Australian International Design Awards

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The Australian International Design Awards is an industry body established by the Industrial Design Council of Australia (IDCA), founded in 1958. The awards are Australia's only national design awards for industrial design. Since 1991, the Australian International Design Awards has been a division of Standards Australia.

In 2007 the Australian Design Awards expanded its entry criteria to include all professionally designed products on the Australian market, including products designed in Australia. From 2007, the Australian Design Awards became known as the Australian International Design Awards to reflect the global nature of the awards.

The Australian International Design Awards has been recognised by the Commonwealth Government and the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design[1] as a promotional body for the Australian design industry.


There are three types of accolades issued by the Australian International Design Awards,[2] they are:

  • Australian International Design Mark (recognising Good Design)
  • Australian International Design Award (recognising Design Excellence)
  • Australian International Design Award of the Year (recognising the best product of the year)

Special Awards include:

  • Award for Excellence in Sustainable Design[3]
  • Powerhouse Museum Design Award and Selection[4]
  • Wheels Automotive Design Award[5]


In 1958, a small group of design and industry professionals established the Industrial Design Council of Australia[6] (IDCA), funded by the Commonwealth Government. In an era when Australian industrial design was in its infancy, the goal of the IDCA was to educate manufacturers and consumers on the value of design, encourage and promote high standards of design in manufactured goods and foster an appreciation of good design among the wider community.

Fifty years on, the Australian International Design Awards, a division of Standards Australia, continues this tradition to recognise the best in Australian design and innovation.

During the early 1960s, the IDCA – and Australian industrial design – began to flourish. From 1964, Good Design Labels, a visible indicator of quality design and manufacturing, began appearing on products in the marketplace and the IDCA-led Australian Design Index became a well-known register of the best designed and made products in Australia.

Together, these initiatives represented the formal start of design assessment and promotion in Australia, stimulating competition, debate, high standards of quality and industry growth.

Items ranging from light fittings, floor coverings, hand tools, hardware tools, furnishing fabrics and household products were reviewed by a panel of experts for inclusion in the Index. Judges evaluated products against criteria including standard of manufacturing and attention to detail and finish, suitability of materials used, durability, value for money, construction, comfort of use, safety factors and overall appearance.

Products meeting the rigorous criteria received the Good Design Label, while manufacturers falling down in areas were given constructive criticism on how to improve their products, as well as the opportunity to resubmit.

In 1964, the IDCA opened the first Australian Design Centre in Melbourne with a special exhibition of selected products from the Australian Design Index. Around the same time, lectures and seminars were held in Sydney and Melbourne for designers and others associated in product engineering, management, industrial design and marketing. A steady flow of Federal and state government funding assisted with the establishment of a new Design Centre in Sydney, with more centres to follow in other capital cities. Such was the success of the IDCA that the Commonwealth Government agreed to match dollar for dollar all donations to the Council from other sources.

The next big step for the IDCA was the introduction in 1967 of the Prince Philip Prize for Australian Design, supported by His Royal Highness, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. With the aim of promoting greater awareness of good design in Australian engineering, this award recognised a product or system of Australian design closely associated with Australian life and industry, and which had made or was likely to make a substantial contribution to Australia's economic progress. Much like the Australian Design Index, criteria included standard of manufacture and construction, inventiveness of design, originality, aesthetic appeal, ease of operation and marketability.

The inaugural Prince Philip Prize was awarded in 1968, during Prince Philip's visit to Australia in May. Over 90 entries were received and the winning entry was a self-propelled grain header, designed by Kenneth Gibson. With Prince Philip as figurehead, the Prince Philip Prize continued for the next 10 years.

Despite the success of the Prince Philip Prize, the IDCA faced funding difficulties in the mid-1970s and was forced to temporarily close in 1976. Strong industry rallying and a new injection of funds from the Commonwealth Government saw the Council reopen later that same year and a new 'innovation' recognition program was introduced to run alongside the Prince Philip Prize.

