As National Design Week enters its final hours, we’re back at the keyboard and still clad in our Ralph Rucci frock after a smashing night at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Musuem for the 2008 National Design Awards Gala. First up, the breaking news: As followers of the UnBeige Twitter feed learned only seconds after it was announced, the Zon Hearing Aid (pictured above) edged out 275 other nominees to win this year’s People’s Design Award, following in the socially-minded footsteps of 2007 winner TOMS shoes. The Cooper-Hewitt’s talented webmaster, Bill Berry, told us that the more than 8,000 votes for the award came fast and furious, especially just before the close of voting on Tuesday evening.
In the final and highly-anticipated segment of the awards ceremony, Top Chef host and cookbook author Padma Lakshmi presented the People’s Design Award to Stuart Karten of Stuart Karten Design, who designed the Zon for Starkey Laboratories. The sleek and sparkly hearing aid, which hit the market in May, succeeds because it disappears; the 1.3-inch Zon becomes virtually invisible when placed behind the ear. It is also unbeige, available in a range of understated colors designed to complement hair and skin tones. The Zon’s lack of parting lines, made possible by innovative manufacturing, imparts the device with both a sculptural elegance and a level of water resistance unparalleled by other hearing aids. Said Karten, “I sought to move the concept of a hearing aid from a medical appliance to an object that visually represents the value of communication.”