From where does great design come? Hours, days, and weeks of time can be spent in the search of a truly original idea which can become a great design. In the end, the spark of innovation may be found in the most unexpected places.  Or at least this was true for William Zhang, Creative Director for leading residential door hardware manufacturer Emtek ASSA ABLOY. One of Zhang’s most recent designs, the Modern Disc Crystal Knob, was awarded the Best of Year honor by Interior Design Magazine. The award is prestigious and the road to receiving it was paved with creativity, hard work, and inspiration from the past.

In late 2013, Zhang was, quite literally, at the drawing board trying to find his next original design for Emtek door hardware. He wanted something sleek and contemporary, something that would capture the zeitgeist of design today. Zhang had created new square and disc shaped knob designs and while the shapes were there, the design still wasn’t quite right. There was a certain “je ne sais pas” that was missing.

That missing piece came from a classic Emtek crystal cabinet knob. Glass and crystal door knobs date back to 1826, when the process for molding the material was created. They became commonplace in homes during the First World War In short, crystal is a classic material. The designs were usually multifaceted with anywhere from six to 12 facets and a flat face which showed a star or other pattern in the center of the knob. Zhang wondered how would it look to take a material that is typically used in such intricate designs and apply it to the clean, contemporary design of the square and disc knobs.

Emtek created prototypes of the contemporary knob designs in the classic material of crystal and the result was simply stunning. Once introduced into the market, the knobs were a quick success for the company. The decision to submit the modern disc and square crystal knobs for consideration in Interior Design Magazine’s Best of Year Awards seemed a natural progression. Crystal was in demand for the 2014 year; these knob designs had their finger on the pulse of the design market.

The Best of Year Awards by Interior Design Magazine is the preeminent competition for new and compelling design. Every year, Interior Design must meet the challenge of finding the products that are on the leading edge of today’s trends. Their audience is made up of professionals in the design field and they are discerning of what the next big “thing” will be.

The competition was fierce, with over 2,000 entries in over 100 categories. A handful of finalists were selected by the Interior Design Magazine’s top editorial staff, but the final winners were decided upon by popular vote. Design professionals logged into the magazine’s website and cast their vote for the best innovative products and designs for the 2014 year.

After 60,000 votes and 600,000 page views, Emtek was declared the winner in the hardware category.  The award ceremony was held in New York City in the Frank Gehry designed IAC building. More than 950 designers and manufacturers were in attendance. It was a standing room only crowd, as demand to be present when the awards were announced was high. Interior Design magazine editor in chief, Cindy Allen and President and Publisher, Mark Strauss used IAC’s 80 video wall to present the winners.

It marked Emtek and Zhang’s first submission and first win at the awards. Winning this prestigious award is only the beginning. If anything, it will act as a boon to try new designs and reach for even greater heights. With innovators like Emtek and William Zhang, the possibilities are endless.

Article by Susan Jeffery