The greatest design innovations invariably have a story behind them: the insight that led to a radical new way to solve a problem, the failure that led to a breakthrough, the serendipity where colliding forces led to a profound creative leap. Today, at the opening of the Industrial Design Society of America’s annual meeting  in Miami, Ravi Sawhney, founder and CEO of the design firm RKS , will announce the first case studies in the organization’s Catalyst Awards program--four compelling stories of breakthrough design and how they came to be.
This year’s winners include OXO Good Grips , the comfortable, functional kitchen tools that began as one man’s attempt to design comfortable tools for his arthritic wife; Whirlpool ’s audacious pledge to be number one in its industry in innovation; Black & Decker’s Dustbuster , which created a whole new mass-market category; and Apple’s iPod-iTunes-iPhone system  that completely upended the music industry.
The Catalyst program, which for years recognized design-driven companies for their financial performance, last year was revised to showcase design’s power to effect positive change in the world. “These insightful examples of design’s power to drive results and effect positive change will serve to capture design’s legacy and inspire design’s future,” says Sawhney.
“There are about 50,000 industrial designers in the U.S., and nearly four million business professionals who can benefit from hearing our stories,” adds Sawhney. “The Catalyst Case Studies are our best stories…our greatest hits.”
Over the past year, a panel of business, design and academic experts evaluated submissions that detailed design’s best thinking in this area. To encourage participation, submissions required no entry fee, and the person nominating a product or project did not need to have any involvement with it.
The studies will form a knowledge bank of best practices and creative strategies that will be available to anyone with an interest in how some of the great design breakthroughs of our time evolved.
The cases will be available for download as PDFs and MP3s, for a small charge, from the IDSA Web site .