Recognising not only high quality but innovative Australian designed products, the Australian Design Award (ADA) program became a valuable promotional tool for manufacturers and designers and provided a source of revenue for the IDCA to continue its operations. The Prince Philip Prize continued to be awarded, but only to products which had received the ADA.

During this time, publicity was at an all-time high. Televised coverage of the Awards presentation on ABC TV reached audiences of over 4 million and in 1979, the first annual yearbook of ADA winners was published. For a recognition program, the industry could not ask for more.

For the next two decades, however, continuing funding issues, dwindling industry support and a lack of clear direction plagued the IDCA. In 1987 in an effort to reinvigorate the movement, the Government re-launched the IDCA as the Australian Design Council and the Prince Philip Prize was folded, leaving the ADA as Australia's top design accolade.

In 1991, control of the Australian Design Council and the ADA program moved to Standards Australia. Closely aligned with Standards Australia's aim of providing guidance to encourage basic levels of acceptability for products and services, the ADA was recognised as an important motivator of continual improvement and international best practice in Australia's industrial design industry. Under Standards Australia, the ADA program continued to run, but the Australian Design Council was disbanded in 1993.

With declining industry support, new formats and incentives for the ADA program such as the Australian Design Mark certification scheme were road tested throughout the second half of the '90s with little success.

It wasn't until 1997 that a revamped format, developed in close consultation with industry, was able to breathe life back into the Awards. Featuring a world-first online application form and first round internet shortlisting, the new program attracted more than 100 applications, with an encouraging 70 per cent submitted by the design industry. The first black tie Presentation Night was held at the Metro Theatre in Sydney with more than 200 attendees coming together to celebrate the best in Australian design.

In 1998, profession-based categories were introduced posing new challenges for the judges but the industry continued to show support for the revised structure and another successful year was celebrated.

The success of the awards was not to last long. The program was still threatened by significant operating costs, leaving Standards Australia with a difficult decision regarding its future. Weighed down by high overheads including staff and offices in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia and limited revenue streams, the 1999 program was put on hold while Standards Australia explored other options to secure the future of the awards. The majority of staff was made redundant and for the first time in many years, no Design Awards were presented in Australia.

Despite this setback, support from the industrial design community for Standards Australia's continuing involvement in the Awards continued to grow. With no appropriate professional body that could inherit the program, industrial designers lobbied for Standards Australia to remain the caretaker. The Design Institute of Australia was approached to take over the program, however, the financial commitment to take on the Awards posed too great a risk for a member-based professional body such as this. With little interest from other compatible industry associations, the future of the awards was now under serious threat.

Armed with a new business plan and financial model, the Board of Standards Australia approved another year for the awards.

For the next few years, the ADA continued to grow in standing and support, buoyed by financial stability. A very successful student design category was launched in 2002 supported by Dyson Appliances Australia and in 2004, product-focussed categories were introduced, the rigorous judging process was further refined and media was given new emphasis.

In 2008, on the 50th anniversary of rewarding design and innovation excellence in Australia, internationally designed products available for sale in Australia were allowed to enter the Awards for the first time. This bold move was aimed at raising the stakes for good design once again, allowing Australian design to be benchmarked against the best in the world. With the ongoing support of the design industry and Standards Australia, this opens the door to the next chapter in the illustrious history of the Design Awards.[7]

Previous winners[edit]

Previous winners include: Caroma's Invisi Series II Toilet Suite[8] and Caroma's H2Zero Cube Urinal,[9] Qantas A380 Economy Class Seat[10] designed by Marc Newson, Ford XE Falcon, 1987 Mitsubishi Magna wagon,[11] Holden VT Commodore, Ford AU Falcon, Ford Territory, Holden Commodore VE Sportswagon and Ute, Blueye Sport Goggle designed by Paul Cohen, the Victa Lawn Mower, the Bionic Ear, the winged keel, the VentrAssist Artificial Heart, the Sunbeam Mixmaster, the Test Series Cricket Helmet, the RØDE Podcaster microphone,[12] the Dolphin Torch and the Enzie Spiral Stair.


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