First off, kudos to Skip*Hop and Scott Henderson: the awesome Splash Bottle Rack won a Bronze in the Home Living category of the 2008 Industrial Designers Society of America's IDEA Awards.

splash_before_after.jpg

Besides being extremely practical, I love the way the Splash's obviously beautiful design gets totally obliterated in real life. What looks like a pristine sculpture at the baby shower turns out to be a jumbled explosion of bottles and nipples and doodads on the counter. In this duality, the Splash might be the perfect metaphor for modern designed parenthood.

Not that you'd hear anything like that from IDSA, of course. They praised the Splash for not being "another blocky, colorful item that would look more at home in the playroom," which makes no sense for the product and what it's supposed to do.

Maybe the IDEA awards folks just don't know how to consider kid-related design. 2008 is the first time in at least four years that any baby or children's products are even included. But one of the other winners, the Wiegen Stroller concept designed by Dan Clements at Worrell, makes me wonder if anyone at the ISDA has left the house or had a date, much less conceived a child, in the last 90 years.

wiegen_stroller_concept.jpg

Though the designer and a dozen other people sent along the link, I didn't unload on the Wiegen Stroller when it debuted on the breathless design blog circuit last summer. I like a slick rendering as much as the next guy, but the Wiegen didn't seem to actually break any new ground, or even to do the basic job it's designed for very well. There's no storage; the wheels don't turn--it's not even technically a stroller, but a pram--the fold only make the thing slightly lower, not actually smaller. All they really seemed to be doing was remaking an antique design in Bugaboo materials. Big whoop.

And yet, to hear Worrell and Clements talk about it, you'd think they invented human reproduction itself. The promo video was the worst, but this single sentence from Worrell's portfolio gets the point across:

The Wiegen is a wake-up call to a dated marketplace of lackluster competitors churning out products that fail to meet the needs of today's parents.
How can any design professional write that sentence with a straight face in 2007? Would that claim pass muster with anyone who even a passing familiarity with the stroller design landscape of the last ten years? Honestly, are clueless arrogance and instantly debunkable hyperbole really selling points for an industrial design firm?

trav-l-eez_prammuseum.jpg

The reality, I suspect, is that someone at the Minneapolis firm found an old stroller in his grandparents' garage and decided to make a CG rendering of it. Literally. One of the more well-informed tips about the Wiegen last summer came from the curator of the Pram Museum, who pointed out its similarity to the , a canvas & steel folding stroller that was very popular in the 1920's onward, especially in the town where it was built: Minneapolis.

ja_mahr_sleigh_1921.jpg

Just as the image-vs-reality of the Splash speaks to the paradox of modern parenting, the forgotten innovations of the Trav-L-Eez could embody the self-serving delusion of the children's design industry, where a lack of continuity or historical awareness causes people to endlessly "invent" the same damn thing every five or ten years. Not that anyone's ever heard of him, but the inventor of the Trav-L-Eez, one Julius Anthony Mahr, is practically the Thomas Edison of the baby stroller.

ja_mahr_carseat.jpg

From as early as 1919 and into the 1940's, J.A. Mahr received dozens of patents for things like the folding stroller. That combines with a bassinet. That's suspended like a hammock. That straps into the back seat of a car. His 1940 patent for a flip-open seat and footwell will be instantly familiar to anyone who's ridden in the third row of a station wagon built in the last 40 years.

ja_mahr_footwell_1940.jpg

I dug up all this Mahr stuff last year and never did anything with it. When it was just one random design concept wafting across the baby blogosphere, it was easy to ignore, so I did. But now the ISDA and BusinessWeek have given this unremarkable and derivative design a freakin' award. When they come from a single, pompous designer, indifference to obvious functional and performance shortcomings and a complete disregard for historical context and precedent are annoying. When it's demonstrated by the design industry's professional organization, it's total bullshit.

ISDA/BusinessWeek 2008 Industrial Design Excellence Awards winners [businessweek]

9 Comments

Unless they plan to make a toddler seat that comes with it, you could only use that stroller for about 5 months. However...It would make really great small shopping cart....maybe even eco-friendly if you can take the whole fabric part off with your groceries inside. However I would still want some moving wheels in the front.

Riding my bike to work this morning I stopped to talk with a young woman who was pushing her baby through the park in this classic Pram:
http://www.healthchecksystems.com/inglesina_classica_pram.htm

Turns out she had originally been using the Pram that her mother and grandmother had pushed their babies in, but it broke within the first month of use. She had briefly tried both a Graco and a Bugaboo, but said her baby was never as happy as he had been in the Pram, so she sprung for the Inglesina that I linked above.

The Wiegen doesn't even have a hood, for pete's sake.

Aww, Greg, I won't address the issue of a design award being given to the Wiegen, but anastasiav's informant is on to something. If you've got the space to store and use them, there's nothing like pram for small babies. Or, used judiciously, even for older ones. Great for babies, great for strolling parents.

I'm biased, of course, since I own a large collection of them (that's my Trav-L-Eez above, as you note). When the kid's too old, a pram makes an awesome storage bin for stuffed animals and dolls. Probably not in New York City, though.

I did find some more photos of this stroller online. It seems that there is a hood and some sort of sling to put the baby in...

http://www.coochicoos.com/baby-gear/wiegen_concept_stroller_blows.html

given the debate I love that the coochicoos link wiegen_concept_stroller_blows links to an article called "Wiegen Concept Stroller Blows Us Away"

giggle

LOL, that URL vs reality thing is awesome.

But those aren't photos, just more renderings.

I can't believe that Wiegen is from Mpls. Most of us MN parents are WAY to practical to fall for a child product with such little function.

We have another version of the Inglesina pram, which can lever up/fold the seat so that it is a stroller, since kids shouldn't be sat up in a stroller until, what 3 or 4 months? I forget. Excellent item. Kept me sane with the twins.

The thing you've blogged doesn't have wheels that turn, do I read that aright? How bizarre!

What a joke this thing is, I can't believe the money people waste on strollers, prams, etc these days. Babies could care less what they ride in, and the expense of a stroller like this, with no good storage, and only useful for less than a year... what a joke.. what is a bigger joke is someone gave this travesty an award.

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