Steelcase Second Life Chair Design Competition

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by: Design Translator

Wow, this competition totally went under my radar. I would not have caught wind of this if I did not get my usual dose of virtual goodness at rebang. In fact it was his 10th post in his RSS feed and probably would have fallen off into internet oblivion if I had visited his site some other time.

Interestingly enough, csven laments that there are no industrial design sites (not including his or mine) that are covering this, as well as there are no Industrial Design forums and hence Designers interested in it. I quickly did a Google search, and true enough only the Second Life related sites like The Arch or SL Reports, were covering it. Even the Steelcase website has no mention of this competition. It’s almost as if this competition does not even exist at all, perhaps at least only virtually. This lack of “physical” presence on the web troubles me. Here’s the press release blurb.

2 July 2007

Steelcase announces its Inaugural International Second Life Design Competition for High Performance Seating.

Steelcase, the global office furniture leader, is sponsoring a Second Life Design Contest for the most innovative and best-designed high performance office chair. Steelcase is looking for SL’s top designers to create the coolest and next prize winning office chair for its Steelcase Store in Second Life.

The winning design will be showcased in the SL Steelcase Store and will receive their choice of a high performance chair featured at (max value of $1599 USD). In addition the winning designers will have the opportunity to present their work to Steelcase’s seating and design teams in Second Life. Quality designs may even be considered for future product development opportunities.

For entry information and to register:

Registration begins on July 1st
Set up dates – July 28th- August 1st
Awards – August 4th

Registered contestants will receive a designated plot location at the contest’s pavilion on Silicon City to display their chair and display.

SL Contact
Kelly Emms, the V3 Group
In-world Contest Event Coordinator

Later in his article, csven argues that designers fail to see the value of this competition as a means to lead and show case what this virtual technology can do. I agree with him but to a certain extent. However my feeling is that perhaps this design competition was never targeted to designers in the first place, but to Second Lifers or the people interested in the Second Life game, i.e. of which the majority are non-designers.

I argue that it could have been never the intention of Steelcase to get designers involved, hence a very sad and limited press release. Personally I find that this smells of a Marketing driven project without any other real world outcomes intended. Just look at the prize, its basically a free chair! If you wanted designers to be interested, give them an internship in the design department or even better, offer to realise the design not only in Second Life but in Real Life as part of the Steelcase collection.

There in lies the problem of the intent of this competition. It seems like they are only just testing the waters of this Second Life phenomenon. As csven rightly puts the majority of the world, including designers, are NOT (yet I like to belief) into Second Life, therefore the logic of Steelcase not having a main stream web presence sounds like a half-hearted effort if you ask me. Steelcase could have used designers to help them stamp their position in Second Life and in Real Life as an advocate of cutting edge, well designed and innovative products. Getting a bunch of potentially great entries into their design competition could give them the exposure they seem to be looking for.

Imagine you could “trial” a chair in the Second Life game and also if you like it buy it in real life! The possibilities are endless. At the end of the day though, they are like many companies, trying to understand this new advertising and marketing frontier and all its Crowd Sourcing goodness.

Regardless, it’s about time Industrial Designers make some head way into Second Life and start creating those fantastic objects we always dream to do. Why not take a stab at it? You will get a chance to forget all about existing manufacturing issues and real world physics. You finally get a chance to be Feng Zhu (of Star Wars fame) or Scott Robertson but getting a chance to bypass George Lucas or Michael Bay. Hey, if it’s any indication of the actual “real world” money Second Life fashion designers are making selling their clothes in the game, I think Industrial Designers can have a lot to do, and this competition is the way to do it.

Unfortunately information is VERY light, such as submission criteria and I’ve emailed Steelcase for more. Then again I might have to get back into Second Life and snoop around. I’ll post any thing I get so do stay tuned for more information.

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