Blu Dot Wins National Award for ‘Product Design’
Blu Dot's "Real Good Chair," part of their winning design portfolio. (Photo courtesy of Blu Dot)

Blu Dot Wins National Award for ‘Product Design’

The Minneapolis-based design firm specializing in home furnishings takes home the honor with portfolio of chairs, media center, and more.

Minneapolis-based design firm Blu Dot earned some national notoriety as it was named the National Design Awards “Product Design” winner. The award is one of 11 jury-selected honors in the competition run by Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York.
It was the company’s first time taking home the award. Blu Dot had been nominated previously in the competition and was a finalist in 2000 when the winner had been determined through deliberation stages, rather than choosing a winner outright as it does now.
“Having started Blu Dot just over 20 years ago with the mission of democratizing design, it is gratifying to realize that our life’s passion has made a lasting impact on design,” says John Christakos, Blu Dot co-founder and CEO, in a statement. “We are so honored to have our work recognized with this prestigious award from Cooper Hewitt.”
The National Design Awards, now in its 19th year, are dedicated to acknowledging achievements in American design and, according to Cooper Hewitt, the Product Design Award “is given to an individual or firm for exceptional and exemplary work in the design of consumer goods, technology, or home and office furnishings.”
Blu Dot co-founder and COO Maurice Blanks told TCB that for the competition Blu Dot submitted a portfolio of 10 products. The portfolio was comprised of home furnishings items, which the company is most known for. Blanks noted the submission included a chair, a shelving unit, perforated steel desk accessories, a sofa, a cabinet unit, lounge chair, table lamp and one of the company’s media center collections.
The items all showcased Blu Dot’s preferred style, which Blanks described as modern and practically-minded – the company uses common manufacturing materials, particularly powder-coated metal and steel.
“We also try to be really direct and straightforward with materials,” added Blanks. “We love the way that materials come together so we tend to try to let those speak for themselves.”
But it’s more than their materials and designs that Blanks thinks earned them the Product Design award this year. He credits the win to a better-than-ever job of telling the story of Blu Dot and what makes it unique.
“We really tried to emphasize, not just ‘here’s what the stuff looks like, isn’t it pretty?,’ but we’ve actually created a whole business that supports this aesthetic and this interest in design,” said Blanks. “The three of us started the business as designers, we designed all the early collections, so I think that… recast the business in a different way this year that I think maybe resonated with the jurors – that it was, rather than just designers for hire… we built a business to support our interest in design.”
Blanks said they plan to promote the victory through placing an award graphic on the windows of all the stores and on print advertisements. They’ll also have a submission book on display in the stores and have already added a link to the award page on the company’s website.
But will the award translate to increased sales? Blanks, so far, is skeptical.
“The thing about furniture is you either need it now or you don’t,” said Blanks. “The timing of when you need furniture is much more a factor then when some award or some press comes out. It’s not like a movie winning the Oscars where everybody runs home and watches the movie.”
But he sees some benefit, adding, “I think it will expose us to a broader audience.”
Either way, the company is excited about the win and is taking it to heart.
“We’ve devoted our entire adult lives to design and this endeavor,” said Blanks, “so to see it recognized in such an amazing way, it’s great.”