Cannes Lions

Iron Fish Project Wins Product Design Grand Prix

Geometry Global Helps Cambodians Overcome Dire Health Issue

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An insightful approach to supplementing Cambodians' iron-deficient diets to improve their health led to a Grand Prix in Product Design for the Lucky Iron Fish Project and Geometry Global in Dubai.

WHAT IT IS: In Cambodia, much of the population lives on a diet of fish and rice and so suffers from iron deficiency, leading to anemia and other serious health conditions. The simple solution is to cook a small piece of iron in the same pot with a meal for 10 minutes, providing 75% of the iron a family needs. The dilemma was that people were happy to use the iron slab as a doorstop but wouldn't toss it into the cooking pot.

The solution: Fashion the small piece of iron into the shape of a fish, a cultural symbol of hope and good fortune. Cambodians quickly embraced the lucky iron fish.

WHY IT WON: After nine months of trials and tests, a 55% drop in iron deficiency was recorded. And the project is sustainable, featuring recycleable materials and adding jobs in the local community to package the iron fish.

IN THE JURY ROOM: Product Design tends to be an intrepid jury, trying to overcome the handicap of just looking at products that are meant to be experienced by experimenting with using them.

"Volvo's Life Paint can not only be applied to a bike, it can be applied to your body," said jury president Dan Formosa, a design consultant. "Don't ask me how I know that. We had a beautifully glowing jury." (But no Product Design Lions for "Life Paint," which lights up cyclists at night; the campaign took the Grand Prix in both the Design and Promo & Activation categories).

THE COMPETITION: Entries in this category were as sophisticated as human-like robots, but that didn't sway the jury. "We could not have gotten any more low tech than a fish made of cast iron," Mr. Formosa said.

CONTROVERSY: Mr. Formosa noted that many of the entries were submitted by advertising groups, rather than the product's designer, and that much of the jury's discussion was about questions raised by the submissions that weren't answered. "It would be much better if designers prepared the entries," he said. "We were getting advertised at. We weren't getting the design story."

Separately, Andy Payne, president of the Design jury and global chief creative officer of Interbrand Group, said another issue was that some entries were prepared for a different category, and entered in the design contest without being tailored to that category.

LIONS AWARDED: This is only the second year for the category, so beyond the Grand Prix there are only Product Design Lions, without separate awards for the gold, silver and bronze lions given in the bigger, more mature categories. Seven Product Design Lions were awarded.

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