Recognized as an unprecedented marriage of design and technological innovation, Stuart Karten's Z!n hearing aid walked away with this year's Cooper-Hewitt People's Design Award.
Available in a palette of six colors that complement hair and skin tones, the Z!n aims to be virtually invisible. On first glance, the 1.3 inch-long finely crafted device coated in high-gloss metallic paint resembles a futuristic fashion accessory. The aim: to make wearing a hearing aid less of a burden for an aging population that Stuart Karten believes is increasingly fashion conscious. “In developing Z!n, we sought to move the perception of the hearing aid from a medical appliance to an object that would help overcome the stigma associated with hearing loss,” says Karten.
Cooper Hewitt, America’s official National Design Museum, offers the award as part of National Design Week (running from Oct 19-25 2008.)
Nominees this year encompassed a wide range of designs ranging from everyday objects like bikes and water bottle to design classics like the Eames Lounge Chair and the Adidas Samba shoe to buildings like the Beijing National Stadium and the Hearst Tower. Top nominees included the Design Observer (nominated for being the best public discussion of design on the Internet), a zip tie ring designed by Natalie Comensoro (nominated for turning something banal and industrial into a timeless piece of art and jewelry, and Bennington bookmarks (glowing overhanging bookmarks left by readers to point others to explore areas of the library they might otherwise overlook.)