It’s never easy to be a young designer seeking a break-out moment—and gaining an audience during COVID-19 is particularly trying. With this in mind, and despite the cancelation of its 2021 fair slated to be held last month, international furniture and interiors fair IMM Cologne presents a virtual edition of its 18th annual Pure Talents Contest.
A tribute to the dedication of rising design stars, this year’s competition drew 862 product entries from 59 countries. Consisting of Eva Marguerre of Studio Besau-Marguerre, Jennifer Reaves, CEO of international design trade show Blickfang, designer Sebastian Herkner, and Norbert Ruf, creative director and managing director of furniture manufacturer Thonet, the jury selected four winners (including one prize winner in the LivingKitchen category) from 26 designs.
From a sculptural light that transforms the motif of the picture frame, to an attractive and easily transportable modular food cart, to a family of chargeable and repairable electrical products, here are 15 of our favorite finds.
1. Maya by Luiza Guidi
With the illuminated silhouette of empty picture frames, the Maya Collection of steel lamps by Luiza Guidi fuses sculpture and functional light. Opened away from the wall, they cast intriguing shadows. “The simplicity with which light can be staged in such a sensual way inspired us," the jury noted upon awarding the designer the prestigious first prize.
2. Elina by Dirk Vosding
Joining the functions of bookend, table lamp, and reading light earned Dirk Vosding runner up for Elina, which has an illuminated and adjustable sphere light within its base.
"The design is reminiscent of well-known clamp lamps for the bookcase, but is infinitely more charming—a simple, small, fine product that can stand just as well as a table lamp or as a bookend on the sideboard or bedside table,” the jury noted.
3. Olivia by Tatu Laakso
The Olivia chair, a lightweight molded-plywood chair conceived with ergonomics and comfort in mind, earned Tatu Laakso third place.
“A very confident design for a semester project, the quality of which cannot be taken for granted even for diploma theses,” the jury pointed out.
4. Guerilla by Erik Mantz-Hansen
As the pandemic sends us outdoors more than ever, in steps a compact and modular street food kitchen on wheels.
First prize in the LivingKitchen category, the Guerilla kitchen by Erik Mantz-Hansen is a transportable way to meets the demands of a wide variety of dishes, available at a modest price point. “This design is a perfect fit with LivingKitchen’s goal of making food and cooking an experience to be lived,” the jury said.
5. Paco by Johannes Valentin Breuer
A bold lemon-yellow frame of powder-coated aluminum contrasts with the CNC-milled solid oak seat of Paco, a stackable chair by Johannes Valentin Breuer.
6. Pinch by Kieren Swinden
Crushing tubular steel became a research point for Kieren Swinden, who then developed the Pinch coffee table. Its base features an innovative new joining system—of, you guessed it, crushed tubular steel.
7. Match by Konrad Jünger and Verena Kühn
An interchangeable seat and backrest delivers customizable configuration—or alteration at a later date—with the aluminum Match chair by Konrad Jünger and Verena Kühn.
8. Draft by Sofie Aschan
Silence and sustainability are not usually associated with air conditioners. However, Draft by Sofie Aschan is just that, applying water, wind, and evaporative cooling science within a sculptural earthenware form.
9. Nesting by Steven Dahlinger
A cozy lie down just got easier with Nesting by Steven Dahlinger. With a double-layered backrest, the flexible sofa has two modes: folded together or unfolded into a cocooned retreat.
10. Tight by Haiming Li
The languid forms of the Tight furniture series, which designer Haiming Li calls “sexualized” have an equally suggestive material: latex.
11. Worthy by Tomi Laukkanen
Worthy by Tomi Laukkanen, Instagram-worthy in cheerful hues, is a family of electrical products that are not only rechargeable but also repairable. The series cuts down on cost as well as e-waste with a longer life cycle.
12. The Blue Project by Studio AJA
Aiming to encourage sustainable behavior with a few gentle nudges, Jacob Alm Andersson and Alexandra Fransson—the designers behind Studio AJA—present The Blue Project water kettle. The innovative device allows concise measurement of water, reveals energy consumption with its design, and is printed with the date when the environmental impact of its production has been compensated through use.
13. Needleworks by Lizzy Stuyfzand
Infused with the warmth and tactility of textile thanks to Vescom fabrics with industrial stitching, Needleworks by Lizzy Stuyfzand opens up new horizons for the interface of a smart system.
14. Norman by Studio Ertel & Oberkrome
Recalling a faucet but actually a lamp, Norman by Studio Ertel & Oberkrome principals Lisa Ertel and Anne-Sophie Oberkrome is hung like a picture frame, with jacks integrated into the end of its tubular steel form.
15. Twin by Albane Hundevad
Swapping out a lampshade for a pendant light just got easier with the twin series of lampshades by Albane Hundevad. Magnetic strips allow the three lampshades to clip over any simple hanging bulb.