Dr. Peter Zec: Founder & CEO, Red Dot

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My Native Admission Statement: Peter Zec, born in 1956, is an internationally acclaimed design expert and author, who became known worldwide for initiating and leading the Red Dot Design Award. Since 1991, he has been president of the Design Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen in Essen, Germany. Zec developed the award to an international platform for the evaluation of design and established its global orientation, which is reflected both in submissions from around the world and in the multinational jury. The Red Dot Award is the only design competition in the world that presents its winning objects in its museums in Essen, Germany, Xiamen, China and Singapore.

How did you get into the industry?

My father taught me a fascination for design. He was an industrial worker, not an intellectual, but he was the first to convey that appreciation to me. I must have been six when my dad talked to me about the quality of his Gugelot razor from Braun. He calmly explained what exactly is fantastic about this device.

I deliberately thought about design at the beginning of my studies of psychology, media and art theory when I bought a Corbusier couch from my first own money. The original from Cassina. I own that design classic until today. Also, when I set up my first office after graduation, my big dream was a Tizio lamp by Artemide. Then, the so-called low-voltage halogen technology was used at first, whereby the lamp base serves as a cable-free transformer.

Besides this private interest, design soon determined my professional path. From the late 1980s on, I started working for the Design Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen. Simultaneously, I was also president of both the Federation of German Graphic Designers (Bund Deutscher Grafikdesigner) and the Association of German Industrial Designers (Verband Deutscher Industrie Designer). Finally, in April 1991, I took over the lead of the Design Zentrum and its design contest, which established in 1955.

Any emerging industry trends?

Digitalisation, artificial intelligence and robotics are already shaping various design fields. In the Red Dot Award: Product Design 2019, it became very evident that the trend in favour of self-determination is leading to a change in our product culture. From cars to clothing or furniture – products are often personalisable and can be configured individually by the customer. For example, many of the objects that won an award are available in different colour combinations and sizes or can be adapted to individual requirements of the user in other ways. Alongside, there is also a rush on eco-friendly products.

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

Products from Chinese designers and companies have become a severe counterweight to successful Western brands. The submission numbers of Chinese products are rising, and more and more can withstand the strict evaluation through the Red Dot Jury. Some products even have a high and even very high design quality. A development that makes evident that there is a growing understanding of good design in the People's Republic of China. And the better the design, the higher the international competitiveness of Chinese products – with the result that it will come to fierce competition.

Inspiration for the business idea?

In 1991, when I took over the lead of the Design Zentrum and its design contest, the organisation worked primarily on a regional level, and the competition focused on German industrial design. Back then, I have recognised the potential to internationalise the competition. It was the time when the province of North Rhine-Westphalia turned its attention to Asia to present its domestic location as an ideal location for the settlement of Asian companies. To prove the creative potential significantly, the Design Zentrum organised touring exhibitions in the metropolises of Asia. Due to the permanent presence in Asia and the continuous contact to companies in the region, the awareness of the Red Dot Award has increased considerably. This allowed the competition to gain an international reputation. Also, the European and American market was able to be interested in the competition. This effort, as well as regular optimisation, lead to the thriving Red Dot World. However, I was not able to anticipate that the award would become one of the largest design competitions in the world with international branch offices, three museums, online platforms, specialist publications and much more.

What's next for the Business in the near future?

In the last decade, digital networks have changed our lives significantly. As consequence and to respond to the desire of participants and industry experts, we will give our global design community a new home with the Red Dot Network. From 1 October 2019 on, it will bring together companies, agencies, designers, jurors and those interested in design, creating a unique design network. It will lend visibility to our established design world and allow members to use it productively.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

Every year we take great effort and invite internationally recognised experts to test and evaluate each submitted product and project on-site to ensure the high-quality level of the competition and the significance of the Red Dot label. Concerning the Red Dot Award: Product Design, each juror is a specialist in his class, whether in the field of cars or furniture, fashion or jewellery, interior decoration or robotics. But that's not all. As the only design competition, all members of the jury must sign a "Code of Honor" to ensure a fair and independent evaluation. The "Code of Honor" states that no juror may be employed by a manufacturing company. They are also not allowed to participate in the assessment of products in whose manufacturing process they were involved. In this way, it is excluded that the jurors decide on their own or the services of direct competitors. Further, no one has a veto right that could be used. The jurors – and only the jurors – have to reach a clear, unanimous decision. This process ensures that only the best products are awarded the "Red Dot" quality seal. For this reason, the Red Dot Jury is the foundation and backbone of our competition, which designers, design bureaus and companies around the world appreciate. This positive response also relies on our valuable winner's benefits and our transparency in the structure of the competition. As we register an increasing number of participants every year, we feel confirmed in our approach.

Tip of the Day: The new Red Dot Design Yearbook 2019/2020 that gathers all of the award winners from 55 countries in one place, It provides a vibrant picture of the design sector and presents examples of current trends, advancing developments and future potential in the field of product design.

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Company Bio: The Red Dot Award is one of the world’s largest design competitions. In 1955, a jury convened for the first time to assess the best designs of the day. In the 1990s, Red Dot CEO Professor Dr. Peter Zec developed the name and brand of the award. Ever since the sought-after distinction "Red Dot" has been the revered international seal of outstanding design quality. To appraise the diversity in the field of design in a professional manner, the Red Dot Design Award breaks down into the three disciplines of Red Dot Award: Product Design, Red Dot Award: Communication Design and Red Dot Award: Design Concept.

A new round of the Red Dot Award: Product Design 2020 starts on 14 October 2019. Further information is available at www.red-dot.org.