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Inside guide to the Product Design Lion

Cannes Lions Director of Awards Simon Cook answers all the questions you've always wanted to ask

What Simon and his team don’t know about the Lions isn’t worth knowing. We decided it was time their knowledge was shared with the world. This week: Product Design

created on Thursday 23 Feb 2017

"There’s everything you might expect, and a lot of stuff you wont."
Simon Cook
(Life-saving lampshade: The +Met project combined household products like lamps and plant pots with emergency safety equipment. Shortlisted in Product Design, 2016)

"Brand communication has become such a part of product design that it’s important as a global Festival celebrating creative communications that we now recognise this. Including Product Design Lions as a stand-alone entry category in our awards line up, not only acknowledges this fast growing industry, but helps to set a global benchmark and precedent for the creativity within it. As with all new launches we have taken time to consult with the industry, ensuring that the category meets with the needs and expectations of the sector.”

 Those were the words of Cannes Lions Chairman Terry Savage, at the launch of the Product Design Lion back in 2014. 

Since then, the Product Design Lion has more than doubled in size, and although it’s still a relatively small Lion compared to its brothers and sisters, it’s possible that Product Design is one of the most varied Lions in terms of the sort of work that wins. This is a Lion where bins and bottles are judged alongside cars and water filters. 

This astonishing mix of products is mirrored by the Grand Prix winners in the category over the years: 2014 was the year of a denim fashion line designed by Pharrell for G-Star clothing, 2015’s Grand Prix was awarded to Geometry of the iron deficiency remedy ‘Lucky Metal Fish’, and most recently the 2016 top award went to Project Jacquard. 

Project Jacquard is a system for weaving interactivity into fabrics through special connected threads. I managed to grab Jury President, Anna Horozic, as she was sipping a glass of celebratory champagne after they’d awarded this piece the Grand Prix. When I asked her why it was so special, she told me: “It’s something that allows us as product designers to DREAM. It forces us to ask questions. In the future can I use this in furniture? Can it be used on a hospital bed or embedded in sheets at my Grandma’s house if she falls?” 

They awarded it because it allowed them to see the way forward for Product Design. 



See full credits on the Cannes Lions Archive 

The Product Design Lion: essential information

CANNES LIONS: Let’s start with the official definition of the Product Design Lion: 
SIMON COOK: “The Product Design Lions celebrate creativity that fuses form and function. The work entered will need to demonstrate aesthetics that are inseparable from application; that is work that blurs the line between a product’s beauty and utility by achieving both.”

CL: And what does that mean in reality? 
SC: “Think Apple. It’s an obvious but go-to example for everyone! In 2016, every product a brand creates is the personification of the brand that created it - a physical embodiment of that brand personality and ethos. Design touches everyone’s lives every day and in some cases the product has now become the message. Product is an increasingly important part of the communication mix.”

CL: Sorry if this is a silly question, but how is this different from the Design Lion?
SC: “Take your watch for example: The Design Lion recognises the exquisitely crafted packaging and perfectly pitched visual branding, while the Product Design Lion is all about the brand embodiment of the watch itself.” 

CL: Why was the Lion introduced, and how is it going?
SC: “It’s still very much in its infancy compared to something like Film or Press… but we introduced the Product Design Lions in 2014 as part of an on-going commitment to a more holistic representation of the communications landscape, regardless of medium or method. Like all the Lions, it was the product of extensive campaigning by, and consultation with, the industry. 

“Before launch we spoke to many product designers who all felt passionately that their understanding of the core business of a brand directly impacted its aesthetic, and that this craft, in turn, informed communication. 
“The Lion doubled in size from 2015-16, which is hugely encouraging, and last year we introduced a suite of categories with a focus on sustainability and social impact. It’s a baby, but in the long term the Product Design Lion should allow the industry to be brought closer to clients and the awarded work will establish a benchmark that will positively influence the future of product design.”

CL: What sort of work can win in Product Design, and what sort of companies enter? 
SC: “It’s incredibly broad – and that’s very exciting. There’s everything you might expect, and a lot of stuff you wont: chairs, lighting solutions, bins... but the range last year was quite exceptional. At one end of the spectrum we had The Aston Martin DB10, at the other end we had Project Jacquard.

“We receive work from Product designers as you might expect, but also tech companies, creative agencies and labs, product developers, the list goes on. It’s less purist and more inclusive. The work entered represents a real cross-section of the creative industries and we believe that makes the award unique. It celebrates product design in all its glorious guises.” 

CL: A lot of the winners last year were very tech focused. What about the analogue world? Can I still enter my, er… chair? 
SC: “Ha! I don’t believe for a second you made a chair. 

CL: Just answer the question
SC: “Actually I think we will continue to see a lot of work that embraces both worlds. The more traditional, crafted, ergonomic pieces still have their place, but increasingly the work reflects how technology is integrated seamlessly into our lives. The product design jury rarely talk about ‘analog’ or ‘digital’. They just talk solutions. I’m always pleased to see that the winning body of work is always rich with examples of both and the unifying theme is always the same. Does this product or solution enhance my life?  
“Oh, and you can enter your chair in A03. Furniture and Lighting.”
CL: What key piece of advice would you give to anyone entering the Product Design Lion? 
SC: "If you’re new to Cannes Lions (perhaps you’re a product designer who has never entered before) don’t underestimate the value of a Lion and what it can do for your business, solution or product. We have a dedicated Design Team and they have a real passion for what they do. They are on hand to work really closely with you to assist with the process and work with you on a one to one basis to find the best-fit categories for your work. Just drop them us note. 
“As part of your entry, send us the actual product. The Product Design jury are a curious bunch and want the full sensory experience. Pictures and video footage are great, but nothing beats the real thing!” 



More information on the Product Design Lion can be found in the Awards section. You can also see more examples of work in the Cannes Lions Archive. 


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