Red Dot Design Award

Review 2020

2020 – a look back on an extraordinary competition year

2020 was probably the most unusual and most challenging year in the history of our competition, which has now been running for 65 years. It was a year in which many people and companies around the world had to pay a high price due to the events of the pandemic. Far too many people lost their lives, while others lost their livelihood. We are painfully aware of this fact.

The year also heralded many changes for the Red Dot World, which became clearer, quieter and less colourful. That’s because what we missed most in 2020 were the personal contacts. With our jurors, designers and company representatives, with journalists, service providers and museum visitors. The competitions thrive thanks to personal interaction. This interaction takes place at the jury meetings – a forum not only for passionate discussions of each entry but also for forging friendships – as well as at the award ceremonies with their legendary parties. Those events could not take place in 2020, and so a part of what defines the competition and keeps its community together was lost. It was those face-to-face interactions that we missed most in 2020.

At the same time, these were replaced – at least temporarily – by a greater and more comprehensive sense of solidarity. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we can only limit its negative consequences as much as possible by being there for each other and showing consideration to one another.

So let’s join together in taking a look back at the past year before then looking forward together.


The Red Dot Award: Product Design 2020

The “SARS-CoV-2” virus had already begun to spread even before the end of the registration phase for the Red Dot Award: Product Design 2020. Fortunately, many companies had sent off their products in good time, meaning that we even had a record number of registrations, with more than 6,500 entries from 60 countries. While the judging was taking place at the beginning of March, however, the number of COVID-19 cases across the globe was increasing rapidly. This was a problem if we were to have design experts from all over the world come to Essen for the selection process. But we managed to facilitate the process – with a few changes – just before the first lockdown in Germany.

Once again, the jurors were able to view and select lots of wonderfully designed products. The jury awarded the highest distinction in the competition, the Red Dot: Best of the Best, to 76 products. You can find all of the winning products here.


The search for innovative and smart products

For the first time, distinctions were awarded in the new metacategories “Smart Products” and “Innovative Products”, which show across different categories how new materials, new technologies, new ways of thinking and new design approaches can inspire future product worlds and ourselves.    

The timing of the introduction of these two categories to the competition was perfect, as the coronavirus crisis brings into sharp focus just how important data collection and processing can be in order to find solutions that limit our personal freedom as little as possible. It highlights the significance of artificial intelligence in calculating probabilities. It also shows how much innovative power is needed to respond flexibly and creatively to new situations. It’s also worth noting that a lot of products in the fields of medical design and smart home won awards in these metacategories – both being areas that currently define the world we live in even more. The fact that these areas are progressing apace, both from a technical and a design perspective, gives cause for optimism.  

You can find the laureates in the “Smart Products” and “Innovative Products” metacategories here.

There are also some Red Dot recipients from this year and past years that are doing their part to bring the effects of the pandemic under control. You can read more about them here.

The Red Dot Network: ambassador reunion and symposium in Essen

The Red Dot Network, brings together companies, agencies, designers and industry experts. In 2020, it provided us with a communication and information platform that was not directly affected by the virus. In early March, the official ambassadors for our network travelled from 19 countries to Essen in order to get to know each other, exchange views and together consider the future of design. “Homo ex Data: Design in the Age of Big Data” was the title of the symposium, where participants examined and discussed developments such as the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence as well as augmented and virtual reality from a design perspective. You can read more about the presentations and content here.

Red Dot move: new company headquarters at the old location

Also at the beginning of the year, we moved into a new building after 23 years. Although the timing of Red Dot’s move coincided with the first lockdown in Germany, it ran smoothly – particularly as there are only a few hundred metres separating our former offices in the building of the Red Dot Design Museum in Essen and our new home at the Zollverein world heritage site. We simply needed more space. We are delighted to be in a light-filled, inviting new space at Martin-Kremmer-Straße since 1 April.


