.

Interiors are becoming multifunctional

Is multifunctionality an important consideration in new product developments generally, especially in the context of the growing blurring of different living spaces?

Design responds to how people shape their lives. To cater for the growing merging of home life and work, interiors are becoming more multifunctional. Just like the bathroom is no longer a merely functional washroom, but also has aspects that give it comfort, working from home is being integrated into living spaces. We can therefore expect to see new design typologies for interior design. This then raises the question of what characteristics designs, materials and surfaces will need to have in the future to fulfil various functions and increase the quality of life.

Vito Oražem of Red Dot

Vito Oražem, Managing Director of Red Dot (Source: Red Dot GmbH & Co. KG)

Entries awarded with the interzum award “Best of the Best” distinction will be exhibited at interzum 2023 from 9 May to 12 May 2023. More information about the award can be found on the interzum website.