Best of show winner is a breath of fresh air

Kinneir Dufort’s outstanding success in the 1996 Design Week Awards is one in the eye for those begrudging folk who maintain that creative awards are just a back-patting trip for the London design mafia. Kinneir Dufort is Bristol-based and its best of show winner, the HandiHaler, is not merely an exercise in sexy styling. It is a good, honest example of the type of user-driven industrial design at which the British traditionally excel – and it deserves to win prizes.

I doubt we’ve seen the last of the HandiHaler on the awards scene. Of course, it’s likely to do well in Germany, from whence manufacturer Boehringer Ingelheim hails, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it made another UK showing in the Design Business Association’s next Design Effectiveness Awards. By rationalising the number of powder inhalers in Boehringer’s range down from two to one, the design effectively halves production costs while giving users a handy way to deal with a day’s supply of asthma-relief drugs. It’s a hard one to beat.

Equally interesting though is the way Kinneir Dufort won the job. It was a four-way pitch between two German and two UK contenders, but, interestingly, the Bristol group’s place on the pitch list was down to the way its founder Ross Kinneir pursued the German manufacturer, putting forward his team’s talents and pushing for an appointment even though Kinneir Dufort had no track record in pharmaceuticals. The same tactics previously worked for UK clients such as the BBC and the Automobile Association, which also “bought” the group’s breakthrough concepts.

For all his drive, Kinneir is no marketer. He’s a talented designer whose work has a technical bent. But, in common with the best UK product designers, he believes in being proactive. The opportunity to work for great clients doesn’t come if you don’t make it, he reckons. And it is great ideas such as the HandiHaler coupled with the tremendous expertise we have here that will map out the future for British design. Don’t be shy about yours.

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