A première: Red Dot Design Week on Instagram

For the first time in more than 20 years, it was not possible in 2020 to celebrate the winners of the Red Dot Award: Product Design at the Red Dot Gala in Essen’s Aalto Theater and at the subsequent Designers’ Night. Instead, we moved the award ceremony online. Although such a forum cannot replace personal interaction, it did have one marked advantage: we used our Instagram channel  (@reddotaward_productdesign) to shine a light on the winners for a whole week instead of one day, with each day focusing on a different winner.

For example, the Fiskars Design Team was presented in depth as Red Dot: Design Team of the Year 2020. Among other things, we featured an interview with the creative team working for Europe’s second-oldest company, which is famous above all for its scissors and gardening equipment with bright-orange parts. The discussion was held by Professor Dr. Peter Zec, founder and CEO of Red Dot, with Creative Design Lead Petteri Masalin. It is likely that the interview yielded more in-depth insights into the day-to-day work of the Finnish designers than would have been possible in a face-to-face interview. You can watch the interview again here.


The equivalent of a knighthood in the world of design: the new Red Dot: Personality Prize

2020 also marked the first time in the history of the Red Dot Award: Product Design that an individual was honoured for his contribution to the design industry. The Red Dot: Personality Prize is awarded to a creative leader who has a proven track record of special achievements in the fields of business and design. The distinction thus recognises inspiring personalities, pioneers and doers who develop innovative ideas and experiment with new concepts and processes to transform companies, industries and markets and take them to a whole new level.

Jean-Claude Biver, one of the most successful managers in the watchmaking industry, received the Red Dot: Personality Prize for his spirit of innovation, which he used to breathe new life into brands such as Blancpain, Omega, Hublot, Zenith and TAG Heuer. One day of Red Dot Design Week was dedicated to him. You can watch a detailed interview with the entrepreneur here.

The winning products in the Red Dot Design Museum in Essen

Just in time for Red Dot Design Week, the Red Dot Design Museum in Essen was able to reopen its doors to visitors – presenting not one but three new exhibitions: the exhibition “Onnellisuus/Glück – designed by Fiskars”, which will run until the end of May 2021 and provides insights into the work and design philosophy of the Fiskars Design Team, as well as the two exhibitions “Milestones in Contemporary Design” and “Design on Stage”, which showcase roughly 1,800 products to offer a state of the art in the world of design. When designing the latter two exhibitions, we placed special emphasis on ensuring that they not only show our visitors the best products from all over the world but also give visitors a fundamental understanding of what it is that constitutes good design. For example, the entrance to the museum features a kind of education trail for design called “Design Fundamentals”.

Impressions from the three special exhibitions are included here.

A video tour of the milestones exhibition:

A new direction for the Red Dot Award: Brands & Communication Design 2020

In many countries, the cultural and creative sectors are suffering particularly badly from the effects of the pandemic. Theatres, concert halls, museums and galleries are closed. Larger events in particular are not possible at present, resulting in a sharp decline in demand for posters, flyers and programmes. This is having a knock-on effect on the creative sector with its agencies and solo self-employed. Consequently, we were especially pleased that designers, agencies and companies from 50 countries nevertheless entered almost 7,000 projects in the Red Dot Award: Brands & Communication Design 2020.

For the first time, evaluation of all of the entries took place online in the summertime. 24 international design experts devoted hours and hours to meetings where the projects were assessed digitally. This novel development worked astonishingly well, but we still hope that it will remain the exception and that the jurors can meet again in Essen in 2021 to discuss the works and exchange their views live and in situ.

The jury awarded the Red Dot: Best of the Best for very high design quality to just 55 entries, with only seven works receiving the Red Dot: Grand Prix for being the best piece of work in their respective category. The distinction “Red Dot: Brand of the Year” went to Swedish electric car manufacturer “Polestar”, while the agency Interbrand with its global operations was named Red Dot: Agency of the Year. The Red Dot: Junior Prize with prize money of 10,000 euros for the best piece of work by up-and-coming designers was awarded to Ai Ling Ng and Zi Fong Yong, two students at the National University of Singapore. They won over the jury with their project “The Dyslexperience”, which demonstrates the challenges faced by people with dyslexia. You can find all of the award-winning works here.

