Are awards rewarding?

Tapio Anttila

"I have had the pleasure of receiving several recognitions related to my profession during my long career. I am often asked what the awards mean to me. 20 x Good Design Award, 3 x Green Good Design Award, Kaj Franck Prize, Pro Finlandia, Furniture Designer of the Year, etc. - I would lie, if I said that they don't mean anything. However, you can't eat them, and you can't sit on them, but they come in handy."


A couple of weeks ago, I received a pleasant message from America; it said that my new Renki series has been awarded with the Green Good Design Award. It was the third time for me. Awards are given once a year to ecological innovations that must also meet certain criteria of good design. We have worked hard to make our collection even more responsible in its different areas. What warmed me in this recognition was that I felt we were on the right path. The manufacturing concept of the Renki series, which utilizes waste pieces, clearly attracted the jury's attention. In addition, it was certainly influenced by considering the life cycle of the entire product line, from carbon footprint calculation to compensation.

Of course, everyone is happy to receive recognition for their work, but I think about the whole more broadly. First of all, even though the products and awards are personified to me, I have a large group of professionals behind me and supporting me. The members of my own team, the manufacturers' technicians and many others have made the products possible, and the credit goes to them as well. There is a fierce competition of attention in the world, and there are enough brands out there that are better than each other. We wrestle in the same league as big brands like Alessi and Vitra, competing for a place on the podium. The international design award helps a lesser-known brand in launching a product abroad. It's like a proof that the product must have that something. In addition, the award is a good protection against copying, because the publicity it brings "earmarks" the idea for you.

"When I think about my own work, I never think about awards. The fire to do comes from somewhere else."

We Finns have a feature set in our operating system where, in our opinion, an artist, musician, film director or designer does significant work when they have been recognized abroad (is it the same in Italy?). Well, the trophies in the trophy cabinet will surely bring praises in home country.

The goal of everything an athlete does is often a prize at the Olympics or World Championships. When I think about what I do, I never think about awards. The fire to do comes from somewhere else. I would do what I'm doing anyway. The rewards will come later, if they are to come, and I will take the joy and benefit out of them then.

Recently, newspapers have written about the statue of a smiling boy or girl that is given in elementary school and how much in demand it is as a decorative item today. The problem for a decorator who follows trends is that they are hard to get. Flea markets don't have them and the statue manufacturer only supplies them to schools. For us boys from the back row, no prizes were given, so I missed out the statue. Am I then driven forward by some post-traumatic experience of the lack of rewards as a child? The answer is easy - it's NO.

But now I'm smiling.

- Tapio

PS  Check out the award-winning Renki product line