German Design Award Gold for the operating elements Pi range

28. Feb 2018 item Redaktion

5000 submissions from 56 countries, 45 awards – and item took home one of the coveted gold trophies.  

Our solutions have always stood for excellence in functionality and design. This consistent commitment has also resulted in numerous design awards. Naturally, gold awards are a particularly special honour, and item has just added to its collection. On 7 February, the German Design Awards 2018 were handed out amidst the buzz of the Ambiente consumer goods trade show. The item team headed by designers Carsten Schulz and Stefan Mostert were presented with the German Design Award Gold for the operating elements Pi range. The range includes Knurled, Wing and Tri-Lobe Hand Knobs and Handles and combines a simple design language with ergonomic principles. Products in the Pi series of operating elements also each come in three sizes and two colour variants to open up a wide range of potential applications. 

A tradition that demands top performance 

Each year since 2012, the prestigious German Design Awards have celebrated products and brands from Germany and beyond for enriching the design landscape through innovation. Behind the awards themselves is an institution that has continuously shaped the story of design in Germany since it was set up on the initiative of the Germany government in 1953 – the German Design Council. It pursues the same main aim today as it has done since its establishment – strengthening the German economy from a design perspective. One particularly important guiding principle throughout its work is to boost brand value by making strategic use of design. 

Aims and challenges

Although item has long been supplying high-quality and ergonomic grip solutions, the operating elements were usually products from standard parts suppliers. Although these elements fulfilled their purpose, they left some room for improvement when it came to our claims regarding contemporary design. We were particularly focused on the haptic characteristics of the elements – after all, it’s vital to have the virtues of operating screws and grips quite literally in hand. These elements are among the first things users touch when they come across a new plant or construction, so the clear aim was to introduce our own operating elements to further improve those first impressions. 

The operating elements Pi range also had to work in perfect harmony with the components from the MB Building Kit System and Line X. One of the most striking features of the latter is its clearly accentuated design. The choice of two colours for the primary components, which can be combined with Caps that are available in two colour options, opens up a range of design opportunities. At the same time, the classic item design language runs through all the products. The statement released by the judging panel for the German Design Award praised the fusion of form, function and user-friendliness. The “fantastic holistic approach” was singled out in particular for exhibiting “an aesthetic quality that is exceptionally high by industrial standards” and “coherent product semantics”. 

Working as a team to secure the German Design Award 

The project was a perfect example of the value that item places on the synergies that emerge from inter-departmental collaboration. Every single phase in the working process was shaped by close and continuous coordination. The company’s combined expertise was made readily available at every point in the development process, and everyone involved worked together efficiently. A dedicated SLS 3D printer provided additional support for coordinating efforts. This meant prototypes that were close to series-production standard could be manufactured rapidly to test out and improve ideas. 

Injection-moulded plastic components normally have thin walls so that high-quality surfaces can be achieved on the side that is on view. However, this poses a challenge, since users’ hands tend to completely envelop elements such as these when using them. This means the reverse sides also have to have a high-quality surface in order to present consistent high-end standards. Thanks to their many years of experience and close cooperation with the supplier, our team came up with a solution. The elements are designed as sealed, single-piece articles but are not made with expensive or complex injection moulding technologies using internal gas pressure or multiple parts. 

We’d like to thank the designers involved, Carsten Schulz and Stefan Mostert, and Benedikt Weiss and Anna-Katharina Krieger for the technical support they provided for the project. 

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