In the case of the Red Dot Award: Brands & Communication 2020 too, we had to forfeit our big industry meet as part of the Red Dot Gala, which normally takes place in Berlin. Instead, the successes were celebrated online on 23 October with a Red Dot Celebration that took place in the form of a web special. The web special can be viewed here.

On the same day, the special exhibition featuring the award-winning works from the competition was launched in the Red Dot Design Museum in Essen. We also took a new direction with this exhibition. To avoid crowds of visitors, we designed the exhibition decentrally. This means that visitors encounter the works at different locations throughout the museum, ensuring constant moments of surprise. Because the museum is currently closed due to the pandemic, we have extended the exhibition until 24 May. You can see some of the exhibition here.

Concepts for the world of tomorrow: the Red Dot Award: Design Concept 2020

The virtual world acquired a special status in the year 2020. This was also true in relation to the Red Dot Award: Design Concept. 4,170 concepts from 52 countries were entered in the competition. The judging process considered current developments in a bid to award participants whose ideas are in tune with the prevailing circumstances. The winners were then celebrated as part of a two-day online award ceremony in October. The event culminated in the announcement of the Red Dot: Luminary, the highest distinction in the competition. Japanese company BionicM emerged victorious from five nominees for the title. The company’s Robotic Prosthetic Knee allows amputees to regain their motor skills. You can find out more here, or take a look at all of the award-winning concepts here.


Last but not least: the Contemporary Good Design Award 2020

The year ended with the Contemporary Good Design Award, which has been held every year since 2015. What started as a competition for the Chinese design industry is evolving more and more into a truly international award and is well on the way to becoming one of the most important independent design awards in China with a far-reaching impact. The pandemic meant that this competition also had to grapple with changed circumstances, resulting in online adjudication and a virtual award ceremony. We are very satisfied with the result, however, as we hosted both of these events successfully thanks to the cooperation with the Xiamen Culture Media Group and the team at the Red Dot Design Museum in Xiamen as well as the dedication of the jury members. The high point was the online celebration of the winners on 18 December, where the limelight belonged especially to the 15 Gold Winners with their exceptional design achievements. The online award ceremony can be viewed here.


Always worth a visit: the Red Dot Design Museums in Essen, Singapore and Xiamen

At three locations across Europe and Asia, we provide people who are interested in design with extensive insights into the world of design. The year 2020 was also a difficult one for our museums. Again and again, they were forced to close their doors to the public temporarily or were permitted to open only if strict hygiene and social distancing measures could be observed. We nevertheless succeeded in realising exciting exhibitions in all three museums over the past year. The museum in Essen remains closed due to the lockdown. However, our museum team has been working hard and has relaunched its website. We hope you enjoy discovering the new website at

By contrast, the museums in Singapore and Xiamen are open and are delighted to welcome visitors. For example, the Red Dot Design Museum Singapore in Marina Bay is currently hosting the exhibition “A Preview of the Future”, which is showing more than 200 award-winning futuristic design concepts. Meanwhile, in the Red Dot Design Museum in Xiamen, you can see the presentation of the winners of the Contemporary Good Design Award.

You can find out more about current exhibitions in Essen, Singapore and Xiamen here.  


After a rather expansive look back at the past year, now it is time to look to the future. Designers and entrepreneurs from all over the world have until 19 February 2021 to register their best products for the Red Dot Award: Product Design 2021. Participants can enter the Red Dot Award: Brands & Communication Design 2021 from 22 March, while the Red Dot Award: Design Concept 2021 already commenced on 2 January. Registration for the competition for concepts and prototypes can take place up until 17 May.

The award ceremony for the Red Dot Award: Product Design is planned for 21 June 2021. It remains to be seen how we will be able to celebrate the success of our competition participants this year.

What we do know is that – regardless of the current situation – winning a Red Dot is not the remarkable end to a success story. In fact, it marks the beginning of a whole range of communication measures that showcase the winners’ design leadership, true to the motto “Winning is the beginning”.