I.D. Magazine Picks the Best-Designed Products of 2008

Results from the venerable Annual Design Review are in. Here’s three of the best of the best.

I.D., the storied American product-design magazine, just released the results of its yearly Annual Design Review, a competition judged by a sterling panel of designers. Last week, it opened an exhibition of the winning designs in New York, which runs through August 21. But if you can’t make it–or can’t afford the ADR issue’s stunning $35 newsstand price–all of the designs are now online. Here’s a taste–the grand-prize winners, in three of the nine categories: 


The Equipment category, which is dedicated to specialist machinery and tools, was won by the Nanopoint cellTRAY (ahove left), which has already been heralded as a breakthrough in microscopic imaging. It’s the first tool that allows living cells to be imaged in real-time. Each “slide” has 8,000 wells, which hold the cells and are fed by irrigation channels pumping in nutrients. That also allows each cell to be treated with different chemical solutions and dyes, allowing scientists to isolate the features they’re interested in observing. In the picture above, to the right, is the co-category winner, the Fluke Ti-25/10 Thermal Imager, an infrared camera for engineers that shows the precise temperature of whatever the user points at while pulling the trigger. It’s tougher than competitors, waterproof, and a fraction of the price.


Consumer Products is the most prestigious category in the competition, attracting far and away the most entries, since it’s a catch-all designation that runs from gadgets to kitchen utensils. This year, the Voodoo Envy, a gaming laptop, won the grand prize, thanks to masterful detailing. The $1,800 laptop has a fused-glass screen, which runs from edge-to-edge, a glossy black lid, a backlit keyboard, a carbon-fiber frame, and is .7 inches thin. The trackpad is also interesting, comprised of a cluster of dots and a single horizontal button. The jury particular loved the super-minimal packaging, which wasn’t plastered with logos.


Harry Allen is better known for kitschy knick-knacks, but here, he proved his mettle with a first aid kit for Johnson & Johnson that won the Packaging category. (Apparently, when a siren sounded outside, one of the competition jurors tucked it under arm and headed for the doors.) The design was called out for its clean confidence, which, of course, is meant to be easy to find in an emergency, but also to call out from the store shelves and say, “Buy me! I’m the right tool for the job!”

Check out the rest of the winners here–including a brilliant idea for a “flyover channel” in airplanes that would tell you about the places you’re flying above, a beautiful interface for navigating pictures of the universe taken by the Hubble telescope, this lovely green chair, and iRiver’s gorgeous media viewer.


About the author

Cliff was director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.