Purpose- Oriented Design Interview with Dr. Peter Zec, Founder and CEO of Red Dot

Feature Story

"Every exhibited product is an example for high quality. This means that we want to show the value of the product." says Dr. Peter Zec, founder and CEO of Red Dot, "Consequently, quality is equivalent to value." 

Value is a vague term and adopts different meanings in different contexts. For a designed item to become a product, it not only has its quality-based value, but also a monetary value that can be communicated with its consumers. In The Essence of Design - Creating Value, audience can expect to see the transition from quality to quantity in the field of design."In the exhibition area 'Becoming a Bestseller', we show examples of products that have become true bestsellers because of their design quality. These products have a great impact on the sales and profit of companies and thus on the value of the brand." explains Dr. Zec, "As a visitor, you can very quickly grasp how quality turns into quantity. This is the moment when good design is not only reflected in the shape and quality of the product but also in business numbers." 

So, does this mean we as consumers are entitled to pay a higher price for better designed products? Not necessarily. According to Dr. Zec, a higher quality justifies a higher price, but a high price does not guarantee high quality. The pecuniary price is not always an accurate indicator of quality or value of a product. 

"Keep in mind that this influence only works in one direction: high quality justifies a higher price, not the other way round. So, the actual value of a product is based on the quality of function, the quality of seduction, the quality of usability and the quality of responsibility. An optimal synthesis of these four components usually results in a high-quality product which justifies a certain monetary value." 

A renowned expert in assessing design values the Red Dot has served as one of the most prestigious and authoritative international design competitions for over half a century. Under its Product Design category, there are 51 subcategories inviting designers to enter. The jury looks at a series of criteria before awarding a product with outstanding designs. "The assessing criteria we use in the Red Dot Design Award are also assessments of the value of a product. In the Red Dot Award: Product Design, we have different product categories because we want to find adequate selection criteria for each category. The jury members will then, in different expert groups, select the products they want to award by the well thought criteria for their individual category." Dr. Zec explains, "As you can see, Red Dot is all about the evaluation of product quality." 

Vilim Vasata, founding member and first president of the Art Directors Club Germany and former Chairman of BBDO Europe, once said: "There is no quality without a comparative view." "And this is the motto of our jury sessions." Dr. Zec says, "Our jury members make a comparative assessment to determine the quality of a product – and thus its value." 

Being able to garner a Red Dot award is a valuable approval from one of the most prestigious institutions. While quality correlates to selling price, the award is not intended as a tool to raise the price tag of a product. "Usually, we do not observe that the price of a product is raised after receiving an award." Says Dr. Zec, "Red Dot is a marker for a standard quality in design that companies can use for orientation. An awarded product is an example for good quality and means an increase in the value of design both for companies and society." 

Examples of monetizing designs are also included in the exhibition. Audience can find a bottled water being priced above market average due to its added value from the bottle design. However, how design translates into a price tag is still a subjective matter. It is difficult to set a ceiling for any product design. 

"Once the product value increases because of the added value by design, there are no limits regarding the price." Dr. Zec says, "Nevertheless, when deciding on a price, one should always keep in mind the price tolerance in the different product categories. You have to ask yourself what price can be realized on the market. The added value created by design is an immaterial added value which cannot be measured in terms of materiality." 

Speaking of students and aspiring designers' expected takeaway from this exhibition, Dr. Zec says: "It should be to realize that design is not a purely artistic or cultural occupation but primarily a service provided to a client or a manufacturer. Its goal is to create monetary added value by increasing the quality of a product. Design does not serve itself, nor does it offer the possibility for self-realization. It is absolutely purpose oriented. This is the difference between design and art. The latter is created independently of the client. Young designers should remember this with regard to their choice of profession."