What began in the 1996/97 winter semester with a call for entries by furniture fittings supplier Hettich has turned into a competition which today is in a class of its own. The International Design Award is known to colleges and universities across the globe, with the jury selecting winning designs from well over 1,000 submissions.

This year the Hettich International Design Award is celebrating its 20th anniversary. As one of the world’s largest competitions for students of various disciplines, it is attracting more and more entrants and for many prize winners, the award has been a springboard into a design career. In 2003 Max Lamb won a first prize for his bookshelf (pictured) and now teaches product design and works for several big manufacturers. He impressed the jury with a design for a bookshelf that was just as simple as it was imaginative: on a wall mounted shelf, a single book sits at a slight angle in a depression and supports all copies standing next to it. For Max Lamb and many other contestants, the award was the springboard for an international career. Today, he works with companies, such as Discipline (Italy), 1882 Ltd. (UK), E&Y (Japan), Lobmeyr (Austria) as well as Habitat (Germany), and teaches product design at the Royal Art College in London. He gets pleasure from being able to “help the next generation of designers to understand and explore their own creative process”. In 2015, he even returned to the International Design Award as a member of the jury.

Over time the designs became ever more modern and ingenious; yet it was the simple ideas in particular that were often the most gripping. “Simplicity always entails the highest mental effort. It’s what distinguishes the simple from the banal” stresses Konrad Wohlhage of Léon Wohlhage Wernik firm of architects. Since 2007 the Award has been organised jointly by Hettich and the edging company Rehau. Contestant numbers have quickly grown, each year attracting as many as 1,600 entries. The current competition could break all previous records. It is looking for innovative furnishing solutions for the home, the workplace, for hotels or shops that provide greater comfort and convenience or create additional storage space. This challenge is more topical than ever because the world is becoming more and more mobile and space increasingly precious. The award competition is open to students who are enrolled at a university and studying on a course with a creative focus. The winners can look forward to attractive prize money, a ‘smart furniture’ workshop and international PR for their own reputation. Hettich looks to getting the most out of their product and this competition produces outstanding results.