ICONIC AWARDS: Interior Products illuminates current trends in the Design Industry


The Biggest Challenge — Conserving Resources Responsibly

What used to be considered avant-garde is standard today: good design is sustainable! Innovative products are long-lasting, reusable, and recyclable. They should be designed in a way that is energy and resource efficient. These demands on contemporary design were described in the expanded EU Ecodesign Directive for Sustainable Products. The term sustainability refers to a whole catalogue of measures that are interpreted differently and applied selectively by members of the industry. This begins with the environmental criteria: the recyclability of materials, resource-conserving production and the circularity of components, and includes the consideration of the added societal value of the product and social aspects in design.

These new challenges in the furniture industry make it necessary to invest in research and development. Companies and research institutes everywhere are working on directing material flows and feeding regionally available recycled materials back into the cycle. The result is new and improved production processes: 3D printing, for example.

Innovative Design Conserves Materials

Important aspects of resource preservation include avoiding creating new waste, conserving new materials, and recycling already used materials. An example of that is Meditri by the young designer Johannes Müller. The stackable stool uses elements that can be pushed together instead of connected using nails and screws. The furniture piece is also made from wood scraps and ensures that little waste is produced thanks to its reduced offcuts. The flexible kitchen J*GAST, created by the founders of Holzrausch, Tobias Petri and Sven Petzold, in collaboration with the designers Ana Relvão, Gerhardt Kellermann and Jan Heinzelmann, uses up to 45 percent less material than a conventional kitchen. Attached to the wall using a press-in system, the kitchen is customisable and fulfils the desire of responsibly-minded customers for a high-quality bespoke kitchen.

Innovative Design is Long-Lasting and Reusable

Furniture should be reused, shared, and repaired for as long as possible and able to be reabsorbed into a circular system after use. In order to make that possible, it needs to be able to be divided into its individual parts. The jury of the ICONIC AWARDS 2023: Innovative Interior honoured multiple projects that fulfilled these requirements. One example is the Bodd Litt Sofa  from the manufacturer Monoliving. The modular sofa uses 65 percent recycled material during production and is also completely recyclable.

This development is also visible in the carpet industry: the first one hundred percent circular fitted carpet, NEOO, a product by OBJECT CARPET, consists of pure, partially recycled polyester and does not need to be unravelled before further processing. Fitted carpets are usually made up of a combination of various materials that are glued or woven together in a way that prevents them from being separated. These kinds of carpets regularly end up in garbage incineration. NEOO not only prevents this outcome, but is also manufactured using very little energy. The upper and lower materials are attached using a polyester adhesive, making the fitted carpet mono-material.

Innovative Design Focuses on Material Research

In order to meet environmental requirements, the furniture industry needs new and alternative materials, making research absolutely vital. One good example of this is the evolution of 3D printing over the last two decades. The additive process was initially touted as a revolution, but was not yet sufficiently advanced: printing was expensive and slow, the product was made of hard plastic and its quality suffered from deficiencies in the process. Today, large-scale, complex, and customisable symmetries are possible. 3D printing is increasingly regarded as a resource-efficient production technology that eliminates excess material.

It is also able to use even more recycled materials. The once rigid structure of 3D printing is a thing of the past: companies specialising in 3D printing are even producing cushioned seating. One of the products distinguished by the jury is seating by Loom from the north-German start-up Recozy, whose founders looked to 3D printing for their armchairs, stools, and shelves. Loom uses hollow spaces to conserve material during the printing process and uses round about 90 percent of recycled fabrics, processed from European waste, during the additive process.


Exemplary Projects:

Meditri by Johannes Müller
J*GAST by Holzrausch GmbH, Relvãokellermann, Office Heinzelmann Ayadi
BoddLitt Sofa by Monoliving (Pt.Kami Kaya Bersama)
se:air by Konstantin Thomas Sedus Stoll AG
Loom by Recozy


FOCUS: Intuitive product design

Intuitive Design — Creates Trust and Supports Functionality

Our need for flexibility and customisation has caused the use of programmes, apps, and even household appliances to become increasingly sophisticated. This presents an exciting new challenge for designers. Their job now is no longer ‘just’ to create aesthetically-pleasing and functional objects, but to develop simple designs that are intuitive in their operation.

Intuitive design has already received a lot of attention in the field of the user experience as an internet user (UX). Applications such as websites are meant to be designed in a way that allows the user to orient themselves to the internet site with immediate understanding. But intuitive design is not only significant in the field of digital solutions. It also makes sense to pay attention to these aspects with regard to analogue products such as furniture and lighting, because simple and clear design speaks to the customer’s emotions and inspires trust: an attractive attribute in a high-tech, complex world. The jury of the ICONIC AWARDS 2023: Innovative Interior chose to honour multiple projects that fulfilled these requirements. Among them was the wood Frog table by ALEUP, which is assembled without the use of nails or screws. It represents mobility and effortless flexibility to create more space, as well as simple and high-quality wood design.

One potential area of application is lighting design, for example. Over the course of the day, and even depending on our mood, we may want different lighting atmospheres or need to use lighting for different things. The easier it is to change the light, the greater the satisfaction with the object, its flexibility and ease of use. In a highly competitive market where companies advertise with increasingly complex functionalities, designs that are comprehensible for everyone are the ones that stand out. The MAY light by Nyta combines all of that into one object, while the lighting chain cherry bubbls by IP44 playfully unites functionality and aesthetics.

Intuitive Design is Invisible

Designers looking to be inspired by the roots of UX design will identify exactly how an object is used and involve the future users in the design process. Lotte, an armchair for older adults, developed by the young designer Sarah Hossli, is a glowing example of intuitive design. At first glance, it appears to be a simple, cushioned wooden chair. Only upon closer examination does it become noticeable that the arms are somewhat longer than usual and have a slight rise. An intuitive process takes place for the user: thanks to the extended arms, older adults are able to support themselves further forward when standing up. This causes their weight to shift forward as well, and the probability that they will fall decreases. In order to be sure that the chair really worked, prototypes of the design were tested in various care homes until it was truly usable and intuitive.

What »Lotte« so aptly demonstrates is the close connection between intuitive design with the areas of functionality, flexibility, and ergonomics. Contemporary chairs should provide relief to our backs; we want modularity and customisability. The designer’s task becomes more complicated, instead of easier, through intuitive design: products must now be beautiful and simple, and yet functional enough to satisfy heightened expectations.


Exemplary Projects:

Lotte – Aiding Independence in Old Age by Sarah Hossli
mediahub by PureLink
ClimaCon F Raumthermostate by Oventrop
cherry bubbls by IP44
Frog table by ALEUP