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Gala @ 23:59 Golden Pin Awards Promoting Design Excellence

Established in 1981, the Golden Pin Design Awards are the most prestigious and influential professional design awards in the global Chinese market. (photo by Lin Min-hsuan)

Established in 1981, the Golden Pin Design Awards are the most prestigious and influential professional design awards in the global Chinese market. (photo by Lin Min-hsuan)
 

Established in 1981 in the tradition of Germany’s Red Dot and iF design awards and Japan’s G Mark awards, the Golden Pin Design Awards are the most prestigious and influential professional design awards in the global Chinese market. Currently organized by the Taiwan Design Research Institute, the awards demonstrate the excellence and importance of Taiwan’s designers and showcase the newest trends in Asian design.
 

“The Doomsday Clock stands at 23:59. People see the danger. We see a banquet.” The 2019 Golden Pin Design Awards ceremony, themed “Gala @ 23:59,” featured ideas about and responses to sustainability and the end of the world.

Putting a creative pin in it

The origins of the Golden Pins, which are so highly respected in the design community, go back to 1981. Originally known by the more bureaucratic-­sounding “Taiwan Good Design Awards,” their primary object­ive was to select and commend well-designed products. They were later renamed the National Design Awards in an effort to raise their international profile, and their name was changed yet again in 2009, this time to the Golden Pin Design Awards. The current name evokes the image of designers pinning notes to walls to preserve their good ideas. The “Golden” was added to make the name more memorable, by bringing it into line with Taiwan’s well-known Golden Horse and Golden Bell awards.

Oliver Lin, vice president of the Taiwan Design Research Institute (TDRI, formerly the Taiwan Design Center), says that the Golden Pins are oriented around the ethnic Chinese design community and Asia as a whole, and seek to foster dialogue and exchange with the more mature design markets of Europe, the US and Japan.

Following their leap into the international limelight, the awards began to include international design luminaries on their juries. This, coupled with their conscientious and objective review process and their grand awards ceremony, has helped spotlight winning designers and firms, and cemented the Golden Pins’ credibility within Asia.

In recent years, the Golden Pins have also become a touchstone for designers from other nations entering the Asian market. For example, when German optical and optoelectronics powerhouse Zeiss wanted to intro­duce its products to the Asian market, it first tested the waters by entering for the 2019 Golden Pins, to gauge the market’s likely reaction. Participation in the Golden Pins has become more international, with designs from the US, Russia, Thailand, Australia, the Netherlands, France, Lebanon, Poland, India, and even Serbia, Hungary, and the Central African Republic, creating a diversity of expression and making the Taiwanese awards a truly global competition.

Vying with Red Dot and iF

The Golden Pins carry a great deal of weight in the ethnic Chinese community. Many winners demonstrate their high regard for the Golden Pins by giving them equal standing with their Red Dot and iF awards when promoting their products.

A given year’s award-winning designs also highlight the newest fashions and styles sweeping the globe. For example, the Rice Husk Beach Toy set, a 2019 Golden Pin recipient, is made from rice husks and natural starches. Because these 100% biodegradable materials melt at high temperatures, they can be injection molded to create a variety of forms. 

HMM’s W Glass, a collaboration with Spring Pool Glass that won both the 2019 Best Design Award and the Special Annual Award for Circular Design, is made from recycled glass crafted by local artisans. The glass drinking cup has 12 vertical ridges that echo the hour markings of a clock face, and exemplifies the possibilities of the circular economy and eco-friendly design.

“The Golden Pin nominees demonstrate that en­viron­mental sustainability has become one of Taiwan’s strong suits, and a key reason why we’ve earned the world’s attention,” says Lin. Beyond our standing as a “technology island,” Taiwan is also an environmentally friendly island. “Our sensitivity to the en­viron­ment and emphasis on circular design surpasses that of Europe, the US and Japan,” Lin says, pointing to one of our important manufacturing advantages.
 

The 2019 Golden Pin Design Awards, themed “Gala @ 23:59,” featured ideas about and responses to the topics of sustainability and the end of the world. (photo by Lin Min-hsuan)

The 2019 Golden Pin Design Awards, themed “Gala @ 23:59,” featured ideas about and responses to the topics of sustainability and the end of the world. (photo by Lin Min-hsuan)
 

Setting Asia’s design trends

The Golden Pins consist of three principal awards: the “Golden Pin Design Awards,” the “Golden Pin Concept Design Awards,” and the “Young Pin Design Awards.” The first are for products already commercialized or on the market, and they grant winners the right to display a design award mark. The second go to products that have not yet entered volume pro­duction or are not yet on the market, and are therefore more indicative of the concepts currently setting global design trends.  The third are the official awards of the Young Design­ers’ Exhibi­tion (YODEX), the largest student design exhibition in the world. They recognize the works of new graduates of Taiwanese college and university design programs, and are an important platform for young design­ers seeking to showcase their work.

The Golden Pins expanded their award offerings two years ago to better reflect the growing use of design to resolve social issues around the world by adding two new honors, the “Special Annual Award: Circular Design” and the “Special Annual Award: Social Design.” “The Golden Pins of the last two years have been different in that they embody our hope that award-winning designs can inject new ways of thinking into their fields of application,” says Lin.

Nowadays, the Golden Pins position themselves as the ethnic Chinese design community’s highest honor and seek to differentiate themselves from the inter­nation­ally renowned Red Dot Design and iF Product Design awards through their goal of encouraging dialogue between Taiwan and the rest of the world.

Bringing design to life

They are able to do this in part because of Taiwan’s location. To the north, Taiwan has links to Northeast Asia, including Japan and Korea. To the south, we have ties to the nations of Southeast Asia. Our island also faces mainland China. “Taiwan is a nexus,” says Lin. This unique position makes Taiwan a great place for design experimentation.

Once designs go into production, their producers need to conduct follow-up testing. “Taiwan provides testing environments for products targeting both Northeast and Southeast Asia,” explains Lin. And unlike manufacturers elsewhere, Taiwanese manu­facturers are willing to work with designers to bring virtually any product to life, no matter how unusual the design might be.

A mixing pot

The Golden Pins have judged more than 10,000 designs since their 1981 inception. The TDRI is now planning a book that will system­atically review and discuss outstanding products from throughout the awards’ history. “Even more important than making the Golden Pins an ethnic Chinese or global honor is establishing a dialogue with the US and Europe, and having the awards lead global design into the future,” says Lin.

The Golden Pin organizers plan to further inter­national­ize the awards and encourage designers and firms from around the world who wish to enter Asian markets to use them as a platform through which to connect with the region. Taiwan is home to some of Asia’s best designers. The Golden Pins can help us hone our design and manu­facturing advantages, grow with the Asian market, and become a global design power­house.