IDEA Design Winners Show Product Development Story

Be inspired by some of our favorite winners from the Industrial Design Excellence Awards (IDEA) of 2017. See how these designers gathered essential information, iterated potential solutions and ultimately produced working prototypes. Making a great idea come to life requires a combination of artistry, engineering savvy and emotional intelligence. In our opinion, these product designers nail it.



Belfug Sener, Turkey

Blink home medical tester

Blink home medical tester and analyzer.

Blink is a portable medical analyzer that lets consumers perform diagnostic tests, interpret the data and share it with their physicians remotely. It combines a blood pressure monitor, blood and urine specimen cartridges, a digital thermometer and more, all in a discrete form factor that’s clean, safe and easy to use.

Blink is a response to ever-increasing health care costs around the world, and the fact that too few of us actively monitor our vital signs before the onset of more serious, and costly, illness. Also, there are not enough health care providers for our growing population, so being more proactive will be vital in the future.

Design sketches for Blink home medical tester

Design sketches help to refine a product idea

We love the careful and methodical steps this designer took to gather information from doctors, consumers and medical researchers. This was done well before even the first design sketches were made. It’s important to clearly understand who the product is for and what issue it’s intended to address. That’s why this finished product offers exactly the right blend of tests to cover a variety of potential conditions, without being cumbersome or intimidating to use.

Humicotta                                                                                                                                                   KAIST Industrial Design Dept., Korea

Humicotta humidifier and air filter

The Humicotta humidifier and purifier.

The Humicotta is a 3D printed ceramic humidifier. It uses a honeycomb structure to maximize exposed surface area, while a small high-efficiency fan in the base encourages air circulation for evaporation. All you have to do is fill it with water and the unit does the rest, quietly and cleanly. The secret to its success is the use of diatomite, which is the fossilized remains of ancient sea algea. Why is this cool? Highly absorbent and resistant to chemicals and bacteria, it’s nature’s perfect filter material.

Design brief for Humicotta humidifier

How can earlier ideas be improved upon?

The design team did a great job researching what products are currently on the market and where each of them can be improved upon. Their solutions is not only stylish but consumers can design and print their own honeycomb shapes to suit their tastes and home decor.

ASHA                                                                                                                                                             Peter Alwin, Umeå Institute of Design

ASHA medical tester

ASHA scale and thermometer

The ASHA design is inspired by Accredited Social Health Activists, women living in rural areas of India who’ve been given basic training to deal with health issues among the poor. One of the great concerns is to combat infant and child mortality, but too many of these women lack the basic literacy necessary to perform more complex examinations.

Designer Peter Alwin visited Indian villages and talked with health workers to understand their needs and concerns and from that ASHA was born.

Design sketches for ASHA medical tester

Scores of prototypes were made to get the idea right.

To suit its intended users and environment, the device needed to be very simple to operate, rugged and yet inexpensive. Many prototypes and mock-ups were made to find just the right size and shape that would be comfortable to hold and use for a woman in the field.

The ASHA is charged by solar batteries. It provides an IR-thermometer and a scale for weighing babies during the first years of life. Each hospital provides a free child blanket, which incorporates a growth and weight chart to monitor the child’s progress. Only if the child’s development falls out of a given range is the hospital then notified for further check-ups. This approach has already helped stabilize infant mortality rates and likely saved thousands of children.

Indian child being measured on ASHA mat

Weighing blankets include growth and weight charts.

Another benefit of this design is that it helps build credibility with social activists in rural communities who are all too often skeptical or confused about modern medical care. This design demonstrates the perfect combination of aesthetic sensibility and a social conscience.

Q-Collar                                                                                                                                                                Priority Designs, USA

Q-Collar sporting neck brace

The Q-Collar comes in many sizes to fit any athlete.

The Q -Collar may seem simple, but it’s actually a remarkably sophisticated solution to a vexing problem much in the news these days. Blunt force blows to the head, even the mild ones experienced by children playing a game of schoolyard sports, are now shown to have potentially life-changing consequences. To date, every effort has been made to improve helmets for athletes but with little effect.

The Q-Collar takes an entirely different approach, using bio-mimicry based on the physiology of woodpeckers, who famously love to bang their heads. Woodpeckers do this because they can activate a muscle in their necks that compresses the jugular vein, slightly increasing the pressure of blood in their skull. This increased blood pressure stabilizes the brain and reduces brain slosh, the main contributor to blunt force injury and concussion.

Design sketches for Q-Collar neck brace

Hundreds of prototypes were made from many different materials

Hundreds of prototypes were made using CNC machining, laser cutting, vacuum casting and 3D printing. The Q-Collar has to be lightweight, durable, comfortable, flexible enough to move with the body yet applying pressure in the right spot without pain.

The inventor, Dr. David Smith, worked with a team of neurologists, engineers and the designers for an astonishing seven years before finally coming up with the solution. And tests show that it works, reducing mild brain injuries up to 83% compared to anything else that’s been tried before.

The Q-Collar has no moving parts, no batteries, no flashing LED lights. To some it’s just a piece of foam rubber. But it exemplifies the underlying, often hidden sophistication and beauty of good design. It also goes to show that the right answer doesn’t happen overnight but takes patience, perseverance and an unwavering commitment to a good idea.


We’ve been fortunate to work with other designers on prototypes which have since become great products. Learn more about the design journey of Gate Labs and Glass-on-the-Grass, just two of many examples. We have comprehensive prototyping services, so contact us when you’re ready to create your next award winner.


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